Monday, July 31, 2017

[Article Translation] Controversies around Battleship Island

Approximative translation of the article: [종합]영화 '군함도' 논란 7가지 총정리 출처 : 아시아경제 | 네이버 TV연예 LINK - It would be greatly appreciated if you DO NOT put or link my translations to One Hallyu or Soompi forums!!

While the movie "Battleship Island" is causing a lot of controversy, it has drawn 3 million viewers in just four days of opening. This film is singularly criticized in various aspects, and the controversy itself is a meaningful landscape that tells the 'value' terrain of Korean society. Let's summarize the seven issues that caused the controversy.

#1. 국뽕 controversy (kuk-ppong)

(kuk-ppong is blind patriotic behavior, or overly emphasizing the greatness of one's country)

The 10-year conservative government, including the Park Geun-hye regime, has shown a willingness to organize the old historical remnants with Japan and move toward a new state relationship. For this reason, the movie 'Battleship Island', which emerged at the early stage of the new government of Moon Jae-in, who is trying to differentiate itself from former governments, has been criticized for making the normal past history liquidation more tangled, with a strange political nuance.

Japan has already applied for registration of Hashima Island as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 and has been recognized internationally. The film, which  contains unstable historical facts that are different from the value of human heritage, has forced the Japanese government to feel uncomfortable. It is seen as a burden to see the cruel act of Japanese imperialism in the seabed coal mine and the reality of forced labor visualized as a realistic image.

It is true that the story of the whole movie inspires hostility to Japanese imperialism.

Wages and unfair labor exploitation are depicted, and the appearance of the workers is exposed nakedly.

At the end of the movie, it is, of course, not a historical fact, but a cinematic imagination that Japanese intelligence attempts to destroy all the Koreans on the island by inserting them into a tunnel to cover the horrors of the warship.

Therefore, the fierce resistance of Koreans to escape the crisis of extinction is also a story that is not in the historical records.

This will be the core of the controversy over 'Kukpo'.

The candlelight vigils of the Koreans, who caused the audience's "laughing", felt like a memorial service to Gwanghwamun Square last winter.

It is questionnable how the current government will read into this use of candlelights when they claim to be the origin of the birth of the candlelights

The sudden increase in the use of Korean workers in coal mines and comfort women who have turned into the most elaborate soldiers also raises unrealistic feelings.

While tricking and killing Japanese watchdogs, a scene of a spectacular escape from a bullet-filled battle, is created.

The scene of cutting the imperial flag is also unbelievable. It also seems the movie thrives upon scenes of brutality such as stabbing and burning pro-Japanese managers.

#2. "Pro-Japanese film" controversy

Two Korean villains appear in the movie. Yoon Hak-chul (Lee Kyung-young), known as the man of the independence movement camp, was actually a pro-Japanese that exploited the Korean people of the warship. In addition, labor minister (Kim Min-jae) who manages Korean miners brutally, is also a Korean. These two characters are purely from the filmmakers' imagination.

The problem is that they are not real figures, so what is the intention of Ryu Seung-wan, when he put these two people in the warship? The relatively common sense of the story that the warship can bring about is the exploitation by the Japanese imperialists and the resistance of the Joseon people. However, the director complicates the confrontation scheme by putting two Koreans that are pro-Japanese in it.

The audience criticized this and felt that the introduction of these koreans' pro-Japanese sentiment is a "dilution" of the impact of Japanese oppression. Focusing on conflicts of the Koreans between themselves amidst tensions between Koreans and Japanese, felt to them like "pardoning" the original sin of the Japanese. By this logic, the movie is considered "pro-Japanese''.

Of course, the logic for advocacy of this pro Japanese influence is not easy either. 
It is argued that it would have been too monotonous to draw the story from the viewpoint of Japanese abuse alone, and the narrative needed other devices.
In this case, Japan's warship would contain only the primary criticism of the cultural heritage listing, and as a result, the space for the cinematic imagination would have been reduced, and there would be a concern that it would lead to diplomatic backlash.

Logical possibility also surfaced. It is argued that the case of the pro-Japanese forces tormenting Koreans at the time of the Japanese occupation was common in daily life, and that it is not too much to fill the story space with reference to such historical facts.

#3. Did we need a "Chinilpa" angle? 

(Chinilpa: Korean slur for pro-Japanese Koreans, including but not limited to the pro-Japanese activists and collaborators as well as those who worked for the better relationship with Japan)

There is also an analysis that this film has a political implication because it raised an "anti-pro-Japanese" angle rather than "anti-Japanese". 
The argument is that the past conservative regime has a historical base that is difficult to isolate from the pro-Japanese and that it should be corrected again by the new government. We are all accustomed to the experience of 'clearing past history' whenever the regime is turned over.

Why is it a constant problem to settle the past history? It is a tragedy in a country where justice is not realized properly. Justice is just a theory in the text, In countries that are not realizing it outside of textbooks, one can hardly afford to suffer from the 'duality of the value system', which can not be confidently encouraged by the definition of justice. The definition written in the textbook is not trusted. The core of the problem of pro-Japanese issues is that it is necessary to identify the truth and to recover the real honor of the people who have suffered and were unfairly taken advantage of.

The director may have wanted to put this fundamental feeling into the story of the Japanese colonial period and give it depth. It is also possible that he wanted to rely on the box office formula of 'Assassination' or 'The Age Of Shadows'. But the heart of the problem in Battleship Island is not the inadequacy of the integration of the chinilpa angle in itself, but the failure to integrate it properly into the story, which caused a lot of anger to arouse in the audience.

