South Korea’s cinema sector under fire as police allege widespread box office fraud

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

South Korea’s Culture Minister has ordered the cinema industry to come up with measures to address box office results manipulation following a major police investigation.

A Seoul Metropolitan Police inquiry found evidence that the box office attendance figures of more than 300 films over the past five years had been inflated by 2.67 million. Some 69 people from within the industry have been referred to prosecutors and could be charged with fraud.

Now Park Bo-gyoon, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, has ordered the Korean Film Council (Kofic) to come up with measures to address the alleged manipulation by theatres and distributors.

Park is reported to have summoned Kofic officials to the Culture Ministry’s last week and told him that the public’s trust in box office figures and the cinema industry in general has been tarnished by the accusations.

Kofic operates an integrated computer network for theatres, the basis for box office counting in Korea. On Wednesday, the police said that 69 people from three multiplexes and 24 distributors had been sent to prosecutors on charges of manipulating the number of tickets sold by entering false ticketing information into the network.

The Seoul police force’s anti-corruption and public crime investigation team began probing the sector earlier this year and in June raided the offices of CJ-CGV, Megabox and Lotte Cinema, the country’s three largest cinema operators. At the time, it also emerged that the premises of distributors Showbox, Lotte Entertainment and Kidari had also been visited.

“In collusion with film distributors, the accused theatre officials allegedly entered inflated ticket sales information onto the Korean Film Council’s box office compiling service [Kobis] from March 2018 to June this year to boost the box office rankings of the movies released at their theatres,” police said, according to the semi-official news agency Yonhap.

It is believed that exaggerating box office numbers can be a tactic used to make a film appear more successful than it really is which may increase audience interest. In the longer term, inflated box office numbers may trigger higher fees when a film is licensed for TV or streaming.

Posted in Asia | LegalTagged |