A documentary film challenging the government's explanation of the Cheonan warship incident has been pulled out by a major cinema chain in South Korea. Not only have the movie directors and the country's film community angrily protested against the decision, but net users also have reacted quickly, calling it a crime against the freedom of expression and even started actively boycotting the cinema chain.
Megabox, the country's one of the largest multiplex chains, decided to stop screening “Project Cheonan” [ko], a controversial film throwing suspicions on whether North Korea was really behind the sinking of the warship named Cheonan, an incident that claimed 46 lives in March 2010. Although the investigation done by South Korean led-international commission concluded a North Korean torpedo sunk the ship, there are still unresolved questions and the movie ‘Project Cheonan’ offers another sets of explanations, such as that the vessel may have been hit by something else, such as a reef, or an unidentified submarine may have been not that of North Koreas.
The movie suffered a rough start from its beginning. South Korean navy officials and families of the Cheonan incident victims had even filed an injunction [ko] to stop its release, arguing the movie defamed the victims by intentionally distorting the facts. The court overruled [ko], however, sentencing that ‘one cannot restrict the freedom of speech for merely raising questions/suspicions'.
Megabox stressed [ko] that they had to withdraw the movie for safety reasons as they received phone calls from unidentified conservative groups who threatened them to stage protests outside the theaters.
“한국영화사에 이런 일은 처음이다. 중국에서조차 당서기장을 코믹하게 풍자하는 영화가 상영된다. ‘천안함 프로젝트 상영 중단'이라는 이번 건은 분명히 정치적 이유가 있다. 진상을 분명히 밝혀야 한다”(민병록/ 영화평론가협회 회장)
— gree(no-FTA) (@21gree) September 10, 2013
This has never happened before in the Korean movie history. Even in China, a movie comically parodying the general secretary of [the Chinese Communist Party] was released. There is certainly political motivation behind the Cheonan Project withdrawal. We must get to the bottom of the problem. (by Min Byung-rok, Chairman of the Movie Critics Association)
보수단체는 매가박스를 위협한 적이 없다는데 왜 굳이 천안함 프로젝트를 상영금지해야 했을까?우리사회에 현재까지 뿌리내린 보수권력의 힘. 그들의 오류를 막기위해 암암리에 행해지는 압력.그힘이 아니라면 이유를 찾을수 없다. 21세기의 문화적 자유의 억압.
— 희윤[시국선언] #바보가꿈꾸는세상 (@hee1025w) September 10, 2013
Why did Megabox have to pull the Cheonan Project, given conservative groups said they have never blackmailed them? This incident shows how the power of conservatives is deeply rooted in our society and that a tacit pressure to block disclosure of the conservative's errors does exist. There can be no explanation other than that. It is a restriction of cultural freedom in the 21st century.
<천안함 프로젝트>진실을 알고나니 화가난다 http://t.co/GhSyUx1ZuC 진실을 알고 싶다는 욕심이 종북으로 몰리고, 영화 한 편을 보기위해 신변의 위협을 감수해야 할지도 모르는 세상이라면, 그래, 파시즘이라는 말이 전혀 어색하지가 않다
— 세도야 [시국선언] #도화선 (@_sedo_ya) September 9, 2013
Knowing the truth about the Cheonan Project makes me so angry. (related link) Those who merely want to know the truth are being labeled as ‘pro-North/North Korean sympathizers’ and need to risk their personal safety to watch a single movie. If that is the world we are living in, it is rational to say it is a fascist society.
“의심은 모든 소통의 출발점이다”.. 영화 천안함의 마지막 증언이다. 의심을 할 수 없는 사회는 죽은 사회다. 영화 천안함을 자유롭게 하라. pic.twitter.com/yPcVwWWOzn
— 정동영 (@coreacdy) September 8, 2013
‘Suspicions are the start of every conversation'–That was the last statement of the Cheonan movie. When questions cease to be raised, then society is dead. Free the movie Cheonan Project.
More movie theaters have become available for the movie screening [ko] as the controversy made headlines and drew huge public attention to the film. Some net users suggested [ko] the multiplex chain blamed the non-existent conservative groups for their decision made purely based on the movie's low profitability, while some took one step further to boycott the cinema chain.
메가박스 측 “‘천안함’ 상영중단 요구단체 밝힐 수 없다” http://t.co/esxE35HWxk 메가박스 정신 차리게 해줄 방법은 관람거부운동 밖에 없습니다. 오늘부터 일제히 메가박스가 상영하는 영화관람을 거부합시다.
— 이재화(변호사) (@jhohmylaw) September 10, 2013
The Megabox said they cannot reveal the group who pressured them to pull out the movie. (link to a related article [ko]) The only way to help them to come to their sense is by boycotting. Starting today, we will boycott screening of any movie by Megabox.
천안함프로젝트, 압력넣어 상영중단시킨게 역효과를 낳았군요^^ 영화관람객 여론조사, ‘관람하고 싶어졌다'가 57%! 긁어 부스럼! http://t.co/ABsrGo7B9Z
— 이석현 (@lsh4u) September 10, 2013
The withdrawal of the movie Cheonan Project has backfired. One survey shows that 57 percent have responded as ‘they now have intention to watch the movie.’ They opened a can of worms. (link to a related news article)