Institute History


Kimjongilia, or “Flower of Kim Jong Il” is the name of a red begonia hybrid, created for the Dear Leader on the occasion of his 46th birthday. It is meant to symbolize wisdom, love, justice, and peace.

The people of North Korea are suffering, and up until now, they have been suffering in silence. Kimjongilia gives them a voice for the first time. Through extensive interviews with refugees who have escaped the secretive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea, the film brings to light the worst ongoing crime against humanity in the world today.

All of the escapees and defectors interviewed for the film live in Seoul, South Korea. Because they are beyond the reach of the murderously repressive DPRK, they are able to speak freely. The stories they tell are electrifying. Needless to say, they contrast sharply with NK’s official version of itself.

The film consists entirely of the refugees’ own words. There are fourteen defectors and one South Korean humanitarian included, but no outside commentators or reporters. Some of the defectors, including two who were young children at the time of their incarceration, have survived prison camps. They describe the near starvation, forced labor, and random brutality that formed their daily lives. Then there are two former soldiers who spent nearly twenty years each in military service. Their detailing of the conditions within Kim Jong Il’s vaunted two-million-man army is especially
shocking. A shy young woman quietly speaks of the persecution she and her family suffered as Christians in a state with no religious freedom. Another recounts the tragic heroism of her brother who carried her on his back to China to save her life when she fell deathly ill, only to pay with his own.

The defectors’ testimony is so powerful, images seem almost (almost!) unnecessary. The film presents the characters as simply as possible. Allusive, abstract images, in particular of two Korean dancers, are used mainly to give the viewer breathing space during emotional moments—a chance to absorb what is being said. Some of the escapees wished to remain hidden, so parts of their faces have been tailored into squares and rectangles. These shapes inform a visual style that balances harsh documents with lyrical poetry, without cluttering the testimonies themselves. In order to convey important background information, such as the history of the Korean War, several short, ironically humorous animations are planned, but have not yet been completed.

In addition to their tales of survival and escape, the North Koreans address subjects such as what they thought of the Great Leader when they were growing up or the perils of China for North Korean refugees. Even amid the devastating stories, there are flashes of humor. The film concludes on notes of anger and hope as these humble heroes share their ideas for changing North Korea and their dreams for the future.


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