Amidst heated protests, South Korea and the US yesterday completed talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) which will have significant effects on local film and media if ratified. The local Ministry of Culture and Tourism also quickly announced contingency plans.

Foremost in local filmmakers' concerns, the new FTA would freeze the recently reduced Screen Quota at 73 days. Room for increase had been left in previous language, but nullified in the last version of the agreement.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism quickly announced another slate of contingency plans to placate the local industry. Generally going over previously announced ideas for more funding, diversity in cinema and overseas promotion, the list this time included slightly more concrete details such as endeavors to put completion bonds in place, plans to create investment funds, and a new research centre to look into content for new platforms such as internet protocol television (IPTV) and digital media broadcasting (DMB).

Local broadcasters also look to get hit as the FTA would also allow 100% foreign ownership through companies set up in Korea. At the moment, foreign ownership is restricted to 49%.

TV programming quotas would be brought down as well. In the case of local films, the quota would go from 25% to 20%, and for animations, from 35% to 30%.

The opening of broadcasting markets would take place three years after the ratification of the FTA.

In addition, the duration of intellectual property rights protection in Korea will be extended from 50 to 70 years. With this extension, it is estimated that about $225m in royalties will occur in the next twenty years, with 70.6% of that to go to the US.