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No “Interview?” Rest Assured There Is Plenty to Watch and Read about North Korea
December 23, 2014

No “Interview?” Rest Assured There Is Plenty to Watch and Read about North Korea

Although Sony Studio’s “The Interview” may never be shown on the silver screen, there is plenty to watch and read about North Korea. HRNK wishes to put forward the following list of recommended movies, documentaries, books and reports, illuminating the tragedy of divided Korea, the gravity and scale of North Korea’s human rights violations, and the tyrannical nature of its leaders. 


  • The Berlin File (Ryoo Seung-wan; 2013): A North Korean agent in Berlin is betrayed and cut loose in the midst of a financial espionage intrigue. Together with his wife, a translator at the North Korean embassy in Berlin, they try to escape being purged, as North and South Korean operatives relentlessly pursue them.
  • Crossing (Kim Tae-gyun; 2008): The movie is based on a real story about the life of a North Korean defector and his family. Actor Cha In-pyo stars as a North Korean coal miner who crossed illegally into China to get medicine for his wife. His wife passed away soon after he crossed the border and he was separated from his 11-year-old son (played by Shin Myung-chul) who was trying to find him from North Korea. The story shares the hardship of North Korean refugees in the late 1990s, with famine striking the country and killing an estimated 1 million people. The North Koreans could not cross into South Korea directly because of landmines and heavy military presence. At the border, these defectors had to cross into China and made a detour to South Korea instead. The Chinese government, an ally of the North Korean regime, does not recognize the defectors as refugees and would send them back to North Korea to face violence and even death.
  • Joint Security Area (Park Chan-wook; 2000): After a shootout at the join security area at the border of the two Koreas, when two soldiers were murdered, Major Sophie E. Jean is assigned by the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission to investigate the incident. The Major finds lack of consistency in the statements of the survivors, and in spite of being pressed by her superior, she interviews South Koreans Sergeant Lee Soo-hyeok and Private Nam Sung-shik, and the North Korean Sergeant Oh Kyeong-pil, disclosing a tragic story of friendship.
  • The Journals of Musan (Park Jung-bum; 2011): Jeon Seungchul's citizen registration number brands him as a North Korean defector. It is difficult to find a good job and it's hard to get along with people at church. He is not an ex-convict or a migrant worker, but he is subjected to much discrimination. Like the stray dog he looks after, Jeon Seungchul is a misfit in South Korea's capitalist society.
  • Swiri (Kang Je-gyu; 1999): North and South Korean superspies battle and fall in love.
  • Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (Kang Je-gyu; 2004): A drama about the fate of brothers forced to fight in the Korean War.



  • Exodus Out of North Korea (Channel A; 2012): For the first time, a group of fifteen North Koreans flee the country as a group. This documentary follows their journey for twenty days as they risk their lives and the lives for their families to find freedom. The temperature drops to -20 degree Celsius around the Amnok River region in North Korea. These people risk their lives to cross this icy river. This is the story of their miraculous exodus out of North Korea.
  • Camp 14: Total Control Zone (Mark Wiese; 2012): Shin Dong-hyuk was born on November 19, 1983 as a political prisoner in a North Korean re-education camp. He is a child of two prisoners who had been married by order of the wardens. He spent his entire childhood and youth in Camp 14, in fact a death camp. He underwent forced labor since he was six years old and suffered from hunger, beatings, and torture, always at the mercy of the wardens. He knew nothing about the world outside the barbed-wire fences. At the age of 23, with the help of an older prisoner, he managed to escape. For months he traveled through North Korea and China and finally to South Korea, where he encountered a world completely strange to him.
  • Kimjongilia (N.C. Heikin; 2009): North Korean defectors tell their stories of repression, escape and hope.
  • Yodok Stories (Andrzej Fidyk and Torstein Grude; 2008): Today, more than 200,000 men, women, and children are locked up in North Korea's political prison camps. Systematic torture, starvation, and murder are what face the inmates. Few survive many years in the camps, but the population is kept stable by a steady influx of new persons considered to be 'class enemies'. A small group of people managed to flee from the camps to start a new life in prosperous South Korea. Some of them gather and decide to make an extraordinary and controversial musical about their experiences in the Yodok political prison camp. Despite death threats and many obstacles, the musical becomes a tour de force for this ensemble of refugees and for them a possibility opens to talk about their experiences and inspire others to protest the existence of the camps.
  • Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story (Patty Kim & Chris Sheridan; 2006): A documentary on a 13-year-old Japanese girl abducted by North Korean spies.
  • Juche Strong (Rob Montz; 2012): International observers have been predicting North Korea's imminent economic implosion for over two decades. And yet, the country persists. How? 'Juche Strong' provides an answer. This film explores the most pernicious misconceptions of the country and argues that the propaganda-fueled national ideology has played an integral role in its survival. The Kim regime has crafted a very specific national ideology designed to tap into the unique cultural and religious heritage of the Korean people. The film is grounded in interviews with over a dozen prominent North Korean scholars. It also includes interviews with a North Korean defector now living in the United States and world-renowned evolutionary psychologist Jonathan Haidt. The director visited and filmed in North Korea in the summer of 2012.
  • Seoul Train (Jim Butterworth, Lisa Sleeth, and Aaron Lubarsky; 2004): The gripping documentary exposé into the life and death of North Koreans as they try to escape their homeland and China.
  • A State of Mind (Daniel Gordon; 2005): A British documentary that follows two young North Korean girls as they prepare for the Mass Games, the world's largest choreographed gymnastics performance.
  • North Korea: A Day in the Life (Peter Fleury; 2004): Dutch documentary on daily life in Pyongyang, especially focusing on one family’s life.


