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Kim Jong-il var så besat af film, at han kidnappede en skuespillerinde

Kim Jong-il var så besat af film, at han kidnappede en skuespillerinde



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På topmødet med Kim Jong-un i Singapore screenede USA's præsident, Donald Trump, en fauxfilmtrailer så bisarrt smigrende af diktatoren, at mange amerikanske journalister i første omgang forvekslede den med nordkoreansk propaganda. Landet er berømt for hårdhændede statsfilm, der roser Dear Leader, især de film bestilt under Kim Jong-uns biografbesatte far og forgænger, Kim Jong-il.

Faktisk var afdøde Kims filmmani så intens, at han i 1978 kidnappede en berømt skuespillerinde og en instruktør fra Sydkorea og tvang dem til at lave 17 film.

Skuespilleren, Choi Eun-hee, og hendes instruktør-mand, Shin Jeong-gyun, var et berømthedspar i den sydkoreanske biografs guldalder. De nåede deres faglige højdepunkt i løbet af 1960'erne; men i slutningen af ​​70’erne havde Shins økonomiske problemer og problemer med den dengang totalitære sydkoreanske regering stoppet hans filmskabelse. Derudover havde hans affære med en yngre skuespillerinde brudt sit ægteskab med Choi, som også kæmpede for at finde arbejde. Det var i løbet af denne tid, at Choi modtog en invitation til at rejse til Hong Kong og diskutere en forretningsmulighed - noget hun ikke var i stand til at opgive.

Uden Choi vidste var tilbuddet oprettet af nordkoreanske agenter. Da hun ankom til Hong Kong, førte en agent hende til en speedbåd, hvor en gruppe mænd fangede hende. Ved ankomsten til Nordkorea blev hun pervers hilst, som om hun var en berømthed, der besøgte af egen fri vilje. I et interview til dokumentaren fra 2016 Lovers og Despot, huskede den næsten 90-årige Choi, at fotografer tog hendes billede, da hendes fanger, Kim Jong-il, rakte hånden ud og sagde: "Tak fordi du kom."

Kim var dengang chef for Nordkoreas propaganda- og agitationsafdeling (hans far, Kim Il-sung, var stadig præsident). Han fantaserede om sig selv som en cinephile og udgav bogen Om biografens kunsti 1973, og efter sigende indsamlede over 30.000 film i løbet af hans levetid (herunder meget porno). På propagandaafdelingen styrede han Nordkoreas produktion af manipulerende statsfilm. Men ifølge hemmelige optagelser, som Choi lavede af Kim efter hendes fangst, var han skuffet over disse film og jaloux på dem, der kom ud af Sydkorea.

"Hvorfor har alle vores film de samme ideologiske plots?" spurgte han i en af ​​Chois sjældne optagelser af sin stemme. »Der er ikke noget nyt ved dem. Hvorfor er der så mange grædende scener? Alle vores film har grædende scener. Dette er ikke en begravelse. Er det? Vi har ingen film, der kommer ind på filmfestivaler. ”

Kim ønskede desperat, at nordkoreanske film skulle modtage international anerkendelse, og han troede, at Shin var manden til at forbedre landets filmkvalitet. Kim fik sine agenter til at bringe direktøren til Nordkorea et par måneder efter Choi, som Kim måske har brugt til at lokke Shin. Sydkoreanere bestrider stadig, om Shin blev kidnappet eller villigt gik. Under alle omstændigheder forsøgte Shin at flygte, når han var i Nordkorea, og myndighederne straffede ham ved at sende ham til en fængselsarbejdslejr.

I fem år holdt Kim Shin og Choi fanget uden kendskab til hinanden. Shin tilbragte disse år i fangelejre, og Choi tilbragte den tid isoleret uden at indse, at hendes eksmand var i landet. Endelig, i 1983, inviterede Kim det tidligere par til sin fødselsdagsfest, så han kunne "introducere" dem. Det var et chokerende, følelsesmæssigt gensyn. Kort efter satte Kim dem i gang med at lave film i et voldsomt tempo.

"På to år og tre måneder lavede vi 17 film," sagde Choi Lovers og Despot. "Vi sov kun to eller tre timer om natten og arbejdede dag og nat."

I en pause fra tidligere nordkoreansk biograf tvang Kim ikke Choi og Shin til at lave film, der eksplicit promoverede staten og dens præsident. Han ville snarere bare have dem til at lave film gode nok til at blive vist på filmfestivaler rundt om i verden. Og han fik lidt af det, han ville. Nogle af disse film gjorde det til festivaler i østblokken.

"Jeg så de fleste af deres film, som de lavede, og de er faktisk ret underholdende," siger Suk-Young Kim, professor i teater, film og tv ved University of California-Los Angeles.

"De er meget, meget lette at se, i modsætning til denne virkelig regimenterede, endimensionelle nordkoreanske propaganda," fortsætter hun. ”Der er mange implikationer af romantik og endda sex, som bare var uhørt i nordkoreansk film. Og karaktererne er meget mere menneskelige, flerdimensionale; vi kommer til at følge deres moralske dilemma bedre. ”

Choi og Shin rejste til europæiske filmfestivaler under overvågning af nordkoreanske officerer, men kunne til sidst undvige dem på et hotel i Wien i 1986 efter at have deltaget i Berlin International Film Festival. Choi og Shin tog en taxa til den amerikanske ambassade, som gav dem asyl i USA. De boede der indtil 1999, da de vendte tilbage til Sydkorea (Shin døde i 2006 og Choi døde i april 2018).

"Kim Jong-il var meget, meget ked af det," siger professor Kim. "Han var rasende over deres forræderi, så han gjorde alt for at slette deres spor." Han sluttede Shins praksis med at give individuelle arbejdere kreditter i film og forhindrede også visninger af Shin og Chois film. På grund af dette havde deres arbejde ikke en direkte indvirkning på de propagandafilm, der kom efter deres flugt. Det var først i 2000'erne, siger professor Kim, at statsfilm begyndte at undersøge temaer, som Choi og Shin havde tacklet, som romantik og komedie.

Det må have været mærkeligt for dem at lave film i Nordkorea, siger profesor Kim; ikke bare fordi de var fanger, men også "fordi virkeligheden er meget filmisk og teatralsk" i landet. Da Kim Jong-ils far døde, for eksempel forsvandt borgere, der ikke var vældige nok i deres offentlige opvisninger af sorg på mystisk vis om natten. Dette førte til ekstremt dramatiske viser af sorg i gaderne, da folk bestræbte sig på at handle passende nød.

"I Nordkorea er film bare en forlængelse af virkeligheden," siger hun. ”Man skal hele tiden spille de rigtige roller, sige de rigtige ting, lave de scriptede ting. Den improviserede, improviserede handling er ikke særlig velkommen - og det ville få alvorlige konsekvenser for den. ”


Husker Choi Eun-hee, den sydkoreanske filmskuespiller engang bortført af Pyongyang

Den 16. maj 1962 tog skuespilleren Choi Eun-hee til en scene i Seoul for at modtage en filmpris fra hænderne på General Park Chung-hee, der var blevet Sydkoreas leder ved et militærkup et år tidligere. Med et skævt grin faldt hun til det ene knæ før Park. Han lo og genkendte kinden i hendes overdrevne visning af ærbødighed.

Choi, der levede sit liv i skyggen af ​​despoter, kendte godt dominerende mænd. Den ekstraordinære filmkarriere, hun delte med sin mand og hyppige instruktør Shin Sang-ok, blev på én gang forkæmpet og kompliceret af to diktatorer, der beundrede hendes talent, men alligevel forsøgte at udnytte hendes enorme popularitet for deres egen politiske gevinst.

Efter år med hovedrollen i populære film i Sydkorea under Parks vågne øje, sagde hun, at hun blev kidnappet af nabofjenden Nordkorea for at blive en propagandagent i Kim Jong-ils spirende filmindustri. Den utrolige historie, mens den var rystende, gjorde hende til en af ​​kun få kunstnere, der nåede stjernestatus i begge Korea, siden halvøens division i 1945. I senere liv gav hendes beretning om Kim Jong-il omverdenen en sjælden indsigt i det nordkoreanske styre.

Choi Kyung-snart blev født i 1926 i den sydkoreanske by Gwangju. For at forfølge skuespil, væk fra en misbilligende far, forlod hun hjemmet klokken 17 og droppede sit fornavn til Eun-hee.

