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Fri, Jan 27, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Seoul to cut quota for domestic films

UNFAIR PRACTICE Acquiescing to the US' demands, Seoul has agreed to cut in half the requirement that local theaters show homegrown movies 146 days a year

AP , SEOUL

Hollywood is going to get greater access to South Korea's movie market after the government said yesterday that it will cut in half the quota of homegrown films that must be shown in the country's cinemas.

The US had denounced the quota system as an unfair trade practice and major hurdle as the two sides move toward starting negotiations on a free-trade agreement.

Under the system, introduced in 1966, local theaters were required to show South Korean movies for 146 days a year to protect the local film industry. As of July 1, the quota will be reduced to 73 days, the Finance Ministry announced.

But authorities expressed confidence that South Korean movies can withstand more competition from Hollywood, pointing out that the market share for domestic films has grown to nearly 60 percent last year from 50 percent in 2001.

"Korean films have grown enough to receive widespread international recognition, with the export of Korean movies reaching US$76 million in 2005," the ministry said in a statement.

Reducing the quota, however, is no guarantee that US or other foreign movies will gain market share here as what films to screen will be left up to individual cinemas in a country where domestic films dominate the local box office.

Korean films account for 59 percent of the nation's 900 billion won (US$925 million) a year film market, according to the Korean Film Council, a government agency.

The top four grossing movies in Seoul last year were Korean made.

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