Channel NewsAsia

Korean movie brings Korea-Japan spat to the forefront

Hit Korean movie Roaring Currents has brought the ongoing spat between South Korea and Japan to the forefront as ties between the two countries are at one of the worst levels in recent years.

SEOUL: South Koreans on Friday (Aug 15) marked 49 years of independence from Japan's colonial rule. The relationship between South Korea and Japan is at close to its worst level in recent years.

This ongoing spat between the two sides has recently given a boost to a Korean movie, which depicts the most famous battle in Korean history against a Japanese fleet. The film - Roaring Currents - is sitting at the top of the South Korean box office for the second straight weekend. Set in the 16th century, it tells the story of a Korean naval commander Yi Sun Shin who in 1597 defeated a Japanese fleet that far outnumbered his own.

Twelve days after the movie was released on July 30, more than 10 million people had watched it - the fastest rate ever for a local movie.

At a press conference ahead of the movie release, director Kim Han Min downplayed the political significance of his movie, saying the admiral was a historical figure admired universally. Choi Min Shik, who plays Yi Sun Shin, said he hopes people - especially the young - can learn from the movie. Choi said: "Of course, I don't have profound knowledge about our history. But sometimes I think we are being too idle. I hope this will help teach the young people about real figures in history."

The timing of the film's release is apropos, as this is a month when Koreans - both in the South and the North - mark significant milestones in their history. On Aug 15, 1945 - after being under Japan's rule for 35 years from 1910 - Korea gained independence. Annually, it is a day when the row between the two nations escalate as Japanese leaders usually visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to commemorate Imperial Japan's war dead on the anniversary of its surrender in World War II.

Relations between Japan and South Korea are now at a low point - South Korea President Park Geun-hye has not had a bilateral summit meeting with her Japanese counterpart since she took office in February 2013.