“Thank you for coming. I am King Jong Il,” said the North Korean young leader in a khaki jumper with curly hair back in January 1978, when he greeted Choi Eun-hee who set her feet in North Korea after being kidnapped in Hong Kong. There was rumor within South Korea that Kim Jong Il was in a vegetative state in the hospital, but he was intact and greeted the South Korean actress at the port and shook hands. Kim Jong Il came back five days later, chatting with the actress, saying, “How do you think I look? Don’t I look like a midget? Hahaha.”
Kim Jong Il’s self-torture gags that made joke of his physical complex was a fruit of confidence that paradoxically exaggerated the strength of the power he had. At that time, South Korean as well as Western intelligence institutions knew almost nothing about North Korean founder Kim Il Sung’s heir in late 30s, who already took control over all authorities. One word from him would make a kidnapping incident that would appear in spy movies became a reality and he was the de facto man or power who would open secrete parties at night, inviting his supporters.
The real image of Kim Jong Il wrapped in an enigma was disclosed to the world after Choi Eun-hee and movie director Shin Sang-ok couple defected from North Korea eight years later. Four tapes recorded by this couple included Kim Jong Il talking to himself fast for more than 90 minutes. “It is almost impossible to bring a man. What would we need to seduce director Shin? That is why we brought Ms. Choi here,” said Kim Jong Il. This was an absurd self-justification of Kim Jong Il that he needed Shin Sang-ok for the so-called “cultural exchange” and that is why he used Choi.
Choi and Shin had to live a restricted life in a house prepared by the CIA after their defection from the North in 1986 and had to receive investigation at the Ministry of Central Intelligence even after they came back to South Korea in 1989. Their kidnap to North Korea and 10-year living in exile were left as deep scars even in their later years. In the epilogue of her autobiography “Confessions of Choi Eun-hee,” the actress compares the approaching death to another “kidnapping.” “If I am kidnapped again this time, I may not be able to return forever,” she wrote. “It is because such place is a country that does not exist on earth.”