In an effort to champion democracy and undermine totalitarian propaganda, College of the Canyons media instructor and The Hollywood Reporter (THR) journalist Paul Bond flew out to South Korea this past April for live coverage of planned air ballooned drops of the Sony film “The Interview” into North Korean territory.
“This isn’t about just making a statement on free speech,” said Bond of the movement he profiled.
“Most of these activists are defectors who escaped North Korea. They were tortured, their family members were executed, and they all have gut-wrenching stories to tell about their lives in North Korea. The purpose of smuggling this film is to embarrass the Kim regime and to illustrate Kim Jong Un as he appears to the rest of the world — an object of ridicule.”
With an active duty army of 1.2 million, as well as its possession of nuclear weapons, some have argued that the North Korean military dictatorship is one of the most prominent threats to international security in the 21st century. For South Koreans that align with this stance, the North Korean government’s drastic response to “The Interview” was an affirmation of that argument.
On April 15, Bond witnessed a successful 10,000 DVD balloon drop led by Park Sang Hak, a former North Korean government employee who escaped the dictatorship with his family through a series of bribes and harrowing swims across the Amnok River into China.
The launch capped a long week in which activists were repeatedly shut down by South Korean officials, who according to Bond feared that the balloon drops would be met with North Korean retaliation.
“It was surprising to see how strenuous the objection in South Korea was,” Bond added. “The first time the cops descended on us, that was a news story repeated over and over and over for the whole week I was there.”
Featured in Bond’s coverage for THR is Jung Gwang II, a former North Korean citizen who was tortured and sentenced to work in a prison camp before escaping to South Korea.
Now 51, Jung smuggles Western media into his homeland along with other activists- many of whom nestled 12-minute subtitled edits of the movie in between snippets of state- sanctioned propaganda in order to trick North Korean authorities.
But while the subject matter of the Seth Rogen comedy flick creates an obviously contentious situation in Korean territories, it is far from being the first American movie to go airborne.
“This film and other outside media is so explosive to a deprived populace ignorant of the outside world,” added Bond. “It can actually stir the people to revolt, which is the ultimate goal of the activists.”
According to Bond, who has since returned to the United States, South Korean activist Lee Min Bok has sent copies of “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Pearl Harbor” across North Korean air space in the past.
Sometimes desperate times call for a laugh, or two.