[FOUNTAIN]‘Japan Sinks’ filters truth

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[FOUNTAIN]‘Japan Sinks’ filters truth

“Japan Sinks” has become the highest grossing Japanese film released in Korea. The movie tells about a catastrophic earthquake powerful enough to wipe Japan off the map. The blockbuster is expected to gross 6 billion yen in Japan alone. Ironically, the “anti-Japanese” marketing campaign promoted by the Korean distributor has contributed to its box office success.
Of course, “Japan Sinks” is hardly an “anti-Japanese” movie. In the shell of a Hollywood-style disaster flick, it contains the elevated political tension in Asia and portrays a Japan increasingly positioning itself formilitary power.
The movie is based on a novel written by Sakyo Komatsu in 1973 at a time of oil shortage. The novel was a sensation. Readers thought it was an introspective message on the arrogance and exclusivism of Japan more than realistic fears of an earthquake. The movie filters out most of the self-repentant message to emphasize spectacle. While Japan ends up sunk in the original novel, young heroes save Japan in the movie.
The heroes that save the country from the crisis are the Ministers of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. One minister is the only female and the youngest member of the Cabinet. The movie puts the future of Japan in the hands of women and the young. An underwater exploration expert initially plans to leave the country but ends up saving Japan by going down with a submarine. It is a Kamikaze-style sacrifice.
While neighboring Korea was partly damaged by the earthquake in the original book, there is no reference to Korea in the movie. It is not included in the list of nations calling for help, and the only mention of Korea is an announcement to the escaping Japanese not to make individual crossings to South and North Korea because of controls on illegal immigrants.
The most notable aspect of the movie is that Japan alone is in jeopardy of sinking, and the countries around the world are reluctant to help. Japan innocently finds itself in a crisis, but no help is coming. The fate of the country and the people depends on if Japan can stand strong by itself, justifying the reason for self-defense.
Before the movie was released, Ryu Murakami published “Leave the Peninsula,” where the North Korean military invades Japan. Professor Bang Min-ho of Seoul National University says the imagination of “Leave the Peninsula” coincides with the self-tormenting historical view of the Japanese, who consider themselves victims of history despite the fact that they in fact have been the assaulters. It is truly troubling if the outcome of the self-tormenting historical view is rearmament.


by Yang Sung-hee

The writer is a culture and sports desk writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
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