Efter et tilfældigt møde med en skuespillerinde, hun kunne lide, begyndte Choi at arbejde i en teatervirksomheds kostumeafdeling. Snart gik hun på scenen og debuterede i 1947 på skærmen. Ikke længe efter giftede hun sig med kameramanden Kim Hak-sung, der var 20 år hendes ældste. Hun led meget af denne fagforening og fortalte senere, at Kim ofte ville slå hende.

Da Koreakrigen brød ud i 1950, blev hun tvunget til først at underholde de nordlige tropper, der havde fanget hende, derefter de sydlige, der reddede hende kun for at behandle hende med foragt. En sydkoreansk politibetjent voldtog hende efter at have anklaget hende for forræderi. Hun kommenterede senere i livet om den enhed i mishandling, hun modtog fra begge sider, og sagde: ”Jeg tror [det] viser ironien ved delingen af ​​Syd- og Nordkorea. Jeg tror ikke, at en sådan krig nogensinde skal gentages. ”

Efter krigen levede Choi et liv med ydre succes som skuespillerinde, men af ​​indre desperation.

Anbefalede

Det var hendes møde med Shin Sang-ok, der ville give hende grund til håb, i det mindste for en tid. Som historien går, gik Shin, der drømte om at blive instruktør og casting Choi, for at se hende på scenen. Hun faldt sammen af ​​udmattelse halvvejs gennem hendes optræden, han skyndte sig at passe på hende. Det var begyndelsen på deres kunstneriske samarbejde og deres romantik.

Sladder om affæren spredte sig hurtigt, men da hun stod fast i sin tro på, at hun kunne få et bedre liv med Shin, udfordrede Choi konservatismen i det koreanske samfund og stævnede med succes en skilsmisse.

"Husk venligst i dag," fortalte Shin hende den dag, skilsmissen blev erklæret, efter at de var løbet fra at jage journalister - "7. marts 1954. Lad i dag være vores bryllupsdag." Choi havde aldrig været lykkeligere.

Chois navn gav Shin den cachet, han havde brug for for at starte sin instruktionskarriere Shins entusiasme for filmfornyede Chois egen. Sammen ville de dominere koreansk biograf og kolonnetomme i tre årtier. I sine blockbuster -melodramer, thrillere og historiske epos introducerede Shin det sydkoreanske publikum for Technicolor, CinemaScope og fuldt synkroniseret lydfilm. Choi tjente højere gebyrer end nogen koreansk skuespillerinde før hende og udforskede karakterer, der var så varierede som en krigsenke, en ren student, en dronning og en promiskuøs barpige.

Udfordrende censorer udforskede Shins arbejde i stigende grad erotisk promiskuitet. Som følge heraf blev Choi, der havde mødt Marilyn Monroe på sit besøg i 1954 for at underholde amerikanske tropper, hendes lands eget kønssymbol med al den beundring og modstrid, der medførte. Sydkorea blev derefter splittet mellem sine traditionelle værdier og de mere liberale kulturelle påvirkninger, der flød ind fra sin amerikanske allierede.

Politisk set gik Shin og Choi på stregen, i en film for eksempel at rose General Parks landbrugsreformer. Hvad dyd angår, tillod Parks kærlighed til deres arbejde dem imidlertid et større kreativt spillerum end andre filmskabere nød.

Uden for arbejdet fandt Choi og Shin glæde ved adoption af to børn.

Parrets frugtbare forhold, både offentligt og privat, sluttede brat i 1974, da Shins affære med en yngre skuespillerinde, Oh Su-mi, og den søn, han fik med hende, blev afsløret. (Åh ville bære et andet barn fra ham.)

En ødelagt Choi skilt Shin. Sydkoreanske myndigheder vendte sig imod Shins nu alt for undergravende arbejde, begge deres karriere faldt, og Choi frygtede at ville dræbe sig selv.

I 1977 løftede et tilbud om arbejde fra Hong Kong Chois humør. Men, sagde hun senere, invitationen viste sig at være en undskyldning af nordkoreanske agenter til at kidnappe hende på vegne af Kim Jong-il, søn af den daværende diktator Kim Il-sung.

For egen regning tilbragte hun dage med kvaler på havet uden at vide, hvorfor hun var blevet taget væk. Kim Jong-Il tog imod hende personligt på havnen, hvor hun landede, og sagde angiveligt med et grin: "Tak fordi du kom, Madame Choi."

Kim havde længe været besat af biograf både som en kunstform og som et middel til massepropaganda. Og han havde længe beundret Choi og Shin, hvoraf det andet også snart lykkedes ham at have bragt til Nordkorea. Med deres kombinerede talent, tænkte Kim, ville den nordkoreanske biograf få international anerkendelse og sprede landets ideologi. "Jeg erkender, at vi halter bagud i filmproduktionsteknikker," sagde Kim i et møde i hemmelighed optaget af Choi. "Vi skal vide, at vi halter bagefter og gør en indsats for at opdrage en ny generation af filmskabere."

Således begyndte et af de mærkeligste samarbejder i filmhistorien, hvorved en ventende diktator tvang to bortførte berømtheder til at producere sit lands mest gennemførte populære kunstværker.

Over for denne prøvelse sammen genoplivede Choi og Shin hurtigt deres kærlighed til hinanden. Selvom de ofte fortvivlede, havde deres sekvestrering også fordele. Først indsprøjtede Kim Jong-il nyt liv i deres daværende hvilende karriere. For det andet hengav han hver deres anmodning og accepterede de mest ekstravagante rekvisitter og skydepladser i udlandet.

Selvom de er propagandistiske i sin hensigt, er nogle af de film, der kom ud af dette samarbejde-mest berømt de Godzilla-inspirerede Pulgasari - betragtes nu som klassikere i koreansk film.

Befrielsen for Choi og Shin kom i 1986 på et besøg i Wien, da det lykkedes dem kortvarigt at undvige deres sind og løb til den amerikanske ambassade, hvor de fik asyl. Kim havde mistet sine stjerner.

Choi og Shin fløj til USA, hvor de holdt et mindeværdigt pressemøde om deres bortførelse og blev afhørt af CIA. Chois beretning om et voldeligt og bacchanalsk regime påvirkede stærkt vestlig opfattelse af Nordkorea i de følgende år. Men der blev ikke givet særlig lidt opmærksomhed enten til de vanskeligheder, hun havde udholdt i Sydkorea, eller på hendes imponerende årti lange skuespilkarriere.

Anbefalede

Choi og Shin blev gift igen og blev amerikanske statsborgere. Nu i tresserne og med kun et begrænset greb om engelsk lykkedes det ikke Choi at gøre sig bemærket i Hollywood. Men hendes erindringer, udgivet på koreansk, solgte godt. Paul Fischer En Kim Jong-il-produktion giver den fyldestgørende engelsksprogede beretning om hendes liv.

Parret vendte tilbage til Sydkorea i 1999. Men de modtog ikke den velkomst, de havde håbet på. Nogle mente, at de måske villigt havde hoppet over til Nordkorea, andre, der accepterede deres bortførelseshistorie, forsøgte at bruge dem som politiske bønder til at udskrive Norden.

Hendes stjerne falmede langsomt, og sadlet med gæld levede hun sine sidste år med beskedne midler.

Choi efterlades af sine to adoptivbørn og af Shins to børn med Oh, som hun tog ind som sin egen i sin tid i Californien. Shin afkom hende i 2006.

Selvom hendes tilknytning til Kim Jong-il dominerer beretninger om Chois liv, er hendes arv langt rigere end det, der skiller sig ud som Nord og Syd, tradition og modernitet, stor kval og hidtil uset succes.

Hun nød kalligrafi, og da hun havde konverteret til katolicisme i sine senere år, bad han ofte. Hendes yndlingssang i alderdommen var Kim Do-hyangs “I’m Lived Like a Fool”, som på en eller anden måde udtrykte det sammenfiltrede liv, hun havde levet.

Choi var kendt for sin medfølelse lige så meget som sin beslutsomhed og fortalte en interviewer for nylig, at hun mente, at man for at være en god skuespiller skal være en god person. "Det er fordi en skuespiller skal være i stand til at sympatisere med andres følelser for at handle godt," sagde hun. ”Jeg tror på, at et venligt hjerte, udseende, tale, færdigheder og evnen til at skrive er en god skuespillers fem kvalifikationer.

"Selvfølgelig er et venligt hjerte den vigtigste faktor af de fem."

