Film Review: Inside the Hermit Kingdom: North Korea
by Nancy Patton
This documentary film by I Sun-Dyung, western journalist and daughter of Korean immigrants, is revealing and riveting for those of us who have never had a glimpse into the Hermit Kingdom as well as those who have a background in Korean history in the 20th century. Having had virtually no historical education about Korea in my upbringing, other than that which was revealed through the situation comedy, M*A*S*H, like many of my generation, I found this film to portray the harsh realities of colonization by Japan, famines, and punitive governments in an objective and informative manner—one that lends itself to a high school level course. The harsh realities include mothers, in the face of famine and oppression, leaving their babies and young children in the snow hoping they would be found by someone who could care for them as they could not. Realities include the Japanese-run concentration camps which mistreated and tortured Korean citizens during the colonization period prior to the division of North Korea from South Korea. Realities include the alienization and demonization of North Korea by the west, particularly the USA. This is an eye-opening documentary that is told in a sensitive, personal story by the western journalist who was the first to be permitted into the country of North Korea on her assignment to help the world to understand the hidden country.
Moving past the communist era, the film turns its eye on the Juche philosophy and cultural movement originated by Kim Il Sung. Juche is a national philosophy of independence and self-determination which was borne out of the suffering the North Koreans endured for decades prior. This part of the film would be useful for study of post-communistic governments and cultures. When Kim Il Sung died in the early 1990’s the nation mourned for years. Kim Jong-Il, son of Kim Il Sung, succeeded his father in 1994 and remains a revered leader. The politics of North Korea, including nuclear weaponry development, also remain relevant in today’s news and world politics.
The DVD is 52 minutes in length; sections pertaining to the years of colonization, communism and the Juche national philosophy can be shown separately to address specific instructional objectives.