Eight resignations signal rift in the ranks at Jeonju festival

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Eight resignations signal rift in the ranks at Jeonju festival


Disagreement over the direction of the Jeonju International Film Festival has added uncertainty to one of Korea’s marquee movie events. Provided by Jeonju International Film Festival

With its 2013 edition just five months away, the Jeonju International Film Festival has been rocked by the resignations of eight staff members within a week late last month.

The eight - who include general manager Hong Yung-joo, and programmers Jo Ji-hoon and Maeng Soo-jin - said they resigned because of new director Ko Seok-man, accusing him of dominating planning and finances for next year’s festival.

“JIFF’s group discussion meetings are not for sharing ideas about the direction of the festival; they are more like receiving orders from the chief director,” said the staff in a joint statement Tuesday.

The organizing committee “has become reckless in drawing up and implementing programs without considering their feasibility,” they said.

In a press conference, Ko acknowledged there have been disagreements, but characterized the statement as a misrepresentation.

“The issues in the statement actually exist, but the details are distorted and exaggerated,” he said. “I tried to change the administrative system and existing practice, but they failed to accept that.”

The former staff members also accused Ko of attempting to get rid core events that distinguish the JIFF from other festivals.

“We reported that we were going to select moviemakers for ‘Jeonju Digital Project’ and ‘Short! Short! Short! Project.’ But new director stopped all the programs, saying we need to reassess them to determine if they are still relevant to the identity of the festival,” they said.

The eight former staffers went on to criticize Ko for pushing ahead with a budget-busting program that he initiated: the “Cineaste 50 Project,” under which 50 internationally renown experts of the film industry will be invited each year to give lectures at the Jeonju festival.

The chief director responded by saying, “The Cineaste 50 Project was carried out separately from the film festival and I’ve never demanded something unreasonable.” In addition to the budget issue, the former committee members’ statement accused Ko of blocking efforts to name French film professional Jacques Aumont as co-chief director.

Regarded as one of Korea’s three biggest and highest-profile film festivals along with Busan and Pucheon, the JIFF carved out a niche by highlighting independent, low-budget art films from around the world.

The new director was appointed in August to replace Min Byung-lock, who had caused controversy by dismissing programmer Yoo Un-seong.

Ko was previously director of Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea and held a CEO post at the Korea Creative Contents Agency. His resume also includes production work at MBC and a professorship at Chung-Ang University.

Meanwhile, the JIFF announced that it filled two positions that had been kept vacant for a while. Min Seong-wook was appointed vice chairman of the committee while film critic Kim Young-jin was named committee member in charge of programming.

Kim formerly worked for the weekly magazine Cine 21 and is a professor of film and musical at Myongji University.

“It would be farfetched if I say there is no problem,” he said. “But we’d like to recruit new programmers and draw up specific programs within three months.”

By Park Eun-jee [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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