Choi Eun-hee, skuespillerinde, født 20. november 1926, død 16. april 2018


Handler for film eller handler for livet? Doc fortæller historien om Kim Jong Il 's fanger

Det er velkendt, at Dear Leader var vild med film. Hvad der er mindre kendt - i hvert fald i Vesten - er, at den berygtede nordkoreanske diktator Kim Jong Il var så vild med dem, at han kidnappede en sydkoreansk skuespillerinde og en filminstruktør i 1978 og tvang dem til at arbejde for ham i årevis. Den historie er genstand for en ny dokumentar kaldet Lovers og Despot.

"Det er bare for bizart til at være virkeligt," siger Ross Adam, en af ​​filmens instruktører. Han og medinstruktør Robert Cannan opsporede skuespilleren Choi Eun-hee, der nu er næsten 90 år gammel. I dokumentaren husker Choi, at han blev lokket til et badehus i Hong Kong med et tilbud om en ny filmrolle. "Der var en speedbåd med tre eller fire stærke mænd," husker hun. "Pludselig greb en fyr mig om armene. Inden jeg vidste af det, var jeg om bord. Alt blod drænes fra mit hoved til mine tæer."

Choi blev bedøvet og slæbt til Nordkorea. Hun vågnede som en fange af Kim Jong Il.

"Han havde et projektionsrum i hvert hus, så han kunne se film når som helst," siger hun. "Efter at have set rigtig mange film, ville han have, at den nordkoreanske biograf var lige så fantastisk. Men han syntes, at hans kammerater var for enkle. For mig virkede han som en kunstner, der elskede film."

Kim bekymrede sig dybt om film. Han skrev en videnskabelig bog om dem ( Om biografens kunst) i 2001, og han klagede bittert over tilstanden i den nordkoreanske filmindustri til Choi, der hemmeligt tapede Kim. "Hvorfor har alle vores film de samme ideologiske plots?" Kære Leader ranter i et bånd. "Der er ikke noget nyt ved dem. Hvorfor er der så mange grædende scener? Alle vores film har grædende scener. Det er ikke en begravelse, vel?"

I løbet af otte år tvang Kim sin kæledyrsskuespillerinde og instruktør Shin Sang-ok til at lave næsten 20 film: historiske dramaer, kampsportsfilm, endda en nordkoreansk version af Godzilla. En af de film, Fortællingen om Chunhyang, er noget i stil med Romeo og Julie, og det er den første nordkoreanske film med et kys.

"I Nordkorea var der ingen kærlighedshistorier," siger Choi i dokumentaren. "Film handlede om loyalitet, dedikation og hårdt arbejde. Men vi lavede den første kærlighedshistorie i Nordkoreas historie."

Disse film begyndte at finde vej til filmfestivaler, mest bag jerntæppet, og til sidst lod Kim parret rejse. "Shin og Choi var hans præmielegetøj, og han ville vise dem frem for verden," siger instruktør Ross Adam. På en sådan tur i 1986 flygtede Choi og Shin til den amerikanske ambassade i Wien og befriede sig fra deres kolde krigs fangefanger.

Men nogle spekulerede på, hvordan Shin til at begynde med endte i hans kløer. "Som mange sydkoreanere har jeg min tvivl om Shins sande motivation til at tage til Nordkorea," siger UC-Santa Barbara-professor Suk-Young Kim. Hun siger, at Shin var en politisk dissident i Sydkorea såvel som dens mest berømte filmskaber. I midten af ​​1970'erne begyndte den militære regering at censurere hans film og Shins karriere kraterede. Nogle mener, at han gik med vilje til Nordkorea. (Hele historien vides måske aldrig - Shin døde i 2006.)

I årenes løb har Suk-Young Kim set masser af interviews med dokumentarfilmens eneste overlevende hovedperson, skuespillerinden Choi Eun-hee, men hun siger, at denne er overraskende afslørende. "Der var dybde i det. Jeg mener, man kunne virkelig høre, hvad hun gik igennem. Choi Eun-hee siger det så godt: 'Der er skuespil til film, og der er skuespil for livet.' Og i Nordkorea kan de være en i det samme. "

Suk-Young Kim siger, at Nordkorea fortsat er et meget filmisk samfund-et slags sæt for en anden diktator, der er besat af skuespil og drama, hvor der er brug for offentlige viser af følelser og patriotisme. På den måde, Lovers og Despot er en slags film om en film - men en, hvor langt de fleste borgere eller "skuespillere" ikke har noget håb om at slippe væk.


Indhold

Kim Jong-il sluttede sig til propaganda- og agitationsafdelingen i 1966 og blev snart direktør for Motion Picture and Arts Division. [5] Han var en stor fan af film, med et bibliotek på 15.000 til rådighed. Som instruktør nåede han offentligheden med film og operaer, der var homogene i temaet: stolthed over nationen og specifikt i Kim Il-sung. Charles K. Armstrong skriver i sin bog, De svages tyranni: Nordkorea og verden 1950–1992, at "Kim tog nordkoreansk kunst i en retning, der virkede specielt designet til at sikre sin fars gunst: under hans vejledning fokuserede nye film og operaer som aldrig før på den anti-japanske kamp Kim Il Sung og hans kammerater i Manchuriet under 1930'erne ". [6]

Kim Jong-il var frustreret over sine film i begyndelsen af ​​1970'erne. Han kunne fortælle, at i modsætning til de andre film, der blev udgivet globalt, var hans stive og livløse. Hans diagnose var mangel på entusiasme fra hans skuespillere og besætning. Bradley K. Martin, forfatter til Under den faderlige leders kærlige omsorg: Nordkorea og Kim -dynastiet, forklarer dette, mens han citerede en båndoptagelse af Kim fra 1983: "Forskellen, foreslog han, var, at nordkoreanske filmindustri vidste, at staten ville fodre dem, selvom de kun optrådte minimalt, så de forsøgte ikke hårdt. 'Fordi de er nødt til at tjene penge, 'sagde Kim, folk fra den sydlige filmindustri brugte blod, sved og tårer for at få resultater. " [7]

Han havde brug for friske og lidenskabelige stemmer, der ville fremme den nordkoreanske biograf. I stor skala af Kim Jong-ils plan gik yderligere uddrag fra optagelsen således: "Hvis vi løbende viser vestlige film på fjernsyn, viser dem uden tilbageholdenhed, kan der kun komme nihilistiske tanker. Alle disse ting, patriotisme, patriotisme - vi er nødt til at øge dette, men vi får dem kun til at idolisere vestlige ting. Så vi skal fremme teknologien, før vi åbner. Derfor vil jeg i begrænset omfang give rettigheder. " [8]

Skuespillerinden Choi Eun-hee blev bortført i Hong Kong efter at være blevet foreslået at instruere en film med mulighed for at drive et performende akademi i en skole i Hong Kong. [9] Hun blev taget fra Repulse Bay og ankom til Nampo Harbour, Nordkorea, den 22. januar 1978. Hun blev indkvarteret i en luksusvilla kaldet Building Number 1. [10] Choi turnerede i byen og fik vist både Pyongyang og Kim Il-sungs fødested, blandt andre vartegn og museer. [11] Hun fik senere en privatlærer, som instruerede hende om livet og resultaterne af Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-il tog hende med til film, operaer, musicals og fester. Han spurgte hendes mening om forskellige film og respekterede hendes perspektiv. Hun blev ikke informeret om, at hun var blevet kidnappet som lokkemad til Shin før fem år efter hendes fangst. [12]

Efter Choi forsvandt, begyndte Shin Sang-ok at søge efter hende. De var blevet skilt, og Shin havde en anden familie på det tidspunkt. Shin havde også kæmpet med den sydkoreanske regering, fordi hans filmlicens til Shin Studios var blevet tilbagekaldt. Han havde rejst verden rundt og ledt efter en af ​​hans film for at blive grønbelyst, så han kunne erhverve et opholdsvisum. Seks måneder efter Chois fangst blev Shin kidnappet af nordkoreanske agenter, mens han opholdt sig i Hong Kong. [13] Selvom han også fik overdådig indkvartering, blev han i første omgang ikke fortalt om fangsten af ​​Choi. Efter to mislykkede flugtforsøg blev han sendt i fængsel for ulydighed. Den 23. februar 1983 modtog Shin et brev om, at han skulle løslades fra fængslet. Den 7. marts 1983 blev Shin og Choi genforenet til en fest, der var vært for Kim Jong-il. [14]

Shin og Choi blev vist Kim Jong-ils enorme personlige filmbibliotek, der angiveligt bestod af over 15.000 film fra hele verden. Parret blev instrueret i at se og kritisere fire film om dagen. Størstedelen af ​​filmene var fra den kommunistiske blok, selvom der også lejlighedsvis var Hollywood -film. Shin og Choi viste respekt for Kims filmkendskab og perspektiv. Til sidst delte Kim, hvordan han ville have, at Shin skulle instruere en film og deltage i en international konkurrence. Shin ville have et kontor i Choson Film Studios i Pyongyang. [1] Kim var klar over, at den interne propaganda -skråning af hans film muligvis ikke appellerer til et internationalt publikum og samler pladser i internationale konkurrencer, så han tillod Shin at udvide emnet og vælge temaer, der ville være mere acceptable i udlandet. [3] Shin begyndte at arbejde den 20. oktober 1983. [1] Shin og Choi vandt en pris for en af ​​deres film på en festival i Tjekkoslovakiet. Den sidste og dyreste film, som de lavede under Kim Jong-il, blev kaldt Pulgasari, som var stærkt påvirket af den for nylig populære Godzilla film. [1]

Deres film omfattede følgende:

  1. En udsending uden retur (Doraoji annun milsa, 1984): Baseret på et scenespil kaldet Blodig konference skrevet af Kim Il-sung. I filmen forsøger Ri Jun, en koreansk udsending ved Haag Internationale Fredskonference i 1907 at overbevise det internationale samfund om at hjælpe med at vende den japansk-koreanske beskyttelsestraktat fra 1905, der forlod Korea under japansk ledelse. Ri Jun holder en tale på konferencen, og når han ikke vinder støtte fra vestmagterne, begår han hara-kiri foran diplomaterne. Shin optog dele af filmen i Tjekkoslovakiet og brugte europæiske skuespillere, noget der aldrig var gjort før i nordkoreansk biograf. [15]
  2. Kærlighed, kærlighed, min kærlighed (Sarang sarang nae sarang, 1984): En antagelse af den gamle koreanske folkeeventyr, The Tale of Chunhyang. Filmen blev optaget som en musical og indeholdt en første i nordkoreansk biograf, et let tilsløret kys mellem de to førende skuespillere. Chunhyang forelsker sig i Mongnyong, en velhavende aristokrat, men han må tage til hovedstaden for at uddanne sig til embedsmand. Mens han er væk, overtager en ny guvernør provinsen og falder for Chunhyang. Da han blev afvist, fængsler han hende. Lige før hun er ved at blive henrettet, vender Mongnyong tilbage for at redde hende. [15]
  3. Løb væk (Talchulgi, 1984): En historie, der udspiller sig i 1920'erne i den japanske kolonitid. Hovedpersonen Song-ryul og hans kone (spillet af Choi Eun-hee) lever i fattigdom. Familien flytter til Gando -området i Manchuria på udkig efter et bedre liv, men deres lidelse vedvarer. Song-ryul slutter sig til rækken af ​​Kim Il-sung-gruppen, og når han er hos guerillaerne, sprænger han et japansk hærstog. [15]
  4. Salt (Sogum, 1985): En historie, der udspiller sig i Gando i 1930'erne. I filmen spiller Choi Eun-hee Song-ryuls kone. Familien skjuler en velhavende koreansk-kinesisk købmand, og faderen bliver dræbt i en kamp mellem det japanske politi og de kinesiske banditter. Hun mener, at hendes mand døde på grund af kommunisterne. Derefter beder Choi i fattigdom om den koreansk-kinesiske købmands hjælp, men han voldtager hende. Efter en række tragedier fortæller en nabo hende om en lukrativ ulovlig forretning: smugling af salt. Mens hun smugler salt, bliver gruppen, hun er sammen med, angrebet af japanerne, og en kommunistisk gruppe redder hende. Hun opdager, at kommunisterne faktisk var dem, der kæmpede for almindelige mennesker, og satte sig for at slutte sig til dem. Choi vandt bedste skuespillerinde på Moskva Film Festival for denne rolle. [15]
  5. Fortællingen om Shim Chong (Simcheongjeon, 1985): Shin instruerede en musikalsk version af denne klassiske fortælling om filial fromhed. Shim Chong bor sammen med sin blinde far. Hun ofrer sig selv, så hans blindhed kan helbredes, så hun bliver taget af handelssejlere. De kaster hende overbord, og hun går ned til paladset for havets gud. Hun sættes tilbage på land inde i en kæmpe flydende orkidé. Hun bliver fundet af kongen, og de forelsker sig og er gift. I sidste ende genforenes Shim Chong med sin far, og han er helbredt for sin blindhed. [15]
  6. Pulgasari (1985): Denne film var stærkt påvirket af den populære Godzilla film dengang. Det handler om et landmænds oprør i middelalderens Korea. En lille pige stikker sin finger, mens hun syr, og blodet falder på et lille dragelegetøj lavet af ris, hvilket får det til at blive til live som et monster. Det kæmper for landmændene og smadrer kejserens palads. Ikke desto mindre er hans appetit så stor, at han begynder at spise landmændenes værktøjer, så pigen, der affødte det, beslutter sig for at ofre sig selv ved at forklæde sig som Pulgasaris mad. Når monsteret ved et uheld spiser pigen, eksploderer han og dør. [15]

For at forsvare sig selv, hvis de nogensinde skulle undslippe Nordkorea, besluttede Choi og Shin at snige sig med en båndoptager til deres samtaler med Kim Jong-il, så de ville have bevis på, at de ikke villigt forlod Syd. I en samtale optaget den 19. oktober 1983 talte Kim åbent om sit plot om at kidnappe Shin og Choi for at opgradere Nordkoreas filmindustri. Han fortalte Shin og Choi, at det ville være bedst, hvis de talte med pressen og sagde, at de kom frivilligt til Nordkorea. [1] Shin og Choi deltog i et pressemøde den 12. april 1984 i Beograd, Jugoslavien, hvor de sagde, at de var i Nordkorea efter eget valg.

Efter endt Pulgasari, de to var i samtaler med Kim om en anden film, da de tog en tur til Wien i 1986. Kim havde bedt Choi og Shin rejse til den østrigske by for at finde nogen, der ville finansiere en biografisk film om Djengis Khan. [16] Den 12. marts 1986 tjekkede parret ind i InterContinental Vienna for at møde journalisten Akira Enoki under påskud af et interview og overbeviste deres nordkoreanske livvagter om at forlade lokalet. [16] [17] Efter at have fortalt en hotelmedarbejder at lade USA's ambassade vide, at de begge søgte asyl, kom Choi og Shin ind i en taxa med Enoki kl. 12:30 og skyndte sig væk. [17] Efter at være blevet jaget af nordkoreanerne til trafikpropper, steg parret ud af taxaen og sprintede ind i ambassaden. [18] New York Times postede en artikel den 22. marts 1986, hvor de meddelte, at parret kom væk fra deres nordkoreanske viceværter og søgte politisk asyl i den amerikanske ambassade. [19]

Efter deres flugt boede Shin i USA i mange år i filmindustrien, inden han vendte hjem til Sydkorea. Nordkorea udsendte en erklæring, hvor de nægtede påstandene om, at Shin og Choi var blevet kidnappet og i stedet fastholdt, at Shin og Choi frivilligt havde hoppet over til Nordkorea [4], og da de forlod, havde de underslået en stor mængde nordkoreanske penge, der skulle finansiere Djengis Khan film. [19]

Efter udgivelsen af ​​Paul Fischers bog, En Kim Jong-Il-produktion, i 2015 vakte bortførelsen af ​​Shin Sang-ok og Choi Eun-hee interessen for dem uden for Korea. Vanity Fair dokumenteret en screening af Pulgasari i Brooklyn, New York, i april 2015. [20] Washington Post mistænker, at en film vil blive genfortalt historien. [21] BBC Radio Four udsendte en 90-minutters dramatisering i september 2017. [22]

I januar 2016, ved Sundance Film Festival 2016, i World Cinema Documentary Competition, en dokumentar om den nordkoreanske prøvelse, med titlen Lovers og Despot og instrueret af Robert Cannan og Ross Adam, blev præsenteret.

Den franske tv-miniserie, Kim Kong, produceret af Arte, skrevet af Simon Jablonka og Alexis Le Sec, instrueret af Stephen Cafiero og med Jonathan Lambert i hovedrollen, er baseret på disse begivenheder. [23]


Bond går dårligt

Afhoppere fra Nordkorea har været i stand til at kaste lidt lys over Kim's personlige smag i film.

Kim Jong-il var som enhver almindelig ung mand. Han kunne lide actionfilm, sexfilm, gyserfilm & quot Shin Sang-Ok fortalte BBC i 2003.

& quotHan kunne lide alle de kvinder, som de fleste mænd kan lide, han kunne lide James Bond. & quot

Andre steder listede Shin Kim 's yndlingsfilm op som fredag ​​den 13., Rambo og Hong Kong actionfilm.

Han afslørede også for Seoul Times, at lederens yndlingsskuespiller var Sean Connery, og hans yndlingsskuespillerinde var Elizabeth Taylor.

The first Western film to be publicly screened in North Korea was Bend It Like Beckham, watched (in edited form) by 12,000 people at the Pyongyang Film Festival in 2004.

Kim was also said to have been a fan of Ealing comedies, inspired by their emphasis on team spirit and a mobilised proletariat.

Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright also gleaned a direct insight into the Korean cineaste's habits during a state visit in 2000.

According to the New York Times, Kim asked Albright if she had seen any recent films.

When she replied "Gladiator", Kim said he had seen Steven Spielberg's Amistad, which he described as "very sad".

He also told Wendy Sherman, who was in Pyongyang as a special advisor: "I own all the Academy Award movies. I've watched them all."

But Kim was less than enamoured by Hollywood's portrayal of his own regime.

When his beloved James Bond was captured and tortured during a North Korean mission in Die Another Day, the government called it "insulting to the Korean nation".

But most scathing of all was Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police, in which a marionette of Kim Jong-il with a crudely-impersonated Korean accent sits at a piano singing: "I'm so ronrery [lonely]."

This parody of a vain and isolated leader is, to many Westerners, the presiding impression of Kim Jong-il.

Indeed, Team America became a trending topic on Twitter within hours of his death being announced.

Kim may not have approved of the caricature. But he would certainly have appreciated cinema's power to shape people's minds.


Kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il

Reading a book about North Korea is like reading a story out of Oz. The ways people act, the way society is organized, the things that are presented as truth: All strain Western credulity. Add the fact that American reporting is often også credulous about the country—they're going to nuke Austin!—and it becomes even more difficult to strain fact from fiction, propaganda from mythology, and deceit from misunderstanding.

Though North Korea's population numbers close to 25 million, only a few hundred of those people are allowed access to the Internet. The Kim regime intentionally seeks to keep the nation "protected" from corrupting foreign ideas. This forced ignorance makes it far easier to claim, say, that Pyongyang cold noodles are mimicked worldwide, or that the Great Leader Kim Il-Sung, North Korea's founder, is the most admired man in the world. If the typical resident of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) went online, he would find more than a few surprises. For one, Kim Jong-Il is far better known in the United States than his father (akin to a foreigner knowing of Nancy Sinatra but not Frank). Second, he'd see that "listicles" exist, many devoted to crazy facts about North Korea.

Many of these "facts" are reported correctly. It is true, for example, that North Korean propagandists claim that Kim Jong-Il causes the weather to change. But many are misreported. Kim Jong-Il did not claim to have "invented" the hamburger so much as having introduced the food to North Korea—technically true in a totalitarian dictatorship, where everything must meet the Dear Leader's approval. Nor does the DPRK maintain that Kim Jong-Il wrote over a thousand books while he was in college. If that were the case, they would surely all be in print there. What their literature describes is that he authored more than 1,400 "treatises, talks, speeches, and letters." What at first sounds absurd due to its bombast becomes absurd due to its banality, as if writing the equivalent of one email a day is something to boast of.

And yes, the Pyongyang regime did claim that Kim Jong-Il could "shrink time." But this simply means that he can read a report, listen to a speech, and answer questions all at once. In other words, the Dear Leader is capable of multitasking, and is apparently uniquely blessed as such in the entire nation. As with most North Korean anecdotes, one laughs at the idea until one begins to read between the lines. Then comes the unsettling realization that it is perfectly possible that virtually no one in the country is supposed to multitask. The holy masses are actually cogs in the state machine, being assigned one job and one job only. The entrepreneur who wears many hats is all but extinct in the juche nation. The line between humor and horror is razor-thin in the worst nation on earth.

One of these perennial listicle "facts" forms the basis of A Kim Jong-Il Production, a new book by the film producer Paul Fischer. Many Americans have heard that "Kim Jong-Il kidnapped a South Korean actress and director to film a communist Godzilla movie." That statement is at best half-true, as Fischer explains in skilled detail. The film, Pulgasari, wasn't a "Godzilla" movie per se. And it was the last in a series of films made by the kidnapped artists, the story of which is far more interesting than any of the movies themselves.

In the late 1960s, when Kim Il-Sung still reigned in North Korea, Kim Jong-Il was cutting his teeth in the Workers' Party of Korea Propaganda and Agitation Department. His reinvention of the DPRK's movie industry is one cultural achievement that is actually demonstrably true. It helped, of course, that his father was an absolute dictator who could have any competitors killed.

Despite North Korea's ultranationalism, which frequently veers toward a pure isolationism, the country has consistently sought international recognition and validation. Pyongyang's landmark Tower of the Juche Idea proudly displays plaques allegedly donated by such nations as Gambia, Mauritius, and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso). Pyongyang's propaganda boasts that international forums on juche "have been hosted by a number of countries like Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, Peru, Madagascar and Malta." One suspects that the anonymous state author would have preferred to include, say, Russia and Canada.

One of the best ways to receive international acclaim is through the arts. But since North Korean cinema was exclusively devoted to glorifying the Great Leader and urging the masses to further the revolution, its export appeal was necessarily limited. By the time Kim Jong-Il was running the literal show, North Korea was regarded as somewhat of an embarrassment or an irrelevance even within the Communist bloc. So if the local talent wouldn't do, the Dear Leader would simply import foreign know-how—and since this is North Korea, "import" here meant "kidnap." If Korea is one nation riven in two by U.S. imperialism, then taking Koreans from the wicked South and bringing them to the North is simply repatriating them to safety…right?

After the Korean War, Shin Sang-Ok had been the first South Korean director to receive international acclaim. Choi Eun-Hee, his wife and muse, became one of South Korea's most famous actresses. But by the 1970s, both were becoming has-beens. As their careers foundered, so did their marriage, which terminated after Shin got his mistress pregnant.

It is unclear whether Kim Jong-Il saw this as an opening. But the North Koreans were soon luring Choi to Hong Kong by promising her the opportunity to run an acting school there. Told she would be meeting an important contact, Choi was driven to a beach, where several men overpowered her and dragged her aboard a small white motor skiff. Informing her that "we are now going to the bosom of General Kim Il-Sung," she was then transferred to as freighter headed to the DPRK. As Michael Breen so presciently put it in his 2004 book Kim Jong-Il, "In a scene that will no doubt one day feature in a movie, for it highlights so vividly the extent to which North Korea is in moral outer space, Kim Jong-il himself turned up at the dock to meet the kidnapped celebrity off the boat."

The group Human Rights in North Korea has an entire study, Taken!, covering DPRK abductions. It is unclear how many of these kidnappings have taken place, but there may have been more than 180,000 (including war captives). These are the stories of lives reduced to old blurry photographs, later matched with an errant eyewitness sighting. These captives are assigned new names and identities, hidden away in a foreign capital, their lives as close to a phantom's as humanly possible. They serve as foreign-language professors for North Korean spies, among other roles.

In Choi's case, she was effectively placed under house arrest in a wooded cabin with a state-provided companion, unclear on why she was in North Korea. Soon Shin was likewise captured and brought, separately, to the DPRK. More aggressive than she in his escape attempts, he was eventually sentenced to a prison term.

It is impossible to describe the state of dreamlike timelessness that exists in North Korea. Take the case of U.S. soldier Charles Robert Jenkins, who defected into the DPRK in 1965 and regretted it almost immediately. His memoir describes his "forty-year in imprisonment in North Korea" in a mere 120 pages. In other words, he averages just three pages a year to describe a society completely foreign to the American experience in every way.

Shin was forced to sit cross-legged in captivity for 16 hours a day, his "daily regime for two and a half years." So too was Choi "moved back to Tongbuk-Ri, where she spent another year, resuming her endless rounds of sightseeing and ideological lessons." So little of note occurs that a year can pass in a single sentence.

Eventually Kim Jong-Il reunited Choi and Shin, unilaterally declaring the couple remarried. Now the couple had to gain Kim Jong-Il's confidence over a period of years by elevating the North Korea film industry, hoping that one day they would be able to step foot on the far side of the Iron Curtain and flee his clutches. (Spoiler alert: They eventually escaped.) The Dear Leader's insistence that no one is to be trusted at any time, that people can lie to you for years only to betray you, turned out to be precisely right—and in this case, obviously justified.

Many DPRK apologists accuse the couple of having defected willingly to revive their flagging careers. So it is with any North Korean story. We can only fill in blanks retroactively. We can be sure that the DPRK was behind the 1987 bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 because a senior official slipped decades later, complaining that North Korea was labeled a state sponsor of terrorism despite not having done it since then. Similarly, we know that such kidnappings occurred because Kim Jong-Il publicly apologized for them to Japan's prime minister.

At the end of the past year North Korea was famously accused of hacking into Sony in an act of vengeance for the film The Interview. While denying responsibility, they simultaneously praised the hackers and threatened nuclear war—a statement that can be read as obviously true (why deny a lesser act while acknowledging your willingness to commit a greater one?) and as obviously false (methinks the leader doth protest too much). I have high-level sources who tell me that the attack absolutely could not have come from North Korea, and I have high-level sources who tell me that it absolutely did. In the end, one is left looking at the events as one looks at everything else that comes out of the DPRK: If one must eat the dishes served from Pyongyang, they must be taken with more than a grain of salt.

Michael Malice is the author of Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il. He is also the subject of Harvey Pekar's graphic novel Ego & Hubris (Ballantine) and the co-author of several other books.


Meet the Movie Star Kidnapped by North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Il

Eager to have the North Korean movie industry catch up to South Korea, the Dear Leader kidnapped a top South Korean actress and director. And that’s just the beginning.

Jen Yamato

Via Facebook

After spending eight days at sea drugged and captive on a cargo ship, South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee disembarked her nautical prison in a strange port, in a strange country.

Terrified and disoriented, the film star—who’d shared photo ops with Marilyn Monroe and traveled the world—hid behind tinted sunglasses. Her arrival was heavily documented by waiting photographers. So was the moment when North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il welcomed her, his hand outstretched to the superstar whose kidnapping he’d just orchestrated: “Thanks for coming.”

The strange but true story of North Korea’s film-obsessed Dear Leader and the filmmaking couple he abducted in order to build his own Hollywood in the heart of the DPRK makes for surreal suspense in The Lovers and the Despot, the U.K.-produced documentary that premiered at Sundance.

Debuting just over a year after the Sony hack allegedly launched by North Korea over the Kim Jong Un-skewering Seth Rogen comedy The Interview, the melodramatic doc vividly recounts how Choi and her director ex-husband Shin Sang-ok spent eight years in gilded imprisonment as Kim’s guests, coerced into rebuilding the nation’s movie industry.

No film may ever top Team America: World Police’s inflammatory depiction of North Korea’s eccentric, baby-faced tyrant, but The Lovers and the Despot, directed by Robert Cannan and Ross Adam, similarly ponders Kim’s obsession with Western pop culture and the bizarre upbringing that molded his curious mystique-shrouded personality.

“Kim Jong Il had a most bizarre childhood,” remarks former U.S. State Department official David Straub, one of several talking heads whose recollections of Choi and Shin’s wild tale help propel the film. “He was clearly an awful leader and an awful person as an adult, but one has to feel a little sympathy for this boy unable to live anything like a normal childhood… Kim Jong Il thought of himself as an artiste.”

Combining an at times emotional interview with the now 89-year-old Choi with archival footage of propaganda-fueled masses and slyly styled reenactments, the film cleverly appropriates scenes from films Shin and Choi made before and during their years under Kim’s thumb to illustrate their turbulent, often harrowing experiences. That in itself lends an unusually intimate touch to the proceedings that you’d be hard pressed to find in many other docs.

The directors also make liberal use of a true rarity: tape recordings of Kim that Choi and Shin made covertly when they began plotting their escape.

“Why do all of our films have the same ideological plots? There’s nothing new about them,” we hear Kim complaining, bemoaning the lack of North Korean product accepted into prestigious international film festivals around the world. “Why are there so many crying scenes? All of our films have crying scenes. This isn’t a funeral. Is it?”

He seems to grow increasingly irate, envious of South Korean cinema’s superiority over his country’s primarily clichéd nationalist output. “I’ve looked at South Korean films. I asked my advisor, who’s the best director in the South? He said that his name is Shin. How could we persuade him to come here? How could I lure this director Shin?”

At the time of her abduction in 1978, Choi had been divorced from Shin, with whom she had adopted a son and a daughter, for two years. Once the darlings of South Korean cinema, they’d gotten married after she starred in a movie of his. But their power coupling dissolved in 1976 when he ran off with a younger actress, with whom he had two children out of wedlock.

Choi had been enticed to Hong Kong by a female producer who turned out to be a North Korean spy. Choi recounts how, while visiting a seaside retreat with the woman and the woman’s young daughter, she was grabbed by men in a speedboat and whisked away to the North. Days after her arrival, she says, she met with her captor fearing that either Kim Jong Il or his father, dictator Kim Il Sung, had nefarious intentions for her. Instead, he broke the ice with a joke.

“Look at me! Aren’t I small like a midget’s turd?”

Choi was received as a guest and given tours of Kim’s projection rooms, one in every house. “To me, he seemed like an artist who loved films,” she said. When he had his staff show her a film in which a woman kills her lover when he tries to leave her, she understood: “He needed me. But if I betrayed him, he’d kill me.”

It’s easier to sympathize with Choi more than her husband Shin, who passed away in 2006 and can only be heard sharing his version of events in microcassette recordings. Even friends and the couple’s grown children paint Shin as a dogged filmmaker who was born to make movies but not so great with budgets, the gangsters who came to collect on unpaid bills, or his own family. (Why Shin’s other children and baby mama are never again mentioned is one of several nagging gaps the film leaves unexplained.)

But Shin’s experience was more brutal by far than that of his wife, who describes how she took to gardening and screaming fits to deal with Kim’s stifling control over every aspect of her life. When Choi disappeared—an event puzzled over in newspapers across the globe—he went looking for her. The doc’s talking heads peg him as a North Korean agent, too, but according to Shin’s own account he was similarly taken prisoner by the DPRK and held for years in prison camps, subjected to brainwashing attempts and brutal treatment.

When he attempted to break out of prison, he turned to the movies, modeling his plans on Steve McQueen’s The Great Escape. Once he broke free, however, he found himself hopelessly lost. Shin was recaptured and sent back to prison—a trauma, the film argues, that made him wary of attempting escape again in later years without a solid plan. Back behind bars, he tried a different tack: pledging allegiance to Kim.

After enduring four years as a prisoner of North Korea, Shin was finally reunited with Choi—by surprise, at Kim Jong Il’s swanky birthday party. Before the long-separated lovers even had a chance to catch up on all those lost years, they had to pose for a photo with Kim sandwiched between them.

The irony of living under despotic rule as Kim’s kept artists in residence was that Shin and Choi were given more artistic and financial freedom than they’d ever had before. Under their Shin Films banner, the couple made 17 films in two years ranging from war epics to a Godzilla kaiju knockoff. Choi admits it was pretty great to win awards for her work, even if those awards came from the few Communist countries she and Shin were permitted to visit.

The film’s spy movie trajectory builds to an intriguing conclusion as it details how the couple finally made their move to escape North Korea with the help of an international network of intrepid film critics. The directors bookend the crazy if seemingly incomplete tale with footage of the presser the shell-shocked couple gave after defecting during a film festival in Vienna, letting Shin’s own remarks contextualize their experience to the more skeptical of critics.

A few footnotes linger as The Lovers and the Despot explains what became of Choi, Shin, and Kim Jong Il after their fateful time together. Perhaps the most surreal development is the fact that Shin went on to direct the sequel to the ‘90s kids classic 3 Ninjas as well as executive produce two more films in the franchise.

The more sobering postscript is one that ties Kim Jong Il’s notorious cinephile streak to his emotionally manipulative hold over a nation of millions who believe he’s a god on earth that has never gone to the bathroom once in his life. Directors Cannan and Adam suggest a latent directorial aspiration in the way Kim, who never did get an internationally respectable film industry going in the DPRK, induced generations of North Korean citizens to “perform” displays of loyalty and leader-worship under pain of punishment.

Even current North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un gets a shout-out in the form of a warning in the film, which is set to be released this year after it was acquired by Magnolia Pictures out of Sundance. But no amount of frustrated movie geekery can account for the chain of succession charted from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un, whose collective seven decades of North Korean oppression paints the most panic-inducing picture of all.


Acting For Film Or Acting For Life? Doc Tells Story Of Kim Jong Il's Captives

It's well-known that Dear Leader was crazy about movies. What's less known — at least in the West — is that infamous North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was so crazy about them that he kidnapped a South Korean actress and a movie director in 1978 and forced them to work for him for years. That story is the subject of a new documentary called The Lovers and the Despot.

"It's just too bizarre to be real," says Ross Adam, one of the film's directors. He and co-director Robert Cannan tracked down actress Choi Eun-hee, who is now nearly 90 years old. In the documentary, Choi remembers getting lured to a seaside home in Hong Kong with an offer for a new film role. "There was a speedboat with three or four strong men," she recalls. "All of a sudden, a guy grabbed me by the arms. Before I knew it, I was on board. All the blood drained from my head to my toes."

Choi was drugged and dragged to North Korea. She awoke as a captive of Kim Jong Il.

"He had a projection room in every house so he could watch movies any time," she says. "Having seen very many movies, he wanted North Korean cinema to be just as great. But he thought his comrades were too simple. To me, he seemed like an artist who loved films."

Kim cared deeply about movies. He wrote a scholarly book about them (On the Art of the Cinema) in 2001, and he complained bitterly about the state of the North Korean film industry to Choi, who secretly taped Kim. "Why do all of our films have the same ideological plots?" Dear Leader rants in one tape. "There's nothing new about them. Why are there so many crying scenes? All of our films have crying scenes. This isn't a funeral, is it?"

Over the course of eight years, Kim forced his pet actress and director Shin Sang-ok to make nearly 20 films: historical dramas, martial arts movies, even a North Korean version of Godzilla. One of those films, The Tale of Chunhyang, is something like Romeo and Juliet, and it's the first North Korean film to feature a kiss.

"In North Korea, there were no love stories," Choi says in the documentary. "Films were about loyalty, dedication and hard work. But we made the first love story in North Korean history."

These movies started making their way to film festivals, mostly behind the Iron Curtain, and eventually Kim allowed the couple to travel. "Shin and Choi were his prize toys and he wanted to show them off to the world," says director Ross Adam. On one such trip in 1986, Choi and Shin escaped to the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, freeing themselves from their Cold War captor.

But some wondered how Shin ended up in his clutches to begin with. "Like many South Koreans, I have my doubts about Shin's true motivation to go to North Korea," says UC-Santa Barbara professor Suk-Young Kim. She says Shin was a political dissident in South Korea as well as its most celebrated filmmaker. In the mid-1970s, the military government started censoring his movies and Shin's career cratered. Some believe he defected to North Korea on purpose. (The whole story may never be known — Shin died in 2006.)

Over the years, Suk-Young Kim has seen lots of interviews with the documentary's only surviving main character, actress Choi Eun-hee, but she says this one is surprisingly revealing. "There was depth to it. I mean, you could really hear what she was going through. Choi Eun-hee says it so well: 'There's acting for film, and there's acting for life.' And in North Korea those could be one in the same thing."

Suk-Young Kim says North Korea remains a highly cinematic society — a stage set, of sorts, for another dictator obsessed with spectacle and drama, where public displays of emotion and patriotism are required. In that way, The Lovers and the Despot is kind of a movie about a movie -- but one in which the vast majority of citizens, or "actors," has no hope to escape.

The late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was a movie fanatic. In 1978, he kidnapped a South Korean actress and her movie director husband and forced them to work for him. A new documentary tells that story. NPR's Neda Ulaby spoke with one of the filmmakers.

ROSS ADAM: It's just too bizarre to be real.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Ross Adam is one of the two directors who tracked down actress Choi Eun-hee. Now she's nearly 90 years old. In the documentary she remembers getting lured to Hong Kong with an offer to star in a movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT")

CHOI EUN-HEE: (Through interpreter) There was no reason to be suspicious.

ULABY: Choi went to visit a home by the sea she thought was owned by a producer.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT")

CHOI: (Through interpreter) There was a speedboat with three or four strong men. All of a sudden a guy grabbed me by the arms. Before I knew it, I was onboard. All the blood drained from my head to my toes.

ULABY: Choi was drugged and dragged to North Korea. She awoke as a captive of Kim Jong Il.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT")

CHOI: (Through interpreter) He had a projection room in every house so he could watch movies any time. Having seen very many movies, he wanted North Korea cinema to be just that great. But he thought his comrades were too simple. To me, he seems like an artist who loved films.

ULABY: And he intrigued documentary directors Robert Cannan and Ross Adam.

ADAM: We're equally terrified but also attracted to dictators and their inner world and their particular kind of ego.

ULABY: Kim Jong Il's ego is captured secretly on tape by the actress as he complained about North Korea's underwhelming film industry.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT")

KIM JONG IL: (Through interpreter) Why do all of our films have the same ideological plots? There's nothing new about them. Why are there so many crying scenes? All of our films have crying scenes. This isn't a funeral, is it?

ULABY: It's compelling to hear Kim Jong Il's voice partly because we think of him as a powerful visual icon.

SUK-YOUNG KIM: Wearing his glasses, wearing this ridiculous Maoist suit.

ULABY: Suk-Young Kim studies North Korean film and teaches at UCLA.

KIM: And you can really hear the dilemma that he was facing.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT")

KIM: (Through interpreter) Let's show the West what we are capable of.

ULABY: Over the course of eight years, Kim Jong Il forced his pet actress and her director husband, Shin Sang-ok, to make nearly 20 films - historical traumas, martial arts movies, even a North Korean version of "Godzilla" and more, as actress Choi Eun-Hee says in the film.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT")

CHOI: (Through interpreter) In North Korea, there were no love stories. Films were about loyalty, dedication and hard work. But we made the first love story in North Korean history.

ULABY: After these movies made their way to film festivals mostly behind the Iron Curtain, Kim Jong Il started allowing the couple to travel.

ADAM: Shin and Choi were his prize toys, and he wanted to show them off to the world.

ULABY: Director Ross Adams says in 1986 at a film festival in Austria, the two escaped to the U.S. Embassy. But even though Choi and Shin escaped their captor, some people wondered how the director in particular had ended up in his clutches to begin with.

KIM: Like many South Koreans, I have my doubts about Shin's true motivation to go to North Korea.

ULABY: Professor Suk-Young Kim says Shin was a rebel, a political dissident in South Korea. And although he was then its most celebrated filmmaker, his movies had started to be censored by the military government. Some believe he defected to North Korea on purpose. Shin died in 2006 and the whole story may never be known. But coming to it as outsiders was useful, says British documentary director Ross Adam.

ADAM: We had no kind of ulterior motives or no preconceptions about the story. We were going to approach it with an open mind.

ULABY: And that's apparent, says film professor Suk-Young Kim. She's seen lots of interviews with the documentary's only surviving main character, actress Choi Eun-Hee, but this one felt surprisingly honest.

KIM: There was depth to it. I mean you could really hear what she was going through.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT")

KIM: Choi Eun-Hee says it so well. There's acting for film, and there's acting for life. And in North Korea, those could be one and the same thing.

ULABY: Suk-Young Kim says North Korea remains a highly cinematic society, a stage set of sorts for another dictator obsessed with spectacle and drama. In that way, the documentary "The Lovers And The Despot" is a movie about a movie, she says, but one whose unwilling actors will mostly never escape. Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


Review: ‘The Lovers and the Despot’ reveals the story of Kim Jong Il’s private, kidnapped filmmakers

Is there a film fan anywhere who doesn’t wish his or her country made better films, who couldn’t sympathize with Kim Jong Il when he’s heard to say, “There’s nothing new to our films. We don’t have any films that get into film festivals. People here are so close-minded”?

Kim Jong Il was no everyday film fan, however. Oh, no. He was the absolute ruler of North Korea, and though you’d think he’d have more important matters to attend to, he not only did something about his complaint, he did it in a frankly astonishing way.

“The Lovers and the Despot,” a beyond belief documentary by Rob Cannan and Ross Adam, closely examines the singular case of top South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and popular actress (and Shin’s former wife) Choi Eun-hee.

In the late 1970s, Kim had these movie luminaries abducted and brought to his country, where they were coerced and convinced to make films for the North. “I want you to be world famous,” the dictator told them. “Let’s show the West what we are capable of.”

Because this tale is so outlandish, Shin knew that it would be hard to believe. So he and his wife contrived to secretly tape-record some of Kim’s conversation (a former CIA operative vouches for the voice’s authenticity), a vocal record that forms a key element of the narrative.

Shin died in 2006, North Korea’s Kim five years later, but Choi, age 89, is still alive, and “The Lovers and the Despot” is centered on her on-camera recollections.

It is the lovers’ part that takes up the first segment of the documentary, as Choi talks about her passion for acting, her popularity (she’s seen sharing the spotlight with Marilyn Monroe) and her relationship with Shin, whom she met, no surprise, on a movie set.

“He said we should make films together forever,” the actress remembers, but life as the director’s wife was problematic. Shin was a workaholic who never expressed emotion and who left Choi and their two adopted children (both now adults and participants in the film) for another woman.

In 1978, Choi went to Hong Kong to meet a woman she thought was a producer but was actually a North Korean agent. The actress was bundled onto a speedboat by some muscular guys (“Despot” offers some discreet re-creations) and taken to North Korea, where Kim himself met her on the dock.

Courteous and respectful, the absolute ruler seemed to Choi “like an artist who loved films.” But though he could be charm itself, Kim also let the actress know without saying it directly that “if I betrayed him, he’d kill me.”

Choi’s life in North Korea was initially one of enforced idleness involving pruning trees, planting a garden and taking long walks. “I was told what to eat, what to wear there was nothing of me left,” she remembers. “Like a doll I did what I was told.”

Director Shin, buffeted at the time by financial difficulties, soon went to Hong Kong looking for his ex-wife. He ended up being taken to North Korea as well, but his lot was initially not as smooth. He was imprisoned for years and took to writing letters to Kim promising, “If you release me, I will make good films for North Korea.”

Clearly a master at playing the long game, Kim Jong Il waited five years before reuniting actress and director, offering kind of an apology for the “misunderstanding” about the way they had been treated.

Over the next 27 months, often sleeping only a few hours per night, the couple made no less than 17 films for North Korea, including what Choi describes as the first love story ever seen on that country’s screens.

There was no question that Choi enjoyed the professional exposure, including a best actress prize at the Moscow Film Festival, that all this moviemaking gave her, and Shin is said to have enjoyed not having to worry about budgets for the first time in his life.

The director, one taped moment tells us, also enjoyed his closeness with the absolute ruler. “In a way we really hit it off,” Shin says. “When we meet he leaves his guards outside. He completely adores me.”

However, fears of what the autocrat might do to them if they fell from favor were intense, and the couple fled to the U.S. Embassy during a 1986 trip to Vienna and asked for political asylum. Their story took further unlikely turns -- Shin produced Disney’s “Three Ninjas,” of all things -- but nothing to match their North Korea years.

Running time 1 hour, 34 minutes.

Playing Laemmle’s Monica in Santa Monica, NoHo 7 in North Hollywood, Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.


The North Korean dictator who kidnapped two movie stars

The former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was a massive film buff, with a rumoured collection of around 20,000 videos. He loved Elizabeth Taylor movies and Sean Connery’s Bond. He was so obsessed with movies that, in 1978, he kidnapped the most famous actress in South Korea, Choi Eun-hee, and later her ex-husband, film director Shin Sang-ok, both reportedly snatched in from Hong Kong by North Korean agents. Choi was taken first, and when Shin went looking for her in Hong Kong, he was taken too, into the Hermit Kingdom. Former lovers, they were now reunited in captivity.

Kim Jong-il wanted them to help him make North Korea’s film industry the envy of the world. But Shin and Choi weren’t keen on the idea. It wasn’t until 1983, when the dictator was convinced the pair had been sufficiently ‘enlightened’, that he ushered them towards a movie camera. Three years later – eight years after they were kidnapped – the couple made their daring escape while in Vienna for a film festival.

This is the too-crazy-to-be-true story recounted in the new documentary The Lovers and the Despot. It details how the South Korean movie stars were snatched by North Korean agents in Hong Kong, how they transformed the North Korean movie industry – in which they made the cult Godzilla rip-off Pulgasari and filmed the nation’s first on-screen kiss – and how they made their escape. Shin died in 2006, but Choi is still alive, 89 years old. We spoke to filmmakers Robert Cannan and Ross Adam to learn more about this insane story, set in the most secretive state in the world.

The film uses secretly taped recordings of Kim Jong-il, made by the kidnapped movie stars at the time. What were your first thoughts when you heard those scuzzy recordings of the dictator’s voice?

Ross: Firstly, we were surprised that a dictator was being recorded in this fashion. It’s very unusual. I don’t think I’ve heard of another dictator being secretly recorded. And he’s just joking around in it. The way he describes the incarceration, he actually blames it on bureaucratic incompetence, it’s incredibly casual. It’s funny that he wasn’t prepared to admit his own responsibility to them about their lengthy imprisonment, that he would just blame it on his minions. Maybe that’s because it would have made for awkward conversation.

Kim Jong-il was obsessed with movies – he especially loved Sean Connery’s Bond. Do you think that’s what drove him to kidnap two South Korean movie stars?

Rob: That’s obviously the driving factor. From early on he knew that Shin was the top director, and he obviously knew who Choi was – the most famous actress in Korea. So he was a crazed fan, in a way. And he knew that the only way he could turn around the North Korean film industry and get the films to be watched outside of North Korea was by kidnapping the best from over the border, because he didn’t have anyone good enough from his own local film industry.

The couple were imprisoned for five years before they began to make movies. Why do you think the dictator took so long to get things going?

Ross: I think that the main thing was Shin, after arriving in North Korea, started to realise he didn’t want to be there at all, and, unlike Choi, decided to try and escape. And probably because he had a delusional sense of himself and how easy it might be to do that, he tried not once, but three or four times. And each time they put him into a worse camp. It was only when he started to show his appreciation of ‘The Dear Leader’, writing birthday letters and stuff like that, praising him, that the authorities started to think, ‘OK, it’s time for his release.’

It was a few more years before the couple made their escape. Was that length of time essential in earning Kim’s trust?

Rob: Yeah, they said afterwards that it was their plan from the beginning. Of course, it’s a convenient plan if they actually did want to make the most of the opportunity to make films with a blank cheque. But their story was that their only way to escape – which does make sense – was to go along with Kim’s plan, build trust, and get chances to go on foreign trips. Because it’s impossible to escape from North Korea, especially as they would have stuck out like a sore thumb if they had tried to run away. Shin found out how hard it was to try and get out of the country when he jumped on a freight train in one of his early escape attempts.

Choi Eun-hee, Kim Jong-il and Shin Sang-ok

In North Korea the couple were forced to make propaganda movies. Have you watched all the films they made during their incarceration in the country?

Rob: We watched the ones that they smuggled out. Not all of them. There were 17 in total over a two-year period, I think. A lot of them are available in the Ministry of Unification in South Korea, but they’re not easily watchable by people like you and me. It’s a very taboo subject.

The most famous film made during that period is probably Pulgasari, the North Korean Godzilla rip-off. Is it basically a communist version of Godzilla?

Ross: Yeah, it kind of is. The enemy is the evil, colonial Japanese. In a way, Shin was quite shrewd to avoid current politics by setting all the stories before the Korean War, so generally the enemy is the Japanese rather than South Korea. But yeah, it’s a kitschy monster movie. Apparently, Kim liked Godzilla, and they wanted their own Godzilla. They even hired the Japanese team that made a version of Godzilla they shipped 200 Japanese animators and special effects people over to North Korea. They all stayed in this complex and they couldn’t really mingle with the North Korean crew. And Shin would sort of go between both units and oversee everything.

Is it fair to say that Shin and Choi were North Korea’s first celebrity couple?

Rob: Yeah, and it may have got to a point where this became a problem, because I’m sure Kim wouldn’t have wanted anything that took admiration away from him in any way. But certainly Shin and Choi had these special privileges that other North Koreans wouldn’t have. For instance, Kim agreed that the studio they were building together could still be called ‘Shin Films’, because he wanted to publicise that the great Shin Films, previously of South Korea, had moved to North Korea because it’s a much better place to make films. So in a way it was the first privately named company.

If Kim Jong-il were alive today and granted you an interview, what would you ask him about this whole saga?

Rob: It might be fun to ask if he misses Shin on a personal level, because they seemed to have this weird bromance, which was obviously all part of a game and they were both manipulating each other. But they did have this shared obsession and ambition. And they did seem, at one stage, to be getting on. You hear Shin in his own words being concerned about betraying this man, because Kim gave him everything and he loved him, and it’s just so weird to hear him weighing up this dilemma. It’d be interesting to ask: did Kim really consider him a buddy? Because that was one of the sad things about Kim Jong-il: he didn’t really have proper friends he was surrounded by people terrified of saying the wrong thing.