Empress Chung, an animated feature based on a Korean folk tale, isset to become the first ever film to receive a simultaneous release in Northand South Korea.

The $6m North-South Korean co-production will bere-dubbed into Pyongyang dialect by famous local actors and released into sixtheaters in North Korea on August 15.The South Korean release is scheduled for August 12.

Directed by Nelson Shin of KOAA Films, EmpressChung previously screened at animation festivals in Annecy and Hiroshimaand won the top prize at the 2004 Seoul International Cartoon & AnimationFestival. The film tells the story of ayoung girl, replete with talking animal sidekicks, who sacrifices herself to asea monster in hopes of having her father's eyesight restored.

Shin is best known as the founder of AKOM Production,which became a leader in the field of animation outsourcing in the 1980s,landing contracts for The Simpsons and Transformers: The Movie.

Empress Chung, in contrast, outsourced much of its drawing andanimation work to production company SEK in North Korea, with KOAA Filmsoverseeing script development, pre- and post-production.

Co-operation between the North and South Korean filmindustries has progressed in fits and starts since former president Kim DaeJung announced his Sunshine Policy in the late 1990s.

Groups of South Korean filmmakers and industryrepresentatives have met with their Northern counterparts on numerousoccasions, and in 2003 the Pusan International Film Festival screened six NorthKorean classics sent from the Pyongyang government.

Earlier this year, production company SizEntertainment announced that it would film an adaptation of North Korean novel Hwangjiniby Hong Suk-jung, with much of the shooting to take place in the North.

Ordinary North Koreans, meanwhile, are more likely tohave caught up with the culture of their neighbour through pirated videos ofSouth Korean TV dramas, which are said to be widely available in the Stalinistcountry.