It is perhaps something of an understatement to suggest that there is little love lost between Hollywood and North Korea. If the events of last year, surrounding the controversial film The Interview, caused a stir within the totalitarian regime, then the project currently being developed by Daniel Dae Kim – Escaping North Korea – will certainly ruffle some repressive feathers also, since it tells the very real story of Korean-American hero, Mike Kim.
The film will be the adaptation of Escaping North Korea: Defiance And Hope In The World’s Most Repressive Country – written by Mike Kim, and published in 2008. The fascinating memoir details how he gave up his life in the Chicago business community, and relocated to China in 2003. Living close to the North Korean border, he posed as a student of North Korean Taekwondo for four years, and quietly founded Crossing Borders.
This non-profit organization provided humanitarian aid to North Korean refugees, and Kim enabled the escape of people through a 6,000 mile route that was effectively an underground railroad. In undertaking this task, Kim found that the majority of those defecting were victims of sex trafficking and, as a result, Crossing Borders has regularly collaborated with the U.S State Department on the issue of human trafficking.
Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-O, Lost) is developing the adaptation through his production company, 3AD, which is based at CBS. The project is being pulled together in collaboration with Das Films (November Man), and producer Chris S. Lee of Be Funny Studios in Seoul. While a director has yet to be announced, screenwriter Rosalind Ross (Matador) is set to write the script on the basis that Daniel Dae Kim will play the role of Mike Kim.
Escaping North Korea is an incredibly exciting prospect, in that it promises to present a cinematic telling of the real situation faced by those trying to flee the infamous dictatorship. While The Interview was one of precious few mainstream films to attempt to broach the subject of North Korea and its methods of oppression (albeit in a way that many felt was misguided and problematic), there are even fewer movies tackling the issue in a serious, factually accurate way. With this story coming from the lived experience of a man on the front-line, as it were, survivors of the regime will finally be heard on a larger scale.