Ｈ Ｉ Ｒ Ｉ Ｓ Ｈ Ｉ Ｍ Ａ Ｐ Ｙ Ｏ Ｎ Ｇ Ｙ Ａ Ｎ Ｇ
Lee Kye-son, living in Pyongyang,
the capital of Democratic People's Republic of Korea
All of her fingers are wrapped around in bandages. "The skin on my fingers
keep peeling off," she says, "and if I don't put ointment on and
bandage it, it starts to bleed as if it's been scraped." From
her childhood days, not only by her fingers problem, but also she has been
suffered by various diseases.
59 years after the fact, Kye-son was
informed the reason of those diseases. In 2004, her mother in Hiroshima
and told her that both of them had been exposed to the atomic-bomb's residual
About 70,000 Koreans, which is about 10
percent of the atomic-bomb victims, were bombed at Hiroshima
The victims living in North
Korea are still abandoned while
those living in the South are now taking medical support by the Japanese
In this documentary, mainly taken in North
Korea, a closed and unapproachable
country, Itoh focuses on a North Korean Hiroshima-atomic-bombing victim, Lee
Kye-son, and reveals the non-humanitarian situation caused by the Japanese
government through her anger and grief.
Lee Kye-son, lives in Pyongyang,
the capital of Democratic People's Republic of Korea
(North Korea). While washing dishes, she says that the
breakage of skin on her fingers and the loss of her hair are all due to the
after effects of the atomic-bomb's radiation.
On August 6th, 1945,
an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima
by the United States. Kye-Son was living with her family at 27
kilometers away from the epicenter. Soon
after the end of the war, there was a rumor going around that the allowance
will be paid to return to Korea. So, her mother took her to the city and
roamed around the radiation-polluted area in search of the office and both of
them were exposed to the residual radiation.
But the rumor was not true.
Kye-Son's family decided to stay in Japan
but their life was hard. She wanted to
go to university in Japan,
but it was economically impossible. Just
at that time, there were the movements for returning to their home country
among the Korean residents in Japan. She decided to join the repatriation program,
and she alone went to North
Korea in 1960.
It was not until 2004, that Kye-son was
informed the reason of those diseases.
When her mother in Hiroshima
to meet her daughter, she saw Kye-son's bad physical condition, and told that
both of them had been exposed to the atomic-bomb's residual radiation. There was her reason for the 59 years of
Kye-son is looking forward to meet her
mother again in Pyongyang. Of course she misses her mother, but also she
wants to hear about the day when they went to Hiroshima
on August 18, 1945,
has put an embargo on the passenger ferries as the main part of its severe economic sanctions agaist North
Korea. So, her mother cannot visit Pyongyang
While living long distances from one another, mother and daughter are worrying
about each other's health. And this film
ends in unforeseen consequences.
Reunion with an old friend.
Among the 100-hour-long footage, there were
150 minutes of scenes which I wanted to include into the film. So I had to cut out some interesting scenes
in the footage.
In the cut scenes, there is one story I want
After graduated from Korean
a Hiroshima-atomic-bombing victim, Li Kye-son moved to Fukuoka
to study at Kyushu
Korean Middle and High School. In her dormitory life, she met Park Mun-suk, a
Mun-suk joined the repatriation program and
went to Korea
in 1959, and Kye-son also went there in 1960.
In 1995, the atomic-bomb victim group was
formed in Pyongyang. Since then, Mun-suk has been in the vanguard
of its activity.
Kye-son was informed about her atomic-bomb's
radiation exposure in 2004. A year later, she took part in an international
conference as a testifier, and she found Mun-suk at the conference room. They were reunited with each other for the
first time in 46 years. If Kye-son had
not been informed about her radiation exposure, they wouldn't have been
reunited. Now they are the closest of
I had to cut many interesting scenes in the
film, but I included 9-minute-long take which is one tenth of the film. It is a
scene of the "video letter".
Before I started shooting, I thought I was
going to use this scene without editing. When I was young, I was
tremendously-impressed with a Theo Angelopoulos's film called "The
Travelling Players". And I wanted
to try long takes in this film, since I would never be able to try them in
making TV documentary programs.
