Connect with us


EDITORIAL | NHK Must Stop Seoul's Misleading Use of Gunkanjima Footage

NHK is not proactively correcting South Korea for passing off its film footage as that of wartime labor, even if it was taken 10 years after the war's end.



Hashima Island, location of the UNESCO Meiji Industrial Heritage inscribed site of the Hashima Coal Mine, is commonly called Gunkanjima because of its shape, which means "battleship."

New evidence regarding NHK film footage used in South Korea as "evidence" of forced wartime labor has come to light. The film is from an NHK program on wartime Hashima Island in Nagasaki, also known as Gunkanjima. Now it turns out that the footage was actually filmed after the war.

There is no factual basis for claims of forced labor involving individuals from the Korean Peninsula on Gunkanjima. Testimonies from reliable sources make it clear. Yet, within South Korea, this historical truth has been distorted.

The revelation that the footage was filmed after the war undermines a significant portion of the South Korean claims. It is compelling evidence to refute the unjust accusations, which should be acknowledged and corrected by Japan and South Korea.

NHK Broadcast Center occupies its own building in Tokyo's Shibuya ward. (© Sankei)

NHK Must Correct Its Misrepresentations

The program in question, titled Island Without Green (緑なきの島), was broadcast on November 17, 1955. It was a 20-minute short film depicting the lives of people on Hashima Island. 

On June 19, NHK officials explained the details in a meeting with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The footage depicting scenes from inside the mine was apparently filmed in 1955, the same year as the broadcast itself.

NHK's response to this discovery is unsatisfactory. They should also have proactively communicated this fact to the public through news broadcasts and other channels. Instead, their lack of initiative is evident.

An investigatory report containing this information was sent by NHK to the Island Residents' Association two years ago. That is, to the group whose members are former residents of Hashima Island. However, the recent report to the LDP was kept confidential. 

Acting as though the issue can be resolved by these actions alone would be disingenuous. It is crucial for NHK to promptly broadcast a program verifying the true facts.

Koko Kato, former Cabinet Advisor and the Executive Director of the National Congress for Industrial Heritage, addresses the Industrial Labor Study Group investigating the NHK documentary "Greenless Island" at the Parliamentary Museum in Tokyo. (© Sankei by Shinpei Okuhara)

South Korea's Abuse of the Film

In 2010, the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) received this footage from NHK. It then aired a program titled History Special: Hell Island, Gunkanjima

South Korea's National Museum of Forced Mobilization Under Japanese Occupation screened a shortened version of the KBS program in 2020. And NHK's footage was also utilized by the Korean television station MBC.

NHK responded to inquiries from The Sankei Shimbun, stating that they have made two requests to KBS, seeking confirmation of the status of the NHK footage. Specifically, they asked whether KBS provided the film to the National Museum of Forced Mobilization or to MBC. 

The Japanese broadcast giant further emphasized the need to prevent unauthorized use or external distribution. However, it is important to provide more detailed information, including the response from the South Korean side, to clarify the situation.

NHK Film's Questionable Provenance

Former island residents have raised doubts about both the film's timing and the location of the footage. They say the film footage is not from the Hashima Coal Mine

Meanwhile, NHK states that it has not come to a definite conclusion as to whether the location was somewhere other than the Hashima Coal Mine. Further comprehensive investigations are warranted, they say, to address these concerns.

Gunkanjima, the Hashima Coal Mine was inscribed in 2015 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a world heritage site of the Meiji Industrial Revolution. However, during this process, South Korea made unfounded allegations of forced labor. Additionally, a film titled Gunkanjima was screened in South Korea, disregarding the facts. 


The Japanese government must fulfill its duty to provide a strong and fact-based rebuttal.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

Our Partners