“I have heard that Kim Jong-il loves movies and watches a lot of them...” I started my question only to be interrupted by U: “I don’t know about that. Our Great Leader works hard for our country, that I know. He doesn’t have time to watch films.”
If the films U collected here would really be for the Great Leader himself, how would he manage to deliver them to Pyongyang and have them back after 2 weeks or even quicker? There was no regular air service between Berlin and Pyongyang. But most likely the Great Leader had some special high-speed channels available to him? Flights to Beijing were aplenty daily and from there freight flights went to Pyongyang in addition to the regular planes. Anything high priority could arrive there very quickly, and be back quickly, too. Neither U nor Kim would tell any of it; they stuck to, “We are just watching the films at the ‘embassy’.”
We finished the last beer for the evening. A grinning Kim suddenly translated: “If you really manage to get that Japanese films here, U will lend you his wife for a few days.”
“Huhh?” I said, baffled, “What does that mean?”
“He was just joking. He was just trying to say that the films are very important to him.”
“I’m glad about that. I mean, I’ve seen his wife and she is not so young... Please don’t translate that.”
“I won’t”, grinning Kim said. U got the cash out of his pocket to pay for food and drinks while Kim sweet-talked the cute young Chinese waitress presenting the bill.
“Diplomatic license plates, hehehe!” U cackled whenever he ran a red light on the way to Kreuzberg, to the friend’s house where I was staying. I didn’t feel like letting those guys know my Berlin crashpad and had them drop me off at a bar close to the apartment.
By then, in February 2000, my North Korean films had already arrived. The first shows had already happened and soon I was traveling around Europe, presenting a program of 10 North Korean feature films at festivals and in movie theaters. I had no time anymore to hang out with U and contact film companies for him. I was rather glad to get away from that, actually.
I soon let the contact with U fade out... although I picked up another hundred packs of cheap cigarettes from the North Korean mission whenever I happened to be in Berlin.
In 2001, Germany and North Korea started diplomatic relations and the “Office for the Protection of the Interests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” became a real embassy again. U returned to Pyongyang where he immediately got a high position at the Korea Film Import & Export Corporation. What a “coincidence”!
U’s successor is going every week to the independent movie theater up to this day, just like U did; ordering movies he doesn’t know about. Mostly B-grade American action movies and every new South Korean film available in Berlin.
What does he do with them??