The Lovers & the Despot

The Lovers & the Despot

Ross Adam (2016)

PG Certificate


Our Score
Here's a true story as engrossing and unbelievable as the most far-fetched spy fiction. In 1978, acclaimed South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee was lured to Hong Kong with the promise of work, only to go missing. Her former husband, the director Shin Sang-ok, followed her trail and came to the same mysterious fate. It transpired that both had been abducted and taken to North Korea, where despotic leader Kim Jong-il had plans to use them to invigorate the country's flagging film industry. In this documentary by co-directors Robert Cannan and Ross Adam, Choi reveals what happened during her and Shin's time in captivity, her testimony borne out by the secret recordings she made of conversations with the normally reticent dictator - which prove a revelation in themselves. There is the odd glaring gap in how events are presented (Shin isn't around to speak for himself), but this story is a real one of a kind. And it takes on an even more fascinating dimension when it is revealed how the kidnapped couple were given complete control over their work in the communist North - something denied them in the democratic South - prompting the question, could they sacrifice professional success for personal freedom?


In Korean, Japanese and English.

Cast & Crew

Choi Eun-hee Choi Eun-hee
Shin Sang-ok Shin Sang-ok
Director Ross Adam
Director Robert Cannan

Other Information

Language: Korean, Japanese, English +subtitlesColourTheatrical distributor: Soda PicturesAvailable on: DVDReleased on: 23 Sep 2016