Washington International Law Journal


Under Korean law, local theaters in Korea must show Korean films for at least 146 days each year. In 1998, this screen quota became the subject of heated debate between the United States and the Korean film industry when the United States demanded that Korea abolish it. The United States believes the quota violates free trade principles, while the Korean film industry argues that cultural products such as films cannot be equated with other commercial commodities. Cultural identities must be protected because a diversified global culture benefits all. Domestic film industries should be protected because films constitute a vehicle for transmitting cultural values. One way to promote Korean culture is to encourage the production of films that portray Korean culture and to ensure that these films are commercially viable. Korea's screen quota does not ensure that Korean films will depict Korean culture; instead, it merely requires films made in Korea to be shown in theatres. The screen quota is also problematic because it encourages complacency on the part of the Korean film industry toward domestic and global competitors. Government subsidies tied to film quality and cultural content, on the other hand, would promote Korean culture and ensure that Korean films are commercially viable. In Europe, subsidies have proven to be effective in stimulating domestic film industries to produce quality films that are commercially viable. Through subsidies, the Korean government can ensure that Korean culture will be preserved and promoted through film.

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