June 03, 2023

Beyond cardboard characters: The evolution of North Korean defectors on screen

Hit shows like ‘Squid Game’ and ‘Money Heist’ show how ROK film and TV has moved past anti-communist tropes of the past

It used to be that North Korean characters in South Korean films were little more than stock villains, cardboard cutouts that served the anti-communist narrative pushed during the Cold War.

But rapid changes in the film industry and the evolution of inter-Korean relations in recent decades have had a dramatic impact on the way that films depict the DPRK and defectors, giving rise to more three-dimensional characters and sophisticated storytelling.