Monday, October 8, 2012

"Film shows family torn by N Korea-Japan relocation program "

From Japan Today, 10/7/12:

Korean-Japanese filmmaker Yang Yonghi says she leaned on her own personal history and similar stories from her pro-North Korean community in Japan for her latest movie, the feature film “Our Homeland,” which made its South Korean debut Saturday at the Busan International Film Festival.

“Our Homeland” tells the story of Sung Ho, a Japanese-born Korean who was among the estimated 90,000 people sent by their families to North Korea during a wave of repatriations from the late 1950s to the 1970s. He returns to Tokyo after 25 years away for a brief reunion with the rest of the family still living in Japan and medical treatment for his brain tumor.

The movie, which premiered at the Berlin film festival, was selected as Japan’s Academy Awards entry this year for best foreign-language film - a notable accomplishment for an ethnic Korean director from Japan, a country long accused of treating its ethnic Korean residents like second-class citizens.

“Our Homeland” is among three films screening in Busan with connections to North Korea. Feature film “Comrade Kim Goes Flying” is a joint North Korean-European production about a coal miner with aspirations to become a trapeze artist, and “Choongshim, Soso” is a short South Korean-made film about a North Korean defector hiding in China.

Yang belongs to the ethnic Korean “zainichi” minority in Japan, many of them descendants of Koreans brought there during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of Korea. The community is divided between those pledging allegiance to Pyongyang and those to Seoul; all are assigned Korean passports at birth, even if their families have lived in Japan for generations.

“Our Homeland,” her first feature film, is based on her own reunion with a brother sent to North Korea at age 16 by their pro-North Korean father at a time when North Korea had a stronger economy than South Korea. Like many fathers of his generation, he believed life would be better for his son in North Korea than in Japan, where Koreans faced widespread discrimination.

Yang explored the same issue in two documentaries, “Dear Pyongyang” of 2005 and “Sona, the Other Myself” of 2009, both based on interaction with her family in North Korea.

Read the whole text:


Anonymous said...

Please tell me more about this pro-North Korean director. Is she really trying to say that things are better in North Korea?

visual gonthros said...

Thanks for your comment. I think "pro-North Korean director" is too simplistic of a term to describe Yang. The Japan Today text says her film was based upon her experiences "at a time when North Korea had a stronger economy than South Korea." That is certainly not now. Zainichi identity in Japan is quite complex as well. Here's another article with more of Yang's personal background.