Director Says N.Korean Human Rights Abuses Mustn't Be Forgotten
"The Gift of Love," a film highlighting the human rights abuses the North Korean people suffer, has been nominated for best movie and best actress at the Milan International Film Festival, which takes place from May 21 to June 13.
Directed by Gim Gyu-min, himself a North Korean defector, the film follows a disabled veteran who was fiercely loyal to the North Korean leader and the Workers Party and his wife who ends up in prostitution to support her family.
Gim said he made the film based on true stories that he witnessed in North Korea. "The story is about a family in Hwanghae Province but is really representative of all North Korean people. I wanted to the world to know that what they saw during the recent inter-Korean summit is not the whole truth about North Korea."
Born in North Korea in 1974, Gim worked as an actor in a troupe under the Workers Party. After the great famine of the 1990s, Gim fled in 2000 and settled in South Korea the following year.
He graduated in filmmaking at Hanyang University in Seoul in 2006, and has been making films on human rights issues in North Korea ever since.
One wall of his office in Seoul is packed with books on human rights in North Korea. Gim said he interviewed over 100 North Korean defectors before he started making the film.
"I wanted it to be as real and vivid as possible in portraying the horrific conditions in which North Korean people live," he said. "There is no humor in my films. I want to depict reality in North Korea as it is, without worrying about commercial success."
Gim said he could not watch TV for some time after the historic summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He felt helpless as he watched the North Korean regime being glamorized.
"Many people were fascinated by the images of Kim smiling and shaking hands with Moon. It felt like all my efforts trying to let the world know about terrible human rights abuses in North Korea were going down the drain," Gim said.
"I was shocked at reading some online comments that human rights should not be discussed as this would be an obstacle to achieving peace in the Korean Peninsula. It pains me to see how films on North Korean human rights are more appreciated outside South Korea."
The winners will be announced during the festival, around the time when the first ever summit between a North Korean leader and a U.S. president takes place in Singapore on June 12.
It could not be more timely. "I'm grateful that a big international film festival is paying attention to the suffering of North Koreans at this time," Gim said. "I hope to contribute to reunification by continuing to make films on North Korean human rights issues. If I keep making my voice heard, I'm sure the day will come sooner."