Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) founding director Kim Dong-ho will make this year’s edition his last.

Celebrating his 73rd birthday today in Locarno, Kim is well-known and respected in and outside the Korean film industry as a hard-working, accomplished and well-connected festival head.

Currently festival co-director with Lee Yong-kwan, Kim was the one who in 1996 shored up public backing to realise the concept of a South Korean festival in Busan which discovers and promotes Asian cinema.

In previous years, Kim Dong-ho has spoken of retirement several times causing much speculation upon how PIFF - which he has come to personify, would carry on without him. Despite a health scare a few years back, the festival managed to keep him on until this point.

Last year, Lee Yong-kwan said, “It has gotten to the point where we all feel it would be a sin to ask him to stay on much longer at the rate that he works.”

“I usually travel to about 20 festivals a year, and it’s been 15 years. I started writing a column this year in the Busan-based daily newspaper Kookje Shinmun, about the festivals I’ve been attending,” said Kim, speaking to Screen International before he left for Locarno.

“The series of columns, plus a few more, will be published in book form in English and Korean. So the publication party and an exhibition of photographs I have taken over the years will serve as my farewell party this year,” he said.

He gestured to his desk covered with books, photographs and papers – research and material for his columns which detail the history and characteristics - as well as his personal experiences - of over 30 festivals including Sarajevo, Taipei and Okinawa as well as Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

Kim will continue working as festival co-director until PIFF’s next annual plenary session, which usually takes place in February. Further plans regarding his retirement, a possible honorary position, and successor(s) are to be decided and announced at that time.

Born in Hongcheon, Kim was mostly raised and educated in Seoul, but claims strong emotional ties to Busan that started in his boyhood when he spent four years living in the southern port city during and directly after the Korean War.