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A First Letter from an Unknown Country

​​62km and 215km are the distances from Seoul to Panmunjom and from Panmunjom to Pyeongyang respectively. Around 280km in total, these days it is no great distance but until now, such distances would be unimaginable, just a bunch of meaningless numbers. Korea is the only remaining divided country where war could break out at any time – while a cease-fire is maintained, the war has not officially ended. Recently, everything has changed. It was hard to imagine what North Korea was like and how people lived there, but over the last few months, it has become a palpable place with the possibility of exchange appearing in diverse fields.
This year’s BIFAN has prepared a small but special event to show North Korean films that have been largely unknown until now. People’s real lives and imagination are always integrated in movies. It is through film that the majority of people discover how places they’ve never seen before look. Under the title ‘The First Letter from an Unknown Country’, will be shown at BIFAN: 3 feature films and 6 short films made in North Korea from the 1980s. Pulgasari, a classic monster film, was released in 2000 in Korea as the first North Korean Film. Comrade Kim Goes Flying, a co-production between North Korea, the UK and Belgium is perhaps the best known to the general public. The Story of Our Home won the Best Film award at 2016 Pyeongyang Film Festival, and finally, Let’s Keep the Traffic Order, an animated cartoon series campaigning for compliance with traffic order: These 6 films are waiting for Korean viewers. Pulgasari was completed by director Chong Gon-jo after director Shin Sang-ok escaped from North Korea while making it. Known for the contributions from the Japanese crew who worked on Godzilla, it is another typical Korean monster movie that will be welcomed by BIFAN viewers. The Story of Our Home and Let’s Keep the Traffic Order, North Korea’s most recent masterpieces, are introduced to Korean viewers for the first time. In particular, the animated cartoon series, Let’s Keep the Traffic Order, indicates the present state of North Korea’s animation, which once enjoyed the best animation production standards and is a future blueprint for the cutting edge city that North Korea dreams of, which is worthy of note.
This special screening of North Korean Films has been achieved with the help of Ministry of Unification, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korean Film Archive, and it will represent the first greetings between South and North Korea, which are as yet unfamiliar. Recently, diverse and hopeful discussions about an earnest exchange in film, such as co-productions between the two countries and filming in North Korea, are under way. Wishing this event sows small seeds for serious future exchanges and to share more future letters with each other, we introduce the first film letter from the unknown country. (MO Eun-young)