TOKYO — The Japanese media reaction to the Sony Pictures cyber attack over the release of “The Interview” has been several degrees cooler than some of the over-heated reporting in the Western press, despite the involvement of an iconic Japanese company.
Most of the Sony Pictures Entertainment-related stories on local news feeds are either translated from the Western media or filed by Japanese correspondents in the U.S., who lean heavily on CNN, the “New York Times” and other US media for information.
One reason is that Tokyo-based Sony has yet to issue a statement on the incident. “We are monitoring the situation,” said Sony spokesman George Boyd. “We are getting regular reports from (SPE) about the latest developments.” But a statement, he added, is not in the works, especially since SPE has already released one of their own, announcing the withdrawal of the film.
Another reason is that “The Interview” was not scheduled for release in Japan or anywhere in Asia, for that matter. A spokesman for Sony Pictures Japan said the decision had been made before the SPE hack, but refused to elaborate, save to say that American comedies “generally don’t play well in Japan.”
That’s true enough – in 2013 none of the foreign films that earned JPY1 billion ($8.5 million) or more – the traditional measure of a commercial hit– were live-action comedies.
But a look at social media, especially Twitter – hugely popular in Japan – reveals passions and opinions considerably more heated than the local mainstream media.
Many tweets about the incident pile abuse on not just the North Korean government, which is widely assumed here to be responsible for the attack, but Koreans in general, including ones living in Japan.
“The ones who are criticizing Sony and are happy about the hacking incident are Zainichi (Koreans living in Japan),” vents one tweet. “The pigs who did this are Korean” rants another.
The incident has stoked anti-Korean sentiment, already strong among the so-called “Net uyo” (Net rightists), who also poured vituperation on Angelina Jolie for her supposedly ‘anti-Japanese’ WWII drama “Unbroken,” though it will not be released in Japan.
The silence from Sony, commented Yuki Maeda, an analyst following the company for Jefferies LLC in Tokyo, has “made it harder to calculate what the loss to the company will be.” He believes, however, that the impact of the attack on the parent company’s stock price “should be temporary.” And he feels that the hackers’ main target is SPE, not Sony. “Since they’ve made the decision to withdraw (“The Interview”), there’s no reason for the hackers to go after (the parent company),” he said.