Yoon Jong-bin shows how the sausage of diplomacy is made in this gripping, if sometimes gratuitous, 90s-set tale of North and South Korea espionage

Just last month, the leaders of North and South Korea made an historic step forward in peninsular relations, on both literal and figurative grounds. For the first time since the conclusion of the Korean war in 1953, a Supreme Leader , Kim Jong-un, set foot on Southern lands, meeting with President Moon Jae-in for a pledge to jointly work towards complete disarmament of all nuclear capabilities in the years to come. For a watching world, it was an inspiring moment during an age of international anxiety and uncertainty. But to make the sausage of diplomacy, some rather unsavoury meat must first have been churned.

The Spy Gone North, a new thriller from South Korea’s Yoon Jong-bin that premiered at Cannes out of competition, steps a couple decades into the past for true story of an espionage operative codenamed Black Venus. While masquerading as a southern businessman with ambitions to shoot an advertising campaign against a northern backdrop, he successfully infiltrated the highest levels of the regime, then controlled by the equally absurd and intimidating Kim Jong-il. That’s only half of the story, however, and Yoon places an equal emphasis on the discord spreading back on the home front, where political machinations represented as great a threat to Black Venus’ safety as the Supreme Leader’s personal guard. Damned if he did go turncoat and damned if he didn’t, he became a double agent in spite of himself, made a casualty of the nasty business of peace.

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