Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pulgasari director Shin Sang-ok dies

Shin Sang-okFrom the Korea Times:

Shin Sang-ok a renonwned Korean movie director who lived a life just as dramatic as a movie died in a Seoul National University hospital on Tuesday night. He was 80.


During the 1970s, Shin became less active, while South Korea's cinema industry in general suffered under strict censorship and constant interference by dictatorial government. Most of the films he directed during the period ended up being flops. After running afoul of the repressive government in 1978, the then president Park Chung-hee closed Shin's studio.

The director and his wife were separately abducted to North Korea in 1978 while in Hong Kong to produce a film, by orders from the future North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who wanted to establish a film industry for his country, according to the South Korean government at the time. The North Korean authorities have denied the kidnapping accusations, claiming that Shin came to the country willingly.

Shin later recounted that he enjoyed a close relationship with current North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, known as a movie buff, during his nine years in the North. Pyongyang provided him with a luxury villa built for the leader, a Mercedes Benz and US$3 million every year for his work, he said.

Shin directed seven films with Kim Jong-il acting as an executive producer. The best known of these films is Pulgasari, a giant-monster film similar to the Japanese Godzilla, which can be seen as a metaphor for the effects of unchecked capitalism. In 1986, Shin and his wife made a daring escape in Vienna, before eventually fleeing to the United States, seeking political asylum, until they returned to Seoul in 2002 for good.

While in the U.S., Shin worked under the pseudonym Simon Sheen, directing 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up and working as an executive producer for 3 Ninjas Kick Back and 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, the latter starring Hulk Hogan. He also served on the jury for the Cannes Film Festival and for various Korean film festivals.

Read the full article at the Korea Times here.


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