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North Korea: Introductory Sources: Theater, Music and Film

Kim Jong Il and Movies

   Before his official succession to the role of Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il was head of the propaganda ministry and its movie production division.  A huge fan of western movies, Kim Jong-Il had a collection of  c. 20,000 films including James Bond movies, action films and all Academy Award winners, and was a big fan of Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley.  According to Paul Fischer in his book A Kim Jong-Il Production, Kim Jong-Il would show his retinue of bodyguards the Clint Eastwood movie In the Line of Fire.

  Disappointed in the quality of movies made in North Korea, he aspired to produce films to keep the populace's interest and to be worthy of showing abroad. To this end, he arranged the kidnapping of famous South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and Shin’s ex-wife, popular actress Choi Eun-hee.  Shin refused to participate and spent four years being "re-educated" in prison camp before relenting.  The two of them made seven movies with Kim Jong-Il, including sci-fi Godzilla with a North Korean twist, Pulgasari.

   Pyongyang hosts the Pyongyang International Film Festival, but screens no films from the U.S., South Korea, or Japan.  However, in 2012 the first film from Europe, Bend it Like Beckham, was shown to an audience of 12,000.*

   The Asia Collections has videos and DVD's from and about North Korea.  DVD's are now located in the main reading room (Dean Room) of Uris Library, organized by country.  The VHS videos have all been moved to the Annex; they can be requested.   The library is intending to expand its collection of feature films from North Korea.

(*from Bonner, Nicholas. Made in North Korea, 2017.  See full entry on Art page.).

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