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NKorean ‘Godzilla’ Debuts in Tokyo

June 18, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ A North Korean version of ``Godzilla″ has been sleeping for 13 years. Now the monster is about to make its world film debut in a Tokyo theater.

Its name is ``Pulgasari,″ and it protects farmers against soldiers by eating cannons and other weapons.

The film was made in 1985, but was banned both in North Korea and abroad after its director, Shin Sang-ok, sought asylum in the United States in 1986, when its Japanese premiere was originally scheduled.

Media reports say Shin, a South Korean, and his wife were kidnapped in the late 1970s and held for several years to make movies for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, known as a film buff.

Kim succeeded his father, Kim Il Sung, as top leader of the reclusive communist state after the elder Kim died of heart failure in July 1994.

The film now is being distributed by a Tokyo-based agent, Raging Thunder, which was officially licensed by the North Korean film authority, said Hiroyasu Hirano, manager of the Tokyo theater Kineca Omori.

The theater plans to show the film in July, along with the Hollywood version of Godzilla and a popular Japanese monster animation film, ``Pokemon.″

The role of Pulgasari is played by the same person who had played the role of ``Godzilla″ in a Japanese film, although in his monster costume he wouldn’t be recognized in either movie.

Several others from the Japanese film crew that made ``Godzilla″ also went to the North by invitation for the project.

Hirano said the plot is based on an old Korean legend about an iron-eating monster.

In the film, Pulgasari starts out as a doll made of rice by a blacksmith who refused to submit iron utensils for the military’s arms production. It comes to life, grows into a monster, falls in love with the blacksmith’s daughter, and fights against the army.

Gradually, however, the monster becomes a burden to the farmers it helped because of its large consumption of household iron. The blacksmith’s daughter hides inside a gong to be eaten by the monster and pleads with it to disappear.

Pulgasari cries and breaks into pieces.

``Pulgasari is a monster with a human heart, and the story is moving,″ Hirano said. ``The movie is also handmade, from the monster played by a man to miniature castles, which gives it a warmth.″

The film will be also released in July in the southern city of Osaka and about a dozen other cities throughout Japan.

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