SEOUL, April 4 (Korea Bizwire) – The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) made a public apology on Wednesday for its involvement in past administrations’ scheme to blacklist left-leaning artists and deny them state support.
“Under the two past governments, the KOFIC made the big mistake of creating a blacklist of cultural-art figures on instructions from relevant authorities and carrying out measures to discriminate and exclude them,” Oh Seok-geun, chairman of the council, said in a statement during a news conference in central Seoul. “We’ll severely reflect on and reform ourselves.”
Since assuming the post in January, the filmmaker-turned-administrator has conducted an internal probe into allegations that the film promotional body served a key role in creating the so-called artist blacklist under the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye governments.
“In 2009, the council unjustly intervened in the processes of screening for various government support programs and adopted an expedient of choosing beneficiaries effectively based on guidelines from authorities like the presidential office and the National Intelligence Service,” Oh said.
From 2009 to 2016, the council also excluded from its own support programs film industry groups found to have participated in massive candlelight protests during Lee’s administration and several indie and art house movie theaters that screened films critical of the government.
It also halved central government subsidies for the annual Busan International Film Festival for screening a controversial documentary in 2014, Oh said. The film, “The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol,” also known as “Diving Bell,” decried the Park administration’s handling of the Sewol ferry sinking that claimed more than 300 lives, mostly teenage students, that year.
Director Park Chan-gyeong was excluded from a government program for supporting artistic films simply because he is the brother of left-leaning filmmaker Park Chan-wook, while the council was directed by Cheong Wa Dae not to support two other directors just because of their liberal political inclinations.
Movies related to some keywords such as “ethnic Korean residents in Japan,” “sexual minority” and “Jeju naval base” were labeled as “problematic films” and were thus denied support, according to the council.
“There are 56 known cases of movies, film studios and filmmakers excluded from support through this process,” Oh said.
He vowed to conduct further probes into the cases and to work out measures to repair the damage incurred by the victims and prevent any recurrence.