Busan International Film Festival and the Korean Films

The number of film festivals has increased rapidly in the past two decades. Film festivals bring about exchanges and more business opportunities to film industry as it grows popular and huge. Bill Nichol mentioned that film festivals not only focus on local films, but also attach importance to diversity and globalization (Nichols 1994: 68). However, European film festivals nearly monopolized the industry in the last century, especially Cannes Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and others, which are rated Class-A film festivals. Although these festivals have accepted exhibitors and entries from many countries around the world, and have been perfecting their various competitions and exhibiting units, we have seen more European films. This originates from the fact that films developed earlier in Europe, and their technology, team development and film industry are relatively mature. For example, Cannes Film Festival was valued and sponsored by French government from the very beginning, and French art films enjoy many preferential and supportive policies to help their film teams. Therefore, our attitude towards European films should be described as more of “worship” in the last century. In the 1990s, Asian films such as Chinese and Japanese films showed good momentum at international film festivals. However, due to the development trend of the local market and other factors, there was a shortage of good new films. After entering the 21st century, with the advancement of science and technology as well as the cooperation and exchanges among the film markets of various countries brought by the film festivals, more and more films from Asia have appeared at European film festivals, especially the rise of Korean movies in recent years that has attracted the attention of the global film market. Since Strokes of Fire won the Best Director Award at Cannes Film Festival in 2002, Korean films have won awards repeatedly at three major film festivals and other international film festivals, and have steadily developed in film technology, scriptwriting, actor performances, etc. Films like 3-Iron, Old Boy, Pieta, The Handmaiden, Burning, etc. have become the business cards of Korea at international film festivals.


Moreover, The Wailing, Train to Busan and others have obtained profitable copyrights with international film festivals as the trading platforms. There have been media reports claiming that Korean films have been developing at “feverish” speed. One has to admit that Korean films have become a self-contained group, and a business card called Korean culture shows the international community the culture and society of Korea from a multi-angle perspective. The development of Korean films began around 19962014090402243023112.jpg, when Kim Dae-Jung proposed the declaration in South Korea’s presidential campaign that he would support the development of Korean films, and later suggested plans such as preparation for Busan International Film Festival and others in Busan, winning over international recognition and promoting exchanges. Therefore, Korean films began to step on the path of development under the support of the government.


Busan International Film Festival started in 1996 and is the first international film festival in Korea. Aiming at promoting the development of Korean film industry and the friendly exchanges between Korea and the rest of the world, and displaying and publicizing Asian film achievements, Busan Film Festival has made great contributions to the development of Korean films. Though called an international film festival, Busan International Film Festival is more about promoting Korean films and other Asian films to the international market. Moreover, the Festival has not only made Korean film culture internationally known, but also influenced local film production and distribution, and has created a film fund to encourage the film projects of local and international cooperation. With the continuous development and improvement of the Festival, projects including Asian Film Market, Asian Film Academy, and Asian Cinema Fund have been gradually established over the past 20 years, which continuously enhance the international image of the Festival. They have also brought huge economic benefits and industrial optimization opportunities to Korean film industry. According to data from South Korea’s BDI in 2009, Busan International Film Festival and Asian Film Market has brought in economic profits of 37 billion won and 16.6 billion won respectively. Since the opening of the Festival, the market share of Korean films in the local market has increased from 20.9% in 1995 to 63.8% in 2006.

The establishment of the Festival and others has not only provided a large number of jobs for Korean society, maintaining plenty of practitioners for the film industry, but also generated economic incomes in industries such as tourism to Busan and brought the manpower and economic foundation to the continued development of the Festival. In addition, due to the continuous improvement of the Festival as a platform, Korean films have improved their film production technology through continuous cooperation with and study of foreign films, and cultivated their own production system, optimizing their film industry. With the development of globalization and market economy, the Festival provides a good platform and trading network for Korean films, making Korean films more accepted by foreign markets and shaping a good image of Korean film culture through the Festival to maintain a good reputation of Korean films internationally. Although the Festival has made contributions to Korean film industry, its development in Korea has not been smooth since 2006. Since the original purpose of the Festival is to develop Korean film market, it had a conflict with Korean film industry due to the reduced screen quota for Korean films at the Festival. Since the Festival was initially encouraged and funded by the government, the organizing committee of the    Festival and the government are constantly related. In 2016, the organizing committee, under the excuse that “film festivals are independent and free”, did not follow the government’s instruction to cancel the release of The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol, and was then resisted by the government and Korea Film Association. Yet it received more respect from the international community because of this standpoint. And in May 2018 it was selected among the first batch of members of International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF)’ Film Festival Committee. With the development of the Festival, more and more outstanding works from Asia have entered the international film market through this platform, and more and more international cooperation and exchanges to Korean and Asian film markets are offered.








7.Nichols, Bill (1994). “Global Image Consumption in the Age of Late Capitalism.” East-West Film Journal 8:1 (1994): 68–85.

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