You know I had to watch this movie once I saw that it exists.
Now, from the very start, I have to be honest. This does not really feel like a horror movie of any kind. It felt more like a fantasy movie and it probably should be counted as one. But considering it is labeled as such: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:North_Korean_horror_films
I’ll like to cover it here.
Pulgasari is loosely based on the legend of the Bulgasari and is a 1985 movie directed by Shin Sang-ok and Chong Gon Jo. Shin was actually a South Korean film director who was kidnapped along with his wife, in order to make propaganda movies. This movie was also produced by Kim Jong-il, yes, that Kim Jong-il.
The movie tells the story of a small feudal Korean village where a young man, who just so happens to lead the bandit army. One day while they are working, the governor comes and demands that they start working on weapons, which would be a simple task but they have no iron. So what is the governor’s solution? They will use the village’s tools. The blacksmith protests and is soon sent to jail. There, on his dying breath, he seeks the help of the Pulgasari to help the people rise up against the monarchy. Pulgasari comes to life and aids the bandits in their fight against the government in exchange for some iron.
The movie can be found for free on YouTube (It might be breaching some sort of copyright laws but I doubt the person who uploaded will somehow get sued by NK):
Now, although the movie itself is pretty bad, it is still very fascinating. There can be many interpretations. But mainly, at the start, I had a reverse reaction to what the movie set out to show us. An oppressive regime forcing its people to give them everything and work mercilessly under them? Whatever could it be reminding me of? In the eyes of the Koreans though, this could easily be seen as the great side of communism and how it is a better alternative to feudalism and monarchy. But there was more to the movie than meets the eye. Mainly in Pulgasari himself.
After toppling the oppressive regime, Pulgasari remains, and his hunger for iron (the only thing he eats) is insatiable. So much so that he himself begins to eat the very things that the villagers wanted to protect. The villagers’ desire for victory blinded them to what followed next and so it ended up bringing them in the same spot. What they thought was their ally, turned into their enemy.
Many have speculated that Pulgasari represents Kim Jong-il himself and the story could show how the leader changed from their trusted leader to the people’s worst enemy. It makes sense considering the director was South Korean and he saw how it all happened before his own eyes. Luckily he managed to escape to America before he could face the consequences of his message.
There are a few other interesting theories but I will not get into them. After all, I am not an expert on North Korean politics so whatever I say can be very wrong, plus having your own interpretation is always better than reading someone else’s. I’m just here to talk about the movie and I have to say that even though the movie is fairly bad, it is definitely worth a watch. The backstory behind its making itself is too fascinating not to check it out.