Magazine article Screen International

Busan Director Refuses Request to Step Down

Magazine article Screen International

Busan Director Refuses Request to Step Down

Article excerpt

Busan Metropolitan City has asked Lee Yong-kwan to step down as festival director of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) ahead of its 20th edition.

Along with an audit of the festival that the South Korean city carried out in December, this request is widely seen as retribution against BIFF for standing by its selection of the controversial ferry-sinking documentary The Truth Shall Not Sink With The Sewol.

Conservative Busan mayor Seo Byeong-soo had requested the film's screenings be cancelled, but the festival refused.

"It's an absurd situation. I have no intention of quitting and will continue to prepare for the festival's 20th anniversary," Lee told ScreenDaily.

Local film industry groups have quickly rallied to support the festival director, calling for Busan City to retract their request, uphold the festival's independence and not damage freedom of expression with such censorship measures.

The request

Lee explained he met with vice mayor for administrative affairs Jung Gyung-jin as well as culture and tourism bureau director-general Kim Kwang-hee at a hotel coffee shop near Busan Station where they suggested he resign because of organizational problems.

"They haven't even give us the results of the audit," said Lee. "They merely said they were not good. It's difficult to understand this behavior of ignoring due process.

"They said there were a lot of problems so didn't I think the organizing committee personnel needed renewal?

"I asked if they meant I should leave and they said yes. I asked if they were conveying the mayor's opinion, and they said yes.

"So I asked for time to think about that and we parted. The whole meeting took about 20-25 minutes. This was the afternoon of January 23 (Fri)."

Local media picked up on the story, positing retribution.

On Jan 24, Busan City posted a statement on its website saying it was asking for "the festival's drastic reform" with BIFF's 20th anniversary in mind.

"Unlike when the film festival first opened, it has a budget that reaches up to an annual KW12.1bn ($11.2m) and regular staff numbering 38 people," said the statement, mentioning hiring and spending practices, responsibility and the need for "new vision and paradigms".

It also refers to a need for programmers to report film selections to a permanent executive committee and "objectivity and transparency while maintaining the independence of programmers' activities". …

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