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Czech government honors PIFF father

Pusan International Film Festival deputy director and one of the cofounders of the festival, Jeon Yang-jun (Jay) was honored last week for his accomplishments in promoting ties between Czech and Korean film industries.

A diverse group of people from both countries attended the event where Czech Republic Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa Jr. conferred the medal from the Czech Foreign Ministry.

Jeon is a well-known Korean producer, who was behind various successful projects, such as Lee Chang-dong’s “Peppermint Candy.”

He also taught film at Korean universities, and is one of the three founding fathers of the Pusan International Film Festival, which started in 1996.

“He was, in the 1990s, an instrumental person in establishing the first contacts between the then newly established Pusan International Film Festival and the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, the biggest motion picture event in Central Europe,” explained Olsa.
Czech Republic Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa Jr. decorates Pusan International Film Festival deputy director and co-founder Jeon Yang-jun. (Czech Republic Embassy)
Czech Republic Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa Jr. decorates Pusan International Film Festival deputy director and co-founder Jeon Yang-jun. (Czech Republic Embassy)

“It was due to his efforts that Korean films became part of the film line up in Karlovy Vary, since the early 2000s,” he added.

After “Peppermint Candy” received the Jury Award at the 2001 KVIFF and a year later one of the first European special Korean film selections took place at Karlovy Vary, Korean films became an integral part of this important European film festival.

“Due to Jeon’s efforts as a person behind the selection of European films, Czech films have often been shown at PIFF, now Asia’s biggest and most influential festival,” said Olsa.

Last year’s PIFF special section of the best six Czech contemporary films from 2009-2010, was the most important Czech film presentation in Korea as of yet, noted Olsa.

There is a strong tradition of bestowing such honors by Czech ambassadors to distinguished Korean and foreign individuals, who significantly promoted Czech-Korean ties in various fields.

In recent years the medal was awarded to famous Korean award-winning actress Jeon Do-yeon and her film partner Kim Juh-yeok for their leading roles in the Korean television drama “Lovers in Prague” in 2005.

There were also the founding fathers of Czech-language studies and translators in Korea, professors Kim Kyu-chin, Kwon Jae-il and Kim Kyung-ock of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, as well as a foremost expert on Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, Choi Young-chul of Seoul Oratorio. Journalist and writer Cho Seong-kwan, author of “Geniae of Prague” (2009), a definitive book on Czech culture, was also awarded the Czech medal.

By Yoav Cerralbo (yoav@heraldcorp.com)
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