South Korea has signed its first international filmco-production agreement with France. The agreement letsco-produced films enjoy domestic film status in distribution and when applyingfor government support in both countries.

Korea's Minister of Culture and Tourism Kim Myung-gon andhis French counterpart Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres signed the agreement in Seoul over the weekend.

Both countries have nurtured their film industrieswith quotas, and strongly supported the idea of cultural exemption in the international arena -Korea with its much-debated Screen Quota, recently cut to 73 days, and Francewith its broadcast quota for 40% of film programmes to be filled with localproduct.

The agreement applies only to feature films and notanimations or shorts. To be considered a co-production, a film must have noless than 20% and no more than 80% investment from each country.

France has 42 similar pacts with other countries, but thisis the first legally-binding one covering films for Korea.

Korea and France were in discussions for a co-productiontreaty since April 2002. Because of concerns surrounding most-favored nationsstatus for the two signing countries, Korea's ministry of foreign affairs hadapproached the issue with reservations, and instead of an international treatybetween countries, the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) and France's CentreNationale de Cinematographie (CNC) signed a preliminary Cooperation Agreementin November 2002.

Ultimately, their concerns were resolved and Korea'sforeign affairs ministry also requested a change in domestic regulations onco-productions. Before the change went into effect this October, co-productionswere only acknowledged after completion - allowing them to qualify forthe Screen Quota, but not to apply for government support beforehand.

While in Seoul, the French minister De Vabres alsoawarded filmmaker and former culture minister Lee Chang-dong (Oasis, PeppermintCandy) with the Legion of Honor for his efforts to protect Korea's Screen Quotaand promote cultural diversity in moving images.