A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer

10 Aug

Happy National Book Lover’s Day everyone!

This is the second book I have read about North Korea. The first had my jaw on the ground. This threw me into a full-blown obsession with the hermit kingdom.

This book is nonfiction which sounds impossible when you hear the premise. The book is about two South Koreans, one a film actress, the other her estranged film director husband. In the 1980’s, Kim Jong-Il had them kidnapped and brought to North Korea where they were forced to make propaganda films, including a Godzilla-knockoff. They escaped years later and this is the tale of their saga. They were put through brainwashing prisons, isolated in strange houses with North Korean guards and minders to stop them from escaping. They were forced to watch movies with Kim Jong-Il and to thank him for kidnapping them.

The best part about Fischer’s writing (and all good nonfiction writing in my opinion) is that he intersperses the drama of this true story with relevant politics and history of the region. While the other North Korean book I read was incredible and painted the daily lives of North Koreans from different songbuns (social classes) with heartbreaking detail, I came away from this book with a good basic understanding of the history of how North Korea came to be, the official state biography of Kim Jong-Il, and the finances and politics behind supporting this rigidly nationalistic dictatorship. The book has a comic-book-like dust jacket, but the research is meticulous and fascinating.

I’m obsessed. I’m OBSESSED with North Korea. All my nearest and dearest have had to listen to non-stop rambling about the craziness in the country. I see mirror images of the empire around me everywhere. I went to a Yankee game on Friday night, and as I looked at the giant sign with George Steinbrenner’s face and the words “The Boss” on it, I could only think of the propaganda of Kim Il-Sung “The Supreme Leader.” Remember how Donald Trump called Mexicans rapists and thieves? That’s almost verbatim the rhetoric that Kim Jong-Il uses to describe Americans!

I think my obsession stems from the fact that North Korea is a mystery. We can’t really know what life is like there, and the world is at a loss as to what to do with this strange pocket of comic-book-level villainy. What we know of North Korea are just glimpses. Here are some of the better things I’ve found in my obsessive research.

  • This three-part documentary from Vice does a good job of getting inside the country and sneaking a bit past the carefully orchestrated face North Korea shows the world. The main documentary guy made me nervous. He karaoked “Anarchy in the UK” in front of his minders! I was nervous he was going to end up in a concentration camp. People have been sent there for much less. Lisa Ling also has a good documentary available on Netflix called “Inside North Korea.” That documentary delves more into the brainwashing of the citizens.
  • This photo gallery is beautiful and disturbing. I like this one even more.
  • Ever heard of the mass games? It’s organized insanity. Once a year to celebrate the founding of their country, thousands of North Koreans put on this bizarre performance for their leaders. People practice all year for it, and the giant moving pictures in the back are made up of thousands of children holding giant books over their heard and flipping the pages in tandem. IT’S WEIRD. It was thought up by none other than Kim Jong-Il.
  • In recent news, North Korea announced they are creating their own time zone which will be 30 minutes off from everyone else. Of course the are. Of course they are.
  • All mockery aside, though, it’s quite tragic what goes on beyond our reach. The people of North Korea are enslaved to the strongest cult of personality the world has ever seen. My heart breaks to think of the starvation, the brainwashing, the labor camps, and the violence North Koreans have to live through. It’s important to remember that while the leadership in the country is deplorable and terrifying with their constant talk of nuclear war, millions of people are suffering within the country’s borders, and it is to them that we owe a bit of compassion and concern.

I leave you with an apt quote from this book that I highly recommend anyone and everyone to read.

“The people are still required, under pain of imprisonment, to thank Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il every morning for their food, even though Kim Il-Sung is dead and they have no food”


One Response to “A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer”


  1. Don’t Hate on Nonfiction | Chrissy's Blog - December 28, 2015

    […] who isn’t enjoying reading should start off my giving nonfiction a shot. I recommended “A Kim Jong Il Production” to Dr. L and when she came back from her vacation she gushed about how much she loved it and […]

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