Filmmaker Delves into Fate of N.Korean Orphans in Eastern Europe

  • By Kim Sung-hyun

    June 25, 2020 08:44

    "Kim Il-sung's Children," a documentary shedding light on the fate of North Korean orphans sent to Eastern Europe after the Korean War, hits theaters on Thursday.

    The film by Kim Deog-young delves into the fate of around 5,000 North Korean orphans sent to five Eastern European countries from 1952 to 1960. Kim scoured archives in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic as well as the schools and dormitories where the children studied and lived.

    Kim Deog-young

    The documentary had its Korean premiere at the Pyeongchang International Peace Film Festival on June 20 before it opens in theaters on the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. 

    Kim's previous films have focused on the Iraq War and the plight of North Korean defectors. He first became aware of the North Korean orphans in early 2004, when fellow filmmaker Park Chan-wook, a friend and fellow graduate of Sogang University, telephoned him while searching Eastern Europe for movie locations.

    Park told Kim about the plight of an 87-year-old Romanian woman named Georgeta Mircioiu, who was separated from her North Korean husband more than 40 years ago and was still waiting for him. Kim flew straight to Romania and interviewed her. 

    Around 2,500 North Korean orphans were sent to Romania from 1952 to be educated. Eastern bloc countries accepted the orphans to gain boasting rights about Socialist solidarity during the Cold War.

    It was a North Korean appointed to supervise the orphans, Cho Jung-ho, with whom Mircioiu, an art teacher, fell in love, and the two got married in 1957. Cho was ordered back to the North in 1962 and Mircioiu went to Pyongyang with him.

    But Cho was hauled off to do hard labor in a notorious coal mine as soon as the couple set foot on North Korean soil. Mircioiu gave birth to their daughter in Pyongyang and returned to Romania. She still has no idea what happened to her husband.

    "I firmly believe that my husband is alive and will come back and I've been working on a Romanian-Korean dictionary for the last 30 years to remember the Korean language," she told Kim.

    "North Korea is a reclusive and abnormal state and it is virtually impossible to go there and report," Kim said. "That has regrettably caused people to rely on distorted information provided by some North Korea sources, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to delve into all the revealing materials that were suddenly available in Eastern Europe."

    The footage sent by some of the East European governments was taken around 60 years ago but still looks fresh. The orphans can be seen rising promptly at 6:30 a.m. to salute to a North Korean flag and a picture of nation founder Kim Il-sung.

    "I was able to confirm that the personality cult of Kim Il-sung was already in full swing in Eastern Europe in the early 1950s. These children were rejected by North Korea and sent to Eastern Europe where their lives were turned upside down. I believe it is our duty to shed light on the tragic fate of these children who were forgotten by history." 

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