Documentary depicts North Koreans’ flight

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Documentary depicts North Koreans’ flight

The National Assembly seems to have become a place to see political documentaries. In July, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” was screened at the Assembly’s Members Office Building prior to its Korean commercial premiere. This week, the same building is hosting screenings of “Seoul Train,” a documentary on the plight of North Koreans in China trying to escape to third countries.
Today’s screenings, at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., are part of the North Korea Holocaust Exhibit, a three-day exhibition put on by activists for human rights in North Korea that also includes panel discussions. Admission is free; the film is in English and is being screened with Korean subtitles.
Shot on video by two Americans with no prior filmmaking experience ― a venture capitalist and a nurse ― “Seoul Train” follows North Korean refugees trying to elude Chinese authorities and the threat of repatriation to the North.
One group is followed nearly to the Mongolian border, where they are finally arrested (off camera). Another group, in a wrenching scene, makes a dash for the gates of the Japanese consulate in Shenyang, China. They, too, are arrested, but are ultimately allowed into South Korea. Some members of this group were present Tuesday, including a little girl named Han-mi who watched herself on screen.
Filmmakers Jim Butterworth and Linda Sleeth spent two months with North Korean defectors and activists in the fall of 2003. On the film’s Web site (, they explain that when they were in public they often used their camcorders surreptitiously, pretending to be tourists, so as not to draw attention to the North Koreans.
Some footage, shot within the North, was supplied by defectors themselves. There are also interviews with human rights activists, U.S. politicians and a staffer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which the film blames for allowing China to return captured defectors to the North.
Few people to date have seen “Seoul Train”; according to the film’s Web site, its premiere was scheduled for just last weekend in Los Angeles. It was also screened Monday and Tuesday at the exhibition.
Another film, produced by Japanese activists, “Light of Democracy and Human Rights in North Korea,” will be shown at 1 p.m. today, the last day of the three-day exhibition.
At 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., there will be panel discussions on human rights in the North. Photos and other documentation on the subject will be on display in the building’s lobby.

by David Moll, Chun Su-jin

The National Assembly can be reached from Yeouido station on subway line No. 5. Take exit No. 3 to board a free shuttle bus to the Assembly from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; to go by taxi, use exit No. 5. Facing the main National Assembly building from the street, the Members Office Building is the next building on the left. Identification is required for admission. For more information, call (02) 732-6999.
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