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INSIDE ASIA

North Korean Film Inspires Emotions, Questions

Aired September 7, 2001 - 09:46:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KARUNA SHINSHO, CNN ANCHOR: A movie about a little-known tragedy half a century ago is drawing wide attention. The topic of the North Korean film "Souls Protest" is striking an emotional chord in South Korea, despite questions about historical accuracy.

Monita Rajpal reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MONITA RAJPAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a moment most Japanese and Koreans know nothing about, a terrifying moment tucked away in the closing moments of World War II. The Ukishima Maru explodes just off the Japanese coast. On board the Japanese warship are as many as 4,000 forced laborers from the Korean peninsula. According to Korean account, almost all on board are killed.

The memory of that moment has brought together Korean survivors and families of the dead in an almost-unprecedented display of unity with the North. They gathered last month for a preview of the North Korean film "Souls Protest."

It's a high budget reenactment of the disaster complete with a cast of thousands, what Pyongyang calls the Korean "Titanic." It's the first-ever film exported from the North, and its subject matter is at the heart of a controversy over Japan's account of the incident.

JEON JAE-JIN, UKISHIMA MARU INVEST. CMTE. (through translator): We cannot accept the Japanese court sentence, because it did not mention the thousands of victims, the agony of the bereaved family members, and the investigation over the sinking ship.

RAJPAL: Tokyo's version of the story puts the number of Korean dead in the hundreds, not the thousands, and Tokyo maintains an American mine caused the explosion.

But most survivors believe the Japanese intentionally destroyed the ship to cover up the secret of its human cargo, which included women and small children.

CHUNG KI-YONG, UKISHIMA MARU SURVIVOR (through translator): I overheard two Japanese officers saying that the flower may die without blooming. I asked what they were saying, and they said it meant nothing, and they left looking very intense.

RAJPAL: The film itself is not without its own controversy. Many South Koreans say the North's version of historical event is also distorted. But the poignancy of the story prompted a South Korean distributor to take a chance that the film would play well in his country. He says "Souls Protest" gets sidetracked with several minutes of film that glorify North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, but moviegoers in his country won't be seeing that part.

CHUNG HAN-WOO, NARAI FILM COMPANY: This movie does not have any North Korean propaganda. We simply edited a few words, which didn't ave any meaning for the movie.

RAJPAL: Next month, all South Koreans will be able to see the movie, when it opens in theaters nationwide. Then they must decide if "Souls Protest" is historically accurate or, like Hollywood's original "Titanic," just a fictional account of one small moment in history.

Monita Rajpal, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

END

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