Cultural diversity and policy: underground film in Korea

Saving CinemathequeThe emblem of Cinematheque, 2009

Cultural diversity and cultural policy are accompanied by question such as how can we represent diversity in the category of cultural policy? As the essential principle of cultural diversity points out that different cultures in the world are not one uniform object. For instance, various countries and their own cultures such as English literature, Korean music, and Chinese arts are all included in this category. Following the this concept of cultural diversity, each culture would not be limited in its own boundary, and people in the world can have chances to enjoy different cultures. Sometimes cultural diversity goes together with traditional culture, it can be a way of transmission between different cultural memories and experiences. And cultural policy is a designed policy to support a widening of public intervention by the integration of new artistic fashions of cultural expression and also a purpose to extend the social relationships and the recipient culture. According the definition of UNESCO, cultural policy can be understand a body of operational principles, administrative and budgetary practices and procedures which provide a basis for cultural action by the state. Also it points out that there cannot be one cultural policy suited to all countries, each member state determines their own cultural policy according to the cultural values, aims and choices it sets for itself.

Film identifies itself not only as the mainstream of current mass media, but also as an essential part of cultural creation. In this perspective, film seems to be a suitable example for analysis of current issue of cultural diversity and cultural policy, there are two core systems: Screen Quota and Cinematheque Operation.

Firstly, Screen Quota system is defined like a kind of trade barriers that is legislated policy which strictly films in the movie theater each year to protect own country’s films. In 1927, Screen Quota system was started in Britain, after that time some European countries, South America and some of Asia had enforced Screen Quotas system. Recently this system reached out in Korea, Brazil, Pakistan and Italy. Especially in the case of Korea is taking on the most practical aspect. In 2006 Korea’s Screen Quota system is recognized as the main apparatus for the adoption of the convention on cultural diversity, but after three months, the  Korean government announced that it agreed with the America to reduce the Screen Quota from the current 146 to 73 days. Indeed, the American government had been persistently demanding the reduction of the Screen Quota by assigning the reducing as a precondition to enter the Free Trade Agreements negotiation between the Korea and America. And the convention on cultural diversity essentially emphasizes the need to recognize the value and symbolic importance of cultures, which have been considered as commercial items, and to protect cultures under international cultural law. Now the problem is that the Screen Quota system is going to be reduced, it means the crisis of cultural protect for Korean film industry.

Secondly, Cinematheque Operation system is referred to as non-profit movie theater which aims to develop the film especially the historical and experimental or artistic film. It has started since 1930s, there are variety of Cinematheque movie theater all over the world, and they toward to diverse ranges of film under the slogan of the alternative space. And it often called underground film distribution system in comparison with growth of commercial film industry as mainstream. In the recent years, Korean film industry have gained more popularity than ever before, especially Korean films in the early 2004 broke the box-office record, and the amount of export of Korean films to foreign countries are now on the increase. More significantly, some Korean film directors have been awarded in prestigious international film festivals such as Berlin, Cannes and Venice. On the contrary of this growth tendency, it is doubtful whether there exists the orientation of cultural diversity in Korean film now. Cultural diversity is one of the most important criteria that access quality of film making and distribution system of cultural products, the absence of this principle should be suffocate experimental spirit in Korean film and it leads to homogenization of cultural identity. Now we have to revitalize the Cinematheque Operation system and urge to reconsider the fundamental notion of Cinematheque in the context of cultural diversity. Seoul Art Cinema is the first Cinematheque in Korea, unfortunately it is passing through a very serious crisis of disappearance under the power of mainstream film. The reason why we have to rethink about cultural diversity and cultural policy with and also we need to keep in mind the question that how can we keep the experimental spirit of Cinematheque.

In defense of Henri Langois, Godard and Truffaut, 1968

CinemaCinematheque and friends , publicity of the lecture, film festival, 2009

Can you hear the voice for saving Cinematheque?
The 4th Cinematheque Friends Festival titled of the Cinematheque of happiness, from on the 29th January till on the 1st March 2009.


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