Movie-buff Kim Jong-Il seeks joint foreign film ventures

Special to World
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

North Korea, which is commonly portrayed as the world's bad guy in Hollywood, is ready to open its film industry to foreign participation, an ethnic Korean movie director in China said.

The isolated communist country led by movie-buff leader Kim Jong-Il hopes to revive the fortunes of the nation's once-thriving movie business though joint ventures with foreign producers, said Park Jun-Hee, who just completed the first film co-production between China and North Korea, "The Secret of Rikidozan."

Kim Jong-Il is known to be an avid film lover, willing to do whatever it takes to get stars even kidnapping them.

Kim ordered the abduction of South Korean film director Shin Sang-Ok and his ex-wife, actress Che Eun-Hui, in 1978. When they were shipped to North Korea, Kim stood waiting on the dock. "You have suffered a great deal trying to come here. I am Kim Jong-Il," according to the Shins' testimony.

South Korean film director Shin Sang-Ok actress Che Eun-Hui.
The two South Koreans were forced to make propaganda movies for the North Korean regime before escaping in 1986. Kim set them up in a luxury home, gave them matching Mercedes and invited them to wild parties where naked dancers cavorted with drunken party bosses.

They made seven movies for the "Dear Leader." One of them, "One-Way Mission," won the best director award at a Czech film festival in 1985.

Kim has collected more than 10,000 videos, according to Seoul's intelligence sources. He once told an American diplomat that he possessed every Oscar-winning movie. He loves "The Godfather," James Bond flicks, the "Friday the 13th" series, Daffy Duck cartoons, and anything with Elizabeth Taylor.

Kim Jong-Il character in 'Team America'
Whether Kim has seen the U.S. puppet film, "Team America" in which he plays a villain on the world stage is not known. While sources are reluctant to speculate, they believe Kim must have watched the film not only because of his personal interest but also because of its political implications.

Kim has poured money into the state film company, made hundreds of on-spot inspection tours of its studio, commissioned a 100-part serial on North Korean history, and has written a book titled, "On the Theory of Cinema Arts."

Park was attending an international film festival in Pusan in South Korea. "The Secret of Rikidozan" is about one of North Korea's most-worshipped national heroes, champion professional wrestler Rikidozan.

North Korea proclaims Rikidozan as the world's greatest wrestler who was murdered because he brought shame on America and Japan by beating wrestlers from those countries. Rikidozan was stabbed in Tokyo in 1963.

Park said the joint production was initiated last May and shooting began last October. Most of the scenes were shot in North Korea.

Copyright 2005 East West Services, Inc.

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