Juche Strong tells the story of the 2010 North Korean World Cup team. That summer was the country’s first Cup campaign in over forty years. And last time North Korea participated they beat perennial powerhouse Italy, in what is generally considered one of the greatest upsets in soccer history. Juche Strong lays out the many twists and turns of the 2010 outing, including a historic 7-0 throttling at the hands of Portugal, at least parts of which were broadcast live in North Korea. The film interlaces that story with a broader analysis of the DPRK’s propaganda apparatus — and posits that it’s much more powerful and well-designed than the average observer gives it credit for. The narrative crafted by the regime — of a morally pure Korean people struggling mightily against imperialist powers — effectively taps into deeply rooted Korean cultural norms and human psychological instincts.
The director, Rob Montz, visited and shot footage in North Korea this summer. The film also includes interviews with many North Korea scholars, including Bruce Cummings, David Kang, Stephan Haggard, Marcus Noland, and Suk-Young Kim, as well as a North Korea refugee now living in the States.