Dear Pyongyang

Director: Yonghi Yang
Screenwriters: Yonghi Yang

Institute History

  • 2006 Sundance Film Festival


For many, North Korea remains an abstract, shrouded place. With few stories to draw on, our sense of how North Koreans reconcile with their "fatherland" is limited. Dear Pyongyang is a fascinating, poignant exploration by a Japanese-born ethnic Korean of her father's fierce loyalty, and her own resistance, to the North Korean cause.

As a teenager, the filmmaker's father, Mr. Yang, emigrated from South Korea to Japan. His experiences of Japanese occupation, Korea's subsequent division, and the Korean War molded him into a Marxist and self-proclaimed North Korean. Like many zainichi (Koreans residing in Japan), he dedicated himself to the vision of a unified, Communist Korea, leading a movement that championed Kim Il Sung. Then in 1971, in the ultimate ideological sacrifice, he sent his three sons—ages 14, 16, and 18—to Pyongyang, North Korea, forever.

Thirty years later, Yonghi Yang, his youngest child, raised with the privileges of modern Japan, lovingly probes her father about his radical choices. She films multiple trips to Pyongyang, offering unprecedented access to North Korean daily life and the painful realities of familial separation. Her playful sessions, at times antagonistic, reveal a man at once rigid in his beliefs and surprisingly accommodating to change. Unafraid to confront complexity, Yang crafts a father-daughter story of geographic and spiritual diaspora, and of political and personal devotion.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards


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