South Korean Filmmakers Decide to Boycott Busan Fest

Courtesy of Busan International Film Festival
Busan film market

Nine local film organizations have decided not to attend Asia's largest festival in order to defend its artistic freedom — marking the largest collective movement by Korean industryites since demonstrations against screen quota policies in 2006.

South Korean filmmakers have decided to boycott the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), six months before the top Asian festival is slated to open in October.

Earlier in April, an emergency committee comprising nine major local film organizations conducted a week-long survey for members about boycotting the event, and over 90 percent have agreed not to attend BIFF, it announced through a statement on Monday.

This marks the largest collective action by Korean filmmakers in a decade.

"This is the first time in 10 years that the [Korean] film industry has spoken out in unison since opposing the screen quota policy in 2006. This demonstrates how freedom of expression and the [Busan] film festival's independence are grave matters for the Korean film industry," said Korean Film Group’s Emergency Committee for Defending BIFF's Independence, which includes producers, directors, writers, cinematographers and marketers.

Earlier on March 21, the committee threatened to take action should the Busan metropolitan government continue to wield political influence over the BIFF. Conflicts first arose between BIFF organizers and Busan city, which funds half of the fest's annual budget, in 2014 when then-fest director Lee Yong-kwan pushed forth the screening of a controversial film in spite of Busan mayor Suh Byung-soo's request to remove it from the lineup.

The clash has since escalated into a legal dispute, with the metropolitan authorities pointing out faults in the fest's financial transactions and taking matters to court when BIFF tried to add 68 new members to its advisory board without the approval of the mayor, who also serves as fest chairman.

"BIFF is not a property of Busan city government. It is true that the government’s financial support to the festival is a part of the reason for the success of the festival, but the festival is entitled to make decisions on how to run it [autonomously] without any external interference," said the committee earlier in March.

The 21st edition of the BIFF is slated to open in the southern port city from Oct. 6 to 15.