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This is a blog based on the coffee-table book entitled “Dictators Who Loved Films”. Our featured chapter is on Kim Jong Il, in response to his recent passing. Just scroll down to read tidbits and fun facts about his life in relation to film. Yes, all speech bubbles are real quotes.

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Chapter 1

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Dictator: Kim Jong Il

Country: Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea

Years in Power: 1994-2011

Favorite Films: The Sea Of Blood (1968), The Flower Girl (1972),           Godzilla (1954), Pulgasari (1984),The Godfather (1972), The Tora-san series, Friday The 13th (1980), the James Bond series.

Be Cautioned: It is illegal to take a picture of someone imitating this leader. It is illegal to take a picture of just the feet of a statue of this leader. Once a picture of this leader is captured, it is forbidden to destroy it.

North Korea

In North Korea the communist hammer and sickle is joined by a calligraphy pen. ___________________________________________________________________

The capital of North Korea hosts the Pyongyang Film Festival of Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries. This is one of the few events that takes place in North Korea with the international community in mind. ____________________________________________________________________

Inside the Korean Feature Film Studio there is a famous statue to Kim Jong Il’s father on a movie set giving advice. _____________________________________________________________________

North Korean Favorites

In his book On Art and Literature, Kim Jong Il calls North Korean Films The Sea of Blood (1968)  and The Flower Girl (1972) “masterpieces.” These are both films by one of his favorite directors Choe Il-Gyu. As well, Kim Jong Il himself played a large role in producing these films.

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The Sea of Blood is a classic because it moves people deeply by its clear exposition of the theme. The theme of this masterpiece is presented clearly through the torturous course of the life of the heroine until she takes the road of armed struggle by realizing the truth of anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle that blood must be repaired with blood and the violence must be countered with violence.” –Kim Jong Il

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The Flower Girl is a materpiece though it is on a small scale. The work stated the important idea that the revolution is the only path to survival, by means of an extensive and detailed description of the misfortunes and sufferings of the family of a servant (a common place situation in the korean countryside in those days) through the heroine Ggot Bun’s life and her warmhearted character. This is the perfect example in that it develops an important problem and a momentous idea from a small event and plainly shows the inevitability of the revolution through the growth of an ordinary person.” –Kim Jong Il

Japanese Favorites

Kim Jong Il took an extreme liking to Japanese films, despite the fact that Japan is a country that is constantly portrayed as the enemy in North Korean films. Nonetheless, Kim Jong Il loved films of the Japanese monster genre. Godzilla (1954, Ishiro Honda) was perhaps his favorite, though he also liked the Japanese Tora-san series). In 1984, he decided it was time that North Korea made its own version of the Godzilla film, called Pulgasari (1984, Shin Shang Ok). He wanted Pulgasari to live up to the Japanese Godzilla, so:

  • He persuaded 15 members of the artistic team responsible for Japan’s Godzilla to come to North Korea to work on the film,
  • He recruited one of the actors who played Godzilla to play Pulgasari, and
  • He had Pulgasari’s suit made by members of the Godzilla crew.