[EDITORIALS]Screen quotas should goProviding a variety of culture to people must be guaranteed. It is questionable, however, that the “screen-quota system,” which designates how many screening days must be reserved for Korean movies at local cinemas, is the only way we can defend Korean culture in the globalization era. Screen quotas, moreover, have been the stumbling block to the conclusion of a U.S.-Korea bilateral investment treaty since 1998. In the current situation, it was not proper that Culture and Tourism Minister Lee Chang-dong hastily said, “I have no intention to make concessions,” when the Blue House showed willingness to start discussing the quota system.
The system has been maintained for 37 years as a protection for the Korean film industry. It actually permitted Korea’s film industry to survive the dark period of the 1970s and 1980s and finally flourish at present. The industry insists that the screen quota is necessary to protect “cultural sovereignty” and to prevent gigantic Hollywood movie makers, which occupy 85 percent of the world market, from monopolizing it. They want to maintain the current quota mandating a minimum of 106 screening days for Korean films, and they refuse to discuss the matter.
The system’s demerits include creating unfavorable conditions for development of independent, low-budget films and limiting audiences’ right to select films. Now is the time to overcome reliance on screen quotas. We should discuss alternatives that will maintain our cultural identity on a long-term basis. At the same time, in order to facilitate a bilateral investment treaty with the United States, which will help improve overseas credibility, facilitate trade with the United States and induce foreign investment, we have to reconsider whether the currently designated quota for Korean films is appropriate.
The hard-line logic of the cinema industry, which refuses to discuss any adjustment of the current quota, is myopic. Korean films are more competitive in the world market now. In the trend of globalization, protection is no longer allowed. It is time to plan for the Korean film industry’s sustained growth without quota protection.