As Asian Film Market Kicks off, Industry Ponders Impact of Japan-Korea Trade War

By Noh, Jean | Screen International, October 4, 2019 | Go to article overview

As Asian Film Market Kicks off, Industry Ponders Impact of Japan-Korea Trade War


Noh, Jean, Screen International


Tensions between the two nations have buyers and sellers spooked

South Korea and Japan are embroiled in a trade war that has led to a boycott of Japanese goods and services, but will it affect business at the Asian Film Market which opens today in Busan?

The dispute ignited in July when Japan announced it would tighten control over the export of chemicals to South Korea necessary for producing semiconductors – an essential component of most electronic devices, which are a top export for the country.

Japan explained its actions over security concerns about South Korea leaking information to North Korea – an accusation firmly refuted by the South Korean government. Most experts, however, trace the origins of the dispute to last year’s ruling by South Korea’s Supreme Court that Japanese companies which used forced labour during the country’s colonial occupation of Korea should pay compensation to their victims.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s administration reacted angrily to the ruling, maintaining that a 1965 agreement in which the country gave South Korea an aid package to normalise relations was sufficient apology for the colonial past.

Grassroots protest

Over the summer, South Koreans began grass-roots-level boycotts of Japanese products and travel to Japan. An app – Nono Japan – was even created to inform consumers about wholly or partially owned Japanese brands, with some reports alleging that sales of Japanese beer have dropped by more than 90%.

In the entertainment sphere, Korean broadcasters have been eschewing appearances by Japanese celebrities, while film distributors have quietly considered whether to go ahead with planned releases of Japanese films.

However, one film that will proceed with its originally planned release is Hirokazu Kore-eda’s France-Japan co-production The Truth, which is playing as a Gala Presentation in Busan and will be released locally in December by TCast; Kore-eda will be presented with the Asian Filmmaker award tonight (Oct 5) at the film’s BIFF premiere.

Privately, Korean industry insiders have been expressing concern about the impact the boycott could have on the distribution of Japanese arthouse films, but they also remain cautiously optimistic that “cultural products” will remain outside of the boycott.

Industry reaction

According to Asian Film Market general manager Daniel Kim, Japanese attendance isn’t being affected and is on course to at least match 2018.

“We had 78 companies and 112 participants from Japan, 53 of which were buyers last year,” he said. “So far this year we have 76 companies and 120 participants, 48 of which are buyers, and we expect more on-site registrations. …

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