Kang set to go as KOFIC head

Film body head criticized for poor management, political views

SEOUL -- Kang Han-sup, the chairman of the Korean Film Council, is likely to be dismissed from his post due to what a local ministry described as “inefficient management” of the government-supported film body.

The council, which assists the Korean film industry and handles major film-related policies, was given the lowest score out of 92 public organizations that were recently subject to major evaluation conducted by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

The government report cited the failure to complete a regular staff reduction and worsening management-union relations as two major reasons for the action. Kang is among the four heads of state-funded institutions from the recent report to be recommended for dismissal.
The news didn’t come as a surprise to many industry insiders who knew about the chairman’s declining reputation among his own staff. Since his appointment last year, Kang frequently drew criticism from the council’s labor union for projecting his conservative political views on industry policy-making, such as lumping together the council’s previously-separate categories on independent films, arthouse films and low-budget films into “non-mainstream films.”

The union circulated a petition in October demanding Kang’s dismissal, saying his “politically driven” approach to film policies was widening gaps in the industry. On Thursday, a group of Korean directors, including high-profile names like Park Chan-wook sent a separate petition to the press, heavily criticizing the government’s recent announcement that it will reduce the current size of a film theory major at a national film school. The government’s explanation at the time was that the school’s primary concern is “hands-on education,” not theory.

But among the industry insiders, the announcement was seen as a decision made out of ignorance that underestimated filmmaking as technical practice, as well as a gesture of the government’s discontent on the school’s liberal-minded professors who teach cultural theory.

“Art and education is not a trophy of politics,” the petition read. “The Korean government’s use of ideology to punish the school’s professors is reminiscent to the Nazi regime who accused Bauhaus artists as communists.”

Reactions to the ministry’s recent evaluation brought back old feelings about the council and concerns about the future of a Korean film industry that has shown noticeable decline in the last few years.  

“One can’t deny the council’s role in the development of a Korean film industry,” said Mo Seong-jin, a producer of independent films. “The council should continue to provide a strong foundation for Korean cinema. We’re just concerned that the organization is increasingly losing sight of their objective.”