[OUTLOOK]Keep the movie monster at bayAs a person whose job is making movies, I have enjoyed films ever since I was a child. The inexplicable attraction of European movies in the TV program “Movie of the Weekend” and the sentimental Korean movies were all great but the movies that I adored the most in my childhood were made in Hollywood. I do not think I felt a bigger thrill than when watching “The Great Escape” and “Papillon” -- I was a big fan of Steve McQueen -- and the Alfred Hitchcock movies that were aired every summer.
Martin Scorsese and Todd Solondz never failed to inspire me and still do, now that I am a movie director myself. It is awe-inspiring to think of the great tradition and power behind the wide and deep range of American movies. Although some American movies these days are nothing but trashy, empty blockbusters, Hollywood movies still retain their power and hold more than 80 percent of the world’s movie market.
Yet, America’s film industry is now pressuring Korea to open its industry. It has again started picking a fight over our screening quota for domestic movies. Oh, the amazing professional spirit of these Americans! They will not rest until they can swallow up small markets like ours in every small corner of this world. Their behavior is analogous to Bill Gates appearing in a PC bang somewhere on the outskirts of Seoul to rake in coins from children. Some might say that Korea’s movie industry has grown strong enough; it has taken 50 percent of the movie market in Korea. There is no further need for screening quotas, they might say, because Korean movies can survive on their own. I am thankful that they think Korean movies have developed. But does the present state of development mean that we must take away the legal protection that ensures that the industry develops to an even greater extent?
Say a parent gave his or her child a room to study in to get good grades. The child, having studied in a cozy, comfortable room, becomes the number one student in class. Would the parent say, “Now that your grades have gotten better, I am going to have to take your room away?” Would the parents give that room to the child next door who gets the best grades in the entire school? This does not make sense. If the child’s grades have gotten better, you buy him or her a better desk, more books, you give more support. Is getting better grades a crime to be punished by taking the room away from the child?
Let’s not forget that there are countries like Mexico whose movie industry crumbled when it gave up its screening quota system. Some might say that the quotas have to go because it is inhibiting negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. The economy’s hard up, they say, so the movie industry should make a sacrifice for the good of the entire country. What is this bilateral investment treaty, anyway? Is it supposed to save our economy? I know perfectly well that I have no qualifications to discuss economics, but anyone with the least bit of sense and brains would agree with a column that appeared in Munhwa Ilbo in June, pointing out the incongruities of the bilateral treaty. In Korean mythology, even Simcheong, the daughter who sold herself as a sacrifice to the sea gods to raise money for her blind father, threw herself into the ocean only after she was sure her father had received the 300 bags of rice. Are we telling the bright boy of our country’s culture industry, the movie industry, to throw himself into the dark waters of the ocean for an uncertain bilateral investment treaty?
The screening quotas are not an exclusive system that blocks free competition. They are the minimum measures to ensure the survival of our movie industry. American movies are the ones that threaten free competition, with their domination over the entire world. The screen quota system is only a small effort to uphold cultural diversity. As I have written above, I love American movies. I just would not like to see them monopolize the entire movie-going population on earth. I just believe that any audience would want a diverse menu of movies from different countries.
* The writer is a film director. Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.
by Bong Joon-ho