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Korean Film News

Master Director SHIN Sang-Ok Dies at 80

Apr 19, 2006
  • Writerby Nigel D’Sa (KOFIC)
  • View2589
Korean cinema giant, SHIN Sang-ok, died on April 11th, 2006 at Seoul National University Hospital where he was being treated for chronic liver disease. Director SHIN had made over 70 films, many of them Korean cinema milestones, during his lifetime, and was preparing what might have been his final project, a historical feature dealing with Genghis Khan, when he passed away at the age of 80. SHIN directed such classics as My Mother and Her Guest (1961), The Red Gate (1963), The Eunich (1968), and Farewell (1973). He was born in 1926 in Cheongjin, North Hamgyeong Province, in what is now North Korea. In 1945, he graduated from the Tokyo Fine Arts School and made his debut as a director with The Evil Night (1952) during the Korean War. In 1953 he married CHOI Eun-hee, a popular movie actress who would later star in many of his films. His films often focused on Confucian subject matters and presented an ambivalent view that criticized and at the same time venerated Confucian values. A highlight of his career and a representative example of his personal vision is My Mother and Her Guest which tells the story of a widow and her daughter who develop an affectionate bond with a painter boarding at their house. The mother ultimately sacrifices her chance at happiness to please her disapproving mother-in-law. In 1963 SHIN started a powerhouse production company 'Shin Films' that made a profound influence on the Korean film industry and on a young generation of filmmakers. In the '70's it ran into increasing difficulties with the Korean military government, and his artistic career was effectively shut down. In 1978 while in Hong Kong, SHIN was apparently abducted to North Korea. His wife had been also abducted six months ago. The movie-loving Kim Jong-Il forced the couple to make films and tour communist countries. After completing seven features there, SHIN and his wife eventually escaped from North Korea and returned to South Korea in 1986. SHIN continued to direct and produce films, and in 1994 he served as a judge at the Cannes International Film Festival. In an interview just before his death, he commented "I think directors should be able to master at least one thing, whether it is art, music, or literature. There should be 'esprit'." SHIN is survived by his wife, actress CHOI Eun-hee, two sons and two daughters. Nigel D'Sa (KOFIC)
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