SEOUL--Japanese film director Shunji Iwai holds a special place in the hearts of young audiences in South Korea.
His feature films "Love Letter" and "Swallowtail Butterfly" have won him many fans, especially with film-goers in their 20s and 30s.
Now, he has set his sights on an entirely new approach: a documentary on the nuclear disaster that befell Japan last year.
Not only that, Iwai, 49, is now working on a sequel.
Iwai, when spotted in a crowd here, is invariably surrounded by young film buffs asking for his autograph or a group photo.
"Love Letter," filmed in 1995 and shown in South Korea in 1999, was a big hit, just as the country was opening its market to Japanese pop culture.
An expression a protagonist used in the movie, "Ogenki desu ka?" (How are you?), quickly came into vogue.
In May, organizers of the Green Film Festival in Seoul invited Iawai to submit his "Friends after 3.11," a documentary he made after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Iwai is from Sendai, parts of which were devastated by the March 11, 2011, disaster.
When the earthquake struck, Iwai was in the United States. His priority at the time was to confirm the safety of his friends and relatives, he said.
Returning to Japan, Iwai was shocked to hear experts say on television programs that there was nothing to worry, even though the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was in a meltdown and spewing radiation.
Iwai contacted friends via Twitter and tirelessly tried to seek out "reliable" information on the Internet.
He contacted researchers who warned about the danger of nuclear power plants, members of nongovernmental organizations as well as actors and idols campaigning to end Japan's dependence on nuclear energy.
"I wanted to meet these people and hear what they had to say," Iwai said. "This is how the documentary got made. I wanted to show the present situation of Japan in the sense that it went beyond what the media was saying."
Iwai acts as an interviewer in the documentary.
Now, he is filming a sequel.
When it is completed, he intends to show it in South Korea.
Iwai, voicing concern about South Korea's plans to construct more nuclear power plants, said he hopes his documentaries will help people look at the issue more seriously.
"Fortunately, there are fans who never fail to watch my work," he said.
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