Pulgasari (Chosŏn'gŭl: 불가사리; RR: Bulgasari) is a 1985 North Korean dark fantasy-action monster film directed by Shin Sang-ok and Chong Gon Jo. The film starred Chang Son Hui and Pak Sung Ho and featured special effects by Duk Ho Kim, supervised by Teruyoshi Nakano. The film was loosely based on the legend of the Bulgasari. Director Shin had been kidnapped in 1978 by North Korean intelligence on the orders of Kim Jong-il, son of the then-ruling Kim Il-sung.
The film is based around a legendary creature called the "Pulgasari" (or "Bulgasari"). The original story was set in the city of Songdo (now Kaesong, North Korea).
Kim was a lifelong admirer of the director, as well as Godzilla and other Kaiju films. He kidnapped the former director and his wife, famous actress Choi Eun-hee, with the specific purpose of making fantasy/propaganda films for the North Korean government. Kim Jong-il also produced Pulgasari (through Korean Film Studio) and all the films that Sang-ok made before he and Choi managed to escape from their minders while on a festival tour in Austria. Specifically, the film was inspired by The Return of Godzilla. The staff from Japan's Toho Studios, the creators of Godzilla, participated in creating the film's special effects. They were tricked into coming as they thought they were filming in China.
Jonathan Ross stated that the film was intended by the North Korean Government to be a propaganda metaphor for the effects of unchecked capitalism and the power of the collective.
Kenpachiro Satsuma was quoted as saying he preferred Pulgasari to TriStar's Godzilla. There has been some speculation that the director Shin Sang-ok included a hidden message of his own in the film; the monster of the movie was to be interpreted as a metaphor for Kim Il-sung betraying a people's revolution for his own purposes.
After finding out that his credit was removed from the movie, Shin Sang-ok also wrote a remake called The Adventures of Galgameth. In 2006, Pulgasari made its New York debut at the end of Columbia University Japanese culture center's yearlong “Godzilla” festival.
Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee's story
Pulgasari has gained some popularity over the years because of the shocking story of Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee's kidnapping at the hands of North Korea's government. During their strange captivity in the country the Shin and Choi were, respectively, director and leading actress in a number of North Korean films produced by Kim Jong-il. The director and leading actress made together a total of seven films, for which the couple – who were separated before their kidnapping – was simultaneously commissioned and forced to do by North Korea's government. However, Pulgasari does not feature Choi, and it was the last film directed by Shin before he and Choi escaped to the United States.