The world was shocked in 1978, when famed South Korean actors Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee were abducted from Hong Kong and taken to North Korea. The documentary The Lovers and the Despot tells the story of this event.
The film includes interviews with the couple’s children and with Choi herself, who gives us details on the abduction.
It then focuses on former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, who was a huge movie fan but not satisfied with North Korean productions. Fascinated by the acting and filming skills of Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee, Kim decided to own them in 1978.
Shin and Choi filmed at least 17 movies and propaganda films for Kim. With “protection” from a group of North Koreans, the two were sent overseas to attend movie festivals.
But while attending the Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin in 1986, Shin and Choi managed to escape, rushing into the US embassy to seek help.
The documentary gives us a clear understanding of the story of Shin and Choi, as there are many photos of Kim, Shin and Choi, which adds colour to the visuals. Mixed in with lots of news footage of the couple, Choi’s voice explains the event as she experienced it.
The film also includes many audio recordings of conversations between Kim, Shin and Choi about the abduction. It’s a true life tale that is filled with drama and tragedy, and not one to be missed.