Canadian says he supports screen quota
The conference was held Thursday at the National Assembly building, among a group of film professionals and assemblymen in response to an earlier announcement by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, which said that as a pre-condition for a Free Trade Agreement with the United States it would reduce from 40 to 20 percent the current screen quota system, which sets 146 days per year that theaters must show Korean movies. The change will go into effect July 1.
“We were shocked, deeply shocked,” Mr. Pilon said. “Because of this policy, the volume of Korean films produced ― and the quality of those films ― has increased dramatically. This has meant that the Korean people have had access to films that express their own experiences, tell their own stories and address their own history.”
The liaison committee is a lobby group comprising 33 coalitions around the world that monitors international laws and agreements to support the rights of every nation to determine its own cultural policies in cultural sectors such as film and television.
The group's main achievement so far has been to lobby Unesco member states at its convention last year to agree that every nation has the right to maintain its own cultural policies, exempt from the general rules of free trade agreements. The General United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization conference in October ended with a landslide vote of 148 in favor of the mandate, with just two countries opposed: the United States and Israel.
Mr. Pilon, a major in economics, spent his earlier career as both an economist and sociologist. He worked as a consultant for ADISQ, an organization representing Quebecois companies and professionals of the record entertainment and video industry, from 1987 to 1999, before being appointed as an executive vice president for the Canadian coalition.
During his brief visit to Korea last week, Mr. Pilon, 59, spoke about the dangers that could result from the reduction of the current quota system in the face of Hollywood’s larger distribution network.
“Cultural works such as films are worth much more than their commercial value,” he said. “Because the reality is that, left to market forces, much valuable [cultural works] would simply never have been produced.”
In a letter he sent to President Roh Moo-hyun last week, urging him to reconsider the U.S. trade agreement, he wrote, “What sets films, television programs, books, plays and music apart from other goods and services is their distinctive nature as vehicles of values, identity and meaning.
“They are expressions of a people's common experience and history ― and represent a crucial means by which citizens of a country can address the central issues of their society, something that is all the more important in a time of extremely rapid change.”
He pointed to the stagnating revenues in the American domestic film market, which have been largely compensated for through the growth in the foreign market within the past few years.
In 2004, foreign revenues of Hollywood productions represented up to 60 percent of the studios’ profits, compared to 40 percent from domestic revenues, according to Worldwide Market Research, a research group.
The Korean government insists that the Korean film industry is strong enough to compete against Hollywood movies, backing up their argument with statistics showing that Korean movies have ruled the domestic box office for the past three years.
“Let’s not be naive,” Mr. Pilon said. “This argument originates entirely with the Motion Pictures Association of America and the big Hollywood studios. The situation can hardly be described as a level playing field when domestic films produced for the equicvalent of $5 million are left to go head-to-head with Hollywood films produced and marketed with an average budget of $100 million.”
by Park Soo-mee