When will the anti-Japanese code end?HAN YOUNG-IK
The author is the political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Grave of the Fireflies,” a 1988 animated film by Hayao Miyazaki, tells the story of Seita and Setsuko’s refugee life during World War II. Their father, a Japanese navy captain, is killed in the war, and their mother is killed in an American airstrike. The movie depicts how they wander around until they die of malnutrition. The animation is considered a masterpiece for its level of completion.
The movie was pushed for release in Korea in 2005, but the distributor delayed it, thinking it wouldn’t suit the public sentiment. The film released in 2014 in Korea but garnered little attention as the film portrayed Japan as a victim even though it started the war. But Akiyuki Nosaka, author of the novel on which the film was based, criticized Japan’s rightist swing until he died in 2015. “It is clear that the [turbulent] period before the Pacific War is coming closer and closer to this country [again],” he said. It seemed that the author didn’t have any intention to underscore the victimhood of Japan from the beginning. But Koreans turned away from the masterpiece because of their anti-Japanese sentiment.
The anti-Japanese code has been an important variable in box office success and reputation in Korea for a long time. In a conference in 2020, novelist Jo Jung-rae, a symbol of Korean literature, asserted, “There will be no future for the country unless 1.5 million pro-Japanese people are punished.” His three-part modern history saga — “Taebaek Mountain Range,” “Arirang” and “Han River” — sold 15.5 million copies.
“The Battle of Bongodong,” released in 2019, is considered a film that rode on the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment at the right time. It opened when Japanese products were being boycott in Korea as the anti-Japanese sentiment climaxed. As expected, it topped the box office and created a sensation.
There is a heated debate over the anti-Japanese code after the Korean version of “La Casa de Papel” was recently been released on Netflix. When Tokyo, one of the characters, is asked why she named herself Tokyo, she responds, “Well, I’ll do something bad anyway.” In the Spanish original, the reason for her name was her regret that she wanted to go to Japan but couldn’t. Some viewers argue over this online, claiming that the anti-Japanese code was forcibly planted in the Korean version of the drama, while others found no problem with the naming.
It is solely up to the creator to put the lines in a series. But no matter how this debate ends, the age of getting popularity using the anti-Japanese code alone seems to be passing.