North Korea remains an enigma in today’s world. On one side we hear of starvation and underground atrocities. On the other hand we are regaled with pictures of thousands of North Koreans weeping, following the death of Kim Jong-Il. Not oppressed at all!
One of the best books on North Korea that you can buy is Great Leader, Dear Leader which is an absorbing exposé of North Korea under the Kim clan – Great Leader Kim Il Sung and his son, Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il. It traces the origin of the regime’s ideology and investigates its attempts to fill its empty state coffers through missile technology sales and other unorthodox schemes. Written by Bertil Lintner, his book is the bible on North Korea.
However, here comes another called “A Kim Jong-Il Production” written by Paul Fischer (ISBN 978-0-241-00430-2, Penguin publishers 2015). Fischer does not include notes on himself in the book, which is a shame, as I believe readers would like to know his bona fides if they are going to give the book much credence. Ah well, but a little internet searching brings out the fact that he has written 16 books but on such subjects as graphic user interfaces and accountancy. This book does have several pages of a selected bibliography, which allays some of the fears.
The book is divided up into three “reels”, understandable when you know that one of the main characters in the book was a movie director, and author Fischer is himself a movie producer.
Kim Jong-Il was interested in movies from an early age and Fischer proposes that part of this fascination was Kim Jong-Il’s need to substitute the celluloid tableaux for his mother who died early. In the film industry it was possible to bring back images resurrected of his mother, the most important mentor for the young boy.
The psyche of Kim Jong-Il is detailed, along with the manipulations to history that are possible for someone with absolute powers. Indulged beyond belief, he would resort to tantrums if something he asked for was not immediately available.
So when it was obvious that North Korea needed to be represented on the world’s movie stage, Kim Jong-Il, as usual, wanted instant action, and the only way he could see to elevate film-making in the North was to kidnap the top film-maker from the South, and for good measure, the leading actress as well.
The excesses indulged in by Kim Jong-Il are documented, excesses which are banned in North Korea, and those indulging can find themselves imprisoned for many years – unless, of course, they belonging to the inner sanctum. Alice in Wonderland!
A hefty book at a hefty price at B. 825 from your local Bookazine. Undoubtedly this is an example of the “unorthodox schemes” to which Bertil Lintner alluded to in his book, and is well enough presented for me to accept Fischer’s explanation. If you have an interest in what is going on in North Korea, this is another primer towards getting to the bottom of the North while comparing it to the top of the South.