Which World Leader Kidnapped A Filmmaker To Remake Godzilla?
Answer: Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il–Supreme Leader of North Korea from 1994 until his death in 2011–was a dictator who seemed bent on showing the world exactly how a Bond-movie grade dictator would run the show if unleashed on the real world. His notoriety began even before he ascended to power, working under his father in the various ministries of the Communist regime. Among the many bizarre exploits and activities attributed to the late leader, one the truth is stranger than fiction moment involves North Korean agents kidnapping a movie director to recreate Godzilla.
Jong-il had a long history as a film aficionado that extended well before he came to power. Prior to succeeding his father as the ruler of North Korea he was in charge of the North Korean film industry and oversaw the production of many local films and propaganda reels. The North Korean movie industry was, as you can imagine given the cultural and financial isolation the country has been under since the 1940s, lackluster. To shore up the quality of the films produced by the Ministry of Art and Culture Jong-il, starting in the 1970s, resorted to kidnapping foreign movie talent. The process of film making via abduction started with Japanese film students and directors but escalated in 1978 to the abduction of well known South Korean director Shin Sang Ok and his ex-wife actress Choi Een Hee.
The future dictator kept the two isolated for years before reuniting them in 1983 and tasking them with creating movies for North Korea. One of the first projects on their slate was a remake of the movie Godzilla (on of Kim Jong-il’s favorites). The result was a campy film known as Pulgasari–a Godzilla-esque film heavy on the criticism of capitalism and the West.
In 1986, a year after the release of Pulgasari, Shin Sang Ok and Choi Een Hee were taken to Vienna to negotiate the movie distribution rights for the movie. They managed to flee their North Korean bodyguards, run to an American embassy, and make a plea for political asylum. Both were safely returned to South Korea and Kim John-il had to again rely on local talent for his movies and propaganda reels.