The Battleship Island

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The Battleship Island
The Battleship Island (film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRyoo Seung-wan
Produced byCho Sung-min
Screenplay byRyoo Seung-wan
StarringHwang Jung-min
So Ji-sub
Song Joong-ki
Lee Jung-hyun
Music byBang Jun-seok
CinematographyLee Mo-gae
Edited byKim Jae-bum
Kim Sang-bum
Filmmaker R & K
Distributed byCJ Entertainment
Release date
  • 26 July 2017 (2017-07-26)
Running time
132 minutes
CountrySouth Korea
BudgetUS$21 million[1]
Box officeUS$47.3 million[2]

The Battleship Island (Hangul군함도; Hanja軍艦島; RRGunhamdo) is a 2017 South Korean period action film starring Hwang Jung-min, So Ji-sub, Song Joong-ki and Lee Jung-hyun. It is a Japanese occupation-era film about an attempted prison break from a forced labor camp on Hashima Island.[3][4]


About a group of about 400 Korean workers who risk their lives to attempt an escape from Hashima, and the story of forced labor on the island.[5]



A bandmaster at a hotel in Gyeongseong, who chooses to take his only daughter to Japan in order to keep her safe. But they get sent to the Hashima labor camp instead, and there he'll do anything that's asked of him, as long as he can protect his daughter.
The best street fighter in Gyeongseong, a coarse man who constantly stirs up troubles in the labor camp. Under his harsh and rough exterior, he has a good heart.
A member of the Korean independence movement who infiltrates the island in order to rescue a fellow independence fighter being held captive there.
A comfort woman who gets moved to Hashima after going through endless troubles under the Japanese colonization, but never loosens her strong grip on hope.


Lee Kang-ok's daughter. She was being captured by the Japanese general because of her talents in singing and dancing.


Filming began June 17, 2016 in Cheongju, South Korea and finished on December 20, 2016. The film reunites Hwang Jung-min with Ryoo Seung-wan, who directed the 2015 hit movie Veteran starring Hwang.[6] Production cost about five times more than the average locally produced film due to the massive lifelike sets.[7] While the island provided the inspiration for the plot, The Battleship Island was not filmed on location. The sets were built in Chuncheon and were designed to resemble the conditions of Hashima Island's community and mines during the 1940s.[8]

Historical accuracy[edit]

Right wing Japanese media, such as the daily Sankei Shimbun newspaper, have attacked the film accusing it of distorting historic truth.[9] In response, director Ryoo Seung-wan has asserted that the film has "non-fiction" elements that show "how war can make man a monster", it is not intended to convey anti-Japanese sentiment.[7] However, Japan has acknowledged that Korean and Chinese forced laborers were there during World War II when it applied to UNESCO for World Heritage status for Hashima Island.[10] South Korea had opposed the bid until Japan acknowledged that "large number[s] of Koreans and others [...] were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions in the 1940s at some of the sites [including Hashima island]"[11][12] But after Hashima was given WHS status, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida clarified comments made during the submission process, specifically that "[forced to work under harsh conditions] by the Japanese government representative did not mean forced labor".[13][14] Although UNESCO's World Heritage Committee required that a monitoring mechanism be established to measure the degree to which the victims of Hashima are remembered,[15] the island's official tourism website and tour program - operated by Nagasaki City - does not currently acknowledge this requirement.[16]


The Battleship Island was first promoted at the European Film Market in February 2017 and then at the Cannes Film Festival in May. As of June 2017, it has been sold to 113 countries, including North American countries as well as France, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.[17][18] On June 16, 2017, an official press conference was held at the National Museum of Korea to launch the film.[7]

The film has been invited to compete at 2017 Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia in Spain. The film will be shown in the Orbita section for introducing most notable films of the year and honouring a title chosen by the jury composed of audiences. This is the sixth film by director Ryoo Seung-wan to be selected for a screening at this film festival.[19]

Special screenings[edit]

