As Deadline reported yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department is expected to imminently announce that North Korean leaders did indeed order the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment. Among many other things, the attack led to the studio’s move to scrap all plans to release The Interview — which features an assassination attempt on North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un. With the dust hardly settled in this ongoing situation, the effect on geopolitics remains a big issue. However, while Sony Pictures Entertainment is owned by Japan’s Sony Corp, a highly-ranked Japanese government official today said he does not think the most recent revelations will have an impact on talks Japan is having with North Korea over a 40-year-old dispute involving the abduction of Japanese citizens by agents of the DPRK government.
Sony yesterday pulled the plug on The Interview after domestic movie theater chains said they would not show the film over fears that threats made by the hackers would be carried out. While decisions had been pending at some European exhibition circuits as to whether they would screen the film, Sony Pictures had already been walking on eggshells where Asia was concerned. The studio had earlier decided against releasing the film in Asia, notably South Korea and Japan.
The reasoning behind not releasing in Japan, a decision made prior to the hack attack, may have been related in part to Japan and North Korea’s fractured relationship over the past 40 years. In the late 70s and early 80s, a disputed number of Japanese citizens were kidnapped by North Korean agents. Some were returned after the turn of the century, but disagreements remain. A recent shift in the relationship saw Japan ease some of its sanctions against North Korea, and Pyongyang said it would reopen the investigation into the abductions. Releasing the film in Japan might have ruffled feathers at a key point in the countries’ attempts at a détente.
Japan appears eager to continue the talks with North Korea even though it now appears the DPRK is behind the attacks. Japan’s top government spokesperson, Yoshihide Suga, said at a press conference today that he doesn’t think the situation will directly affect progress in the adbuction matter. Reuters is reporting that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga said he was aware of the media reports on Sony Pictures, but he did not comment on the exact issue which is still under investigation.
Following the latest developments, Sony shares were up on the Nikkei index by 4.8% as of 3 PM local time.