About the Author
View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The South Korean government has granted a film festival permission to publicly screen nine North Korean movies in Bucheon this month, the event’s organizers said on Tuesday.
The organizing committee of the 22nd Bucheon International Fantastic Festival (BIFAN) said it had “received final approval from the relevant authorities” yesterday to screen three full-length and six short-length DPRK-made films.
A written statement said the special screening was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Unification (MOU), the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the Korean Film Archive, and the Foundation of Inter-Korea Cooperation.
The BIFAN told NK News that the MSCT had granted them final permission.
When asked if the approval would violate the National Security Act or South Korea’s other laws formally censoring the dissemination of DPRK media, an MCST official who wished to remain anonymous said the decision was made in the context of allowing the committee to openly use “special materials.”
The National Security Act’s Article 7 prohibits the act of manufacturing, importing, reproducing, holding, carrying, distributing, selling or acquiring “any documents, drawings or other expression materials” which might praise, incite, or propagate the DPRK’s political system.
The MCST official said DPRK-made movies are contained in the category of special materials, however, which under ROK law are confidential as “political and ideological materials produced and issued by North Korea and anti-government organizations” but which can be permitted in academic and artistic contexts.
“It is inappropriate to say that the government gives green light to run films at the festival,” the official told NK News, emphasizing the film festival is “automatically run by private sector.”
“Screening movies at the film festival can be considered as academic and artistic activities, so we gave permission to publicly utilize the special materials.”
North Korean monster movie “Pulgasari” will be among the films screened
The granting of permission to access special materials is regulated by the South Korean NIS, however, in accordance with the Article 3 of the National Intelligence Service Korea Act.
The NIS, however, declined to comment when asked by NK News why the organ had made the rare decision to allow the film screening.
Nine North Korean movies, including “The Story of Our Home,” the children’s animation “Let’s Keep the Traffic Order,” “Pulgasari,” and “Comrade Kim Goes Flying” will be open to the public later in the month.
The “Story of Our Home” will screen outdoors at the square outside the Bucheon City Hall.
“Even when permission is granted for a screening, the film is ordinarily categorized as a ‘limited release’ that is shown to a select group of people who have been chosen after a strict process and procedure,” the BIFAN committee said in the statement. “That is a convention that will be broken during the special screening at BIFAN.”
The committee has also reportedly sent an official invitation to the North Korean directors of the films, and, with the permission of the unification ministry, asked for screening approval from the DPRK Consultative Council for National Reconciliation earlier this year.
The BIFAN hasn’t yet received a response from the North Korean side.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Koryo Group