North Korea Documentary Film “Under the Sun”
North Korean Tyranny, More Than Just Nuclear Missiles

Main Points in this Article:

  • Japanese release of a documentary film depicting the daily lives of North Korean civilians
  • During shooting the director realizes that everything was staged by North Korean authorities
  • North Korea’s tyranny is more than just nuclear missiles

A documentary film depicting the daily lives of North Korean civilians will be released in Japanese cinemas on January 21st. The film, “Under the Sun”, was originally released in several European and English-speaking countries in 2016.

Russian film director, Vitaliy Mansky, negotiated for 2 years with North Korea for approval to shoot a documentary film. When he began closely filming one Pyongyang family, what was meant to be a documentary film capturing the daily lives of North Korean civilians, began to change shape. During the shoot, a North Korean ‘escort’ would follow the crew around and give instructions to the civilians involved.

Realizing that the North Korean side wanted to make a sham, the crew decided to secretly keep the camera rolling between shots to show the governmental coercion taking place behind-the-scenes.

The director later spoke about how when filming began in the house of 8-year-old daughter Zin-mi, they discovered that the furniture was brand new, the shelves were empty and the bathroom appeared unused. He said he immediately realised that the picturesque apartment was a ‘set’ used only during the shooting.


A Stranger at Family Time

In one scene, Zin-mi and her parents are dining in a plain white room when suddenly a strange man appears from a door to the left. He is obviously not a part of this happy family time: it can be inferred that this is the North Korean state worker ‘escort’.

In the textile factory scene where Zin-mi’s father supposedly works, the onscreen subtitles correct the fabrication saying that Zin-mi’s father is in fact a journalist. The North Korean side designed this part of the script based on the importance they place on the concept of ‘labour’; the father of an ‘ideal North Korean family’ had to be a factory engineer. Indeed, when viewed with this hindsight, there is something odd about the father’s instructions given to his workmates.

Other odd things include the background cityscapes that are somewhat cold, and how the people’s movements seem lifeless. This is a natural consequence when things are choreographed and staged.


What If You Were Born In North Korea?

While the cinematic experience of “Under the Sun’ lacks interest due to its fragmented structure, a reminder that this is a reality for the people living in North Korea is sure to set one thinking.

In North Korea, they make you memorise state propaganda beginning in elementary school, and you are praised for moving and dancing in groups exactly as the government demands. The state decides your living conditions and parents’ jobs. If you were born into such a society, how would you live? What kinds of thoughts would be running through your mind?

Would you really be able to feel the oddness and doubt like we do watching a film like “Under the Sun”?

In North Korea, the prerequisites for a peaceful life are ‘absolute obeisance to the state’ and ‘to not think’.

But this mindset limits learning and stops inner growth.

That is why we must save the people of North Korea as soon as we can.

The film “Under the Sun” reveals that there is more to North Korea’s tyranny than just nuclear missiles.


  • Information on “Under the Sun”
  • Directed by: Vitaliy Manskiy
  • Cast: Lee Zin-Mi, and others
  • Produced by Icarus Films

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North Korea Documentary Film “Under the Sun”
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