The era of the film festival with history and/or a competition is gone. What matters is whether you have a market function or not,' says Kim Ji-seok, executive programmer, Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF).

PIFF and its Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP) together are widely acknowledged internationally as must-attend events for their networking value, but many have questioned the necessity of PIFF opening a formal market in a crowded calendar.

However, the Asian Film Market, now in its third year, is due to run October 3-6 with the PPP and Bifcom under its umbrella - and looks like it is here to stay.

'It's probable Toronto in its early years was like this,' suggests Jay Jeon, PIFF deputy director. 'Toronto doesn't have a competition, but it has a huge industry centre and functions as a gateway to the North American market.'

The suggestion is that Pusan could eventually do the same for Asia as a whole. Last year, with few buzz films in the festival, the market was quiet, too, although many meetings were done 'pre-AFM' and some deals closed, including Takashi Miike's Crows: Episode 0 being sold to Germany, Benelux and Taiwan.

'(Pusan) is a good launch pad. We develop projects like Sabu's Arrested Memories in the PPP, showcase films like Crush And Blush in the festival, and sell them with others in the market,' says Suh Young-joo, head of Fine Cut.

'It's not a market where we talk about (leftover) deals. We launch new projects here. We see mostly Western buyers in Pusan.'

Companies from some 17 countries are set to attend, including Hong Kong's Edko, Taiwan's Three Dots Entertainment and the major Korean companies.

This year sees an increase in mainland China participation, with Beijing Municipal Bureau of Radio and Television taking five booths to set up around 10 companies including Huayi Brothers and Beijing Forbidden City Film.

European Film Promotion, the UK Film Council and UniJapan will have umbrella stands, and even though it is just a week before the Tokyo festival and Tiffcom, Japanese companies including Gaga, Avex, Tohokushinsha, Nikkatsu and TBS are taking individual sales offices, too.

On the buyer side, Japanese and South-East Asians are becoming regulars while more European and US buyers are attending. Emperor Motion Pictures, NHK, Toho, Splendid and Magnolia are all set to attend this year.

The sales offices have been moved from the Grand to the Seacloud Hotel, much closer to the Paradise Hotel where PPP and Bifcom are held. Market organisers boast everything including market screenings at the Megabox and Primus cinemas which are within 15 minutes' walk, although shuttle buses and taxis are always available.

The Asian Film Market, with Screen International, is hosting the inaugural Asian Film Funds Forum, with a seminar featuring speakers including Yasushi Kotani from Entertainment Farm, Nansun Shi from Irresistible Films/Distribution Workshop and Ben Waisbren from Continental Entertainment Capital.

There will also be presentations on Asian film funds run by companies such as RGM Entertainment, The Weinstein Company and Acti.