By Kim Tae-jong
Director Kang Woo-seok
is not new to making controversial movies that deal with sensitive issues. In 2004, he made "Silmido
", a widely successful film about a secret suicide commando squad the South Korean government planned to send to North Korea, and the "Public Enemy" series depicting the dirty connection between corruptive politicians, businessman and prosecutors in Korea.
But Kang admits his latest film, "Hanbando
", was not an easy feat, even for one at home with controversy.
" (the Korean Peninsula), Kang severely attacks Japan by painting the nation as the main opponent to the unification of North and South Korea and strongly criticizes Japan's efforts to distort the history of their 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
"This is not a film that merely criticizes Japan without reason", Kang said Monday during a pre-screening news conference at Seoul Theater, downtown Seoul. "I think we have a right to ask them certain questions. Considering their thoughtless behavior, I really wanted to attack Japan through my film".
He added the film was the hardest among his 15 films to make, but he believed a film criticizing and showing up Japan's brutality was seriously needed.
"Japan shouldn't think they can erase the past by simply giving us money. I think they should show remorse for their past actions and make a sincere apology", Kang said.
During the news conference Kang had to deal with many questions from reporters concerned over the movie's hypothetical situation and its strong nationalistic content.
Due to the controversial theme, the film was made with little media exposure, which is rare for a film with such stature. Its production budget stands at 9.6 billion won.
As most of Kang's films have been commercially successful, expectations about "Hanbando
" have been high. His 2004 hit, "Silmido
", was the first Korean film to break the 10-million audience and is the third most viewed film in Korean movie history.
Based on a true story, it is a fictional account about what might happen when the two Koreas reach an agreement on unification. It also sheds light on the past brutality Japan brought on Koreans, including such tragic accidents as the murders of Queen Myongsong and King Kojong, the 26th king of the Choson Kingdom and the first emperor of the Taehan Empire.
The film is set in South Korea's near future and develops a close relationship with the North for unification. The two Koreas agree to re-open a railway between the two but, as it constructed the railway during its colonial occupation of the peninsula, Japan claims ownership of the railway.
To prove Japan has no right to ownership, a patriotic historian, with the cooperation with other progressive politicians and the president of South Korea, seeks a hidden seal of the king. They believe the original seal is a key to show that most contracts between Korea and Japan were either made forcibly, or were fake.
"I did a lot of research. The part about the Great Seal of the King is of course fiction, but I found out that many documents during the Japanese colonial rule period were not properly sealed by the king, and Kojong, in his letters, denied justification for all the contracts with Japan", Kang said.
Nonetheless, the film lacks action and has too many instructive dialogues between characters on big historical, diplomatic and political issues _ a possible disappointment for action film buffs.
The film will be released nationwide on July 13.