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Japanese poster
Directed byShin Sang-ok
Written byKim Se Ryun
Based onBulgasari (1962)
by Kim Myeong-je
Produced by
  • Kenpachiro Satsuma
  • Chang Son Hui
  • Ham Gi Sop
  • Jong-uk Ri
  • Gwon Ri
  • Gyong-ae Yu
  • Cho Myong Hyon
  • Pak Sung Ho
  • Kenichi Eguchi
Edited byKim Ryon Sun
Music bySo Jong Gon
  • Korean Film Studio
  • Shin Films[1]
Distributed byKorean Film Studio
Release date
  • 1985 (1985) (North Korea)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryNorth Korea

Pulgasari (Korean불가사리; RRBulgasari) is a 1985 North Korean kaiju film directed by South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok. The film is based on the legend of Pulgasari, a metal-eating creature in Korean folklore,[2] and is loosely based on the lost 1962 South Korean film Bulgasari.[3][4] Director Shin directed the film under the orders of Kim Jong Il (then-heir apparent) after he was kidnapped in 1978 by North Korean intelligence. Pulgasari was the last of several films he made in North Korea before escaping to the United States in 1986.[5]

While never officially released in most parts of the world, the film is available online[6] with countries like the United States considering the movie as part of the public domain.[7][better source needed]


In feudal Korea, during the Goryeo Dynasty, a king controls the land with an iron fist, subjecting the peasantry to misery and starvation. An old blacksmith who was sent to prison for defending his people creates a tiny figurine of a monster by making a doll of rice and before dying asks the gods of earth and sky to make his creation a living creature that protects the rebels and the oppressed. When the figurine comes into contact with the blood of the blacksmith's daughter, the creature springs to life, becoming a giant metal-eating monster whom the blacksmith's daughter names Pulgasari, which is the name of the mythical monster her father used to mention as an eater of iron and steel.[8] Pulgasari now shares a special bond with the blacksmith's daughter, and after he starts eating some of the farmer's tools, becomes a giant and powerful figure.

After much suffering, the peasants form an army, storm the palace of the region's Governor and kill him. Soon after the evil king becomes aware that there is a rebellion being planned in the country and he intends to crush it, but he runs into Pulgasari, who fights with the peasant army to overthrow the corrupt monarchy.[8] Pulgasari wins many battles because of his unending hunger for all kind of metal, readily provided by its enemies. Nevertheless, after capturing and executing the leader of the rebellion (who was also the future husband of the blacksmith's daughter), the king's army threatens to kill the blacksmith's daughter if Pulgasari does not surrender. Pulgasari lets itself be trapped to save the woman, and the royal army apparently kills the creature by burying it under the ground. After escaping, the blacksmith's daughter revives Pulgasari by again pouring some of her blood on the burial site. Pulgasari grows strong once more and attacks the king's palace, destroying it and simultaneously killing the king.

After the defeat of the king, Pulgasari becomes a new problem, since he starts eating the rebel's weapons and farmer's tools, which are given to the creature without objection, since the peasants still believe Pulgasari is a benign savior. The blacksmith's daughter realizes that Pulgasari's hunger will never stop, and that he is inadvertently oppressing the people he fought for. She decides to sacrifice herself by hiding inside a big bell that Pulgasari finds and quickly eats. Pulgasari yells in anguish as the blacksmith's daughter's presence in its system causes it to turn to stone and crumble into pieces, tragically killing both of them, but saving the people once and for all.


  • Chang Son Hui as Ami
  • Ham Gi Sop as Inde
  • Jong-uk Ri as Ana
  • Gwon Ri as Takse
  • Gyong-ae Yu as Inde's Mother
  • Hye-chol Ro as Inde's Brother
  • Sang-hun Tae as Rebel Forces
  • Gi-chon Kim as Rebel Forces
  • In-chol Ri as Rebel Forces
  • Riyonun Ri as General Fuan
  • Yong-hok Pak as The King
  • Pong-ilk Pak as The Governor
  • Kenpachiro Satsuma as Pulgasari
  • "Little Man Machan" as Baby Pulgasari


The film is based around a legendary creature called the "Pulgasari" (or "Bulgasari").[9] The original story was set in the city of Songdo (now Kaesong, North Korea).


