Real lives in North Korea: Three day film event in Australia

14 03 2013

voices-in-exile-poster_smallNorth Korea Film Event in Canberra (20th March, ANU) and Sydney (21st March, Sydney Cheil Church in Strathfield, and 22nd March, University of Sydney).

Panoptic Perspectives is the title of a two-day film event, organized by scholars from institutions in Sydney and Canberra, to be held in venues at the Australian National University, Cheil Church in Strathfield and Sydney University.

The purpose of this event is to offer different perspectives on a phenomenon much discussed in the popular media, but rarely considered beyond the singular, highly politicized and bi-polemic story of good and evil, right and wrong – North Korea.

Through the medium of film, and the discussion by guest speakers that will precede and follow each screening, it is hoped the audience will gain a more nuanced understanding of some of the issues surrounding ‘North Korea’ and the North Korean people.


Alternative Approaches to North Korean Issues. – 22 March 12 PM at Architecture Lecture Theater 3, Wilkinson Building, University of Sydney, co-hosted by Global Social Justice


The Journals of Musan (2011). Directed by Park Jungbum

– 20 March 05:30 PM, Coombs Lecture Theatre, HC Coombs Building (8a), Fellows Road, Australian National University

– 21 March 5:30 PM, Sydney Cheil Church (Sydney St & Concord Rd.)

– 22 March 5:20 PM, Old Geology Lecture Theater (next to Footbridge Theater), University of Sydney, co-hosted by Global Social Justice Network

Q&A with the director (Park Jung-bum) after the screening

A Schoolgirl’s Diary (2007). Directed by Jang In-hak

– 22 March 1:45 PM Architecture Lecture Theater 3, Wilkinson Building, University of Sydney, co-hosted by Global Social Justice Network. Discussion with Dr. Leonid Petrov after the screening

Yodok Stories (2008). Directed by Andrzej Fidyk

– 21 March 2:00 PM Sydney Cheil Church (Sydney St. & Concord Rd.) Discussion with Dr. Leonid Petrov after the screening

Each screening is preceded by a short talk introducing the key themes of the film. Each film will also be followed by a questions and answers session. Guest speakers include Park Jung-bum, director of The Journals of Musan

Admission (access per day): Student $5 Adult $10 (RSVP on the event webpage is recommended to secure your seat)

For more information, go to:


Journals of MusanReleased in South Korea 2011. Synopsis by Markus Bell
Director Park Jungbum said in interviews that he based the main character for The Journals of Musan (무산 일기) on a North Korean friend he met while at university in Seoul. The film highlights several important themes concerning the lives of North Korean refugees. Firstly, that arrival in South Korea is not the end of their struggle to find safety and security; secondly, for better of for worse, organized religion plays an integral role in the lives of these individuals; and thirdly, that ignorance is at the root of much of the prejudice that exists against North Koreans living in South Korea. The Journals of Musan is important in that for the first time, the South Korean public were offered a window into the lives of a few of the 24,000 North Koreans residing in South Korea, many of whom have been through indescribable hardships to arrive in their new home.

Yodok Stories_Andrzej FidykReleased South Korea 2008. Synopsis by Christopher Richardson
For every artist whose career has advanced under the patronage of power, another risked life and reputation to present alternatives to the narratives of the state, whether through graffiti, subversive songs, paintings, or plays. In North Korea, where life is characterized by surveillance and control, such examples are rare. Yodok Stories, first staged in 2006, is perhaps the most famous example. This was a story crying out to be told: a concentration camp, in the early 21st Century, in the heart of East Asia. Although the idea for the musical came from Polish filmmaker, Andrzej Fidyk, its strength comes from the creative participation of so many North Koreans. Yodok Stories is a powerful corrective to the stereotype of defectors as passive victims. Although the bombast, blood and thunder of Yodok Stories might initially seem bizarre, or kitsch, the musical powerfully evokes the aesthetic of North Korean arts, notably the revolutionary operas The Sea of Blood and The Flower Girl. There are more than 24 million North Koreans alive today, and at least as many stories. Both at home and abroad, it is time they were told.

Schoolgirl's DiaryReleased in North Korea 2007, in South Korea 2011. Synopsis by Dr. Leonid Petrov
One of the most successful films produced in North Korea, The Schoolgirl’s Diary is an attempt to resolve the growing conflict between selfish individualism and patriotic self-sacrifice. It chronicles a girl’s life through her school years: one that’s full of the peer pressure and family problems familiar everywhere. Echoing the Russian film Courier (Kuryer) (1986), which struck a chord in Perestroika- stricken Soviet Union, The Schoolgirl’s Diary views the grim realities of life through the eyes of a teenager. If something in the film turns out to be politically unpalatable, the immaturity of youth is blamed—not the film director. For a cash-starved North Korea, this film was an instant success. Viewed by some 8 million people in 2006, it received high praise at the international film festivals in Pyongyang and Cannes.

Local media coverage in Korean:

기획특집 – 노블레스 오블리주운동을 통한 북한이주민돕기 (상)

탈북자 및 북한 문제 관련 영화제 개최

영화 통한 ‘북한 문제’ 조명

재호북한이주민후원회 및 일부 연구자들