[THIS WEEK IN HISTORY]A ‘femme fatale’ actress; an ambitious princeJune 9, 1997
As a teenager, Kim Ji-mi never knew that she would be Korea’s Elizabeth Taylor. As the only daughter of a well-off family, 17-year-old Ms. Kim in 1957 was planning to emigrate to the United States, following her brother. After she had an interview scheduled at the U.S. Embassy, however, she happened to receive an offer from a movie director, Kim Gi-yeong. The director had the reputation of being a man of determination, which was true at least in persuading the high school student with big eyes to make her debut on the movie scene.
So, Ms. Kim remained in Korea and her debut film, “Sunset Train” (1957), came out, which has led to more than 800 films and TV productions so far. Today, she is remembered as the signature actress with a femme fatale image. In the Korean movie scene back in the 1950s, a few years after the Korean War (1950 to 1953) and before the arrival of televisions in each household, movies were the major source of entertainment for people, and Ms. Kim was an unrivaled figure on the movie scene.
The image of Ms. Kim with a venomous look reciting the line “I’ll take the liver out of that bitch and eat it alive!” in the film “Jang Huibin” (The Concubine Jang) was a signature one. For her prolific career and beloved performance, Ms. Kim has so far received about 20 awards here and abroad and even was granted an honorary doctorate by the National Film Academy of Russia on this date.
But it’s not just her movies that define the actress. Her eventful romances, which led to four marriages that all ended in divorce, account for much of what Koreans remember about her. Not that everyone loves her. She has had as many enemies as admirers. In her real life, she deserves to be called a femme fatale, a woman who still does not shun saying, “I love everything about myself.”
She walked down the aisle first with director Hong Seong-gi, whom she divorced after the failure of the 1961 film “Chunhyangjeon,” on which the couple collaborated. Before long she fell in love again, this time with actor Choi Mu-ryong. Another iconic figure of the movie scene back then, Mr. Choi had been married with four children. In October 1962, Mr. Choi and Ms. Kim received major newspaper coverage, not for their films but for being arrested on the charge of adultery. The photograph of Mr. Choi and Ms. Kim holding each other’s handcuffed hands with a smile was enough to make it the talk of the town. The star couple did marry, but the hard-earned romance ended up in a divorce court.
But this did not mean the end of the world to Ms. Kim. About 14 years later, she again shocked the country by announcing that she and the pop singer Na Hun-a were tying the knot. Ms. Kim was then 36 years old and Mr. Na, now a legendary pop singer, was seven years her junior. Marriage between an older woman and a younger man was problematic back in 1976, yet the two married and divorced. Ms. Kim again got married, to a cardiologist, Lee Jong-gu, in 1991, which ended in divorce in 2002. In interviews, Ms. Kim said, “I remained faithful to my feelings all my life, with a determination to face all the criticism.” Ms. Kim has two children and six grandchildren.
Although she stayed away from the silver screen for years, she’s still a movie star in people’s memory.
June 11, 1445
King Sejo is a storied monarch who was willing to rule the country at any cost. He made his dream come true on this date, only after paying an enormous price.
He was originally named Suyang, one of many royal princes, and far from the potential to gain the crown, yet he had this ambition. Keeping close ties with the aristocrats, intellectuals and high-ranking military men, the prince was always keenly watching for the right time. And that time came, when a 12-year-old crown prince became King Danjong in 1453.
Suyang first had his men kill the king’s influential subordinate, Kim Jong-seo, and others. Then he took it a step further by having another prince banished, then poisoned. Finally, he had King Danjong banished deep into the mountains and became king, leading to a reign that got mixed reviews, despite his many achievements.
by Chun Su-jin