Summary and book reviews of A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer

A Kim Jong-Il Production

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

by Paul Fischer

A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer X
A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2015, 368 pages

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Book Summary

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.

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 Dear Leader'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, 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.

INTRODUCTION
August 1982

The last thing Shin Sang-Ok remembered was sitting in his cell, unable to feel his own heartbeat, too weak to move or stand. He had been held in a North Korean detention center for almost two years, crammed inside a solitary cell barely big enough to lie down in, with one tiny slit of a window high up on the wall and thick steel bars across it. Bugs teemed through cracks in the floor. Except for a thirty-minute lunch break, a ten-minute supper, and a thirty-minute "sunning" period in the prison yard, he was required to sit in the exact same position all day, head bowed and motionless, absolutely stock-still, or suffer even greater punishment.

He had been on a hunger strike for five days when he lost consciousness. Now, awakening in a prison infirmary, he struggled to breathe. The August air was hot and thick with humidity. A blinding headache blurred his thoughts. His mouth felt dry and metallic, and his stomach was seized with cramps. The simplest movement...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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This tight journalistic account is a pulse-pounding, cinematic narration of not just the couple's abduction and their eventual escape - but of the North Korea of the 70s and 80s, a surreal canvas for a truly bizarre story. Proving that life can sometimes be stranger than fiction, A Kim Jong-Il Production is a riveting ride.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review (606 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fischer's entertaining narrative paints an arresting portrait of a North Korean "theater state," forced to enact the demented script of a sociopathic tyrant.

Booklist
Starred Review. Fischer matches keen cinematic analysis with an unusually cogent and vivid brief history of the two postwar Koreas . . . Gripping and revelatory, Fischer's true-life thriller provides a portal into the mad tyranny of North Korea.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Exhaustively researched, highly engrossing chronicle . . . A meticulously detailed feat of rare footage inside the DPRK's propaganda machinery.

Author Blurb Paul French, author of the New York Times bestseller Midnight in Peking
That a North Korean dictator should kidnap two South Korean movie stars and force them to make films he hoped would rival Hollywood seems the stuff of fantasy. But it isn’t, Kim Jong-Il did and Paul Fischer captivatingly tells perhaps the most extraordinary tale from the world’s most bizarre country. A Kim Jong-Il Production is simply flabbergasting!

Author Blurb Benjamin Wallace, author of the New York Times bestseller The Billionaire's Vinegar
In A Kim Jong-Il Production, Paul Fischer defrosts a Cold War story almost too wild to believe, an epic love story that reveals in Technicolor the North Korean hermit kingdom and its movie-obsessed, improbably charismatic late leader. This book is un-put-downable.

Author Blurb Matt Baglio, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller ARGO: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
A Kim Jon-Il Production is the true story of desperate movie stars, daring escapes, and the paranoid leader who brought it all together. Equal parts history, thriller, and farce, Fischer’s masterful reporting will keep you engrossed until the very end.

Reader Reviews

Heather F. (Louisville, KY)

Let us entertain you...
Only in North Korea could this fantastical truth be stranger than any fiction. Kidnapping a South Korean Movie star and Director is the story but Fischer provides a good base for the general history if the region as well. Film buffs will definitely ...   Read More

Judith S. (Binghamton, NY)

Fascinating Peek into North Korea
This book, although non-fiction, reads like a thriller. Mr. Fischer provides the reader with a fascinating look into the politics and culture of North Korea. The author deftly juxtaposes a love story with the cruelty of the North Korean regime. ...   Read More

Joan B. (Ellicott City, MD)

Kim Jong Il Production
I found a great interest in Korea, because of a dear friend whose family emigrated from South Korea. After reading THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON, I wanted to know some "real" facts about the Korean culture. ...PRODUCTION is advertised as nonfiction. It...   Read More

Peggy H. (North East, PA)

Hard to believe its true
The recent events with the Sony hacking make this story even more fascinating! It is hard to believe that it is true...but I guess no one will be able to make a movie of it now! Although parts do drag a bit, the story itself makes wonderful reading...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Propaganda and its Uses

A Kim-Jong Il Production is set in the North Korea of the 1970s when Kim Jong-Il was head of the Ministry of Propaganda. North Korea's motives might have been sinister, but propaganda — defined as information especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view — has been used as a tool by governments around the world to promote both ill-advised agendas and policies that help. The word "propaganda" appears to have been coined by the Vatican; the phrase "congregatio de propaganda fide" (the congregation for the propagation of the faith) was used to support the Catholic faith in response to the Protestant Reformation. But, of course, the use of propaganda ...

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