Have you ever been in a situation where you have taken things too far? Of course, the problem with taking things too far is that you don’t realize that’s what is happening until you get a little hindsight. Maybe you’ve keyed someone’s car or confessed to your boss how much you hate them in a public forum. We do things in the name of revenge or in times of great suffering, but our impulse to lash out is usually kept in check due to a greater grasp on reality, or the possession of common sense.
What if you didn’t have that limitation though? What if you had enough money to get whatever you wanted, and had enough security to know that you couldn’t be touched? The answer is you might be Kim Jong -il, and you might be able to kidnap a South Korean actress and her ex husband, a famous director. This is the story I heard today while walking Peanut, and listening to This American Life.
As a Communications major I spent a lot of time debating theory from a lot of expensive textbooks, and during a course in Emerging Media we went down the scary rabbit hole of fan fiction and participatory culture. A culture that has a vocabulary including, “shipping” and phrases like, “fan girl so hard.”
The reason I bring this up is because long before screaming teenage girls were circulating their fan fiction on the Internet, there was the queen of all fan girls. The fan girl known as, Kim Jong-il. Putting you all to shame in the world of fandom since the 1970s.
Choi Eun-hee was this actress who, on This American Life, is described as the Elizabeth Taylor of South Korea. She is kidnapped, brought to North Korea as a guest of honor and is shown off at dinner parties, when she is not imprisoned in a guarded villa. After being held prisoner for a period of time another guest makes an appearance. His name was Shin Sang-ok. Not only have Choi and Shin worked together on movies, but they used to be married. Awkward.
Kim Jong-il puts them together in a new villa and does the real life equivalent of taking two dolls and going, “kiss!” And then he reveals to them that he wants them to create movies, because North Korea was becoming too irrelevant in the film industry. Yes, Kim Jong-il was a movie buff who thought the key to success in his country were better movies. It almost makes you think if he wasn’t a dictator he could have had a different life in Hollywood.
So what are you supposed to do? Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee went on to make seven movies and were prisoners for eight years. The most notable movie from this time was, Pulgasari. Which in a weird way has turned into a cult classic. The film is about this monster who is created with a little bit of sweat and blood, and takes out an emperor. It was Kim’s crowning achievement and with it he granted the filmmaking pair permission to travel abroad for research.
In 1987, Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee traveled to Vienna, and upon their arrival they fled to the US embassy and begged for asylum. Poor Kim. Can’t he trust anybody? They could have made more beautiful monster flicks together. I can’t even imagine what people at the embassy thought when hearing about tales of the kidnapping, but you can now read the whole story in Paul Fisher’s, A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power.
The story is something unbelievable but completely captures the idea of how absolute power corrupts, and how out of control fandom can get with every resource at your disposal. But, you know, just to be clear kidnapping shouldn’t be counted as a reasonable resource. If you want to find out more about the journey you should listen to the podcast and check out the links below. Until then, let the takeaway be that you should take a beat and ask, “WWKD?” Otherwise known as, What Would Kim Do? If the answer is yes then abort your plan immediately.
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