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Pulgasari poster japan.jpg
Japanese theatrical release poster
McCune–Reischauer Pulgasari
Revised Romanization Bulgasari
Directed by Shin Sang-ok
Chong Gon Jo
Produced by Kim Jong-il
Shin Sang-ok
Written by Kim Se Ryun
Starring Chang Son Hui
Ham Gi Sop
Jong-uk Ri
Gwon Ri
Gyong-ae Yu
Music by So Jong Gon
Cinematography Cho Myong Hyon
Pak Sung Ho
Kenichi Eguchi
Edited by Kim Ryon Sun
Korean Film Studio
Distributed by Korean Film Studio
Release dates
  • 1985 (1985) (North Korea)
  • July 4, 1998 (1998-07-04) (Japan)
Running time
95 minutes
Country North Korea
Language Korean

Pulgasari (Chosŏn'gŭl불가사리; RRBulgasari) is a 1985 North Korean 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.[1]

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.[1] 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.[1]

Teruyoshi Nakano and the staff from Japan's Toho Studios, the creators of Godzilla, participated in creating the film's special effects.[1]


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 creates a tiny figurine of a monster by making a doll of rice. When it comes into contact with the blood of the blacksmith's daughter, the creature springs to life, becoming a giant metal-eating monster named Pulgasari.

The evil King becomes aware that there is a rebellion being planned in the country, which he intends to crush, but he runs into Pulgasari, who fights with the peasant army to overthrow the corrupt monarchy.


The film is based around a legendary creature called the "Pulgasari" (or "Bulgasari").[2] The original story was set in the city of Songdo (now Kaesong, North Korea).


Teruyoshi Nakano and the staff from Japan's Toho studios, the creators of Godzilla, participated in creating the film's special effects.[1] Kenpachiro Satsuma – the stunt performer who played Godzilla from 1984 to 1995 – portrayed Pulgasari. When the American Godzilla remake was released in Japan in 1998, Satsuma was quoted as saying he preferred Pulgasari to the American Godzilla.[3]

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.[1][4][5]

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.[6]

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 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 and eventually rekindled their romantic relationship while in captivity – 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.[1]

The 2016 British documentary The Lovers and the Despot narrates and analyzes the story of Sang-ok and Eun-hee's captivity. It is directed by Ross Adam and Robert Cannan and it stars Choi Eun-hee, who revives the couple's ordeal and explains it in detail.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Backrow Banter, The Dear Leader, The Director And The Director’s Wife
  2. ^ Choe, Sang-Hun; Torchia, Christopher (2002). "Eat, Eat: Rice Is Everything". How Koreans Talk. pp. 024–025. ISBN 89-87976-95-5. He ate like a Bulgasari eating metal. 
  3. ^ First NK Monster Faces Hollywood-Born Godzilla in Japan The People's Korea
  4. ^ "A KIM JONG IL PRODUCTION". New Yorker. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Taylor, Ben. Apocalypse on the Set: Nine Disastrous Film Productions. Overlook Hardcover. pp. 168–169. ISBN 146830013X. 
  6. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/film/2003/apr/04/artsfeatures1
  7. ^ The Lovers and the Despot (2016) IMDb

External links[edit]