South Korea opens floodgates to Hollywood

The Guardian reports today that the South Korean government has slashed the quota of indigenous films that must be shown in their country’s cinemas.

The quota was introduced in 1966 as a measure to protect the native film industry against the domination of foreign films–cinemas were obliged to show native films for 146 days a year. That’s been reduced to 73 days.

It was mainly Hollywood that threw itself on the ground and trashed its feet and hands in a temper tantrum over this protectionist policy. It should not surprise any cynical person that this adjustment in policy is the preamble to a negotiation between South Korea and the USA that will result in a significant trade agreement.

Over the past forty years South Korea has developed a thriving film industry, with talented writers, directors, actors and crew that produce well-crafted and beautiful films. Of course, I’m aware that I’m not seeing everything that emerges from South Korea, just like not every Irish film is seen outside of Ireland (thankfully).

I’ve been a fan of the country’s cinema for a number of years, and in particular the work of Chan-wook Park, Ji-woon Kim, Ki-duk Kim and Kwon-taek Im have been memorable.

Since the South Korean people are hugely supportive of their indigenous film industry (rather like the Danes), it is hoped that this change in policy will not adversely affect the popularity of native cinema. Last year the market share for domestic films rose to nearly 60%. In Ireland we can only dream of figures like that!

My guess is that it’s unlikely that 60% will be the figure at the end of this year. It’s inevitable that this policy will adversely affect native films. At least the South Koreans had forty years to build up their industry to the point where they are the admiration of many countries around the world of a similar size.

Let’s hope their foundations are strong, and they can continue to create great films despite the influx of competition from foreign markets.


  • Steve Peterson

    The Koreans are invading us! They’re making great, edgy stuff over there and we’re promptly buying it, neutering it, and releasing it in the States.I wonder if part of the reason for this concession is a sense that their film industry has matured enough — and developed it’s own particular voice, which is now being stolen by foreigners — that they figure it’s not so much a problem.

    • Maura

      Hi Steve, I’d certainly agree that the South Koreans are making great films (though I suspect they have their share of duds that we don’t see). Equally, I think this is down to the very policy which is being modified.I hope that now that there is an opportunity to show more foreign films that there will continue to be a strong market demand in South Korea for native fare. However, economics usually have a strong hand in this, and I suspect that the marketing branches of foreign film studios will throw a lot of money at advertising now that they have a bigger market share, and will probably use economic incentives to get as many slots in cinemas for their products as possible.I think the South Korean film industry is going to have to up its game as a result. On the other hand, that might end up being a good thing for the quality of the films being made there. Hopefully it will benefit them, long-term.I hope we continue to see more great films from South Korea. I would hate to see this change in policy adversely affect such talented film-makers.

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