The 2017 South Korean film, “The Battleship Island,” has yet to receive a theatrical release in Japan, even though it’s set on Hashima, more commonly known as Gunkanjima, a former mining complex off the coast of Kyushu and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Given the current diplomatic tensions between Japan and South Korea sparked by two recent South Korean Supreme Court cases that ruled in favor of Koreans who sued Japanese companies they worked for during World War II, it probably won’t be released here anytime soon.
The movie is about an uprising of Korean mine workers during the final days of the war. Japanese media have described the movie’s depiction of starvation and hellish conditions as distortions. The film’s director, Ryoo Seung-wan, has said he had no intention of stirring anti-Japan feelings: It’s an action blockbuster, not a polemic. As in most Korean films that take place during Japan’s colonial rule, the main villains are Korean collaborators. The Japanese characters, though they sometimes do awful things, are marginal.
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