It is no secret that dictators do as they please, and they don’t care what anyone around them thinks of what they do. That is why so many people try to escape the countries run by a dictator. The things they do are often violent and horrific, but sometimes they can be totally bizarre too. One of the strangest acts was performed not by Kim il-Sung, who was dictator in 1978, but rather by his son, Kim Jong-il, who assumed, and rightly so, that he could also do what he wanted to. Kim Jong-il was a film buff, as well as the future North Korean dictator. Kim Jong-il decided that he wanted to make a really good movie. As any director knows, in order to make a really good movie, one must have a really good actor. Kim Jong-il knew exactly who he wanted, but rather than be bothered by the process of hiring the best actor, he simply kidnapped the one he wanted…Choi Eun-hee, as well as her ex-husband, director Shin Sang-ok. Kim Jong-il kept the pair in North Korea for several years, forcing them to make movies, including his very own version of Godzilla, Pulgasari. They now had no choice but to comply with his wishes, or they would die.
Choi was born in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, in 1926. Her first acting role was in the 1947 film “A New Oath.” She rose to fame the following year after starring in the 1948 film “The Sun of Night” and soon became known as one of the “troika” of Korean film, alongside actresses Kim Ji-mee and Um Aing-ran. She later married the director Shin Sang-ok in 1954, the two founded Shin Film. Her career flourished, and she went on to act in over 130 films. She was considered one of the biggest stars of South Korean film in the 1960s and 1970s. Due to her fame, she starred in many of Shin’s iconic films including 1958’s “A Flower in Hell” and 1961’s “The Houseguest and My Mother.” he one sadness in their lives was that she could not have children, so the couple adopted two children together, Jeong-kyun and Myung-kim. Choi divorced Shin after hearing that he had fathered two children with a young actress.
Choi’s career began to suffer after her divorce, and she traveled to Hong Kong in 1978 to meet with a person posing as a businessman who offered to set up a new film company with her. While she was in Hong Kong, Choi was abducted and taken to North Korea by the order of Kim Jong-il. Shin began a frantic search for Choi, but while searching for her, Shin was also abducted and taken to North Korea. So began years in captivity from which they finally escaped in 1986, during a press conference in Vienna!! They were in Vienna for a film festival. They fled to the US embassy and requested political asylum. Following their escape, they lived in Reston, Virginia, then Beverly Hills, California, before finally returning to South Korea in 1999. Choi died of kidney disease April 16, 2018. She was 91.
Every child who has been in school, has also been in a school play of one type or another. It is very common, especially in Kindergarten to have a class play. All the kids in the class are so excited as the practice session take place, and they can hardly sit still long enough to get through the necessary studies before it is time for play practice. It doesn’t really matter what part each child is to play…at least not in Kindergarten, because they are usually happy with any part. Often there is a line or two for the child to memorize, and when they say their line, they feel like it was a monumental accomplishment, and really, it was, because they have never done anything quite like that before.
I remember my Kindergarten play vividly…or should I say one part of it. I have no idea what the play was about, nor the part I played in it, but I vividly remember that when the teacher said it was time to line up for practice, I was running to be first in line. I made it too, several times, but it didn’t matter. The teacher always made me move back in the line to about the midway point. I never could figure that out. It seemed very unfair to me that even though I got there first, I was not allowed to keep my place in line. Thankfully the teacher was quite patient, because she had to tell me to move back to that same midway point every day. I suppose that if she had explained to me that there was a certain order that we had to line up in, I might have understood, but she never said that. She simply moved me back. The whole thing really wasn’t my fault either, because after all, when you lined up for anything else, it was first come first in line. So how was I supposed to know that this was different. All I knew was that I wanted to be first in line and the teacher wouldn’t let me. Thankfully, I just did as I was told, and didn’t cry. Now that would have been humiliating!! I don’t know if my teacher understood why she had to tell me over and over to move further back, or if she just thought I was a little ditsy, but she never got mad at me, and remained a favorite teacher throughout the years.
I never heard that my girls had such a problem with their pre-school and kindergarten plays, so maybe it was just me being a little ditsy, I don’t really know. What I do know is that I think I prefer being on the audience side of school plays far more than I did as an actress. I guess that means I’ll never be famous, or at least not a famous actress, but I can live with that. Through the years, I have enjoyed watching everything from plays to concerts at the schools…at least as long as they included my daughters or my grandchildren, that is.
For every grandparent, there is the first. The child that came along and changed everything. The child who changed them from parenthood to grandparenthood. For my parents, that child was my niece, Chantel. She was…shall we say, a shock to our systems…not just my parents, but to her aunts too. It was not about being, not ready for her to come, it was about the kind of girl she was. Chantel has a type of beauty queen style…or maybe it was actress style. No matter, we couldn’t help but be amused and surprised at the same time whenever she started posing.
It always amazed me that this little teeny girl could have so much style, when I at 15 years of age was still feeling quite awkward. But style was as much a part of who Chantel was as the hair on her head. And she was so quick. She never missed an opportunity to show her style. The camera came up, and Chantel immediately posed. And she was just a little girl, but she was just doing what came naturally to her.
As she grew up, she never lost that sense of style, although the posing did change some. She is so photogenic, and has a beautiful smile. And her sense of style doesn’t stop with photos. It has carried into her home, where she pours out her beautiful style. I think there must be an artist living inside the woman she has become, but that isn’t surprising really.
Yes, that first grandchild can be so surprising, because they are usually so different from your own children, and yet so like them…or at least the child your kids used to be. Chantel is much like her mother, my sister Cheryl. They both had the ability to take the most amazing pictures, and they both have the natural sense of style in decorating. I guess I have to wonder why Chantel seemed so different from the rest of us…at least to me, because she was maybe the kind of little girl like what I always wanted to be…like my sister, Cheryl. They both always had it all together, and I always wished I had been able to be like that.
Today that little girl…that first grandchild, is a wife and mother, and still a very beautiful person, inside and out. She will always hold a special place in our hearts and in our family. Happy birthday, Chantel!! We love you very much!!