So why put such an emphasis on the pro-Japanese koreans in the island, without any historical evidence or military records? Is it pure creativity? Also the bloody punishment they faced in the movie and slaining them in front of an audience, is just a cinematic device.

Ryu has given his opinion on this issue:

"There were people who wanted to take advantage and pursue profits. It was a clear historical fact that the pro-Japanese existed (in general). I think it is right to draw decisively about the pro-Japanese wave. I thought it was our duty to point out (the pro-Japanese problem). We need to know that we are hurting ourselves. If I know I'm sick, is not it better to know where it hurts? There is a part of me that wanted closure (something close to this meaning)"

#4- Screen Monopoly

Wednesday was a holiday where you could watch movies at 5,000 won. The last Wednesday of July was the opening day of the 'Battleship Island'. Production distributor CJ E & M used 2,168 screens out of 2,575 screens across the country and collected 970,000 viewers on the first day. I went to the multiplex and 8 out of 10 screens had Battleship Island, so there was not much choice for the audience. 

Bong Joon-ho's 'Okja', which was excluded from the 3 multiplexes (CGV, Lotte Cinema, Megabox), secured only 111 screens. The movie, which was released on June 29, was screened for nearly a month, but the audience did not exceed 300,000.

Film marketing officials blatantly say that creating a '10 million spectators' movie in Korea is actually a screenplay. The production cost of Battleship Island' is 22 billion won and the break-even point is about 7 million viewers. If you add marketing costs, you should conclude that more than 10 million people should come in. CJ E & M could not help but be conscious of this situation. The auditorium, which restricts the viewer 's right to view, was attacked by the criticism of public opinion.

As the controversy grew, Ryu went out and apologized:

"I am very sorry to hear that the movie I created is at the center of this controversy. I have been pointing out a lot about this problem, and I have been discussing the monopoly issue for a long time with directors and industry members, and we are taking measures to improve it. I know that 'Battleship Island' should not be imposed to the audience who goes to the movie halls, but there are problems that the director and the production company can not control. Everyone is upset. I couldn't reach the distributor. "

# 5. Controversial history

(1) The first appearance of the distorted history in the movie Battleship Island is that the devastation  has not been properly conveyed. It is said that the collapse of the ceiling caused by the explosion of methane gas in the 95% humidity submarine tunnel at an average temperature of 40 degrees Celsius was frequent. There were daily beatings and abuses, and the problem of hunger was serious. It is pointed out that the scene of Lee Gang-ok  bringing food to his daughter Sohee, or paying a bribe to a Japanese, misunderstood the situation of Koreans at that time, and is misleading.

On the Japanese side, it was argued that there was a considerable level of welfare facilities in the warship at that time, and the normal management of mining industry was proceeding. Rather, they are treating the movie as too negative.

The mention in the movie about the salary was true. They received 50 yen per month, and they deducted the cost of meals, accommodation, underwear, taxes, health insurance. The amount of money received for work tool rental was 5 yen. The 5 yen was sold as a government bond purchase so there was no income.

At that time, more than 100 Korean workers were killed in the warships. They incinerated the bodies after the death rather putting on a  funeral. It is said that a monument has been erected but now closed by Japan. The workers and their descendants, who were detained in the warships, did not receive proper apology or compensation from Japan or Japanese companies.

2) The story that in the warship the pro-Japanese koreans were engaging in extortions of the koreans can be regarded as a result of unjustly insulting the koreans with 'imagination' beyond the cinematic fun. Fiction in history is acceptable until there is a possibility to mislead public opinion, we can not enjoy infinite freedom.
It is also inconvenient for the Director to construct a message by brutally punishing the pro-Japanese.

3) The situation that Japan, fearing that the warship will be exposed, tries to kill all the Koreans in the island is a thing that can not be found in history at all. Also, in this situation, it is not a fact that 400 people are engaging in a massive escape. In the actual warship, these massacres and large-scale escapes have not been revealed, and similar events did not happen.
In this regard, there was no fierce "engagement" between Japanese and Koreans, and the situation in which surviving Koreans seized the ship and left somewhere is only in the film. Although the story is about the warship, but the most impressive part portrayed by the film is just fiction.

# 6 Acting

Paragraph dwells about the impressive acting ability of Hwang Jung Min and Kim Su An, that keeps the movie afloat. However there are complaints about HJM's "superman" abilities in the movie, which contrast with the conditions of the Koreans on the ship.

There is also the surprising situation in which the US Army dropping the atomic bomb has already been known by the Japanese intelligence services. It is no doubt a device that maximizes the last minute popularity attraction of the scene where HJM closes his eyes and asks his daughter for a song.

# 7 Did Director Ryu give his characters too much power?

Lee Jung Hyun plays a comfort woman while So Ji Sub plays a coal miner, they have feelings for each other. There was a scene (later edited out) of them singing a song together. There is also a scene where he throws an apple at her while passing her by.

However, when the "battle" begins, LJH transforms into a warrior like woman by carrying a 5kg gun. It is unfamiliar that comfort women would suddenly turn into warriors. It was a scene of much fanfare about them dying together in the "battlefield". The sudden love scene casts a shadow about the identity of the movie.

It is also pointed out that Song Joong Ki's role is just a repeat of his DOTS role, with a more serious face. His unique expressionless face is an appropriate assessment of the enormous operation of escape.

There is criticism that the director's obsession of including "box office elements" from proven past movies, stripped Battleship Island of its identity. It's long and dizzy.

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