“Film industry budget cuts are a policy to eliminate independent and local films.”

[Reporter Seong Ha-hoon]

< Secene 1980 > published by the Gwangju Film and Media Association through a local film support project.
ⓒ Provided by Gwangju Film and Media Association

Daegu director Yoo Ji-young won the grand prize for “My Bloody Lover” at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival last July.
ⓒ Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

<Scene 1980>, published quarterly by the Gwangju Film and Media Association, has published 14 issues since its first issue in November 2019 until last July. In an era when most film magazines have disappeared, special film magazines that focus on regional films and contain criticism, policies, and news from other regions have brought a sense of freshness. It is playing a valuable role in the internal and external communication of local films.

The feature film <Heesu>, which won the grand prize at the 2021 Jeonbuk Independent Film Festival, is the work of director Gam Won Jeong, who works in Daegu. It was a big result of small support for local creators. The same goes for the feature film “My Bloody Lover,” which became the first Korean film to win the grand prize in the Proxima competition section at the 57th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic. Director Yoo Ji-young, who graduated from the Korean Film Academy and works in Daegu, is expanding the proportion of regional films.

The achievements of these local films are representative achievements of the Korean Film Council’s support projects. However, with only 1.2 billion won in support disappearing from next year’s budget, all achievements made so far are in danger of being lost.

Director Jeong Gam-won said, “What fostered local films was the Youngjin Committee’s local film culture revitalization support project and local film planning, development, and production support,” and criticized government budget cuts as actions that are destroying the local film ecosystem. Kim Soo-jin, editor-in-chief of <Scene 1980>, expressed concern, “It was possible to publish the magazine through the local film business, but if the budget suddenly disappears, I don’t know if it will be possible to continue publishing.”

Appearance only increases, reality drastically reduces

Controversy over the 2024 budget for the Youngjin Committee is growing. On the 13th, 50 domestic film festivals, including the Busan, Jeonju, and Bucheon Film Festivals, first issued a statement in protest against the halving of the domestic film festival budget, and follow-up solidarity protest signatures from audiences and independent film organizations are also expected.

The problem of cuts in support for film festivals held in Korea is also serious. According to the Youngjin Committee and others, the support budget for domestic and international film festivals in 2024 is scheduled to be cut by 52.2% from 5.02 billion won to 2.4 billion won next year. Previously, 40 film festivals received support, but this will be reduced by half to about 20.

This is a more serious setback than the blacklist during the Park Geun-hye administration. In the 2017 budget, the ‘international film festival budget’ was cut by about 40% from 4 billion to 2.5 billion. During the Busan Film Festival incident triggered by the screening of the Sewol Ferry documentary <Diving Bell>, it was revealed that it was retaliation by the government at the time. It was revealed that the Blue House at the time was leading the investigation into the blacklist. At that time, the support budget for domestic film festivals was about 420 million won. Adding the two together, it was 2.9 billion.

The 2024 Youngjin Committee budget (draft) is a step back from here, and the basic plan is to drastically reduce the existing budget or eliminate the budget altogether. In fact, it would not be excessive to say that this is a policy of destroying Korean films, especially independent films.

However, this does not mean that the overall budget of the Youngjin Committee has been reduced. Although it is at a small level, it has increased by about 500 million won from 85 billion to 85.5 billion this year. The problem is that if the entire 72.9 billion won this year was earmarked for film industry development and support projects, next year’s budget will be reduced by nearly 27 billion won to 46.3 billion won. This means that the existing budget of the Film Investment Association, which was 8 billion won, increased to 25 billion won as it was changed to general accounting, and in the process of creating new projects such as location support, the budget for other support projects was cut accordingly.

Cultural artists, including blacklisted artists, are holding a press conference near the Presidential Office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul on the morning of the 15th, urging President Yoon Seok-yeol to withdraw his nomination for Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yoo In-chon.
ⓒ Seongho Yoo

Compared to the entire support project this year, the actual reduction rate amounts to 30%. The film industry is accepting this as meaning that the Yoon Seok-yeol administration will continue the atrocities of the blacklist that continued under the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations. The appointment of Special Advisor Yoo In-chon as the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism can be interpreted as a clear signal that the blacklist era has begun again.

At a press conference held near the President’s Office on the 15th to demand the withdrawal of Minister Yoo In-chon’s nomination by figures from the culture and arts community, Ko Young-jae, head of the Korea Independent Film Association, said, “The suspicions about all these situations, including cuts in local film budgets, have once again made Candidate Yoo the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism. “It was resolved with the announcement that it would be done,” he said, criticizing Minister Yoo’s appointment as “destroying the Korean Wave.” (Related article: “In-chon Yoo, suspected of being blacklisted, should go to the prosecution, not the personnel hearing” https://omn.kr/25nns)

Was the president’s promise to “roll up my sleeves and help”a lie?

There is a big problem with this drastic cut in support projects in the budget of the Youngjin Committee in that it seeks to blow away policies that have begun to show little by little results. In the case of the local film support budget, the item itself has disappeared, so it will be quite difficult to try to reorganize it with a new budget in the future.

An official from a local film organization pointed out, “It took quite a lot of time and effort for the Youngjin Committee to create and commercialize a regional policy agenda, and it is still in the process.”He added, “It is difficult to create, but it seems to be too easy to finish it.”.

Mokpo National Road 1 Independent Film Festival Executive Chairman Seong-Woo Jeong said, “The Youngjin Committee policy is a significant part of the basis for the continuation of local film cultural activities and independent film festivals in Jeollanam-do and Mokpo. “I was able to make a short film through this, but I’m worried that this entire foundation is in danger of collapsing.”

Some independent filmmakers working in the region are so outraged that they claim, “This is a policy of regional annihilation.” Director Kim Dae-hyun, who served as the executive chairman of the Geumgang History Film Festival, said, “The government is spending a huge amount of money to revive the region, saying it will prevent the region from disappearing, but the reality is that the budget, which is only 1.2 billion, cannot be increased further, but is eliminated altogether, and this must be protested by making a statement. “This is so embarrassing,” he said.

▲ President Yoon Seok-yeol meets actor Song Kang-ho. President Yoon Seok-yeol is looking at photos and talking with actor Song Kang-ho, the first Korean actor to win the Best Actor Award at the Cannes International Film Festival, at a banquet for film officials held on the lawn of the Presidential Office Building in Yongsan, Seoul on the afternoon of June 12. [Provided by the President’s Office]
ⓒ Yonhap News

Regarding the budget cuts, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said, “We have inspected careless operation of subsidies, wasteful elements, and interest cartel elements, and eliminated unfairness, irrationality, and inefficiency.”He added, “If issues of professionalism or fairness were raised in the process of selecting financial support projects, or if issues of “Projects with significant inefficiencies have been abolished or cut back regardless of field.” A working-level official from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said, “All regional budgets have been cut,” and explained that cuts were not only made for movies.

However, criticism that the budget of even successful projects were cut indiscriminately has not abated. Compared to the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which increased by 3.5% compared to this year, the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which has cut actual project costs by about 30%, seems difficult to avoid criticism from the film industry for eliminating independent and regional films.

President Yoon Seok-yeol’s promise while hosting a dinner for the winners of last year’s Cannes Film Festival, saying, “If there is anything necessary to develop the film industry, I will roll up my sleeves and work hard to help,”was nothing more than a lie.

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