A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power by Paul Fischer

Read by Stephen Park

Description: 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, 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.

Hypnotising, you couldn’t make this up. I liked that Fischer gives us western films that were popular as it helps to keep the time periods in context. Fully recommended if you don’t mind sitting with eyes and mouth in perfect ‘O’s for the time it takes to go from cover to cover.

This cult of personality thing should have been weeded out of human affairs millenia ago, it really isn’t healthy, and yet is persists in figures such as Putin, David Miscavige, Kim Jong un etc

There is a dearth of Kim Jong-Il film-making pictures in Google, so every review will be playing with this handful available and the images will become stale pretty quick.

Guardian 2013: The producer from hell

3.75*

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