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Top S. Korean celebrities join hands against digital theft

All Headlines 12:25 October 10, 2009

By Shin Hae-in

BUSAN, Oct. 10 (Yonhap) -- At the beginning of every film screened at the ongoing Pusan International Film Festival, audiences get to see 12 of the most popular and influential South Korean movie stars lined up together.

Smiling broadly but deadly serious, each star asks the audience to be a "good downloader," a campaign started voluntarily by top actors and actresses including international award-nominated Song Gang-ho and Korean Wave star Jang Dong-gun in hopes of stamping out the rampant digital theft in the country.

Digital theft is blamed for an annual loss of nearly US$2 billion in South Korea, the world's most wired country. With a majority of households connected to broadband Internet here, technology has made it easy for anyone to duplicate and distribute copyrighted creative works including movies, tarnishing the reputation of the country's fast-growing cinema industry.

Last month, an illegal copy of domestic summer blockbuster "Haeundae," drawing over 10 million viewers at home and sold to 24 countries, was uploaded onto a file-sharing site, causing millions of dollars of losses to a local movie powerhouse.

On Friday night, six of the 12 movie stars participating in the campaign gathered in this southeastern port city, declaring "war" against illegal downloading on the Web.

Heads of South Korea's top entertainment firms including Show Box and CJ Entertainment were also present at the event, attesting to the influence the campaign has in the local movie industry.

"There will not be a future for Korean movies if this campaign fails," said veteran actor Ahn Sung-ki, a co-chairman of the campaign. "I have faith that Korean audiences love their movies enough to join this campaign."

"We are not trying to discourage file-sharing activities on the Web, which is a natural and unavoidable phenomenon," he added. "We are focused on encouraging Internet users to understand legal downloading and become a 'good downloader.'"

The size of the legal downloading market shrank by nearly 60 percent last year from 2005 in Korea, with nearly 20,000 files of copyrighted content circulating illegally last year alone, according to government data.

The campaign's advertisement, first screened during the Pusan film fest, will also be featured in theaters nationwide, aired on television and on the Internet. The 12 actors and actresses joined the campaign for free, saving it at least US$10 million, campaign organizers said.

"The actors and actresses all voluntarily joined the campaign, giving up other schedules," said Park Joong-hoon, the other co-chairman of the campaign. "Their eagerness shows how serious this issue is."

The 14th Pusan International Film Festival, which uses the old Romanization of the southeastern city's name, opened Thursday and runs through Oct. 16, featuring 355 films from 70 countries as the largest of the annual event to date.

Established in 1996, the festival has since grown into one of most influential film fests in Asia, focused on discovering new films and first-time directors from across the region.

hayney@yna.co.kr
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