Home > News
  print button email button

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Korean-Japanese bridges the gap for movie crew

Staff writer

Born in 1978 as a third-generation Korean in Japan, Chung Ji Hye used to hesitate about revealing her family background to her friends.

News photo
Chung Ji Hye, in front of a poster for the documentary "Annyong Sayonara," was the key figure in bringing the film's Japanese and Korean crew members together. JUN HONGO PHOTO

"All the Korean-Japanese in my neighborhood hid their background," she said. "I didn't feel like telling my friends about my roots."

But Chung also knew from a young age that following her unique vision as a Korean-Japanese was imperative, and eventually she became interested in making documentary films as a way to express this vision.

After completing her studies as an exchange student at Seoul University, she jumped at an offer from director Kim Taeil to work as a coordinator on an independent movie to be filmed in both Japan and South Korea.

The documentary "Annyong Sayonara" ("Hello Goodbye"), now showing in Tokyo, follows the struggles of Lee He Ja, a 63-year-old Korean woman who filed a lawsuit in Japan in 2001 to have her father's name removed from the list of war dead at Yasukuni Shrine.

The film is showing until Friday at the theater Pole-Pole Higashi Nakano in Tokyo and will be screened independently throughout the summer in select cities, including Sapporo, Osaka and Saitama.

Lee's father was killed in China after he was conscripted by the Imperial Japanese forces when she was still a baby.

"It was very difficult," Chung said of her work bridging the gaps between the Japanese and Koreans on the movie crew. "As a coordinator, I gained respect for diplomats. Things can turn around in so many different ways depending on what a mediator says and does."

While director Kim headed the project to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, heated debate and misunderstandings between the Japanese and the Korean crew were frequent during filming.

For example, the Korean crew would propose using cherry blossoms in the opening scene, even though the Japanese staff was reluctant to use any image that could be associated with kamikaze pilots who attacked Allied ships in suicide dives toward the end of World War II.

In Japan, cherry blossoms scattered in the wind are often associated with kamikaze who died.

"There were complaints every day, and any source of discontent could quickly grow into animosity," Chung said. Too much was lost in translation and both sides became distrustful of each other. As she once said to a fellow crew member, "This is how wars are instigated."

Lack of understanding between the two camps was finally resolved during filming in Okinawa, where meetings were held every night to reach a meeting of the minds. Chung translated comments by each side and helped to achieve harmony.

"Things began to roll smoothly after our meetings in Okinawa," she recalled.

However, the making of the movie had plenty of explosive moments.

When Lee visited Yasukuni Shrine during filming in 2005, priests rejected her request to withdraw her father's name and rightwing activists jeered "go back to Korea."

Captured on film is a rightwinger using a glove to slap one of Lee's supporters in the face.

Chung also visited an office of rightwing activists, where she was surrounded by members of the group.

"The walls of the office were covered with Japanese flags -- the atmosphere was scary," she said.

The film ends with Lee and her Japanese supporters standing united, but in May, after the movie was completed, the Tokyo District Court rejected the suit.

The presiding judge ruled that the government's action to enshrine the war dead was "within the range of ordinary administrative research and response work."

Chung denounced the ruling, saying "the government is claiming that it's the shrine's problem, and Yasukuni is saying it was given the list of names to be enshrined by the government."

Regarding the recent deteriorating relationship between Japan and South Korea, she said people in both countries should take the same approach she took during filming, -- learn about each other through communication.

"There are young Japanese people who don't know where (the Korean Peninsula) is located, or that it was a colony of Japan during the war. Education in Japan is focused too much on college entrance exams," she said.

"Anti-Japan education in (South) Korea is a problem as well," Chung added, and expressed the hope that her two motherlands can jointly work for peace and mend their relations.

"War starts from the desire of each individual, the desire to be wealthier than your neighbor. If the two countries really want to share the same future, we should care more for each other," she said.

Back to Top

About us |  Work for us |  Contact us |  Privacy policy |  Link policy |  Registration FAQ
Advertise in japantimes.co.jp.
This site has been optimized for modern browsers. Please make sure that Javascript is enabled in your browser's preferences.
The Japan Times Ltd. All rights reserved.