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15 Shocking Kidnapping Stories From North Korea

There’s no doubt that North Korea is one of the most mysterious and fascinating places on the planet, with its infamous leader Kim Jong-Un being a curious mix of ruthless dictator and comedy figure. Though the so-called ‘Hermit Kingdom’ has begrudgingly opened its doors to foreigners in recent times, tourism is still heavily controlled by the government, meaning that few people from outside of the country have had access to the secrets it holds.

Perhaps one of the most shocking revelations to come from North Korea is its long history of kidnapping people of any nationality from neighboring countries.

This includes thousands of victims from South Korea alone, since the Korean armistice back in 1953. From famous filmmakers to American backpackers, it seems that no potential abductee is too much of a challenge for the DPRK once they have their sights set on someone. The result is numerous unbelievable stories that in many cases seem too far-fetched to be real. However, it seems that when it comes to North Korea, the truth really is stranger than fiction…

15. Shin Sang-ok

Though the kidnapping of South Korea’s most celebrated filmmaker may seem like a movie plot, that’s exactly what happened in 1978, when Shin Sang-ok was taken, along with his ex-wife, actress Choi Eun-hee at the request of Kim Jong-il. The future North Korea leader was a serious movie buff who was desperate to create critically-acclaimed films that would win awards, and the kidnapping of a respected director and actress was part of his plan.

After being kidnapped in Hong Kong and taken to Pyongyang, Shin tried to escape twice, resulting in a three-year prison sentence. After his release and reunion with Choi Eun-hee, who had spent the last five years unaware of his abduction, the couple agreed to make films for their captor. Eight years and six films later, the pair managed to escape after convincing Kim Jong-il to allow them to travel to Vienna. While there they fled their watchers and escaped to the US embassy.

North Korea denied the abduction, stating instead that the pair had travelled to the country of their own accord after their careers had waned in South Korea. Fortunately they were able to prove the story was true using a secret recording they made of Kim Jong-il, though sadly this, and other evidence, failed to convince the public in their home country, and to this day many people believe their abduction tale is simply a work of fiction.
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