[VIEWPOINT]Cheering soccer's capitalistic bent

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[VIEWPOINT]Cheering soccer's capitalistic bent

The rain squalls seem to have chilled the World Cup fever that took over our daily lives. Yet some television stations and newspapers are making tireless efforts to reproduce the enthusiasm and craze.

One of the pieces of follow-up news to the World Cup soccer tournament is the "income statement." If we combine several newspaper articles, the statement goes like this: Each member of the Korean national soccer team will be awarded a 400 million won ($330,000) bonus and exemption from mandatory military service. Soccer players that gain popularity may star in commercials.

Guus Hiddink, the Dutch coach of the Korean national team, has earned more than 5 billion won, which includes annual salary, bonuses and guarantees from appearing in commercials. Korea Economic Research Institute reported the World Cup produced 11.7 trillion won of economic effect. The "effect" must have included a calculation of how the World Cup contributed to enhancing the national image, and how ads on soccer field fences affected television audiences. The effect must also have included the logos of famous sports brands placed on the clothes of players, which make it impossible for soccer to look like an innocent sport of human beings kicking a ball. Let us admit that the World Cup attained success as a sport based on a compromise with global capitalism. So the bottom line is news.

Now let us look at the field of movies. Movies are cultural products that represent a country's national image, products that sell a region's sentiment and identity. When a Korean movie receives an award at Cannes Film Festival, one of the leading film festivals in the world, the prize signifies that Korea has advanced to the center of the world culturally, which enhances Korea's national image. There was a time when we thought a Korean film being shown at Cannes was impossible. We could not import movie directors from foreign countries to do for our film industry what Mr. Hiddink did for Korea's national soccer team. Such is unthinkable in the film industry, where the spirit of a movie is considered its essence. In soccer, importing coaches is doable, maybe because of the lack of a country's own style or standard to gauge the national spirit, or it may be part of a conspiracy to spread European soccer. Instead, they preserve their identity by building their teams with the national. In contrast, in movies, directors represent the identity of the movies, not actors, who are equivalent to the soccer players.

Under this analogy, the golden triangle of producer Lee Tae-won, director Im Kwon-taek and cinematographer Jeong Il-sung, worked together to earn the Best Director award at Cannes this year with the movie "Chihwaseon." Another film by this trio, "Chunhyang," entered into the competition at the 53d Cannes festival. What is the bottom line of Chihwaseon? It does not look good: 6 billion won in production, an audience of 1 million and 1.6 billion in losses. Maybe it is time that moviemakers throw away the cause of "representing a country's own culture," and change the screening system. Maybe movies from Korea that are entered in competition could become profitable by inserting advertisement of sponsoring corporations during repeated runs on a screen set up at Seoul City Hall plaza instead of showing them at the cinema. But that would be an insult to movies, a despicable act of giving up on the fundamental spirit that still makes movies movies.

Let us contemplate how we have concentrated too much on certain fields. A country's cultural level is the combination of various areas, not concentration on a few. Now that Korean films have started to boom, I am reminded of how we worried that big hit Korean movies would stifle literature and theatrical drama.

Let me make a suggestion. If the World Cup really generated more than 10 trillion won in profits, that is a result of the zealous cheering of the entire nation, so it would be appropriate to return the profits to the general public, such as in the form of tax breaks. Of course, the "authorities" will not agree to this, for various reasons. Therefore, why don't they use the money for spending on public projects? That would prove that soccer is not a slave to capitalism, but a festival that everybody can enjoy and share.


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The writer is a movie critic.

by Yu Gi-na

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