A South Korean political drama that is dividing audienceson the same scale as Fahrenheit 9/11 has been dropped just ahead of itsFebruary 3 release by distributor CJ Entertainment.

The President's Last Bang by Im Sang-soo --director of Venice entry A Good Lawyer's Wife (2003) - is a creativeretelling of the hours before and after authoritarian president Park Chung-heewas assassinated by the head of the nation's intelligence services in 1979.

Citing political sensitivities, CJ also announced onWednesday that it was withdrawing its financial commitment to the project,which amounts to 20% of the $4.5m budget.The company reported that the decision had been made in early January,long before the film's first press screening on Monday which set off a mediastorm.

Production company MK Pictures, which had planned toco-distribute the film with CJ, will now take sole responsibility fordistribution, with CJ providing logistical assistance in light of the suddenchange. MK Pictures, which retainsinternational rights, is the product of a recent merger between top productioncompanies Myung Films and Kang Je-gyu Films.

The film's topic is still controversial 25 years later,as Park remains admired by a significant proportion of the populace and hisdaughter Park Geun-hye currently serves as leader of the centre-rightopposition party. Park's son meanwhilehas tried to block the film's release by filing a lawsuit, which has yet to beheard in court.

Viewer reaction after Monday's press screening has run toboth extremes, with detractors calling it 'garbage' and supportershailing it as an artistic breakthrough.

Film critic Lee Sang-yong, a contributor to weeklymagazine Film 2.0., wrote: 'The film's loose fabrications lay bare theideology of the nation. It's an exquisite allegory, that recalls Costa-Gavras' Z.'