Photo/IllutrationIn the movie's trailer under production, Oh Choong-kong, left, hears from a man in South Korea about his family member who was slain after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake in Japan. (Provided by Oh Choong-kong)

Claims on the Internet denying the massacre of Koreans in and around Tokyo after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake have helped inspire "missing-in-action" filmmaker Oh Choong-kong to re-emerge for his third movie on the subject.

Oh, 62, a second-generation ethnic Korean living in Ibaraki Prefecture, produced two documentaries in the 1980s about the massacre. More than 30 years later, he decided to revisit the subject to help prevent history from being rewritten.

“I want to secure the victims’ place in history,” he said, adding that his desire to do so is stronger than ever.

When the magnitude-7.9 earthquake occurred on Sept. 1, 1923, rumors that Koreans were causing riots spread among Japanese people who suffered damage from the disaster, and many Koreans were massacred as a result.

According to the report compiled by the government’s Central Disaster Management Council, which was completed in 2009, about 105,000 people died in the earthquake and its aftermath. Of those, between one and several percent, many of them Koreans, were estimated to have been slain rather than died in the quake.

In 1983, when Oh, then 28, was studying at a vocational film school in Yokohama, he produced the first movie, “Hidden Scars,” with a Japanese classmate.

The film conveyed testimonies of surviving victims, including Jo In-seung, who was attacked on the Arakawa riverbank in Tokyo. Jo, then in his 20s, was assaulted by volunteer firefighters and stabbed in the leg with a fire hook. He also witnessed scenes of other Koreans being slain.

In 1986, Oh produced the second film. After that, however, he left the movie world because his father died and he took over the family business.

It was an incident that took place after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake that inspired Oh to return to filmmaking.

Oh had kept in touch with Jo’s wife, Park Boon-soon, even after Jo died in 1984. However, it became impossible to maintain contact in the chaos that followed the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.

Later, he found out that Park, who was living in Tokyo, was staying in a nursing facility and visited her. However, it was impossible for him to talk with her due to the progression of her dementia.

Park died in May 2014, aged 90. Oh became more convinced that it was his duty to help document the words of victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake and their families.

He was also encouraged by Kang Deok-sang, professor emeritus of Korean history at the University of Shiga Prefecture, who in 1975 had published the book, “The Great Kanto Earthquake,” which described the massacre of Koreans after the disaster.

“Your job has yet to be completed. You should resume it by including the changes in society over the past 30 years,” Oh said Kang told him. Kang also advised Oh when he produced the two films in the 1980s.

In the production of those films, Oh looked for survivors of the massacre and bereaved relatives of its victims only in Japan. For the third movie, he took the search to South Korea.

For his research, he used name lists of about 300 victims, discovered by the South Korean government in 2013, and documents from Japanese civic groups. In addition, he screened the previous two films in South Korea and urged bereaved family members to come forward, leading him to 10 of them.

One of them was Kang Gwang-ho, a grandson of Kang Dae-heun, who was killed at age 24 on Sept. 4, 1923, in the former Katayanagi village of Saitama Prefecture by members of a vigilante group armed with spears and Japanese swords.

Members of the vigilante group were later put on trial, and the ruling revealed that the prefectural authorities had issued a notice to municipalities urging them to defend themselves, without confirming any truth to the rumors that Koreans were engaged in looting and other activities.

However, Kang Gwang-ho did not know that the trial had taken place.

“My grandmother, who lost her husband, must have felt much sorrow,” Kang said in video footage shot by Oh.

Kang, who lived in South Gyeongsang province, died of illness in 2016 at age 63.

“Bereaved families still do not know where and how the victims died. It is necessary to make their family histories clear,” said Oh.

The director is aiming to complete the third movie in September 2018.

“I hope that the film will attract many people and will lead both the Japanese and the South Korean governments to clarify the truth,” he said.