The kidnapping of South Korean film royalty by North Korea

In 1978, a debonair South Korean filmmaker and his former wife, one of the country’s biggest movie stars, were kidnapped by Kim Jong-il’s North Korean agents and forced to create films for the cinephile dictator.

The whole thing sounds like a crazy B-movie plot, but it’s a true story that has now been taken by British filmmakers Robert Cannan and Ross Adam and made into a documentary, “The Lovers and the Despot,” to premiere in Los Angeles and New York on Sept. 23.

(Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)

Described as the “Brangelina of ‘70s South Korea,” high-profile director Shin Sang-ok and actress Choi Eun-hee had gone through a recent divorce when they were taken by the North Koreans.

The pair, of whom Kim was a superfan, led Shin Films, at one time South Korea’s largest movie studio. Forced to play along with the dictator’s demands, the couple – who later remarried while trapped under the regime – endured torture, imprisonment and surveillance.

The couple managed to escape by finding refuge inside the United States Embassy in Vienna while on a trip there in 1986.

“The Lovers and the Despot” debuted at Sundance’s World Documentary Competition category this year, and will be released by Magnolia Pictures.