The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) has made a public apology for its involvement in blacklisting filmmakers and wider industry from state support and has vowed to reform.

Speaking yesterday at a press conference in Seoul, KOFIC Chairman Oh Seok-geun said: “Under the two past governments, KOFIC made the big mistake of creating a blacklist of cultural-art figures on instructions from relevant authorities and carrying out measures to discriminate and exclude them…We’ll severely reflect on and reform ourselves.”

Since taking on the role in January, the filmmaker-turned-administrator has carried out a major internal probe into allegations that the film promotion body played a key part in creating the blacklist under the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye governments.

“In 2009, the council unjustly intervened in the processes of screening for various government support programs and adopted an expedient of choosing beneficiaries effectively based on guidelines from authorities like the presidential office and the National Intelligence Service,” Oh said.

Between 2009-2016, the council also denied funding to film industry groups found to have taken part in peaceful protests during Lee’s administration and a handful of independent movie theaters that screened films critical of the government.

It also halved government support for the Busan International Film Festival after it screened a controversial documentary in 2014, Oh said. The film, The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol, also known as Diving Bell, was critical of the Korean government’s handling of the Sewol ferry sinking that resulted in more than 300 deaths.

During the blacklisting period, movies related to some keywords such as “ethnic Korean residents in Japan,” “sexual minority” and “Jeju naval base” were termed “problematic films” and so were denied support, added Oh. “There are 56 known cases of movies, film studios and filmmakers excluded from support through this process,” he said.

Oh vowed to conduct further probes into the cases and to reform the institution to avoid recurrence.