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Pioneering director leaves his mark : Kim Ki-duk, known for pushing boundaries of Korean film, dies at 83

Sept 09,2017
Kim Ki-duk, often dubbed a pioneer in the Korean film industry, died on Thursday after a battle with lung cancer. Above are scenes from Kim’s most well-known movie, “The Barefooted Young.” [JOONGANG ILBO, YONHAP]
Renowned director Kim Ki-duk died on Thursday afternoon, five months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was 83.

Born in Seoul in 1934, the prolific director debuted at the age of 27 in 1961 with “Five Marines.”

Having been behind the camera of more than 65 movies throughout his 16-year career, Kim is recognized by local cineastes for playing a major role in extending film genres in the Korean movie industry.

Kim, a former professor at Seoul Institute of the Arts, is best known for the teen romance movie “The Barefooted Young” (1964), which paved the way of success of actor Shin Sung-il and actress Um Aing-ran.

The film depicted a love story between a girl from a rich family and a dirt-poor man. The film was a huge success at the time, having sold 230,000 tickets in theaters.

Kim’s other well-known films include the war drama “Courage is Alive” (1965), the science fiction monster drama “Youngary: Monster from the Deep” (1967), the family drama “The Young Teacher” (1972) and the sports drama “The Last Inning” (1977), which was his last movie.

Following the death of the director, 81-year-old Um told local media, “[Kim] was a stepping stone in my movie career, and he is the one that made me a top star. I couldn’t even treat him to a proper meal before he passed away, which hurts my heart. He has always been kind to actors [and actresses], and he is like a savior to me and Shin Sung-il.”

During a special exhibition dedicated to the director last year, the Korean Film Archive described Kim as a pioneer.

“Kim is a filmmaker who never settled, but continued to challenge himself by chasing after something new. As a result, Kim contributed in diversifying films in Korea by working on an extensive range of genres from war movies to melodramas, sports films and science fiction movies.”

Despite disapproval from his family, Kim was determined to become a filmmaker because he knew he could be the best.

During an interview in 2011, Kim looked back on his career and said he was determined to be engaged in the film industry because “there weren’t many people who were doing movies at the time. So I decided to challenge myself because I felt that I could become the best if I throw myself in and pioneer [the market].”

In regards to some critics, who claimed that Kim’s movies were closer to entertainment than art, the director said, “Filmmaking is an art that costs an excessive amount of money. A film director shouldn’t make a movie that only satisfies himself. I’ve made a lot of works, and although some of them are unsatisfying, I’m not ashamed of making movies that have strong entertainment elements.”

Kim is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]


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