Meeting North Korean Movie Stars

 Walking with the stars

Walking with the stars

 Touring the studio grounds

Touring the studio grounds

The closest I have ever been to celebrity-dom was 2 years ago on a business trip for Bain & Co. I was wandering the streets of New Orleans and chanced upon the filming of an episode of True Blood. Being stuffy and boring, it was only after I posted a photo of the scene on Facebook that I realized I was in the proximity of stardom. This all changed recently.

Thanks to Tatiana Gabroussenko, a researcher at Australia National University and scholar on North Korean cinema, I managed to not only stand in the proximity of North Korean starlets, but to even order drinks for them while Tatiana interviewed them! Tatiana had joined a Choson Exchange trip to attend the Pyongyang Intenational Science and Technology Bookfair. Our North Korean colleagues, knowing Tatiana’s interest, kindly arranged for her to interview a scriptwriter, actor and actress of 90s movie “도시처녀 시집봐요” (Urban Girl Goes to Get Married). You can watch the movie here, and hear the title song, incidentally my favorite North Korean song.

 "Did you really kiss?"

"Did you really kiss?"

The romantic comedy revolves around a Pyongyang-dwelling lady (played by Ri Kyong Sim) who dates and ends up marrying someone from the countryside (played by Ri Gun Ho). Tatiana, a walking encyclopedia on North Korean films, explained that the movie caused a stir among South Korean scholars when it first came out, as it supposedly showed the first on-screen kiss in DPRK cinematic history…or maybe not. Ri Gun Ho and Ri Kyong Sim laughed as they explained that it was a hug filmed to look like a kiss. And so we solve this 20 year-old controversy. 

The artists we met explained that it was important that their sector better understand “world trends and tastes” and asked us if we would consider exchanges in this sector.