From the late 50s and into the 70s, more than 90,000 of the Koreans resident in Japan emigrated to North Korea, a country that promised them affluence, justice and an end to discrimination. KAZOKU NO KUNI tells the story of one of their number, who returns for just a short period. For the first time in 25 years, Sonho is reunited with his family in Tokyo after being allowed to undergo an operation there.
Sonho’s younger sister Rie is at the centre of the film and is not hard to recognise as the director’s alter-ego. In her documentaries DEAR PYONGYANG and SONA, THE OTHER MYSELF, Yang Yonghi told the story of her own life: at just six years of age, she had to experience how her three older brothers left the family forever, headed for Pyongyang.
It’s difficult to remain unaffected by the story’s emotional components. But the director doesn’t place her emphasis on melodrama, being simply interested in two people handed radically different life perspectives by the course of history. While Sonho’s path is sketched out for him, Rie recognises that a whole world of opportunities is open to her. Including the chance to rebel against her own family.