'Pandemic' cuts plague Japanese film

Korean importer changed ending without producer's OK

SEOUL -- "Pandemic," a Japanese disaster movie about a deadly virus, is at the center of controversy in Korea after the movie's importer, KTH Paran, deleted a substantial portion of the film and introduced its own ending without the Japanese producer's permission.

The movie, directed by Takahisa Zeze ("Moon Child"), opened here in February with a running time of 138 minutes, but 21 minutes worth of the film had been cut and the ending changed.

While the original featured a hopeful ending, the edited version of the film ends abruptly with a subtitle that reads "By July 2011, 3,950 patients were infected with the virus and 11 million were found dead.”

Tokyo Broadcasting System, the film’s producer, requested that KTH Paran revert to the original, a request that took a week to attain.

The film's theatrical run ended last week, but KTH still hasn’t reached a decision on settling with audience members seeking refunds, among the nearly 33,000 who’ve seen the movie until the movie switched back to the original version.

"We're extremely dissatisfied about KTH's decision to develop a new ending that completely contradicts the director's version," said an official at TBS in a letter to Korea's Yonhap News Agency. "We're waiting to come up with the best legal solution, the issue cannot be dismissed as a single incident in the entertainment industry."

It's not the first time that a Korean importer has cut out scenes of a foreign film without a producer's approval. "Speed 2" and "The Fifth Element" ran into disputes with producers after local importers cut out scenes without an agreement. A local theater owner edited "Pulp Fiction" when it played here in 1994, assuming that the film's opening scene, which repeats at the end, had been accidentally pasted into the print.

But in recent years, producers and importers have improved their collaborative efforts to suit the local market and reduce running time.

John Cameron Mitchell, the director of "Shortbus," which is currently playing in Korean theaters, agreed with the local importer to blur out the genital exposure of the film's male character in order to classify the film's rating for general audiences.