Cultural Protectionism: Korea’s Screen Quota

I don’t usually read the Huffington Post, but I stumbled across this post today while doing some research. In the midst of recommending appropriate caution about the US desire to include stringent intellectual property rules in upcoming preferential trade agreements with Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand, James Love wrote this silly passage:

In the Korea negotiations one of the big demands by the US is to cut back the Korean “screen quotas,” that mandated theaters to show Korean movies at least 40 percent of the time (146 days per year). The US wants this cut back, so that Koreans will watch more Hollywood films. The creative community in Korean is highly mobilized in opposition to this, which they fear will devastate the Korean film industry. If the USTR “wins” this negotiation, it will reduce global cultural diversity.

Technically, “global cultural diversity” will be reduced if one defines that phrase to mean the supply of Korean films being shown in theaters, regardless of consumption. But more films that consumers actually want to see will be shown, so there will be a global cultural welfare gain. Moreover, if a culture’s existence depends upon governmental mandates impinging freedom of choice, why is it valuable?

Korean economist Kim Young-bong debunked the cultural protectionist argument a few years ago in the Joong Ang Daily. James Love ought to acquaint himself with the benefits of cultural hybridization through globalization rather than defending governmental discrimination.