10 Things Korea Is Doing That's Helping Their Entertainment Industry
For many countries in the world, the local entertainment industry is ailing due to a variety of factors that include increasing audience apathy, rising production costs due to taxation, competition from foreign offerings, and rampant piracy. One country that seeks to break the mould is Korea, whose government is doing a number of things designed to help their entertainment industry thrive. Here are 10 things they are doing that other countries should emulate:
#1- Screen Quota
In many countries, a big threat to the local film industry is foreign films – particularly ones from Hollywood. These films have huge commercial appeal, huge production budgets that result in flashy and more attractive visuals, and significantly huge marketing campaigns. Domestic films usually get bypassed in favor of tentpole Hollywood releases, and since theaters are only interested in profits, they tend to prioritize showing these foreign films at the cost of limiting showings for local ones.
In Korea, the government tries to protect the local industry by imposing a screen quota, which mandates each theater in the country to screen domestic films for at least 146 days a year. It’s a progressive move, considering that they established it as far back as 1963 when it wasn’t needed yet. They have only started fully enforcing the quota in 1993, when the popularity of Hollywood’s blockbusters have started eating away at the local industry’s market share.
#2- Korean Film Council (KOFIC)
In 1999, the South Korean government launched the Korean Film Council, which is a self-administered body that is in charge of stimulating and protecting their domestic film industry. The organization works under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, which in turn appoints nine commissioners that will serve for three years and be responsible for promoting and supporting the South Korean film industry both on a national and international level.
This works to the local film industry’s favor because the commissioners are all film industry professionals, and are able to relate to the plights of the industry. With their firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by the film industry, they are better able to use the resources provided by the government for the betterment of the industry as a whole.
#3- International Film Festivals
South Korea has a number of International Film Festivals, such as the Pusan International Film Festival, the Jeonju International Film Festival, and the largest one, the Busan Film Festival. These film festivals cater to different markets but all are instrumental in introducing new films and first-time directors to audiences. The festival also attracts a lot of young audience due to their prestige and status as significant events. Additionally, it also helps production of future films as the festivals also connect new directors and talents to potential funding sources.
#4- More Liberal Censorship
Creativity is encouraged in Korea’s film industry, and it shows in their approach to censorship; Kim Ki Duk’s The Isle features sado-masochistic themes, while Park Chul-Soo’s The Green Chair features explicit sex scenes. There’s also examples of extremes in Kim Jee Woon’s I Saw the Devil. And who could forget Park Chan Wook’s Oldboy, which featured incest themes and lead actor Choi Min Sik eating a live octopus on camera. These films would have been banned or heavily censored in some countries, but not in South Korea.
Their approach is that instead of censoring or cutting the scenes out, they allow it to be preserved the way the director intended, and just depend on the KMRB (Korean Media Ratings Board)’s system to ensure that they won’t be seen by impressionable people of a certain age.
As a matter of fact, the KMRB does not actually have any authority to mandate cuts. They can only designate ratings and it is up to the filmmakers to censor or cut their own films if they are going for a specific rating.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for animation studios has always been funding. It takes a lot of money to start a full-length feature but there’s no guarantee of ROI, so investors are not likely to risk it and getting bank loans is equally difficult. The South Korean government aims to alleviate this problem by investing a total of 380 billion won as seed money for the country’s domestic animation and character industries. The seed money is also being invested smartly, because aside from providing support to new studios, it is also used to grant subsidies to established studios based on the performance of their earlier projects, making the program merit-based.
#6- Movie Making Courses as Early as Elementary
In many countries, people who want to study film making and production have to take it up as a college course, but in South Korea, skills related to movie making are taught as early as elementary. In fact, some schools have invested in equipment that allows teachers to teach movie making, these equipment can include actual blue screen technology and rooms with set pieces that can be used for role playing and staging of plays.
#7- Directors, Writers, Editors, Composers and other Production Staff are Just as Important and Well-Paid as Actors
Despite all the glamour surrounding their actors and performers, the South Korean entertainment industry does not ignore people behind the scenes. Directors, writers, composers, and other production stuff are deemed as important as the actors and are well-paid. This is in stark contrast with other countries’ entertainment industries where people who do not have their names on the marquee are treated as expendable cogs in a machine and are paid well below what they deserve for the work they do.
#8- Movie Houses in every Province
There are movie houses in every province, which helps a great deal in promoting their film industry because it makes watching movies easier for people – they don’t have to commute or drive to faraway places just to watch the latest offerings. Additionally, this helps in the matter of volume; the more movie houses there are, the more screenings there will be for movies. Coupled with their mandatory screen quota, the box office take of their local films are significantly increased compared to other countries where there are only a few theatres and the owners are not required to screen local films.
#9- Continuous Reinforcement of Tradition and Culture on Movies and TV Dramas
If you take a look at the wave of South Korean TV Dramas and movies that became popular overseas, you will see that many of them are period dramas such as Empress Ki or Dae Jang Geum. These dramas do a great deal in promoting Korean history and culture to the outside world. Additionally, even their contemporary dramas do their part in promoting their own country’s tradition and culture – you’ll see that many of them highlight the South Korean school system, their social scenes, their businesses, and even their modern customs. They have a strong love for their own culture and are less prone to being influenced or assimilated by the West. This approach helps in instilling nationalism among their audience, at least when it comes to entertainment, making them more likely to support the local industry instead of foreign ones.
#10- Strict Enforcement of Taxes
The support that the government gives to the local industry does not come free, though, as the industry is taxed. But the main difference is that there is no favoritism, as the tax laws are enforced strictly regardless of how popular the celebrity is or how powerful their agency can be. Even Internationally famous celebrities like Song Hye Kyo were not exempt, and had to make a public apology for the lapses in her filing of income tax. To her defense, it was found out that the tax evasion charges was the result of a lapse with her agency’s accountant. Keep in mind that many of these celebrities don’t do their own taxes, and do not intend to evade taxes, as they know how strict their government is and how huge the backlash will be when (not if) they are caught.