Song of Arirang: Voices from Okinawa
An Interview with Pak Su-nam (Director)
Reviving the Memories and Bitterness of the Dead Through Cinema
About The Other Hiroshima: Korean A-bomb Victims Tell Their Story
Until now, hibaku (exposure to the atomic bomb) in Japan has only been discussed in terms of victims of the nuclear explosion. However, the Korean atomic bomb victims were people for whom bomb was unavoidable, on top of having their country stolen, being relocated, and being used as forced labor. There were tens of thousands of people like that in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their existence has been ignored throughout the long span of the postwar period. They have had to deal with two levels of discrimination, as atomic bomb victims in addition to the social discrimination they face as Koreans. So, the essence of Korean hibaku is completely different from hibaku experienced by the Japanese. For example, several hundred female students from the peninsula were forced to work at the Mitsubishi shipyards. They were taken to Hiroshima, where they were bombed and vanished into smoke. But absolutely nothing is said about it. There’s only the testimony in this film. Most of them died, and even their families have no idea how or where their sons and daughters were taken and how they died . . . . In fact, irreplaceable visual testimony is still sleeping in the closet. This is the work of reviving the memories and bitterness of the dead. I think if I didn’t do this, it would be a crime on my part.
Sharing the “pain” borne from the “testimony”
It’s a really important thing to have captured on film the confession of the Okinawan Lieutenant Chinen, who testified that he killed two Koreans who were civilian workers in the Japanese army. He appears in Song of Arirang: Voices from Okinawa. Even though it’s hard enough to talk about being victimized, on top of that he gives testimony of murder, stating that “I killed them.” Moreover, I visited him repeatedly—I, who am ethnically connected with the civilian war workers who he had killed. It’s not only you in Okinawa, but us Koreans as well—we were negated by Japan’s invasion and rule, and trained as soldiers to kill people. I spoke to him about sharing the same tragedy and the same history. We had our identity as Koreans stolen, and you were born as an Okinawan and had that identity stolen. I pointed the camera at him as someone who could share the pain. And for that reason, he resolved to testify for the first time.
Only with support from the audience
This film was completed only with support from many people, and even when the film is completed, it has absolutely no meaning unless audiences see it. Fortunately, these two films have been seen at a lot of different places, and I’m often asked how to draw audiences like that. In order to share my concerns with people around me, I spoke about this film with people who had been moved by The Other Hiroshima. I was making the case that in order to rehabilitate the human rights and honor of former “comfort women”, it’s indeed important to bring the truth of the Japanese nation’s aggression out into the open. And at most of the venues, many people came forward to support the production, and it turned into a movement to purchase film.
About your next work dealing with the mass suicides in Okinawa
While making Song of Arirang in Okinawa, I dug up testimonials about girls at the “comfort” facilities and civilian works in the army who had been forcibly mobilized and were massacred right there. At the same time, I was able to hear about the experiences of Okinawans themselves during that war. The Japanese army stole their language, stole their food, and on top of that they were forced into mass suicides—those were their experiences. Through their stories, I want to accurately depict just exactly what the group suicides meant for Okinawans. I’ve already finished the rushes, and want to finish it by next year.
(Compiled by Hata Ayumi)
Interviewers: Hata Ayumi, Masuya Shoko
Photography: Oki Chieko / Video: Saito Kenta / 2005-10-10