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[EDITORIALS]Cutting screen quota aids trade

June 13,2004
Lee Chang-dong, minister of culture and tourism, reportedly revealed to a member of a commission formed by movie industry insiders that he wants to reduce the quota of domestic movies that theaters are required to show.
The Culture Ministry had until now been opposed to the reduction of the quota, fighting with the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Ministry over the issue. Movie industry insiders, of course, are opposing any reduction vehemently.
The screen quota system has played a huge role in fostering our domestic movie industry for the last 10 years. It is now time to reassess the system.
The movie industry must acknowledge that domestic movies garnered 50 percent of the market last year and reached 70 percent this first quarter. Also, the quality of Korean movies has become so superior that many are winning awards in prestigious international film festivals. It has become unreasonable to claim that the Korean movie industry still needs the screen quota system to survive.
Movie industry insiders claim that only a few movies have succeeded and that the industry as a whole still needs to be protected. That excuse isn’t convincing to the foreign filmmakers whose movies are doing dismally in the Korean market.
The screen quota system is the biggest reason that the signing of a Korea-U.S. bilateral investment treaty has been delayed for more than six years. It’s one of the biggest issues in almost all trade disputes.
Some have claimed that the bilateral investment treaty would be useless anyway, but it cannot be denied that such a treaty would send a positive message to foreign investors. As a country that depends heavily on foreign investment, Korea cannot afford too many trade disputes.
Considering the incredible pace at which our movie industry is progressing and our foreign relations, it would be the wise thing to reduce our screen quota, which presently requires theaters to show Korean movies for 146 days out of the year. The screen quota could be adjusted again should the reduction hurt domestic movies. Film industry insiders should maintain an open mind and work together to find a way to protect the industry without hurting the national interest.


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