Ina late addition to its line-up South Korea's Pusan International Film Festival(PIFF) is to show a selection of seven films from North Korea. The move isbelieved to be the first time that films from the isolationist northern statehave been officially screened in public in the South.

PIFFchief Kim Dong Ho said the screenings will "further cultural exchanges betweenthe two Koreas and celebrate 100 years of Korean cinema."

Thefestival received permission to screen the films this weekend only after protractednegotiations between the festival and government authorities from the North andthe South including the National Reconciliation Committee and the North KoreanFilm Import And Export Agency. PIFF immediately made arrangements to screenthem at the festival. The seven will be shown free of charge over three of thelast days (7-9 Oct) of the festival.

Twoof the seven, however, will not be open to the general public, but be screenedonly to accredited festival guests. The restriction, apparently, was one of theconditions that the festival had to adhere to in order to obtain the prints.The restrictions are understood to have been imposed because of sensitivecultural and ideological messages contained within the older pictures.

Theline-up includes 1949 black and white drama My Hometown, about the Japaneseoccupation of Korea, and the more recent melodrama They Met On The DaedongRiver, by Kim Kil-In from 1963.

Negotiationsconcerning the films started in 2000 after a meeting in Beijing and acceleratedrecently with a visit by PIFF selectors to North Korean capital Pyongyang lastmonth. But permits were only signed off after the festival had got underway.Although he had hoped to organise a larger event with more screenings and somedebates, Kim said "it "seemed only courteous to take the step straight away,"rather than wait for next year's festival.

Onefilm, Enigma, was recently imported in South Korea by a private firm, but thefestival screening is the first aided by the public authorities. Questioned asto why it has taken longer for official cross-border exchanges of film to takeplace than in other sectors such as sport and fine arts, Dong said that it isprobably testament to the power of film to inflame public imagination anddebate.

NorthKorean film-making has ebbed considerably since its heyday in the 1960s and thefilms' propagandist bent has also waned. The economically ravaged country stillremains active in animation, science-fiction and documentaries although theseare largely produced in digital media than on costlier 35mm format.