South Korean Film Council Plans Cultural Exchange With North Korea, Launch of Asian Film Center

Oh Seok geun -Publicity-P 2018
Courtesy of KOFIC

The state-backed body for promoting South Korea at the Busan International Film Festival also said it is investigating the controversial blacklisting of local filmmakers by the administration of the country's former president.

The Korean Film Council (KOFIC), the state-backed body for promoting South Korean cinema, on Tuesday unveiled its plans for 2019 at the Busan International Film Festival, including the launch of a pan-Asian film center and cultural exchanges with North Korea.

"The upcoming Asian film center will help the film governing bodies of South Korea, ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], China and Japan to share information about film-related policies," KOFIC director Oh Seok-geun told reporters.

Oh, who was installed in January, has been at the forefront of promoting international exchange in the region as president of the Asian Film Commissions Network (AFCNet). The network of 58 Asian film commissions and agencies from 18 countries has facilitated local filmmakers with filming locations, regulations and incentives, among others, amid the escalating number of co-productions and overseas location shoots.

KOFIC also hopes to have more interactions with North Korea's film sector. In July, the council set up a special committee for a North and South Korean film exchange in hopes of developing projects and forums and exploring opportunities to shoot on location in North Korea.

"Interactions so far have unfortunately been limited to civilian contacts, but we are looking into ways to interact with more official channels, such as North Korean bodies," said Oh, who also underscored the non-political nature of the endeavor. "You have to treat movie [-related projects] as movies. This has nothing to do with the fact that we have a progressive administration now in house."

Also in store for 2019 is taking legal action on behalf of filmmakers who were "blacklisted" by the administration of former president Park Geun-hye. In October 2016, it became known that nearly 10,000 artists, including the likes of Oldboy helmer Park Chan-wook and Snowpiercer actor Song Kang-ho, were included in a government blacklist that was designed to exclude them from state support programs. Former culture minister Cho Yoon-sun, former presidential chief-of-staff Kim Ki-choon and other key figures linked to the scandal have since been arrested.

KOFIC has already launched its own investigation and is currently compiling information on how filmmakers and other industry people had been disadvantaged, so it can take subsequent legal action on their behalf.

The council is also devising ways to better support the local independent film industry by introducing new programs, as well as designing an online database system for compiling box-office information on indie cinema.

Oh, who was a founding member of the Busan International Film Festival, said he is working closely with fest organizers, the Busan metropolitan government, the culture ministry and other related bodies to help revamp the event's Asian Film Market.

"The Busan Asian Film Market must become more competitive and distinguish itself from Cannes or American film markets," said Oh. "We are envisioning a ‘total market’ to include not only films but also TV dramas, web dramas and other content."

Last but not least, KOFIC is also preparing for the big centennial of Korean cinema next year with various events and programs. The 23rd Busan International Film Festival continues through Saturday.