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

Paul Fischer. Flatiron, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-05426-5
North Korea is a nightmarish movie theater without an exit in this gripping true-life thriller. Fischer, a documentary filmmaker, recounts the 1977–78 abductions of South Korea’s leading director, Shin Sang-Ok, and his ex-wife, the movie star Choi Eun-Hee. The two were abducted on the orders of North Korea’s movie-obsessed crown prince Kim Jong-Il, who wanted them to upgrade the government’s wooden propaganda films with pizzazz and higher production values. The story combines harrowing hardships—Choi endured house arrest and constant Kafkaesque “reeducation” exercises; Shin was starved and tortured in prison after escape attempts—with dizzying reversals of fortune as the couple are rehabilitated to make hit films under Kim’s sponsorship and later plot a nerve-racking flight to the West. In Fischer’s vivid close-up, Kim emerges as “the archetypal film producer” writ monstrous: charming and lordly, basking in parties with Joy Brigade starlets and groveling underlings, full of tasteless visions, and ruthless when crossed. (He ordered a mistress who two-timed him to be shot in front of thousands of spectators, including her husband.) Fischer’s entertaining narrative paints an arresting portrait of a North Korean “theater state,” forced to enact the demented script of a sociopathic tyrant. Photos. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/22/2014
Release date: 02/03/2015
Compact Disc - 978-1-101-91318-5
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-250-05428-9
Hardcover - 643 pages - 978-1-4104-7974-7
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-1-250-05427-2
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