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Film Selection: North Korea

The human rights record of North Korea is extremely difficult to fully assess due to the secretive and closed nature of the country. The North Korean government makes it very difficult for foreigners to enter the country and strictly monitors their activities when they do. Aid workers are subject to considerable scrutiny and excluded from places and regions the government does not wish them to enter. Since citizens cannot freely leave the country, it is mainly from stories of refugees and defectors that the nation's human rights record has been constructed. The government's position, expressed through the Korean Central News Agency, is that North Korea has no human rights issue, because its socialist system was chosen by the people and serves them faithfully.

While it is difficult to piece together a clear picture of the situation within the country, it is widely believed that the government of North Korea controls virtually all activities within the nation. Citizens are not allowed to freely speak their minds and the government detains those who criticize the regime . The only radio, television, and news organizations that are deemed legal are those operated by the government.

Camp14.jpgCamp 14: Total Control Zone

Director: Marc Wiese and Axel Engstfeld

Year: 2012

Country: Germany, South Korea

Length: 106 min

Shin Dong-Huyk was born on November 19, 1983 as a political prisoner in a North Korean re-education camp. He was a child of two prisoners who had been married by order of the wardens. He spent his entire childhood and youth in Camp 14, in fact a death camp. He was forced to labor since he was six years old and suffered from hunger, beatings and torture, always at the mercy of the wardens. He knew nothing about the world outside the barbed-wire fences. At the age of 23, with the help of an older prisoner, he managed to escape. For months he traveled through North Korea and China and finally to South Korea, where he encountered a world completely strange to him.

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Director: N.C. Heikin

Year: 2009

Country: USA, France, South korea

Length: 75 min

In 2010 the film was nominated for the Cinema for Peace Award for the Most Valuable Documentary of the Year for fully exposing the propaganda system in North Korea.

For some, the Korean War was a clear example of American imperialism. For others, it was a valiant effort on the part of the UN and the Koreans to quash the spread of communism. For all Koreans, it was a tragedy. The country was not just divided; it was devastated. The death toll was astronomical, and the destruction profound. Many engage in assigning blame for the war according to their political beliefs, but this is a useless exercise. The point is that the human rights situation in North Korea today is catastrophic. Kimjongilia is the first film to let North Korean refugees tell their stories in their own words.

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theredchapelposter.jpgThe Red Chapel

Director: Mads Brügger

Year: 2009

Country: Denmark

Length: 88 min

Two Danish comedians join the director on a trip to North Korea, where they have been allowed access under the pretext of wanting to perform a vaudeville act.

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JointSecurityArea.jpgJoint Security Area

Director: Park Chan-Wook

Year: 2000

Country: South Korea

Length: 110 min

In the DMZ separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier. But the 11 bullets found in the bodies, together with the 5 remaining bullets in the assassin's magazine clip, amount to 16 bullets for a gun that should normally hold 15 bullets. The investigating Swiss/Swedish team from the neutral countries overseeing the DMZ suspects that another, unknown party was involved - all of which points to some sort of cover up. The truth is much simpler and much more tragic.

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Recommended Films on North Korea