A Kim Jong-Il Production

A Kim Jong-Il Production

The Extraordinary True Story of A Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and A Young Dictator's Rise to Power

Book - 2015
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"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 DearLeader'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.

Publisher: New York : Flatiron Books, c2015
ISBN: 9781250054265
Branch Call Number: 791 .43 FIS
Characteristics: x, 353 p., [8] p. of plates :,ill. (some col.) ports. (some col.) ;,25 cm

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bibliotechnocrat Jan 26, 2016

Sometimes life is far loopier than fiction could hope to be. In 1978, prior to becoming dictator, Kim Jong-Il was head of North Korea’s Ministry of Propaganda. Dissatisfied with the available local talent for his productions, he had South Korea’s most famous actress and her well-known filmmaker husband kidnapped. After being “re-educated” the famous couple created seven films before escaping. You just can’t make this stuff up.

More than just stranger-than-fiction, this is a gripping narrative, full of tension, interesting characters, and observations on the power of cinema. It's also really informative about the stage-managed lives of the North Koreans and about Kim Jong-Il, father of the current dictator. Highly recommended.

r
roystreet
Oct 12, 2015

Fascinating, both for the glimpses of life in the DPRK, the psychology of a brutal despot, and Choi & Shin's personal stories. With photographs (for unknown reasons presented in illogical reverse order).
-- See Quote ....

l
lukasevansherman
Jun 10, 2015

"North Korea itself, as a Kim Jong-Il production, had become a theater state: a ritualized experience, a system of symbols, spectacles, and theatrics designed to maintain the authority and legitimacy of a regime that, in reality, had neither."
If this were a novel, you'd accuse of implausibility. In his first book, film producer Paul Fischer tells the jaw-dropping story of a South Korean director and his former leading lady and ex-wife, who were captured by North Korea and forced to make films for Kim Jong-Il, then the head of North Korea's "movie" department. Both a fascinating and harrowing tale of survival, it's also a rare look into one of the world's most secretive and oppressive states, a relic of a bygone time where the leader is all powerful and life is brutal for most ordinary citizens. One commentator calls this "somewhat dull," which I don't think is accurate at all. Of the books I've read about North Korea, this is by far the most engaging and enlightening. There's also the graphic novel "Pyongyang," the novel "The Orphan Master's Son," and the memoir "Without You There is No Us." It would make a great movie. "You be Kim-Jong illin'."

Catmamakim Apr 24, 2015

Reads like a documentary. After reading other books about North Korea I found this one somewhat dull in comparison and put it down eventually. However it does offer an interesting glimpse into the creation of North Korea, the origins of film-making in Korea, and other historical anecdotes.

BookReviewer2015 Mar 02, 2015

An interesting read and startlingly akin to The Interview.

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roystreet
Oct 14, 2015

Whenever Jong-Il tried hardest to seem powerful and effortless was when he came off looking like a child. So many of his emotions seemed fake and calculated -- the way he took your hand at just the right time, or cried at old Soviet folk songs -- but then there were the all-too-frequent [out]bursts of wild jealousy or anger, which could cost you your job or your life.

Shin and Choi had both met men like Kim Jong-Il, on a smaller scale: with an overinflated sense of their own importance in the world, a short temper, and an obsessive need to micromanage.

Kim was, they thought, the archetypal film producer.

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