Korean filmmakers havejoined with rice farmers to protest the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA)in a mass rally entitled Candlelight Culture-fest "Rice and Cinema" to Maintainthe Screen Quota and Block the FTA. - US trade pressure for FTA negotiationsdemanding the halving of the screen quota and the opening of the rice market.

Two hours into the event atpress time (8pm Seoul), more than 3,000 members of film-related andfarm-related associations - including a newly launched film student'sassociation, have gathered in the public square in front of Seoul city's administration offices, joined bypoliticians from the National Assembly and citizens waving candles.

Led by actors Ahn Sung-ki, ChoiMin-shik, and this year's phenomenal hit star Lee Joon-ki of King and the Clown - all of whom have stagedone-man protests - the rally takes the form of a cultural festival.

Speeches from actors,filmmakers, and farming community leaders are complemented by performances frommartial arts director Jung Doo-Hong ("Arahan"), pop singers, and a traditional farce showparodying the FTA negotiations using the Kingand the Clown props. Comedians from broadcaster KBS showed their supportwith performances as well.

Since the government's January26 announcement of the Quota halving to 73 days, Korea has witnessed a series of solo protests indowntown Seoul by stars and famous directors, in addition to the3,000-strong rally on February 8.

Yesterday, independent filmmakers's associations across the nation banded togetherto issue a refusal of the Ministry of Culture & Tourism's placating attemptto offer $400m in development funds, stating that they could not take the moneyat the cost of accepting the FTA conditions.

With recent polls showingthe majority of Koreans believe the Quota should be maintained, and theNational Assembly's Committee of Culture and Tourism questioning the reduction,the government recently announced it will hold forums with the Assembly,executive branches involved, and citizens groups before FTA negotiations.

However, a statement fromPresident Roh yesterday showed the government'sdetermination to hold to the quota reduction, comparing the film industry to achild that no longer needs protection.