Actually, the first cut of the "video
letter" scene was too long, because Kye-son let words flow from her brain
to her mouth. I asked her to make it
shorter. But of course she is not an
actress, the next 3-minute-long cut was so unemotional. So I decided to use the
Singing and dancing with North
One day, I went to a resort spot in the
suburbs of Pyongyang
with Kye-son's family to shoot their holiday.
Many families and groups of young people were enjoying beef barbecue and
While shooting those scenes, many people came
and talk to me. They offered me a lot of
beer and shochu (distilled spirit). We
danced and sang together after drinking. They welcomed me even though they knew
that I am a Japanese.
This is one of the interesting scenes which I
wanted to include but I reluctantly had to cut it out.
In April 2009, I finished the
final filming in North Korea.
But right after that, something unexpected happened. And it affected the course
of the story.
Filming in North
Korea is not easy. It takes time to get the permission, and the
cost of filming and staying are very high.
So we decided not to change the main plot, but just add the incident at
the very end of the film. By adding the last scene, I think that this film can
tell more about the hard situation of atomic-bomb victims in North
"Hiroshima Pyongyang" is a film of a North Korean Hiroshima-atomic-bombing
victim. There are a lot of films of
atomic bombs and the victims, but this is the first one that focused on the
North Korean victims.
I made my first
visit to Pyongyang in 1992, to cover the reality of Japan's colonial occupation of Korea that ended in 1945.
At that time, I had already made a hundred and several tens of visits to
the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, but I had never been to North Korea.
After that, I
made a series of visits to North Korea and reported various issues for books, magazines and
television programs. And this time, I
decided to make a film about "atomic-bomb victims in North Korea". The reason is that among the
Hiroshima-Nagasaki-atomic-bombing victims, only the North Korean victims are
not taking any support from the Japanese government. In other words, they are
"abandoned hibakusha". And it
is a little known fact not only in Japan but also in the international community.
Between 2008 and
2009, I made three trips to North Korea to film "Hiroshima Pyongyang". It was
when Japan-North Korea relation was very bad.
I filmed at the family's apartment, hospitals and at the seacoast, where
it is usually very difficult to receive permission to film for foreign
media. What is more, I am the first Japanese
to shoot a documentary film in North Korea for a long period of time.
North Korean victims I met, I decided to focus on Lee Kye-son, because she
spoke good Japanese even nearly the half century had passed after
repatriate. To convey her exact feelings
to the Japanese audience, I think it is better to speak directly in Japanese
than to speak through a translator.
I weaved the
family's daily life into the film, focused on how victims continue to suffer
from the after-effects of the bomb's radiation, and revealed the
non-humanitarian situation caused by the Japanese government through their
anger and grief.
65 years has
passed since the end of the Pacific War and the Japanese rule on the Korean Peninsula. But there are
still various problems between Japan and its neighboring countries. To secure the peace and stability of the
Asia-Pacific region, it is necessary to face up to the past. This film was produced with the hope to create
significant ripples through the Japanese society. And I expect that those
ripples will become big waves.
OVERSEAS FESTIVAL SCREENINGS
■International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema2011
BEST SOUND TRACK AWARD-WINNER
NOMINATED FOR THE BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE AWARD
■Heart of England International Film Festival 2011
August 7-18, 2011
■Swansea Bay Film Festival 2011
Swansea, Wales／United Kingdom
May 7〜15, 2011
■International Film Festival South Africa 2010
Howick, Kwa Zulu Natal/South Africa
November 1〜5, 2010
■Chagrin Documentary Film Festival 2010
Chagrin Falls, Ohio/USA
October 11〜16, 2010
■Docutah - Southern Utah International Documentary
Film Festival 2010
St. George, Utah / USA
September 16 〜 25, 2010
■International Film Festival Ireland 2010
Nominated for the Documentary International Award
September 4〜11, 2010
The Ａｓａｈｉ Ｓhｉｍｂｕｎ（ＥＮＧＬIＳＨ）