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There are lots of artforms that are uniquely Japanese, but maybe my favorite is giant monster movies. No country in the world can strap on a rubber suit and destroy miniature cities better than Japan.

These monster movies, called kaijuu (怪獣) movies in Japan, are some of the most iconic in Japanese history. Besides the most famous kaijuu, Godzilla (who I have a poster of above my desk), there have been countless giant monsters that have terrorized Japanese cinema for decades.

Other places have tried to replicate the formula of success, but no country has been able to harness and combine all of the elements that make kaijuu movies great. No country, that is, except North Korea.

Former ruler of North Korea Kim Jong-il fancied himself a master film maker and critic, which meant that at one point or another, making movies was PRIORITY NUMBER ONE for all of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Among the many movies that Kim Jong-il produce, directed, and guided, was a kaijuu movie that brought together the Japanese and the North Koreans (and, unwillingly, a South Korean). The movie was called Pulgasari (불가사리 in Korean and プルガサリ in Japanese), and had all of the trademarks of a good kaijuu movie; giant monster, lots of destruction, people fleeing for their lives.

RAAAAWWWWRRR COMMUNISMMMMMM

Obviously, the storyline was a little different from your average kaijuu movie so it could fit in with North Korea’s communist agenda, but at its core, Pulgasari is a movie about a reptilian monster that destroys things.

Along with Pulgasari’s director (who was kidnapped from South Korea), the North Korean film crew worked closely with Japanese filmmakers to make Pulgasari as close to the real McCoy as possible. While North Koreans normally wouldn’t be so welcoming of Japanese people into their country, Kim Jong-il made an exception for Pulgasari.

The crew who did the special effects on the 1984 Godzilla movie lent their skills to Pulgasari, and Kenpachiro Satsuma, the man in the suit in a lot of the later Godzilla movies played the monster itself.

The result? Well, watch the trailer and see for yourself:

In 1985 Pulgasari was released in North Korea which, as you might imagine, doesn’t have a huge movie-going population. The director escaped from North Korean captivity the following year, causing embarrassment to Kim Jong-il and the movie to be shelved.

For those reasons, it wasn’t until 1998 that Pulgasari was released to the outside world. First place it was screened outside of Korea? Japan, where Pulgasari has gained a cult following.

Ironically that same year, the American Godzilla movie came out. Satsuma, the guy in the rubber suit, reportedly said that he liked Pulgasari better than the American movie. Ouch. When you’ve made something worse than the North Koreans, you know you’ve messed up.

Pulgasari is an inspirational movie. Not because it’s well-made, original, or has any sort of compelling message; but because it’s probably the only movie in recorded history that had North Koreans and Japanese working side-by-side.

The end result wasn’t great, and the process was a little troubling, but when it comes to North Korea and Japan, you take what you can get.

Read more: The producer from hell, Bulgasari (1985) – IMDb

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    I had to look at the Godzilla poster for, like, 5 minutes before I realized that Godzilla was smashing a plane, and not holding a tiny, tiny Japanese flag.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Godzilla’s just really patriotic!

  • Brittney Howdyshell

    I’m still trying to figure out what the grey lumps at the bottom are.

  • Jon

    I think those lumps are soldiers hiding behind a wall/low fence/pile of junk to hide behind thingie.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tara.skarbek Tara Skarbek

    The Narrator for this trailer has the most AMAZING voice….

  • ジョサイア

    This movie is really scary…don’t want you to think it’s a cheesy old movie ;)

  • ジョサイア

    …You where looking at that poster for 5 minutes…you have a longer attention span than me :b

  • ジョサイア

    Looks like sand bags.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    I actually saw Pulgasari.

    WHY DID I DO THAT?!

    Seriously, those annoying actors shouting Pulgasari every 30 seconds is gratingly awful, and i can’t believe that Kim Jong-il took a page from the George Lucas book of “it’s like poetry, it rhymes” screenwriting. Seriously, you should either a)Take acid while watching this movie or b)take acid while watching this movie. Seriously, this movie’s only tolerable with psychedelics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    Well it’s stylistically designed to be that way and you can’t undo that, but you can diminish the effects of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    It’s so dense every single image has so many things going on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    It’s like poetry, it rhymes.

  • DAVIDPD

    “The Horror…The Horror.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.rawley Jeremy Rawley

    North Korea hasn’t officially called itself “communist” since the ’90s. Their national ideology is more like Nazi Germany than any communist nation.