Finding Mr. Park

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FINDING MR. PARK

 

Finding Mr. Park is a virtual game about the existence of zainichi Koreans (Koreans in Japan) [1] during USA’s nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Ostensibly, the game is about the search for a toy boat which the Japanese boy Gen wishes to retrieve for his brother’s funeral. Yet, as the detective Conan follows the trail of Mr. Park in search of the toy, the Korean victims of the nuclear attack are revealed. This game attempts to provide a fictional counterfactual history (in the vein of Roger Hillman) of the Hiroshima bombing which was often branded as an incident which happened to the “sole victim (Japan) of the atomic bomb” in a nationalistic sense. To insert a neglected history into the mainstream, I appropriated the forms plots of the well-known animation series, Detective Conan and the manga Barefoot Gen. Due to limited time and resources, a game-playing video was made to present how the game may take form in real life.

The ongoing issue of zainichi Koreans is rooted in the Japanese colonization of Korea from August 29, 1910 to August 15, 1945. Up to 1945, many Koreans crossed over to Japan for a liveable life or were drafted to forced labor in Japan, then were unable to return to their homeland.[2] USA’s nuclear bomb attack in Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) resulted in Japan’s surrender and renunciation of colonial relations. Although Korea gained independence through this very act, Koreans who resided in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the reasons above lost their lives, eventually composing up to ten percent of all hibakusha (Atomic Bomb Victims).[3] The site of Hiroshima is what I focus on through my project, inspired by the seminal cinematic and literary representations of the Hiroshima bombing. More specifically, Finding Mr. Park emphasizes the existence of Koreans during the nuclear attack—a loss not often acknowledged due to Japan’s stress on the national concept of the “sole victim of the A-bomb.”[4] Other than the postcolonial mourning of the colonial subjects, the Koreans in 1945 Hiroshima further raise interesting points of how the Japanese victims of the A-bomb were also silenced by their government for the sake of international economic advantages. To adapt to the US-led global economy, the post-war Japanese government highlighted the slogan of “anti-war” instead of “anti-USA,” effacing the “assailant vs. victim” diagram for the more gentle diagram of “weapons vs. human.”[5] The victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki thus could not be acknowledged—whether they were Korean or Japanese. The former was often wholly erased and the latter was unable to freely express resentment towards the US. At times, a sort of solidarity formed between the two groups.[6]

To represent this under-represented history, I devised the game Finding Mr. Park. In this project, the renowned anime series Detective Conan (Case Closed) and the anti-war manga Barefoot Gen are appropriated and fused to dismantle the grand nationalist history of the Hiroshima bombing and present a history in subjunctive mode.[7] To start with, both Conan and Gen are fictional characters with the latter derived from the author’s own experience (as a Japanese A-bomb survivor). While the nationalist frame of “sole victim nation of a-bombing” may be the contemporaneous majority’s belief, testimonies of the survivors tell otherwise. Yet, the testimonies themselves are not accompanied by easily digestible, tangible “proof” such as audiovisual materials due to the drastic nature of the incident. Thus, the matter of authenticity depreciates as the notion of belief surges, eventually producing the diverse pool of possible histories which co-exist while some are contradictory. Roger Hillman also highlights the notion of “belief” as one issue concerning the film Goodbye Lenine’s capacity to render a counterfactual history in how “‘the end of the cold war and the collapse of communism in the late 1980s prompted the belief among liberals that humankind had reached the end point of its ideological evolution and, indeed, had reached ‘the end of history’ itself’.”[8] If the vividness of a personal history (or “memory,”) of an incident surpasses the “established” one, can it not be another fragment of history? How does history become a fact in the first place? Isn’t established history the version of the majority (whoever survived)? Finding Mr. Park weaves the zainichi Korean’s presence into well-known, mainstream Japanese media. By intervening and inserting the formerly undervalued or effaced beings, I strived to catalyze the viewers’ revision of the Hiroshima bombing incident without rendering it as an autonomous and marginalized history separate from the “dominant.”

