Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ha! I'm not the only one bothered by it!

From Bloomberg.com:

South Korean Actor, Star of `Oldboy', Returns Medal to Govt

By Heejin Koo

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- A South Korean actor who played the lead role in the international hit movie ``Oldboy,'' handed back a medal awarded to him by the government in protest over a cut in screening quotas for local films.

``The medal was personally my pride and honor,'' Choi Min Shik told reporters in Seoul today as he held his Jade Crest Cultural Medal, carefully wrapped in pale green satin. ``Now it is a symbol of the government's betrayal.''

South Korea's government announced Jan. 26 it would halve the number of days that cinemas must show local movies to 73 from 146, in response to demands by Pixar, Walt Disney Co. and other Hollywood studios. A week later, South Korea and the U.S. agreed to begin negotiations for a free-trade agreement.

``The government's decision to cut the quotas is equivalent to giving up our culture,'' said Choi, who received the medal, the fourth-highest honor awarded to artisans by the government, in July 2004. ``I don't need a medal from a country that chooses to stamp on our own cultural rights.'' The actor was speaking in Seoul just before his one-man protest in front of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism today, at which he returned the award.

Clad in a thick coat, turtle-neck sweater and gloves, he planned to stand in the sleet and snow holding a sign that read: ``Oldboy would not have existed without the screening quota.''

The film, directed by Chan Wook Park, was the second most successful film in the country in terms of ticket sales and won the grand jury prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Other prominent local actors also demonstrated against the government's decision, with Ahn Sung Ki, Park Jung Hoon and Jang Dong Kun taking turns to stage daily lone protests in downtown Seoul or in front of the National Assembly. The moviemakers' coalition plans to hold a march in central Seoul to protest the free trade negotiations.

The U.S. wants to expand trade with South Korea, its seventh-largest trading partner, which in the first 11 months of 2005 totaled $25 billion in U.S. exports and $40 billion in Korean imports. An agreement with South Korea would be the most significant accord since its North American Trade Agreement, Nafta, signed with Canada and Mexico 15 years ago, said U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.