The film was a loose remake of a lost 1962 film directed by Kim Myeong-je, which is believed to be the first Korean kaiju film, predating Yongary, Monster from the Deep and Space Monster Wangmagwi by five years. Kim Jong Il was a lifelong admirer of the director, as well as Godzilla and other kaiju films. He kidnapped the former director Shin Sang-ok and his wife, famous actress Choi Eun-hee, with the specific purpose of making fantasy/propaganda films for the North Korean government. Kim also produced Pulgasari (through Korean Film Studio) and all the films that Shin 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.[10]

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.[11][12]

The film's special effects were done by Duk Ho Kim, supervised by Teruyoshi Nakano.[citation needed]


Kenpachiro Satsuma was quoted as saying he preferred Pulgasari to TriStar's Godzilla.[13] 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 both a metaphor for Kim Il Sung betraying a people's revolution for his own purposes and as a plea to the North Korean people to rise up against the Kim regime, represented by Pulgasari demanding his subjects fed him more and more iron farming equipment even after the former regime has been defeated, leading to the workers turning against and ultimately defeating their former savior.[8]

After finding out that his credit was removed from the movie, Shin Sang-ok wrote a remake called The Adventures of Galgameth in 1996. Pulgasari became the first North Korean film to be released in South Korean theaters in 2000.[14] Ten years later in 2006, Pulgasari made its New York debut at the end of Columbia University Japanese culture center's year-long "Godzilla festival."[11]

Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee's story[edit]

Pulgasari has gained some popularity over the years because of the shocking story of Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee's kidnapping by the North Korean government. During their captivity in the country, 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.[1] Pulgasari was made in 1985, the same year that Shin's North Korean films Salt and The Tale of Shim Chong were released.[15] It was the last film directed by Shin before he and Choi escaped to the United States.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Peralta, Eyder (December 19, 2011). "'Pulgasari': Kim Jong Il's Giant Monster Film". The Two-Way. NPR. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  2. ^ Ozaki, Kazuo (December 3, 2018). "監督との対話から見える『グエムル -漢江の怪物-』の輪郭". thecinema.jp. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  3. ^ Do-yeon, Lee (April 29, 2019). "무주산골영화제 개막작은 북한 영화 '불가사리'" [The North Korean film Pulgasari is the opening film of the Muju Mountain Film Festival]. Yonhap News Agency (in Korean). Archived from the original on October 30, 2022. Retrieved October 30, 2022.
  4. ^ Wiggins, Brent (October 13, 2022). "Pulgasari: A Look at the North Korean Kaiju Movie". MovieWeb. Archived from the original on October 13, 2022. Retrieved October 30, 2022.
  5. ^ Backrow Banter, The Dear Leader, The Director And The Director’s Wife
  6. ^ Pulgasari (1985) | Shin Sang-ok | 4K Remastered [FULL MOVIE], retrieved 2023-07-28
  7. ^ North Korean Cinema (1985), Pulgasari (1985), retrieved 2023-07-28
  8. ^ a b c Gorenfeld, John (3 April 2003). "The producer from hell". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Choe, Sang-Hun; Torchia, Christopher (2002). "Eat, Eat: Rice Is Everything". How Koreans Talk. 은행나무. pp. 024–025. ISBN 89-87976-95-5. He ate like a Bulgasari eating metal.
  10. ^ Romano, Nick (April 6, 2015). "How Kim Jong Il Kidnapped a Director, Made a Godzilla Knockoff, and Created a Cult Hit". HWD. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  11. ^ a b "A KIM JONG IL PRODUCTION". The New Yorker. 18 April 2005. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  12. ^ Taylor, Ben (2 February 2012). Apocalypse on the Set: Nine Disastrous Film Productions. Overlook Hardcover. pp. 168–169. ISBN 978-1468300130.
  13. ^ First NK Monster Faces Hollywood-Born Godzilla in Japan Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine The People's Korea
  14. ^ "북한 영화: 한국서 북한 영화 9편 상영이 주목되는 이유" (in Korean). BBC. 2018-07-11. Retrieved 2021-08-31.
  15. ^ Schönherr, Johannes (2012). North Korean Cinema: A History. Jefferson: McFarland. pp. 81–82. ISBN 978-0-7864-6526-2.

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