August 6, 2012, was a bad day for Eugene Chang. The South Korean Explosives Demolition Engineer, who has been living with his wife, two teenage sons and mother in Christchurch, New Zealand for the past twelve years, received a phone call from the Consul at the South Korean Embassy in Wellington questioning his role in a North Korean film that had appeared on You Tube.
Someone in the South Korean community saw the film and recognized him as the narrator and reported him to the South Korean Embassy. As a result, the matter was referred to the responsible authority in Korea (most likely the NIS, South Korea’s CIA) and the Korean Society accused Eugene of being a North Korean spy, an accusation that rapidly spread across the community and has resulted in Eugene being shunned by the South Korean community in Christchurch, which had always held him in such high regard.
The problem with the accusations is that they are false. The film, ‘Propaganda’, was made by Christchurch filmmakers Slavko Martinov and Mike Kelland and had its world premiere at A-List festival IDF Amsterdam on November 16, 2012.
The filmmakers were so concerned by the accusations that they requested a meeting with the Korean Society to make formal statements about the film – as they had done to the South Korean Embassy – to clear Eugene’s name. Instead, in what can only be described as a McCarthy era communist witch hunt, all three were accused of colluding with the North Korean regime and acting as agents of North Korea with Eugene Chang, despite firm and repeated attempts to declare that the film was New Zealand-made and there were no connections with the North Korean regime at any time.
Despite these formal statements, Korean newspaper The Korean Review began publishing articles that perpetuated the rumour that Eugene (a ‘bomb expert’ living in Christchurch with his North Korean mother) and the filmmakers are North Korean agents. The results of these publications have been very effective: parents refused to send their children to the school where Eugene is a BOT member, students accused his wife of being a North Korean sympathizer at the school where she teaches, and he has been refused communion at his church and asked to leave and not return, despite Eugene’s insistence that he was exercising his democratic right to free speech and freedom of expression by acting in a film.
EUGENE CHANG IS NOT A NORTH KOREAN SPY!