Kim Jong-il, the father of the present North Korean leader, kidnapped movie director Shin Sang-ok and his wife from South Korea and kept them in the north for 8 years until they managed to escape. The monster flick Pulgasari (1985) was the last film Shin made in North Korea. The North Korean leaders have all been movie mad, expressing a fondness for action flicks of all kind. Kim Jung-il even wrote a treatise in 1973 entitled “On the Art of the Cinema”
Film is a big deal both in both parts of the Korean peninsula. In recent years South Korean film has experienced a golden age, and there is a major film festival in the capital of North Korea. While the cinema of the north has been hidden behind an iron curtain, in South Korea films like Old Boy (2003) have become box office hits.
Learn about Korean films
- France 24 the recent success of South Korean cinema .
- BBC “The other side of South Korean cinema”
- Movie Talking “Korean Cinema” (27 min audio podcast)
- “What’s Korean Cinema?” 26 part podcast series
- Al Jazeera documentary on North Korean cinema
- ABC Australia radio documentary from inside the North Korean film industry
- Vice North Korean Movie Madness
- Video lecture “Non-Linear Time Structures in Contemporary Korean Cinema”
- Video lecture “Sino-Korean Film Connections: A History in Fragments”
- B-movie cast podcast on Pulgasari (1985)
- NKnews.org “When North Korea Tried To Kidnap A Film Industry”
- Library of Congress lecture “Kim Jong-il and North Korean Films”
The South Korean Film Archive has published a number of older South Korean films on their youtube channel, some quite interesting. While most of them are slow paced, A Bloodthirsty Killer (1965) seems to be a supernatural thriller.
Not only propaganda, North Korean films can also be very entertaining, depicting monsters or Robin Hood-like characters in a historical setting. Watch two of them here: