South Korea's filmmakers have secured a temporary respite in their efforts to maintain the nation's Screen Quota system.
In a press conference on November 21, members of the South Korean film industry announced the results of a three-hour meeting with Korean president Roh Moo-hyun concerning the quota issue. Roh is reported to have said that if filmmakers object to a reduction of the Screen Quota, he will not unilaterally force a reduction.
Nonetheless, the president is quoted as saying, "I believe that the Korean film industry can continue to develop without the aid of the Screen Quota system. Therefore I believe it would be best for members of the film industry to come up with a solution to the Screen Quota issue on their own."
He further urged members of the film industry and business interests to carry out an active dialogue in coming months in the hope of resolving the issue.
Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Yun Tae-young clarified that Roh's words do not amount to an indefinite preservation of the quota system, and that his statement to filmmakers referred to "the immediate future only."
The Screen Quota system stipulates that local theatres screen Korean films for 106 to 146 days per year, depending on various factors. U.S. trade officials, currently in the final stages of negotiations on a South Korea-U.S. bilateral investment treaty, are pushing for a reduction to 72 days per year.
Film industry representatives who attended the meeting with President Roh argued against the need for a bilateral investment treaty and predicted a severe blow to the development of the film industry if the quota is removed. They also argued for the need to exclude culture from international trade agreements.
"The U.S. agreed to exclude cultural products for Canada when they signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and there's no reason they shouldn't do the same for Korea," noted producer Lee Eun.