U.S. Says South Korea Is Soft on Film, Music Piracy

Times Staff Writer

South Korea isn’t doing enough to stop music and film piracy, U.S. trade officials said Thursday, and will be put on a special watch list that could lead to economic sanctions.

South Korea joins Russia, Argentina, India and the Philippines as one of 12 “priority watch” countries. The move is aimed at pressuring South Korea to crack down on piracy. If U.S. officials feel South Korea isn’t improving, they could impose sanctions.

The move was hailed by the film and music industry, but criticized by Korean officials.

“We are disappointed,” said Hyun Ju Lee, counselor for economic affairs at the South Korean Embassy in Washington. “We have made very substantial improvements.”

Entertainment industry executives said online piracy of music was rampant in South Korea.


“Incomprehensibly, Korea has thus refused to provide the legal tools necessary for the recording industry to fight back,” said Neil Turkewitz, executive vice president of the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

Hollywood’s major studios are less affected because of a large presence in South Korea that allows them to monitor piracy. Still, studios welcomed the move. “Anytime intellectual property is put on the front burner is a benefit for those who work in the movie industry,” Motion Picture Assn. of America spokesman Rich Taylor said.

Independent film representatives said they were harder hit.

Jean Prewitt, president of the American Film Marketing Assn., said South Korea and its film rating board had granted the film ratings needed to sell videos and DVDs but never checked whether applicants held the film’s copyright.