North Korea Bans Formerly Approved Films Now Deemed Sensitive

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A man walks through a deserted film set at the Korean Feature Film Studio just outside Pyongyang in a file photo.
A man walks through a deserted film set at the Korean Feature Film Studio just outside Pyongyang in a file photo.

Government authorities in North Korea have banned 10 films formerly approved by the state and produced at government expense, fearing that the movies’ themes may inspire popular discontent with the rule of national leader Kim Jong Un, North Korean sources say.

Many of the films had been in circulation for years, and had already been shown many times in theaters and on television.

Though films produced in North Korea have been banned in the past, “this is the first time that so many have banned at one time,” a source in North Korea’s North Hamgyong province told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“No explanation was given to the public for the order,” RFA’s source said.

The now-forbidden films include “Unknown Heroes,” “Nunsokyi of the Spring,” “Taehongan, High-Ranking Secretary,” and “The Schoolgirl’s Diary,” among other titles, and all had been produced and previously promoted by North Korea’s government at great expense.

Some of the banned films carry historical themes focusing on corruption and political misrule and on the overthrow of incompetent rulers, though, the source in North Hamgyong said.

“North Koreans who have watched these movies have been surprised at how well they reflect the reality of life in North Korea, and this may be why they were banned,” he said.

Another reason for the ban may be that the male lead in one film, and female lead in another, had been closely related to Kim Jong Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed in December 2013 for “having attempted to overthrow the state,” a second North Hamgyong source said.

“North Korean citizens don’t watch North Korean movies anymore, even if they are told to,” the source said. “All you see on television are videos about worshiping Kim Jong Un.”

“Why would anyone want to look at North Korean movies?” he asked.

Reported by Jieun Kim. Translated by Jackie Yoo. Written in English by Richard Finney.





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