Video recordings of HRNK’s conferences, seminars, and Congressional hearings are available at HRNK.ORG. Of recent events, we would recommend:

A presentation by Ambassador Winston Lord, HRNK Board member and Q&A featuring him and Ambassador Donald Gregg at an HRNK-NYU Law event (November 11, 2014):

International Human Rights: North Korea, China and the UN  


A presentation by UN COI chief commissioner Michael Kirby and his exchange with a North Korean official, at an event co-sponsored by HRNK, held in the main ECOSOC chamber at the UN in New York City (October 22, 2014):

Epic Exchange Between Justice Kirby and DPRK Councilor Kim Song


For those interested in more in-depth analyses:

All of HRNK’s publications can be found at



Books: Memoirs, Narratives, and Novels

  • Aquariums of Pyongyang (Kang Chol-hwan & Pierre Rigoulot; 2005)
  • Dear Leader (Jang Jin-sung; 2014)
  • Escape from Camp 14 (Blaine Harden; 2012)
  • The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot (Blaine Harden; 2015)
  • Only Beautiful, Please: A British Diplomat in North Korea (John Everard; 2012)
  • Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Barbara Demick; 2009)
  • The Orphan Master’s Son: A Novel (Adam Johnson; 2012)
  • The Reluctant Communist (Charles Robert Jenkins & Jim Frederick; 2009)

Books: State & Society

  • The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future (Victor Cha; 2012)
  • The Last Days of Kim Jong-il (Bruce Bechtol; 2013)
  • North Korea through the Looking Glass (Ralph Hassig & Katy Oh; 2000)
  • Over the Line: North Korea’s Negotiating Strategy (Chuck Downs; 1999)
  • Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader (Bradley Martin; 2004)
  • Paved with Good Intentions: The NGO Experience in North Korea
    (Gordon Flake & Scott Snyder; 2003)
  • Kim Il-song’s North Korea (Helen-Louise Hunter; 1999)

Books: The Economy, Famine, and Refugees

  • Escape from North Korea (Melanie Kirkpatrick; 2012)
  • Famine in North Korea (Stephan Haggard & Marcus Noland; 2007)
  • The Great North Korean Famine (Andrew Natsios; 2001)
  • The North Korean Economy (Nicholas Eberstadt; 2007)

In this submission, HRNK focuses its attention on the following issues in the DPRK: The status of the system of detention facilities, where a multitude of human rights violations are ongoing. The post-COVID human security and human rights status of North Korean women, with particular attention to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The issue of Japanese abductees and South Korean prisoners of war (POWs), abductees, and unjust detainees.

North Korea's Political Prison Camp, Kwan-li-so No. 25, Update
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., Greg Scarlatoiu, Raymond Ha
Feb 17, 2024

This report provides an abbreviated update to our previous reports on a long-term political prison commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as Kwan-li-so No. 25 by providing details of activity observed during 2021–2023. This report was originally published on Tearline at https://www.tearline.mil/public_page/prison-camp-25.

This report explains how the Kim regime organizes and implements its policy of human rights denial using the Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD) to preserve and strengthen its monolithic system of control. The report also provides detailed background on the history of the PAD, as well as a human terrain map that details present and past PAD leadership.

HRNK's latest satellite imagery report analyzes a 5.2 km-long switchback road, visible in commercial satellite imagery, that runs from Testing Tunnel No. 1 at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test facility to the perimeter of Kwan-li-so (political prison camp) no. 16.

