Culture to gain more funding

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Culture to gain more funding

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A scene from the film “Haeundae,” directed by Yoon Je-kyoon. The film was supported in part by a government fund for creative content. Provided by CJ Entertainment


Korea’s tsunami blockbuster “Haeundae” set last year’s biggest box-office record with a total of 11.5 million viewers. It is also one of the highest grossing films in Korean history. But it could not have made those accomplishments without the help of government funds, according to the film’s director Yoon Je-kyoon.

For those filmmakers, drama, game, animation and computer graphics producers who find it difficult to find investors, Korea’s Culture Ministry said last week it will commit 100 billion won ($87 million) by 2012 to support various projects in the cultural content sector.

To fund the projects, the government plans to create what it calls a “fund of funds.” Under the plan, the government will contribute to a specially-created fund, rather than investing directly in shares, bonds or other securities. The fund will then be allocated to support other projects.

As of this month, the Culture Ministry has invested a combined 170 billion won for movies, television dramas and games since the investment tool was launched in 2006. Of the total amount, 48.6 percent has been set aside for films.

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Yoon, the Haeundae director, said earlier that the fund is like “a lifeline for content creators.”

The film received 7.4 billion won in government funding, and earned an estimated return of up to 40 percent.

Other recent Korean films such as “Take Off” and “My Girlfriend is an Agent,” both of which were also successful at the box office, were also produced with the help of the government fund and their returns stand at over 50 percent, respectively, according to ministry data.

Musicals including “Three Musketeers,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” and “Phantom of the Opera” were also beneficiaries of the fund.

“Due to the nature of the content industry, which has fewer chances at success, the pace of investment has not been brisk, even though the money is there,” Culture Minister Yu In-chon said in a press briefing.

The ministry also plans to provide loans of up to 3 billion won per project, with no requirement for collateral. But it has also devised a set of quality control measures: Content providers who have received warnings from the Korea Communications Standards Commission for negative content or who are believed to have “degraded the dignity of the nation with low quality content” will be disqualified from funding for a specific period of time. The ministry did not elaborate on its criteria for “degrading content.”

Despite the positive reception for the government’s funding initiative, there has been criticism that it is overly focused on film projects. To address these concerns, the ministry intends to allocate 40 billion won to television dramas and 15 billion won to computer graphics and 3-D projects, out of the 100 billion won it plans to set aside for cultural content.

Last year, the revenue earned by Korean content providers grew 4.2 percent from the previous year to 68 trillion won. The gaming industry’s revenue also jumped 25.6 percent year-on-year, largely due to game exports totaling $1.5 billion, according to the ministry.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]
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