On July 28, a special screen was held for UNESCO officials and diplomats in Paris at the headquarters of Metropolitan Filmexport. The aim was to raise awareness of the hidden history of the Hashima Island and how the Koreans were forced into harsh labour at an underground coal mining factory on the island during Japan’s rule of Korea.[20]

On July 25, a special pre-screen was held for foreign diplomats in South Korea.[21][22]


Critical response[edit]

The Battleship Island holds a 55% approval rating by 11 reviewers on aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes with a weighted average of 4.3/5 and 6.3/10 respectively.[23] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 60 out of 100, based on 4 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[24]

The New York Times noted that the film "vividly conveys the pain of a national wartime trauma whose scars clearly have not healed."[25] Although some aspects of the violence and overly-theatrical storylines were criticized, critics have praised the camera work and Ryoo for his effective use of a large-scale action set.[25][26]

Box office[edit]

The film was released on 26 July 2017 in South Korea.[8] According to the Korean Film Council, The Battleship Island created a new record with reaching 970,516 viewers on its opening night.[27] During the first weekend (July 28 to 30) since the movie was released, an audience of 2.5 million was attracted.[28] This resulted with an earning of USD 18.57 million from 2027 screen which is a 37.1% of total movie theaters in the country.[29] This marked the first time in the country that a movie had been released on more than 2,000 screens, creating controversy over screen dominance by conglomerates.[30][31]

During the first five days the number of tickets sale exceeded 4 million and earned USD 27.9 million in total, therefore the production cost of around US$21 million was already retrieved.[32]

In its second week of release, the film was surpassed by the historical action drama film A Taxi Driver. By the end of the eighth day since the film was released, it was playing at 1108 venues with a total of 5.18 million viewers.[33][34] The number of admissions surpassed 6 million on the 12th day of its run.[35] As of September 26, or two months after opening in the box office, overall admission was 6.58 million.


Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
1st The Seoul Awards Best Film The Battleship Island Nominated [36][37]
Best Actor Hwang Jung-min Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Lee Jung-hyun Won
Special Acting Award Kim Su-an Won
Sitges Film Festival Best Feature-length Film The Battleship Island Won [38]
26th Buil Film Awards Best Supporting Actress Kim Su-an Won [39]
Best Art Direction Lee Hwo-kyoung Won
37th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Technical Award (art direction) Lee Hwo-kyoung Won [40]
Top 10 Films The Battleship Island Won
38th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Supporting Actress Lee Jung-hyun Nominated [41]
Best Cinematography and Lighting The Battleship Island Nominated
Best Art Direction Won
Best Technical Achievement - Visual Effects Nominated
Popular Star Award Kim Su-an Won
25th Korea Culture & Entertainment Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor in Film Lee Geung-young Won [42]
Top Excellence Award, Actress in Film Lee Jung-hyun Won
6th The Night of Stars-Korea Top Star Awards Korea's Top Star (Film) Won
Popular Star (Film) Kim Su-an Won
23rd Chunsa Film Art Awards Best Director Ryoo Seung-wan Nominated [43]
Best Supporting Actress Lee Jung-hyun Nominated
Kim Su-an Nominated
Technical Award N/A Nominated
54th Baeksang Arts Awards Technical Award (Film) Lee Hwo-kyoung Nominated


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  2. ^
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  4. ^ "'군함도' 황정민·소지섭·이정현, 혼신 다한 연기 미리보기". Hankyung.
  5. ^ ""그곳은 지옥섬"..'군함도', 강렬 포스터·예고편 공개". OSEN.
  6. ^ "BATTLESHIP ISLAND Ends 6-Month Shoot". 2017-01-02. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
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  8. ^ a b "Commentary trailer for 'The Battleship Island' released". Yonhap. 2017-05-31. Retrieved 2017-06-16.
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  15. ^ "The History that a large number of Koreans were forced to work against their will is reflected in the inscription of Japan's Meiji Industrial Sites on the World Heritage List". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea. 2015-07-05. Retrieved 2015-09-14.
  16. ^ "GUNKANJIMA(HASHIMA)". Nagasaki City. Retrieved 2015-09-14.
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