South Korean Film Questioning Warship Sinking Pulled from Theaters

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.

An official movie poster of the Cheonan Project, Fair Use Image

An official movie poster of the Cheonan Project, Fair Use Image

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.

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)

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.

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.

‘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.

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.

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)


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.