Shadow Flowers (2019)

  • 1h 49m
  • Seung-Jun Yi
  • South Korea
  • 2019

“Crucial and poignant, a potent document on Korean relations through the unique lens of a woman stuck in limbo.”
— Musanna Ahmed, Film Inquiry

Ryun-hee Kim was a North Korean housewife, seeking treatment for liver disease, but the healthcare system didn’t have the capacity to treat her.

She travelled to China to seek better treatment, started working at a restaurant to make money and met a broker. He offered to smuggle her into South Korea, telling her she could make even more money there before returning home.

So, in 2011, Ryun-hee ended up in South Korea.

While escaping from the North to the South has never been easy, Ryun-hee’s attempts to return to North Korea turned out to be a lot more difficult.

Over the years, she’s tried to smuggle herself out and sought political asylum at the Vietnamese Embassy. Her attempts to go home have been in vain. She’s even started spying in the hope of being extradited, but the South Korean government won’t let her go.

After years of bureaucratic wrangling, Ryun-hee became a citizen with a South Korean passport — but also with a travel ban that the South Korean government extends every month.

“A heartbreakingly humane look at ordinary people…
a powerful depiction of a world where
falling through the cracks of bureaucracy
is as good as a death sentence.”

— Joonatan Itkonen, Toisto

Seven years on from the start of her struggle to get back to her husband, daughter and parents in North Korea, political absurdity still hinders Ryun-hee’s journey back to her loved ones. The life of her family in the North goes on in emptiness, while she fears that she might become someone, like a shadow, who exists only in their fading memories.

When the tensions between the two countries start to relax, there’s a glimmer of hope…

Shadow Flowers is a disturbing story that turns ideas about North and South Korea on their head.

Previous festival selections include:
DMZ International Documentary FF
- winner: National Competition, Best Documentary Award


Seung-Jun Yi



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