Warner Home Vid on its way out of Korea<br />

Follows five other major studios to leave the country

SEOUL -- Warners is withdrawing from the local video and DVD market as of next month, the company announced Monday.

Warner Home Video Korea was the last surviving studio out of six Hollywood majors in the Korean home entertainment unit. Others -- Paramount, Disney, Fox and Universal -- cleared their branches last year, followed by the withdrawal of Sony in September.

The death of the local DVD market was an inevitable result.

South Korea is one of the world's most wired nations, where an average citizen downloads 54 movies a year from file-sharing sites, according to a report by the state-funded Korean Film Council. The annual loss, the council explains, measures about 22 billion won ($16 million) in the local DVD market.

"The market size shrunk dramatically in 2005, and since then, it was on steady decrease," said Kim Jeong-hyo, a representative of Warners. "The total DVD sales and rentals in Korea are less than 10% of theater revenue, which is a major sign of a distorted market compared to elsewhere."

Warner Home Video Korea was established in 1999. Since then, the company began aggressive marketing through bold discount sales and partnerships with hardware manufacturers like Samsung Electronics to expand the market size. But the supply of DVD players dropped significantly during the last three years, and convenient access to illegal downloading sites has virtually wiped out the home entertainment business here. The closing of the country's many video and DVD rental shops also served as a catalyst of the defeat in a market largely dependent on rentals over sales.

With the release of "The Dark Knight" next month, the company will officially close Dec. 30. The company will continue its digital distribution after closing, it said.