Stars call for anti-piracy at a session held at the 14th Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival underway at the southern port city. From left, Ahn Sung-ki, Ha Ji-won, Kim Ha-neul, Uhm Jung-hwa, Jang Dong-gun and Park Joong-hoon. / Courtesy of PIFF
By Lee Hyo-won
BUSAN ― South Korea may be one of the largest film markets in the world, ranking within the top 10 list in terms of ticket sales revenue and audience size, and it has become commonplace for Hollywood blockbuster films to have their premieres or Asian junkets here. But the widespread circulation of pirated DVDs on the streets and movie files online is deeply hurting the industry.
During the 14th Pusan International Film Festival, ongoing in the seaside resort through Friday, the problem was highlighted by launching a star-studded campaign and an international forum.
A seminar last Friday brought together related experts from near and far to discuss copyright issues. According to the Korea Copyright Commission, damages from pirated films amount to about 1 trillion won each year.
Recently ``Haeundae,'' a blockbuster about a tsunami that became one of the highest grossing films in Korean box office history, suffered from piracy overseas. The action flick opened in Chinese theaters Aug. 25 but a few days later a pirated version complete with Chinese subtitles started circulating both on and offline. The movie file was illegally downloaded about 10,000 times, and DVDs sold for a mere five yuan (900 won), said Hong Seung-gi, president of the Korea Entertainment Law Society.
``Fortunately, a Korean law enforcement unit acted quickly and tracked down the distributor. This shows how important and urgent international cooperation is in fighting piracy,'' he said.
Naoshi Yoda of T-Joy, Japan's leading multiplex company, also voiced strong concern about piracy. ``In 2005, the Japanese film industry lost 82 billion yen (around 920 million dollars) due to the production and sales of pirated DVDs. Worldwide, the damage amounted to about 180 billion dollars,'' he said.
The anti-piracy campaign, ``I'm a Good Downloader,'' featuring top Korean stars garnered much interest Friday afternoon at the outdoor stage of the PIFF Village. Hallyu star Jang Dong-gun, who appears in the festival's opening film ``Good Morning President,'' and actresses Ha Ji-won and Uhm Jung-hwa, heroines of ``Haeundae,'' took part in the event.
"Haeundae recently suffered from piracy. This negatively affects our country as a whole, and I hope this can be an opportunity to change our downloading habits,'' said Ahn Sung-ki, veteran actor and director of the campaign.
``If we don't solve this problem of illegal downloading, it will downgrade the quality of filmmaking, which in turn negatively affects moviegoers,'' said Jang. ``Just because you pay for downloading a movie doesn't mean it is legal. Please use legal movie file-sharing services.''
Films making their Korean premiere at the festival were prone to illegal online distribution.
The Japanese TV anime-turned live feature ``Yatterman'' had its Korean premiere Friday in the Open Cinema section. The film was however illegally downloaded on domestic file sharing Web sites. The DVD quality of the exposed file, complete with Korean subtitles, didn't differ much from the big screen version.
Lu Chuan's ``City of Life and Death,'' a headline-making film depicting the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanjing, China, was also found on illegal movie file-sharing sites.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and related copyrights organizations will host a seminar Tuesday at the Haeundae Grand Hotel. The event will introduce an updated version of Illegal Copyrights Obstruction Project (ICOP-II), a system for cracking down piracy online.