[ENTERTAINMENT]'Firefly' lights an unpleasant past

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[ENTERTAINMENT]'Firefly' lights an unpleasant past

The Japanese government's continuing failure to apologize for its actions during World War II and for colonizing Korea has longvexed the Korean people. To this day, the occasional Japanese politicians will make exasperating comments that are ignorant of or distort the past.

But then there are films like "Hotaru," to open Saturday in Korea. The film tells a story about an aged Japanese couple who lived through the wartime and aware that, in the words of the wife, "There are some things that you can do nothing about." Set in a remote fishing village in Kagosima, Yamaoka (Takakura Ken) has terrible memories from the war that he cannot erase. His wife, Tomoko, was once engaged to Kaneyama, or Kim Seon-jae, a Korean pilot who was also a close acquaintance of Yamaoka. Kaneyama volunteered to be a kamikaze pilot, leaving behind his fiancee and his family in Korea. Yamaoka, who also loved Tomoko, married her.

When the film begins, they are both old and Tomoko is dying of kidney disease. To reconcile with their pasts, Yamaoka decides to take his wife to Kaneyama's hometown, Andong in Korea's North Gyeongsang province. The film's rare scenes of Japanese people saying they are sorry for the past made many Koreans at a preview last week shed tears.

The director Huruhata Yaso and the main actor Takakura, along with the producer Takaiwa Tan, visited Korea last Sunday to promote the film. According to Huruhata, the hotaru, or firefly, in the film symbolizes the spirit of the dead kamikaze squadrons. During the press conference at the Shilla Hotel, Huruhata said, "Kamikaze pilots left as their last words that they would return to their homes after dying, reincarnated as fireflies."

"Hotaru" is the 17th collaboration between Dakakura, 71, and Huruhata. Takakura told the Korean press that they made the movie "not merely for making a living. After 40 years of my film career, time is running out and I felt that I have to say things that are deep inside my heart."

Huruhata said, "I made the film to say that we should not forget about what happened half a century ago, not to say sorry to Koreans." But it is a message that resonated in Japan, where 2.5 million people saw the film.

Takakura, who was born in Fukuoka, a port city close to Korea, said that many of his classmates were Korean-Japanese. He grew up thinking much about Korea. "Andong especially reminded me of my memories of my hometown, which is now gone forever in Japan," he said.

The first thing he did in Korea on this trip was to find the parents of the late Lee Su-hyeon, a Korean student who was killed in Tokyo trying to save a drunken Japanese man who fell onto the subway tracks just as a train was coming. Takakura invited Mr. Lee's parents to the "Hotaru" preview in Seoul.

About the recent boom of Korean films, Huruhata remarked, "It is much envied in Japan, especially the energy and power shown in films like 'Chingu' ('Friend')." But he added, "Personally, however, I prefer Korean films like 'Christmas in August.'"

by Chun Su-jin

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