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Ko - production in Busan
  • Daniel D.H. Park, Director of International Promotion Center
  • Dec 19, 2011
    Director of the International Promotion Center at the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), Daniel D.H. Park is looking at his 20th anniversarywith the governmental organization. He took some time out from his busy year-end schedule to meet with KoBiz and talk about his work supporting and promoting Korean cinema and the Korean film industry and how that is changing.

    KOBIZ: You’ve been with KOFIC a while in different capacities. Tell us a bit about your career here.

    PARK:I first started working at KOFIC in 1993, so next year will be my 20th. I started at the Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA), which was great because I was able to take part in an entire cycle of filmmaking, from script stage to post-production with the students’ films. I learned all about shooting on 35mm, recording and development, and that has informed my work since then. That’s when I became friendly with PARK Ki-yong, head of KAFA, and would solve problems like negotiating the rental of a nightclub location down from KW1 million to KW70,000.
    Then there was a personnel shuffle and I was sent to the accounting department. I wasn’t happy about it since I graduated an English major from college and knew nothing about accounting, but it turned out to be a great opportunity to learn about how the organization is run and to work closely with management.
    After that, I worked in the international promotion department and the planning and research department, which included putting out the yearbook for Korean films and computerizing our operations. This was back in the mid-nineties when we had one computer per department. I put a lot of legwork into it and bought a lot of beverages out of my own pocket for people who could teach me about computerization. I was able to win a significant budget from the Ministry of Culture back then, but this caught the eye of my superior, who took me off to the KOFIC Studios to set up the themepark and cultural experience center there. I learned a lot about film history in the process.
    Then I was in the planning and publicity department and finally back in the international promotion department for nine years. I had a break from that working in the planning department again, and then back. All in all, I’ve been in international promotion for 13 to 14 years.
    What it’s all left me with is a sense of learning openly from old and young. It’s made me more flexible. I’ve also been able to meet and talk with foreigners, and get the benefit of that experience. My generation isn’t one that’s extremely good at speaking English, but over the years I’ve been able to become friendly with some people personally, too. I think this is what KOFIC offers over other workplaces, and I suppose this is what my juniors will benefit from as well.
    KOBIZ: Looking back on 2011, what kind of year has it been for promoting Korean films internationally?

    PARK: Our budget was cut in half compared to 2010, so we had to make adjustments and operate at optimum efficiency.It was a very busy year. We had a lot of difficulties, but despite that, we also tried some new things and prepared new programs for next year. If the period of 2000 to 2011 was mostly about promoting Korean films abroad through film festivals and markets, in 2011 we’ve started reaching for more co-productions, overseas investment, location shoots, and utilization of our post-production manpower. Korean directors have also started advancing overseas. It has been a year when we looked at how KOFIC can provide support for this, and for us to create a foundation for that support.
    KOBIZ: Give us some examples.
    PARK: We started a locations incentive program for foreign audio-visual works which have 80% or more participation from a foreign production company and a budget of KW1 billion (approximately US$859,000) or more, and that shoot for ten or more days in Korea. They can get up to 25% back on the production costs they spent here.
    Also, in 2011 we held 30% more co-production events. Especially with Chairman KIM Eui-suk, we’re supporting work with China. We’ll slowly be seeing the positive results of that now.
    The KoBiz website is another thing that we have focused on. From August 2010 to August 2011, over the course of about a year, we have completed a tremendous amount of work on it. For local filmmakers, the Korean site now has the current statuses of 38 overseas markets, 14 different kinds of standard contracts, and a co-production guide with case studies of 228 films. Things like this have been going on the site continually, and now we have a set-up where film industry people and students interested in overseas export guides can search systematically through all this information and not have to repeat the trial and error of their predecessors.
    We’ve also started overseas consulting services on a trial basis this year, and that will be expanded next year.We’ll be expanding the Kobiz consulting services so that people can consult experts about legal issues, co-production, markets and exporting as well as film festival participation. We’re hoping to create a network of established industry people with a lot of experience, cut down on trial and error and help people to be more efficient in their activities.
    On the English site, we’ve input information on the local industry and professionals working here, especially so that people looking to co-produce can see who’s who. Also, for those interested in Korean film production, we have information on hot films and upcoming films, news and so on. This year, we also started webzine and app services for the <Korean Cinema Today> magazine. It might seem like we’re advancing too quickly with the digital and mobile services, but film professionals generally tend to advance more quickly than regular people.
    Next year, we’re going to take it to the next level and build an online screening system for film festivals and distributors to access. It will mainly be for people with smaller networks, who have trouble going to markets, but later we hope it will be more widely used.
    KOBIZ: Why this sort of change in focus?

    PARK: The domestic market’s profit-making structure has its limits. Theatrical and ancillary markets, which include IPTV, DVD and overseas rights, have reached a certain limit, and we needed to think about how to advance overseas. Sales companies have been telling us that completed films’ prices have been affected by the financial crises coming from the US and Europe. Instead of picking up all rights, buyers are looking for specific releases in their countries and so the profit to be made per film is going down.
    In the long term, we need more mid-sized domestic films to be made in diversity and to appeal to overseas audiences. Of course, films of KW1 billion and less should be encouraged and so on, but even if you look at the CNC [France’s governmental film promotion body], they boast how many middle-sized budget films have been made in a year. For them, it’s about €4million or €5 million. That speaks to how important mid-sized films are to the stability of a country’s production structure. And that’s why they have the staying power to maintain their domestic film market share.
    We talk a lot about profit structures, but there’s a limit. In 2004 and 2005, when exports were doing well, the industry was [making] about KW340 billion or KW350 billion, and in 2010 it was at about KW320 billion.People are leaving the film industry because there aren’t enough jobs. Too many low-budget films of KW1 billion and less, or just big-scale films aren’t what we need. We need a certain average of films that will ensure jobs, stability for workers so that they won’t leave, hone their craft, and improve the excellence in filmmaking quality.
    As far as I know, there are  200 Korean employees in the US and 40 at ILM’s Singapore branch. Why don’t these experts return to Korea? Because the industry’s size and stability. Say the UK makes 130 films in a year, 100 of them are domestic and 30 are American. We can do that in Asia. That’s part of the reason why we started the locations incentive, and are supporting the formation of a co-financing network. We can create job stability, grow the production system, and foreign and domestic filmmakers can learn from each other.

    KOBIZ: You’ve told us some of the things we can expect in 2012. What else is on your agenda?

    PARK:We’ll be working with the Busan International Film Festival to figure out how to stimulate the Asian Film Market. Busan as a film festival has an extraordinary reputation in Asia, but we would also like to cooperate with them to make the market become the biggest in Asia. Festivals are cultural but markets are about business, and we need to establish a foundation over the next five years for the market’s identity and growth. 2012 would be the first year in that endeavor.
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