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ictators can be vicious people who see themselves above all mankind, because of this, they think it is ok to take anything, or in this case anyone, and do as they please with them. Kim Jong-Il the father of today’s North Korean dictator King Jong-Un was considered a communist who some say brought the communist system within North Korea to near perfection.

However, even in the condition of North Korea was isolated from the rest of the world at the time, Kim Jong-Il found himself missing a few things from the outside. Due to the military regime imposed on the country, there was quite a lack of actors or even entertainers for that matter, and any media from outside of North Korea was strictly prohibited.

The Kidnapping of Choi Eun-Hee

To not much of a surprise, it wasn’t the public that started complaining about this, but Kim Jong-Il himself. The dictator remembered two well-known actors from the era before Korea split up. The two actors were Shin Sang-Ok and Choi Eun-Hee. In the 1960s they were seen as the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of South Korea. The cinematographic revolution that took place in the 1970s had both actors in a decline, as their usual roles were not so sought after.

Choi Eun-hee with Marilyn Monroe (1954) (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In 1978, Choi Eun-Hee got a call from an alleged film producer in Hong Kong that made her an offer that was impossible to refuse. This offer consisted of the main role in a new Chinese movie for an abundant amount of money. She was desperate, therefore she never thought of the offer being too good to be true so she went to Hong Kong the next week to meet up with the “film producer.”

The alleged film producer turned out to be a Russian agent hired by the dictator to kidnap her and take her to Kim Jong-Il. However, the plan was a bit more complex. The Russian agent presented her with a contract to sign and told her that the movie set was on a remote island. During their travel to this “remote island”, Choi Eun-Hee was sedated, kidnaped, and put onto a boat. When she woke up she saw a big portrait of Kim Ir-Sen, the father of Kim Jong-Il and the founder of North Korea. This confirmed that she had been kidnaped by North Koreans.

The Kidnapping of Shin Sang-Ok

Choi and Shin had a falling out in 1977, but Shin actually loved Choi and when he heard rumors that she had been kidnapped, he went to Hong Kong to look for her. Shin put the word out that he was looking for Choi, but one of his friends, who was working for North Korea, betrayed him and he was also forcefully taken to the isolated country. Upon his arrival, he didn’t want to cooperate, therefore he was locked in a concentration camp for almost four years.

This still of Ms. Choi and Mr. Shin is taken from a film about the couple, titled “The Lovers and the Despot” (Source: Shin Films Foundation)

After that period of time, he gave up and decided to cooperate with the North Korean government. Choi and Shin were happy that they were together, despite forcefully helping against their will in North Korea. To their surprise the dictator already had many films in his mind, he was actually well acquainted with the cinematographic industry. The dictator even gave up the communist propaganda that was always present in North Korean movies to bring better quality movies to North Korea.

Escape after 8 years

During the ensuing four years, Choi and Shin produced and played in numerous movies for the North Koreans, but it seemed that they were never going to be let free. With time, the two actors won Kim Jong-Il’s trust and in 1986 they saw an opportunity in the Viennale, Viena’s film festival. This is when the two actors kindly asked if they could go to the festival for a chance to win an “award.” The dictator accepted and the two actors were left without surveillance, which allowed them to rush over to the closest United States embassy where they requested asylum under the protection of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).

The two actors were then taken to the United States where they started a new life in Los Angeles and continued with some small-time work in Hollywood. The pair got married and lived a free life. Sadly Shin Sang-ok passed away in 2006 and Choi Eun-Hee in 2018 at the age of 91.

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