This report proposes a long-term, multilateral legal strategy, using existing United Nations resolutions and conventions, and U.S. statutes that are either codified or proposed in appended model legislation, to find, freeze, forfeit, and deposit the proceeds of the North Korean government's kleptocracy into international escrow. These funds would be available for limited, case-by-case disbursements to provide food and medical care for poor North Koreans, and--contingent upon Pyongyang's progress

National Strategy for Countering North Korea
Joseph, Collins, DeTrani, Eberstadt, Enos, Maxwell, Scarlatoiu
Jan 23, 2023

For thirty years, U.S. North Korea policy have sacrificed human rights for the sake of addressing nuclear weapons. Both the North Korean nuclear and missile programs have thrived. Sidelining human rights to appease the North Korean regime is not the answer, but a fundamental flaw in U.S. policy. (Published by the National Institute for Public Policy)

North Korea’s forced labor enterprise and its state sponsorship of human trafficking certainly continued until the onset of the COVID pandemic. HRNK has endeavored to determine if North Korean entities responsible for exporting workers to China and Russia continued their activities under COVID as well.

George Hutchinson's The Suryong, the Soldier, and Information in the KPA is the second of three building blocks of a multi-year HRNK project to examine North Korea's information environment. Hutchinson's thoroughly researched and sourced report addresses the circulation of information within the Korean People's Army (KPA). Understanding how KPA soldiers receive their information is needed to prepare information campaigns while taking into account all possible contingenc

North Korea’s Political Prison Camp, Kwan-li-so No. 14, Update 1
Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., Greg Scarlatoiu, and Amanda Mortwedt Oh
Dec 22, 2021

This report is part of a comprehensive long-term project undertaken by HRNK to use satellite imagery and former prisoner interviews to shed light on human suffering in North Korea by monitoring activity at political prison facilities throughout the nation. This is the second HRNK satellite imagery report detailing activity observed during 2015 to 2021 at a prison facility commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as “Kwan-li-so No. 14 Kaech’ŏn” (39.646810, 126.117058) and

North Korea's Long-term Prison-Labor Facility, Kyo-hwa-so No.3, T’osŏng-ni (토성리)
Joseph S Bermudez Jr, Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda Oh, & Rosa Tokola
Nov 03, 2021

This report is part of a comprehensive long-term project undertaken by HRNK to use satellite imagery and former prisoner interviews to shed light on human suffering in North Korea by monitoring activity at civil and political prison facilities throughout the nation. This study details activity observed during 1968–1977 and 2002–2021 at a prison facility commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as "Kyo-hwa-so No. 3, T'osŏng-ni" and endeavors to e

North Korea’s Political Prison Camp, Kwan-li-so No. 25, Update 3
Joseph S Bermudez Jr, Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda Oh, & Rosa Tokola
Sep 30, 2021

This report is part of a comprehensive long-term project undertaken by HRNK to use satellite imagery and former detainee interviews to shed light on human suffering in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, more commonly known as North Korea) by monitoring activity at political prison facilities throughout the nation. This report provides an abbreviated update to our previous reports on a long-term political prison commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as Kwan-li-so

North Korea’s Potential Long-Term  Prison-Labor Facility at Sŏnhwa-dong (선화동)
Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda Oh, & Rosa Park
Aug 26, 2021

Through satellite imagery analysis and witness testimony, HRNK has identified a previously unknown potential kyo-hwa-so long-term prison-labor facility at Sŏnhwa-dong (선화동) P’ihyŏn-gun, P’yŏngan-bukto, North Korea. While this facility appears to be operational and well maintained, further imagery analysis and witness testimony collection will be necessary in order to irrefutably confirm that Sŏnhwa-dong is a kyo-hwa-so.

North Korea’s Long-term Prison-Labor Facility Kyo-hwa-so No. 8, Sŭngho-ri (승호리) - Update
Joseph S Bermudez, Jr, Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda M Oh, & Rosa Park
Jul 22, 2021

"North Korea’s Long-term Prison-Labor Facility Kyo-hwa-so No. 8, Sŭngho-ri (승호리) - Update" is the latest report under a long-term project employing satellite imagery analysis and former political prisoner testimony to shed light on human suffering in North Korea's prison camps.

Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Korea: The Role of the United Nations" is HRNK's 50th report in our 20-year history. This is even more meaningful as David Hawk's "Hidden Gulag" (2003) was the first report published by HRNK. In his latest report, Hawk details efforts by many UN member states and by the UN’s committees, projects and procedures to promote and protect human rights in the DPRK.  The report highlights North Korea’s shifts in its approach

South Africa’s Apartheid and North Korea’s Songbun: Parallels in Crimes against Humanity by Robert Collins underlines similarities between two systematically, deliberately, and thoroughly discriminatory repressive systems. This project began with expert testimony Collins submitted as part of a joint investigation and documentation project scrutinizing human rights violations committed at North Korea’s short-term detention facilities, conducted by the Committee for Human Rights