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.