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(ITU) (Yonhap Interview) Animation CEO says South Korea needs patience in fostering arts industry

2014/10/29 09:00

By Kang Yoon-seung

BUSAN, Oct. 29 (Yonhap) -- Jay Ahn, an animation CEO who co-produced the 2014 box office hit "The Nut Job," said Wednesday he sees an opportunity for the animation industry in South Korea but also chronic problems from not appreciating creativity and a lack of patience in waiting for results.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Ahn, the co-CEO of Canada-based Toonbox Entertainment, emphasized that the global boom in the ICT (information, communication and technology) industry is a chance for South Korea's animation business.

"Without a doubt, South Korea boasts a great environment for animation, as its state-of-the-art ICT technology coupled with talented animators provide the industry with a strong foundation," he said. A rise in the number of smartphones and tablet PCs will further spike up the demand for such animated content, he said.

Jay Ahn, a South Korean co-CEO of Canada-based Toonbox Entertainment Ltd., said Oct. 29, 2014 the boom of the ICT industry around the globe is an opportunity for the South Korean animation industry, but the chronic lack of creativity is holding it back. (Yonhap) Jay Ahn, a South Korean co-CEO of Canada-based Toonbox Entertainment Ltd., said Oct. 29, 2014 the boom of the ICT industry around the globe is an opportunity for the South Korean animation industry, but the chronic lack of creativity is holding it back. (Yonhap)

Ahn, however, said South Korea still has a long way to go before it can produce content that can target a global audience.

"There is a strong lack of creativity in the local animation industry, and the cramming-method of teaching still prevails," Ahn said. "In order for content to take on the overseas market, it has to be creative."

   He also cited South Korea's impatience as hindering local artists from thinking outside the box.

"In South Korea, everything has to generate profit within three years. In other countries, like the United States, they wait. But here, policymakers continue to change programs," Ahn said. "Fostering creativeness can only be done in a long-term manner."

   Ahn came into the spotlight earlier this year after his computer-animated comedy movie, "The Nut Job," produced jointly by Canada and the United States, became a megahit, instilling hope for the South Korean animation industry struggling in a market heavily dominated by Japanese or U.S. content.

According to Ahn, the film is expected to make US$200-300 million in profit, including those from DVDs or other related products, well over the $30 million invested. He is currently working on "Spark," which will be based on the 16th century Chinese tale "Journey to the West" with an added touch of science fiction. It is set to be released mid to late 2015.

"The Nut Job" was hailed in South Korea as an example of "creative economy," a concept being pushed by the Park Geun-hye administration of converging different industries such as culture and ICT to create new businesses.

Ahn said South Korea's animation industry is taking a step closer to meeting global standards, with people's awareness of copyrights being significantly improved over recent years.

"There have not been any problems regarding copyrights for 'The Nut Job.' Unlike 10 years ago, such problems have much disappeared. We still have issues to be solved, but that is also an improvement," Ahn said.

Ahn was in Busan to attend the Global ICT Premier Forum being held alongside the quadrennial International Telecommunications Union conference.

colin@yna.co.kr

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