The Spy Gone North Review: A Smash Mouth South Korean Thriller

When South Korea and North Korea can agree that North Korea is a communist nation, you wonder why so many University students (and professors) in this country have such a hard time accepting that fact.


Set in the late 1990s, The Spy Gone North is a story about government corruption and international politics during the height of tension between North and South Korea. The North Korea dictatorship led by Kim Jong-Il has increased the political tension of his neighbors with the news that the country may already have nuclear weapons that put the wellbeing of an entire region at risk. In response, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) sends in a spy given the code name “Black Venus” who poses as a businessman wanting to bring Capitalist opportunities into North Korea in order to gain Intel on the country’s nuclear capacities. However, an upcoming presidential election muddies the waters of ethics and legality and makes a hostile situation even more dangerous.

Who knew a film from South Korea could draw so many parallels to the 2016 American election. A country’s intelligence agency working with foreign powers to stop a candidate they deem unfit while excusing him of colluding with said foreign power. Even going as far as leaking classified information to the media to damage one’s reputation. The Spy Gone North is one of the most politically thought-provoking films I’ve seen in the last few years. There is so much to this film that can be used as a subject of political debate. Capitalism vs Communism, South Korea vs North Korea, The Millennium Democratic Party vs The Liberty Korea Party, Conspiracy Theories such as false flag operations led by the government. This film has enough material to be the subject of a history/government final (your grade depends on whether your professor believes North Korea is ‘real’ communism).


Now, of course, this is based on a true story, but there are some liberties to the names and parties involved. However, the amount of dialogue that is presented here will have you talking and thinking for quite some time afterward. The one complaint I have is that the film really doesn’t address Kim Dae-Jung’s involvement in the Korean conflict. The film doesn’t address the complexity of South Korean political parties but depicts him as a savior-like figure without going into why that is. None to less, The Spy Gone North is a near-perfect political chess game that blows many spy thrillers before it out of the water




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