Oh Seok Geun

Source: Busan

Oh Seok Geun

Oh Seok Geun, director of Busan’s Asian Contents & Film Market (ACFM), has become the latest in a string of senior figures to resign from Asia’s leading film festival.

Oh, one of the original founders of South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), had been director of the ACFM since 2021 and announced his departure would be effective from today (June 30). With just over three months before the next ACFM is due to take place in October, a replacement has yet to be announced.

In a post on BIFF’s internal bulletin board, he said it was “right to humbly accept” recent criticism of the festival, which has faced a series of management issues since mid-May, but that there were also “malicious attacks” intended to shake the organisation.

“Despite extremely confused circumstances, I tried to do my duty to help resolve and rectify the situation smoothly and lay the foundation for a new leap forward for the Busan International Film Festival, but I feel that my ability has reached its limit,” said Oh in his message to colleagues.

“It is right to humbly accept and reflect on sharp and sober criticism towards the Busan International Film Festival, but I think the nature of the countless criticisms and offensives that have been poured out for a while is different from healthy and productive criticism. The motive and goals were not so pure and not for the public interest, and I cannot but think that they were malicious attacks [aimed at] shaking the Busan International Film Festival.”

High-level tensions at BIFF appear to have begun last month when the festival director role was effectively split in two between festival director Huh Moonyung and Cho Jongkook, who was given the newly created position of managing director.

Huh swiftly resigned, although shortly afterwards a complaint of sexual harassment by a festival employee emerged, a claim Huh denies. The issue is being investigated by the Center for Gender Equality in Korean Cinema. In the wake of the turmoil at the festival, Cho was dismissed earlier this week.

BIFF chairman Lee Yong-kwan has also resigned, although he is being urged by the festival’s board of directors and executive committee to fulfil his duties through the completion of this year’s edition in October.

Earlier today, the festival’s board and executive committee issued a statement asking film industry, press and political circles to cease attacks and help the festival organise a successful edition as well as reiterating its request to chairman Lee see out this year’s event.

In a possible reference to the new managing director system that seemingly sparked the current unrest, Oh said: “I acknowledge that I am also responsible in causing the background of this situation and sincerely apologise.”

Contacted by Screen, Oh declined to issue further comment but did share the text of his intranet post.

“More than anyone else, I would like to express my deepest gratitude once again to the audience who have supported us and to the employees and staff who have made the Busan International Film Festival a success,” the post continued. “I hope that we will continue to work together and gather strength so that the Busan International Film Festival can proceed smoothly.

“As someone who participated, albeit with small abilities, when the Busan International Film Festival was founded, I will not hide the fact that I am deeply regretful to leave the Busan International Film Festival. I will support it fervently with all my heart.”

Oh was general manager of the festival from 1996 to 2000 and was chairperson of the Korean Film Council (Kofic) from 2018 to 2021 before being appointed ACFM director in spring 2021.

It is understood that BIFF will proceed with the new leadership of Nam Dong-chul as acting festival director and Kang Seung-ah as acting managing director.

The 28th edition of BIFF is set to run October 4-13 while the ACFM is set to take place from October 7-10.