By Lee Hyo-won
SEOUL—North Korea has officially condemned The Interview, calling the James Franco and Seth Rogen film’s plot about a mission to assassinate Kim Jong Un “an act of war.” This is not, however, the first time the reclusive country has reacted so strongly to a Hollywood movie.
Here are five other films that the hermit kingdom has denounced, banned and even used to spread its own political propaganda.
1. Die Another Day (2002)
Kim Myong-chol, executive director of the Centre for North Korea-U.S. Peace and an unofficial spokesman for Kim Jong Un’s regime, was one of the first to vehemently criticize The Interview and Hollywood cinema in general. In his remarks, he said he was more partial to British films, noting that “James Bond is a good character, and those films are much more enjoyable.” He must have forgotten that the British spy was also proclaimed an enemy of the authoritarian state not too long ago.
The 2002 Bond film Die Another Day depicts a delusional, nuke-dealing North Korean villain, reaffirming the U.S.’s designation of North Korea as part of the world’s “axis of evil.” This must have been especially offensive to the former North Korean dear leader, the late Kim Jong Il, as he was known to have been an avid fan of the James Bond franchise.
In a statement, the country’s Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, called Die Another Day “a dirty and cursed burlesque aimed to slander North Korea and insult the Korean nation.”
It called for the film to be removed from theaters across the globe, and accused the U.S. of being “an empire of evil” that spreads “abnormality, degeneration, violence and fin de siècle corrupt sex culture.”
2. Team America: World Police (2004)
North Korean diplomats were not pleased when Trey Parker and Matt Stone created a marionette of Kim Jong Il and lampooned him as an insecure megalomaniac who is secretly an alien cockroach.
The diplomats lobbied — albeit to little avail — to have the film banned in the Czech Republic. “It harms the image of our country,” they said. “Such behavior is not part of our country’s political culture.”
3. The Red Chapel (2010)
Danish filmmaker Mads Brugger was called “an animal” for directing this documentary on North Korea.
In The Red Chapel, Brugger hilariously captures his sojourn to the reclusive country with a pair of Danish-Korean comedians, offering subversive observations of North Korea while being there under the pretense of a cultural exchange program.
The North Korean ambassador to Stockholm sent a fax to the Danish Broadcasting Corp., according to Brugger, that said: “The difference between man and animal is that man has a conscience, and that [Brugger] has no conscience, and therefore must be an animal.”
4. & 5. Red Dawn (2012), Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen both portray the archetypal North Korean terrorist bringing his threats directly to America — the latter, in particular, shows an explosive attack on the White House by a hijacked AC-130 gunship raining hellfire from its M-134 Miniguns.
North Korea, however, seemed to take little offense on this occasion. Instead, the country used the two films as an affirmation of the incredible power and prowess of its military, releasing a propaganda video featuring footage from the films.
Uriminzokkiri TV, part of a North Korean government-controlled website Uriminzokkiri, posted a three-minute spot titled “Movie on Capture of White House Is a Movie on Playing Combat” in April 2013.
"These days Hollywood has made a movie of us capturing the White House and is circulating it," a statement in the video says, later adding: "The aggressors and their follower forces must not miscalculate: our millions of soldiers and people possess the means for merciless nuclear strike and possess extraordinary spiritual strength."
Photo credits: Columbia Pictures, Keith Hamshere, Paramount Pictures, ©The Red Chapel, Everett Collection