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Korean content is rising to cultural mainstream: HFPA president

Praising ‘Squid Game’ actor Oh Young-soo, chief of organization running Golden Globes vows diversity efforts to support foreign media contents’ global presence

HFPA President Helen Hoehne (HFPA)
HFPA President Helen Hoehne (HFPA)
Korean media content will continue to grow in popularity and become a staple in the global market, according to Helen Hoehne, chief of the organization running the Golden Globes. 

In an exclusive interview with The Korea Herald, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association congratulated Korean veteran actor Oh Yeong-soo for winning the best supporting actor in television trophy at the 2022 Golden Globes Awards for his role in the smash-hit drama series “Squid Game.” 

“We’re grateful to be the first to give this platform to such a deserving artist. His Globe nod is his first nomination in a major (US) awards, and we hope others will follow,” Hoehne said via email. 

At the Jan. 7 event, Oh, 77, became the first South Korean actor to receive an acting trophy at the American awards. 

While also mentioning director Bong Joon-ho, who earned three nominations and a trophy for best picture for “Parasite” in 2021, the chief stressed the responsibility of her organization to improve diversity efforts so that foreign-language productions gain further momentum. 

“We’ve seen so many great Golden Globe-nominated projects from Korean markets like ‘Squid Game,’ ‘Parasite,’ and ‘Minari.’ We certainly hope to continue seeing more of these wonderful works of art - and that they get the recognition they deserve. That’s why it’s so important for the HFPA to continue doing their important work.”

Founded in 1940s by a small group of foreign journalists seeking to improve their access to Hollywood and its stars, the HFPA is a non-profit organization comprised of US-based journalists from overseas outlets, headquartered in Southern California. 

Hoehne, originally a journalist in Germany, has been a member since 2004 and has been leading it as president since September last year. 

In recent months, the HFPA has been under fire over voter representation, especially for its lack of black members, which led to an industry-wide boycott of the 2022 event joined by major film and TV companies, including Netflix, as well as celebrities like Tom Cruise. The 79th edition of the Golden Globes was held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles with no audience, television broadcast or invited celebrities. 

Hoehne stressed the organization’s internal reform efforts. 

“We have spent countless hours on the reforms we’ve put in place. ... There are now people of color involved in decision-making throughout the organization -- from major board decisions, to credentialing and selecting new members. We have a new board of directors. Two thirds of them are women and one thirds are colored people,” she said. 

HFPA’s first chief diversity officer Neil Phillips (HFPA)
HFPA’s first chief diversity officer Neil Phillips (HFPA)
The HFPA also has a chief diversity officer, Neil Phillips, who Hoehne said will “play an integral part of its continuing commitment to implementing reforms to promote greater diversity, equity and inclusion both within the organization and within broader Hollywood and journalism communities.”

As for the rise of global OTT platforms like Netflix, which is adding fresh momentum to the Korean Wave of films, TV dramas and other cultural products sweeping across the world, she noted it doesn’t signal the downfall of traditional cinema industry. 

"The COVID-19 crisis has certainly caused us to pivot how we consume film and television, but you will see opinions on both sides of the aisle about the issue. When Bong Joon-ho attended our Foreign Language Symposium in 2020, he mentioned that ‘Parasite’ was not on Netflix because he didn’t want to give audiences the option to press “pause” -- he wanted to ‘overwhelm’ his audiences. This insight received lots of applause from attendees. It’s up to the content creator to make that artistic decision for him or herself,” she said. 

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)
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