China Film Delegation Visits North Korea Amid Tensions

Koreas Exchange Fire as Filmmakers Exchange Gifts

BEIJING – Just after artillery fire at the divided Korean Peninsula border struck a hard blow to international relations, filmmakers from Beijing presented a gift celebrating soft power to North Korean leader and cinephile Kim Jong-Il.

The head of a team that made the Chinese TV drama Mao Anying, which commemorates the death of Mao Zedong’s eldest son in a U.S. air strike during the Korean War, led a delegation to North Korean capital Pyongyang on Wednesday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

The latest in a series of aggravated exchanges between the two Koreas, the artillery attack on Tuesday killed four South Koreans, two civilians and two marines. In March, a torpedo sank a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors in an attack denied by the North.

Zou Xiaoti, the Chinese delegation leader, presented an unidentified gift for Kim -- author of a 1973 book on moviemaking -- to North Korean vice premier Kang Nung-su, KCNA said.

While few North Korean movies ever get made, let alone released outside the largely isolated society, the cinemas of South Korea and China have boomed in recent years.

The Chinese filmmakers’ gift to Kim Jong-il was proffered at a moment when Sino-Korean relations are in the spotlight as international calls increase for Beijing to pressure Pyongyang to step down from its 200-round artillery attack on Tuesday of a small island inhabited by citizens of South Korea.

In 2009, during a state visit to North Korea, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao is reported to have paid his respects at the Pyongyang grave of Mao Anying, the subject of the Chinese TV drama.

This year, North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim visited China twice, in an apparent attempt to shore up Beijing’s political and material support in the face of increased international criticism of his regime over its nuclear ambitions.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday that China should take a firm stance on North Korea over its artillery attack on a South Korea.

In the book Kim Jong Il on the Art of Cinema -- a 1989 English-language translation of the "Dear Leader"'s 1973 book  -- Kim writes, referring to the North Korean communist ideal of "Juche," or self-reliance:

"In developing communist art and literature, there is nothing for the working class to adopt from the old art and literature which cater to the tastes and sentiments of the exploiting classes."

Another passage from the chapter titled "Screen Art and Fine Art" states: "The socialist content of a film is intended to destroy the old and create the new, to contribute to the overthrow of capitalist society, the building of a socialist society that is free from exploitation and oppression, the revolutionary transformation of the whole society, and its assimilation to the working class."

Cultural exchanges between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as North Korea is officially known, were not uncommon in the past. KCNA announced earlier this year that the country is currently working on a Korean remake of the famed Chinese opera Liang Shanbo Yu Zhuliye, the Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet.

Kim Jong-il was quoted saying in the state television that “Cultural exchanges between the two states are an important task to increase friendship.”

Separately Xinhua News reported that a Chinese film week was held in Pyongyang in October to commemorate 60th anniversary of the Chinese contribution during the Korean War. The screening featured well-known Chinese revolutionary films including Guards under Neon Lights, according to the Chinese wire.

Hong Gwang-sun, chairman of the North’s National Film Committee, was quoted during the opening ceremony of the event as saying that North Korean film producers will “actively pursue film exchanges with China and contribute to the amity of the two states.”

-- Park Soo-mee in Seoul contributed to this report.