Facing pressure from the Americans, who were making a prerequisite of it to the discussions aimed at setting up a free trade agreement between Seoul and Washington, the South Korea Government finally gave in to pressures, announcing at the end of January that it would reduce by half its quotas for national films distribution. The Korean minister of Economy and Finance, Han Duck-soo, specified that the number of days during which South Korean movie houses would have to show nationally produced films would go from 146 to 73, beginning on July 1st.
For years, underlines Le Monde in its February 14 issue, Washington had explicitly requested that such quotas be suppressed or at least reduced. The South Korean film maker Lee Chang-dong who was for nearly two years, Minister of Culture and a fervent defender of the quotas system had in fact resigned his functions in refusal of such an hypothesis. This time, Minister of Economy Han Duck-soo, the head of the South Korean negotiations delegation with Washington, Kim Jong-hoon, and above all the President of Republic Roh Moo-hyun, have made this agreement with the USA a priority for their Government. Even if it meant giving up the Korean cinematographic cultural policy.
In this respect, the United States Trade Representative, Mr. Robert Portman, was delighted with this decision, since South Korea is the seventh largest trade partner of the USA and, for Washington, the bilateral trade negotiations to open with South Korea will be the most important since the conclusion of North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) twelve years ago with Canada and Mexico.
On their side, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) chairman Dan Glickman, rapidly expressed his satisfaction for such good news: "This is a welcome announcement. Korea is an important trading partner for the U.S. film industry, and for all of America. A successful free trade agreement will provide improved access to a promising market, as well as an opportunity to strengthen intellectual property enforcement. The Motion Picture Association applauds Ambassador Portman and his U.S. government colleagues, as well as the Government of Korea, for undertaking this important endeavor."
However, "This decision dramatically calls into question the leading Korean cultural policy, tree months after UNESCO adopted at the 33rd session of the General Conference last October 20 the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions", deplored the French Coalition for cultural diversity. Its chairman Pascal Rogard, stresses that « the United States take advantage of the launching period during which the Convention has not yet been ratified to continue requesting the opening of cinématographic and audiovisual markets – powerful strategic stakes to them – in all bilateral trade negotiations where they participate ».
The Korean Association of film producers and actors, which strongly wishes that the Korean cinématographic industry should maintain its vitality, sharply opposed this reduction in quotas that allows it to hold a market share of 60 % and termed this decision as an "anticultural coup".
This quotas system, unique in the world, had been adopted in 1985 to protect the Korean cinematographic industry and fostered the blooming of an internationally recognized quality film industry. Thanks to those means of assistance to cultural production and to a renewed Korean cinema, national films 82 in 2005, represented during that year more than 54 % of the market share.
Currently in Korea in ordrer to meet industry leaders, artists and officials after the Korean government's recent agreement with U.S. trade officials to reduce its screen quota for domestic films from 40 percent to 20 percent, Robert Pilon, executive vice-president of the Canada-based Coalition for Cultural Diversity (CCD) and spokesperson for the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC) is facing U.S. pressure head-on. Pilon told OhmyNews in an interview that global movie industries must be cautious of Hollywood's "aggressive" political stance. He said it is putting forth a disingenuous argument for letting the free market guide the buying and screening of films worldwide. Along with CCD Co-presidents Pierre Curzi and Scott McIntyre, Pilon also sent along a letter urging President Roh Moo Hyun and Ministry of Culture and Tourism; Ministry of Finance and Economy; and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials, to reconsider the U.S. trade agreement, saying it would "result in a profoundly regrettable and irrevocable loss of cultural diversity within Korea, a loss that would also be felt internationally."
In other respects, to show their solidarity, the French Coalition for cultural diversity and its 51 member organizations, side by side with the other 31 worldwide Coalitions gathered within the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC) immediately committed themselves to the protest campaign organized by the Korean Coalition for cultural diversity by addressing letters to the main Korean public authorities.
Releases and Declarations :
Support to the Korean Coalition - mails addressed to the (In French only):
In the media: