A meticulously detailed feat of rare footage inside the DPRK’s propaganda machinery.



Exhaustively researched, highly engrossing chronicle of the outrageous abduction of a pair of well-known South Korean filmmakers by the nefarious network of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il.

Filmmaker Fischer carefully presents a well-documented story of the kidnapping of South Korean actress Choi Eun-Hee and her former husband, film producer Shin Sang-Ok, amid some suspicion that the two secretly defected in order to jump-start their stalling careers (though the author provides ample evidence to the contrary). After a stunningly successful moviemaking collaboration that spanned the mid-1950s until their divorce in 1974, Choi and Shin had gone their own ways by 1978. Choi was raising their two adopted children and mostly teaching acting while Shin saw his studio stripped of its license due to his wheeling and dealing. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-Il—a film fanatic who cleverly insinuated himself as the sole standing heir to his father, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea founder Kim Il-Sung, via his richly propagandistic output by the Korea Film Studio—craved validation and expertise in order to be taken seriously in the international community. Hence the scheme to kidnap the two reigning South Korean film idols, re-educate them and allow them all they needed to refashion the North Korean film industry. This is just what happened: The two stars were lured to Hong Kong—first Choi in January 1978, then Shin in September—and hustled onto a freighter and taken to Pyongyang. Isolated, imprisoned in luxury homes (Shin spent two years in prison for trying to escape), summoned periodically to Kim’s birthday parties and expected to drink heavily and be merry, the two were eventually thrown together in 1983 and directed to reignite their collaboration and marriage. Seven films later, including the Godzilla-like Pulgasari (1985)—they took asylum in the U.S. Embassy in Vienna.

A meticulously detailed feat of rare footage inside the DPRK’s propaganda machinery.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05426-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?