S. Korean movie workers to take to streets to rap free trade deal with U.S.

2006, July 01

By Kim Hyun

SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) — South Korean movie workers will suspend their work and take to the streets Saturday to denounce a proposed free trade deal with the United States that has already dealt a blow to the domestic movie industry, organizers said.

A movie policy took effect earlier in the day, edging out homegrown movies and giving more space for foreign movies in theater screens.

Korean theaters are now required to show local movies for at least 73 days a year, half of the previous quota. The U.S. has been demanding the reduction for years as a precondition to launching free trade talks.

"The Korean people are thoroughly excluded from the process to ink the free trade agreement with the U.S., which will have huge repercussions upon them. We are very concerned about what lies ahead in the Roh Moo-hyun administration," the Coalition for Cultural Diversity in Moving Images, a network of actors, directors and staff that organized the rally, said in a press release.

About 10,000 movie workers will march through Seoul’s downtown streets and call on their government to reconsider the trade deal with the U.S. The rally will include many star directors and actors, such as Bi, the singer known as Rain in English, who is acting in Park Chan-wook’s new film "My Name Is Cyborg." Park will also feature in the rally, along with Jang Dong-gun, the actor of "Promise" and "Typhoon," and up-and-coming talent Bong Joon-ho, whose movie "The Host" premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Im Kwon-taek, the country’s representative director who is making his 100th film, "A Thousand-year Crane," said he will suspend his production from Saturday through Monday to participate in the protest.

"Hollywood is no match for us in terms of financial and technological power. Once our movies are seized by the scruff of the neck, they will lose the foundation needed to rise up again. They could be completely swallowed by American movies," Im said in a previous interview.

He will be the final participant at a lone strike held at Gwanghwamun intersection on Monday to culminate the 146-day protest.

Film industry workers fear the lowered barrier will make way for an influx of big budget Hollywood movies rather than give access to more varied fare from Asia and Europe.

The quota scheme, established in 1966, has supported local movies by ensuring they are screened in domestic theaters for a certain number of days a year, regardless of ticket sales. The quota was first set at 90 days a year, but the number of days fluctuated until it was last drawn at 146 days in 1984.

Local movies occupied 60 percent of Seoul’s theater screens during the first five months of this year, beating out U.S. movies that took 37 percent. The remaining 3 percent was shared by Chinese, Japanese and European movies.

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Source: http://www.soompi.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=868&st=1400, mydaily.com