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Korea, China eye greater collaboration

Local film executives talked of the need for joint Korean-Chinese funds and institutions to support co-productions at the first session of Busan’s Asian Film Market today.

Execs at the KOFC Industry Forum (Oct 7-9) also said that the co-production treaty between China and South Korea, which has been in discussion since August 2011, might be signed as early as this month.

Films made under the treaty will be regarded as local productions in each country, enabling them to secure funding from Korea’s subsidy systems, as well as bypass import quotas in China. A tentative accord was signed in June this year.

“Our countries are geographically close and we share a similar culture but we have different film investment strategies,” said Yang Buting, chairman of China’s National Film Capital Management. “Korean stars such as Jang Dong-gun are very famous in China – and Korean culture and lifestyle is very appealing to the Chinese.”

Yang then suggested the establishment of Korean-Chinese funds and organisations to support co-productions between the two countries: “We should create funds with the participation of both countries’ governments and private sectors.”

Korea and China have already co-financed several films together, most recently CJ Entertainment and China Film’s A Wedding Invitation, and 3D sports action drama Mr Go, a collaboration between Korea’s Showbox/Mediaplex and China’s Huayi Brothers. A Wedding Invitation grossed around $30m in China, while Mr Go grossed $18m but flopped in Korea.

Showbox/Mediaplex CEO You Jeong-hun said cooperation between the two countries is necessary to achieve the kind of production and marketing budgets that are demanded by pan-Asian films. But he also said that Chinese investment in Mr Go’s $27m budget was limited. “We also need to look at launching joint p&a funds. In terms of global funds we still have a long way to go,” You said.

Choi Pyeung-ho, head of Korea’s Union Global Fund, agreed that collaboration is critical as the Korean market has reached saturation point and there is a need to expand overseas. Union Global Fund (a.k.a. Sovik Global Contents Investment Fund) invested in Mr Go and international projects such as The Last Knights, starring Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman, and Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer.

China’s National Film Capital Management is also investing in international projects such as The Tibet Code with Oriental DreamWorks and a biopic of Genghis Khan.

The panel focused on projects aimed at both the Korean and Chinese box office markets – between then worth almost $4bn annually – but it became clear that the future challenge for Korea and China will be to work together on international films.

“The Chinese and Korean markets are big so we don’t have to consider the whole world,” said Yang. “We can produce movies that can play across the whole world, but that is talk for later.”

In addition to co-productions, some Korean films are being imported into China, such as Showbox/Mediaplex’s The Thieves, which grossed $3.5m as a revenue-sharing film earlier this year.

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