Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il is so obsessed with cinema that he might have, in another life, been a movie director. But if you are the heir apparent to a ruthless dictatorship like North Korea you can instead create a “theater state,” scripting every move of the largest crew in the world - your own people. Kim orders the kidnapping of a famous South Korean actress and her director husband in order to make North Korean film making more professional. The couple witness appalling violence, poverty, and constant propaganda while at the same time, indeed, creating a credible North Korean film industry. The true story of this couple’s years in North Korea, making films and planning their daring escape at the same time, is as captivating as any movie thriller. Readers of The Orphan Master’s Son will find this an enlightening read providing context to that novel.
- Cindy— From Cindy's Recs
"The 1978 abductions of the South Korean actress Choi-Eun-hee and her ex-husband, the director Shin Sang-ok, in Hong Kong is the true crime at the center of Paul Fischer's gripping and surprisingly timely new book."
"-The New York Times"
Before becoming the world's most notorious dictator, Kim Jong-Il ran North Korea's Ministry for Propaganda and its film studios. Conceiving every movie made, he acted as producer and screenwriter. Despite this control, he was underwhelmed by the available talent and took drastic steps, ordering the kidnapping of Choi Eun-Hee (Madam Choi)-South Korea's most famous actress-and her ex-husband Shin Sang-Ok, the country's most famous filmmaker.
Madam Choi vanished first. When Shin went to Hong Kong to investigate, he was attacked and woke up wrapped in plastic sheeting aboard a ship bound for North Korea. Madam Choi lived in isolated luxury, allowed only to attend the Dear Leader's dinner parties. Shin, meanwhile, tried to escape, was sent to prison camp, and "re-educated." After four years he cracked, pledging loyalty. Reunited with Choi at the first party he attends, it is announced that the couple will remarry and act as the Dear Leader's film advisors. Together they made seven films, in the process gaining Kim Jong-Il's trust. While pretending to research a film in Vienna, they flee to the U.S. embassy and are swept to safety.
A nonfiction thriller packed with tension, passion, and politics, author Paul Fischer's "A Kim Jong-Il Production" offers a rare glimpse into a secretive world, illuminating a fascinating chapter of North Korea's history that helps explain how it became the hermetically sealed, intensely stage-managed country it remains today.
About the Author
PAUL FISCHER is a film producer who studied social sciences at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris and film at the University of Southern California and the New York Film Academy. Paul's first feature film, the documentary Radioman, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Doc NYC film festival and was released to critical and commercial acclaim. A Kim Jong-Il Production is his first book.