With Conan and Gen as the main protagonists, the game tracks down the whereabouts of the witness/suspect Mr. Park who is alleged to have took Gen’s toy ship right after the bombing took place (or at least know where it is). The boys run around asking the villagers about him, but none of the villagers actually have any solid information—just rumors and assumptions. One main common aspect of the villagers’ prejudice towards Park is that he must be the culprit since he is a zainichi Korean. This prejudice is not a convenient set-up for the story but an actual stereotype the Japanese society had of zainichi Koreans then—as uneducated, in poverty, and with criminal propensity.[9] The suspicion surrounding Park and the other Koreans is framed around the distinct format of Detective Conan where the probability of the plot is not developed through a comprehensive story of cause-and-effect story, rendering it impossible for the viewer to sort out the criminal through clues. Rather, the criminal is often the unlikely suspect who had a hidden (strong) motivation. Finding Mr. Park aims to portray the way of which zainichi Koreans existed as an obscured bundle of negative stereotypes, significantly under-represented in media, and were unable to refute the prejudices imposed upon them. Although the story starts off from Gen’s request to find his brother’s toy ship, it spreads out to Mr. Park’s story of discrimination and the solidarity between Gen and Park. In Barefoot Gen, Mr. Park is a friendly neighbor who helps Gen’s family when they are in trouble. This friendly relationship is possible since Gen’s family believed in anti-war from before the bombing, and Gen’s father educated his children so that they respect the citizens of the colonized who inevitably live in drastic conditions. Both Gen’s family and Mr. Park are subjects of discrimination due to the pro-war sentiment and barbarization of Koreans. After the bombing, Park comes to further resent Japan due to the discrimination his father goes through. Park’s father was denied treatment due to the fact that he is a “jo-sen-jin (a degrading term for Koreans)” and soon dies. Barefoot Genresolves this hate by making Park a successful figure in the post-war period. Finding Mr. Park deviates from this success story of Park and instead focuses on the substandard lives of the zainichi Koreans who either died due to the bombing or barely survived.

The colonial sediments are yet unresolved between Korea and Japan, instigating the generation of the war and colonization to pass on the unsettled hate towards the other to the younger generation. The solidarity between the Hiroshima victims (whether they are Korean or Japanese) is one rare strand of hope in understanding the other outside the nationalist lens. Although I could produce a small portion of the actual game through a video format, I plan on working on this project further after this class ends.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Dew, Oliver. Zainichi Cinema. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Hillman, Roger. “Goodbye Lenin (2003): History in the Subjunctive.” Rethinking History Vol.

10, No. 2, June 2006, pp. 221–237.

Oh, Eunjeong. “Nationalism and Reflexive Cosmopolitanism in Korean A-bomb Victims’ War

Memory and Transnational Solidarity.” Development and Society Vol. 46, No. 2

(September 2017): 303-316.

Noh, Kwang Woo. “Cinematic Represention of Resident Koreans in Japan -Oshima Nagisa’s

Death by Hanging and Park Chul-Soo’s Family Cinema.” Contemporary Film Studies 14

(2012): 85-86.

Ryang, Sonia and John Lie. Diaspora Without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan. Oakland:

University of California Press, 2009.

Takahashi, Yuko. “Identities Surrounding a Cenotaph for Korean Atomic Bomb Victims.”

Korean Studies Vol. 42 (2018): 65.

Tong-hyung Kim, “Court Orders Japanese Company to Compensate 4 Koreans for Forced Labor

During WWII,” Time, October 30, 2018, http://time.com/5438709/korea-japan-court-

forced-labor-compensation/.

권혁태, “히로시마/나가사키의 기억과 ‘유일 피폭국의 연설.” 일본비평 1 (2009).

 

 

[1] Dew, Oliver. Zainichi Cinema. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

[2] This unresolved issue recently resulted in a trial about forced labor. http://time.com/5438709/korea-japan-court-forced-labor-compensation/. For further reference: Ryang, Sonia and John Lie. Diaspora Without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan. Oakland: University of California Press, 2009.

[3] Takahashi, Yuko. “Identities Surrounding a Cenotaph for Korean Atomic Bomb Victims.” Korean Studies Vol. 42 (2018): 65.

[4] 권혁태, “히로시마/나가사키의 기억과 ‘유일 피폭국의 연설.” 일본비평 1 (2009).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Eunjeong, Oh. Nationalism and Reflexive Cosmopolitanism in Korean A-bomb Victims’ War Memory and Transnational Soliarity. Development and Society, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2017, pp. 303-316.

[7] Hillman, Roger. “Goodbye Lenin (2003): History in the Subjunctive.” Rethinking HistoryVol. 10, No. 2, June 2006, pp. 221–237.

[8] Hillman, p. 226.

[9] Noh, Kwang Woo. “Cinematic Represention of Resident Koreans in Japan -Oshima Nagisa’s Death by Hanging and Park Chul-Soo’s Family Cinema.” Contemporary Film Studies14 (2012): 85-86.

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