Films on North Korea

Inside North Korea

Documentary National Geographic 2006 TV-PG 50m. Disguised as a medical coordinator, National Geographic correspondent Lisa Ling gains access into North Korea and gives viewers a powerful glimpse inside one of the most restrictive countries in the world. Through personal accounts and exclusive footage, Ling exposes the difficulties North Koreans face while living in such an oppressive regime, coping with poverty, hunger and the lack of civil liberties. See Full Review

Secret State of North Korea

Documentary Frontline 2012 Jan14. In Secret State of North Korea, Frontline shines a light on the hidden world of the North Korean people, drawing on undercover footage from inside the country as well as interviews with defectors—including a former top official—who are working to try to chisel away at the regime’s influence. Intelligence officials know even less about North Korea’s new ruler than they did about his enigmatic father. North Korea must open up to survive, but doing so risks the collapse of the regime. This offered a totally new view that completely changed my perception of the North Korean people. I found this very inspiring for the future of the country and its people, and very informative about the contemporary political and social circumstances. It focuses on individual stories of those who have escaped, and explores the various methods used to smuggle information in and out of the country. I could only shake my head in amazement at the courage and determination of those willing to risk their very lives for a chance at freedom, and was equally impressed by those on the outside risking their lives to help others still inside the country. Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2012 Jan14):

Camp 14: Total Control Zone

Documentary 2012 NR 101 minutes. Through interviews and footage of a North Korean re-education camp, director Marc Wiese paints a shocking portrait of inhumanity as he chronicles the harrowing story of Shin Dong-huyk, who was born inside the camp but escaped at age 23.

Yodok Stories

Documentary 2008 NR. Providing rare insight into a situation that receives little exposure in the West, this documentary from Andrzej Fidyk shines a light on the North Korean concentration camps that house hundreds of thousands of that country’s “class enemies.” Focusing on a group of escapees now living in Seoul, South Korea, the film blends interviews with the defectors with scenes from a musical they produced based on their experiences in the camps.

The Flower of Kim Jong II

Documentary 2009 NR 74 minutes. Marked by a long history of repression and information control, North Korea continues to scrupulously monitor the activities of its citizens. This exposé reveals daily life under a totalitarian regime as well as the stories of prison camp survivors. Filmmaker N.C. Heikin draws on her artistic sensibility as a dancer and performer to craft a stylish documentary that bears a surprising message of hope and inspiration.

The Juche Idea

Satire 2008 NR 61 minutes. Director Jim Finn helms this experimental satire that examines what happens when a South Korean filmmaker sojourns into communist North Korea to breathe new life into that country’s flagging, propaganda-driven movie industry. Believing that cinema can prop up North Korea’s Juche Idea of self-reliance, mad dictator Kim Jong-Il pulls out all the stops to help the young émigré produce appropriate films. Sung Kim and Daniela Kostova star.

North Korea In Black and White

Documentary Frontline / World 2007. Photographer Dong Lin has visited North Korea several times in recent years trying to glimpse life in this secretive state. As North and South Korea plan for a rare summit this Fall, we offer a black-and-white portrait of the North, taken surreptitiously and under constant watch, in a country long known for its isolation and paranoia.

Crossing the Line  (2006)

Documentary 2006 NR 1hr 34m. Christian Slater narrates director Daniel Gordon’s intriguing political documentary about a U.S. Army defector who abandoned his country to become a citizen of North Korea. More than 40 years after crossing the border during the Cold War, former Pfc. James Dresnok speaks with Gordon in the city of Pyongyang. This 2007 Sundance Film Festival competition entry is an intimate look inside the mind of a democracy defender turned loyal communist.

Seoul Train

Documentary 2005 TV-PG 54m. Via dramatic footage and firsthand accounts, this illuminating documentary chronicles North Koreans’ struggle to escape their oppressive Communist country, risking torture and execution for a chance at liberty. Refugees try to flee through China to their southern counterpart or to another country, aided by the underground railroad — a loose network of safe houses and secret routes leading to freedom. The film also details activists’ efforts to help.

A State of Mind

Documentary 2004 NR 94 minutes. Two young North Korean gymnasts prepare for an unprecedented competition in this documentary that offers a rare look into the communist society and the daily lives of North Korean families. For more than eight months, film crews follow 13-year-old Pak Hyon Sun and 11-year-old Kim Song Yun and their families as the girls train for the Mass Games, a spectacular nationalist celebration involving thousands of performers.

North Korea: A Day in the Life

Documentary 2004 NR 48 minutes. Filmmaker Pieter Fleury provides a rare look at life inside North Korea — albeit one that’s been vetted and approved by the government of Kim Jong II. Fleury had to make plenty of concessions to North Korea just to get the film made, and it’s clear that all the participants are putting their best faces forward here. Still, the film manages to reveal far more than the government would like about life under its repressive regime.

North Korea: Suspicious Minds

Documentary Frontline / World 2003. Frontline/World visits North Korea, which is among the most closed societies on the globe. Traveling as tourists, BBC reporter Ben Anderson and cinematographer Wills Daws peek past the sights planned for them on their guided tour and develop surprising rapport with their ideologically pure official minders.

Kim’s Nuclear Gamble

Documentary Frontline 2003. The world is running out of time to strike a peace-preserving deal with North Korea’s strange and reclusive leader Kim Jong Il. For ten years threats deceptions and diplomatic ploys have shaped U.S. relations with the Hermit Kingdom. Now what happens next depends on the outcome of a raging debate within the Bush administration over how best to handle Chairman Kim. Frontline traces the delicate maneuvers and clumsy turns that have brought the world to the brink of a nuclear showdown in Asia.

Buying the Bomb

Documentary Frontline 1985. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh presents his first television investigation for Frontline. After six months of work, Hersh uncovers the story of a Pakistani businessman who tried to ship electrical devices which can be used as nuclear bomb triggers out of the US to Pakistan.


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