BEIJING — The lack of South Korean films at this year's Beijing International Film Festival has nothing to do with politics, one of the organizers said Friday, as relations between China and South Korea continue to plummet over Seoul's deployment of an anti-missile system opposed by Beijing.
Yonhap news agency cited unidentified South Korean entertainment industry sources last month as saying that Chinese authorities had revoked invitations for some South Korean films to show during the festival.
Now in its seventh year, the Beijing festival starts Sunday and concludes April 23. Korean films have been shown in all previous years, and last year Korean actors appeared at the opening and closing ceremonies. This year, 15 films are competing for the Tiantan prize, and the festival says a further 500 "outstanding global films" from multiple countries will be screened. None is from South Korea.
When asked why, Ai Dongyun, vice secretary general of the festival organizing committee, told The Associated Press that movies were picked on merit without regard to where they came from.
"The collection of films is oriented to the whole world, without preference for any particular countries. So it is a collection and presentation of excellent films from the world," Ai said, adding: "It was not a political decision."
China's furious objection to Seoul's deployment of the anti-missile system known by its acronym, THAAD, has brought relations between the two countries to their lowest point since they established diplomatic relations in 1992. While Seoul and Washington say the system is needed to protect against North Korea's missile threats, Beijing says it imperils China's own security with its ability to monitor flights and missile launches deep inside the country's northeast.
The dispute has sparked widespread commercial retaliation against South Korean businesses and industries including tourism and entertainment. Despite the popularity of South Korean pop and TV dramas in China, no South Korean star has obtained permission to perform in China since October, co-productions between Chinese and South Korean movie producers have been suspended and new seasons of South Korean dramas are banned from online streaming sites.
The more than 500 films being screened at the Beijing festival include every single film in the "Fast and Furious" franchise apart from the latest, "Fast & Furious 8," which hit Chinese cinemas Friday.
Asked whether the action movies based around fast cars were a strange choice for a film festival, Ai said the franchise had met with a "rather positive response from the Chinese audience."
"They love it, so the decision to show the series during the festival is to satisfy Chinese film fans," she said.
Beijing International Film Festival website : http://www.bjiff.com/
Louise Watt, The Associated Press