China in their eyes: Korean actors and investors to profit from film co-productions
An agreement signed by China and South Korea on jointly produced films is likely to attract more investment and resources from the Korean film industry to China, experts say.
The agreement, signed on July 4 during President Xi Jinping's visit to South Korea, will give joint productions domestic film status, thereby avoiding China's quota limitations for foreign films, the Korean Film Council (Kofic) said.
"We are keen to bring our films to China. The agreement opens a new window for us," Kofic's Beijing representative, Kim Piljung, said.
Kim said it was hard for Korean films to be shown in China because the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and TV had an annual import quota of 34 foreign films. Chinese experts on Korean films estimate that among the more than 100 films made in South Korea each year, only one or two can be officially imported and played in Chinese cinemas each year.
"The agreement will encourage not only Korean stars and directors to work in China, but also attract Korean investors to fund film productions there," Kim said.
Agreements signed during Xi's visit included setting up a yuan clearing system in Seoul that was crucial to bringing investment from South Korea to China, said Zhou Jianwei, an academic specialising in South Korean film history.
Zhou said that it used to be too complicated for Korean investors to enter the Chinese film market for currency exchange reasons. Many Korean film investors had tried but failed.
"Although this is not the first time that China has approved jointly produced films, the new Sino-Korean pattern may travel further because of clearer policy support after the agreement was reached," she said, adding that Sino-US, Sino-French and mainland-Hong Kong films had not developed much in the Chinese domestic market for lack of policy support.
The South Korean film industry also needs to explore the Chinese market as a source of growth. "The South Korean film market is as big as it can be at home. Their film companies must go abroad … and China offers the best potential market," said Qi Yuning , a critic of South Korean films.
Hallyu, or the "Korean Wave" of popular South Korean culture, has hit Asia over the past decade, and many Chinese now follow Korean films and dramas.
The attraction of Korean culture is still on the rise in China. During Xi's visit to South Korea this month, first lady Peng Liyuan mentioned popular Korean drama My Love from the Star, "joking that she wished her husband was the leading male character", Yonhap News Agency reported.
Since the show aired in China early this year, the series' Weibo account has drawn two million Chinese followers. Lead male actor Kim Soo-hyun has 7.34 million Weibo followers - 5 per cent of the 1.4 billion users of China's largest social media network.
The Attorney, produced last year and touching on the South Korean student movement in the 1980s, attracted 15,000 comments on Douban.com, which has the largest group of art-film lovers in China.
Other Chinese experts on Korean films expect jointly produced films on sensitive topics such as politics or erotica to be censored. "The jointly produced films will be mostly commercialised films and probably appeal more to Chinese audiences than South Koreans," Zhou said.
It is believed China will further open its market to foreign films. In April, the deputy head of the state administration's film bureau, Lu Hongshi , said China would increase quotas for imported films by 2017 as part of World Trade Organisation talks.