Remembering a hero and building new bridges

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Remembering a hero and building new bridges

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Lee Soo-hyun

TOKYO, Japan - Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have kept the promise they made five years ago to a Korean family whose son was killed on a subway track as he tried to rescue a drunken Japanese man.
Touched by the incident that caused a sensation throughout Japan, the imperial couple invited the parents of Lee Soo-hyun to the palace in Tokyo to console them on the first anniversary of their son’s death. It was at this meeting that the emperor promised that they would attend the premiere of a film that was then in production to commemorate Mr. Lee’s deed.
Five years later the movie, “Anata o Wasurenai,” meaning “We will never forget you,” is complete. It is a joint production from Korea and Japan. Last Friday Mr. Lee’s parents, personnel from the film and the imperial couple attended a screening, the emperor and his wife entered the screening room after shaking hands with Mr. Lee’s parents. Royal aides said it was the first time the imperial couple had attended a film preview together.

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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko greeting Mr. Lee’s parents at the screening of a Korean-Japanese film to remember Mr. Lee on the 6th year anniversary of his death last Friday. [YONHAP]

“Anata o Wasurenai” tells the story of Korean international student Soo-hyun (played by Korean actor Lee Tae-seong). He is studying in Tokyo and in love with a Japanese girl (played by Japanese singer Maaki). They have a difficult time persuading their parents that they should be allowed to date each other due to the hard feelings older Koreans and Japanese still have about each other’s countries. But by the time their parents begin to accept their relationship, Soo-hyun is killed in a fatal accident on his way to an indie rock band concert he was planning to play in for his girlfriend. The actual Soo-hyun is said to have enjoyed playing his guitar as well.
During the preview, the imperial couple appeared to be moved as the film reached its finale when the main character is killed.

Also at the screening was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife Akie, former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, former chief cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda, Jang Hun, an ethnic Korean baseball player and other prominent members of Japanese society. Approximately 600 people were invited to the event. They were solemn throughout the screening.
“I felt the Mr. Lee Soo-hyun was watching over us from heaven as I worked on this film,” said actor Lee Tae-seong. “I am sure that he is with us to watch his movie.”
Junji Hanado directed the movie, which will be known as “26 Years Diary” in overseas markets.
“I hope Japanese people will go see this movie about a Korean student who died trying to rescue a complete stranger,” he said. The film opened in Japan on Sunday.
Meanwhile, foreign news services reported that it was seen as significant in diplomatic circles that the emperor and empress attended the preview. They explained it was “an effort to show hope from the royal palace that the Korea-Japan relationship will soften.”

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Film poster for ‘Anata o Wasurenai.’ The movie stars actor Lee Tae-seong as Lee Soo-hyun. The film opened in Japanese theaters on Sunday. Provided by the companies

Also earlier last week, Prince Naruhito attended a “friendship concert” with participants from Korea, China and Japan in which he played the viola.
The fatal incident occurred at the Yamanote Line platform at Shin-Okubo Station in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Lee Soo-hyun was 26, studying at a Japanese language school. On his way home in the evening, he saw a drunken Japanese man fall onto the tracks. He jumped down to rescue him. Soon another man jumped in to help, but the three could not climb back up in time. All three were killed on the tracks on Jan. 26, 2001.


By Kim Hyun-ki(JoongAng Ilbo)/Lee Min-a(Staff Writer) [mina@joongang.co.kr]

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