- Shin Sang-ok
name = Shin Sang-ok
imagesize = 150px
birthdate = birth date|1926|10|18
deathdate = death date and age|2006|4|11|1926|10|18
Seoul, South Korea
othername = Simon Sheen
Film director Film producer
yearsactive = 1952–2002
awards = Infobox Korean name
Shin Sang-ok (
October 18, 1926– April 11, 2006) was a prolific South Korean film producerand director, with more than 100 producer and 70 director credits. He is most famous for his being kidnapped by the North Koreandictator Kim Jong-il, for the purpose of producing critically-acclaimed films.
outh Korean period (1926–1978)
He was born in
Chongjinat the northeastern part of the Korean Peninsula, at the time occupied by Japan, currently a part of North Korea. Shin studied in the Tokyo Fine Arts School, the predecessor to Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Musicin Japanbefore returning to Korea three years later. [http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/makeprfy.pl5?nn20001013a8.htm "Accounting practices blamed for slump in Japanese films"] by Kakumi Kobayashi, Japan Times, October 13, 2000, retrieved January 26, 2006] [http://www.asianfilms.org/korea/shinsangok.html Biography at asianfilms.org] ]
Shin started his film career as an assistant production designer on
Choi In-kyu's " Viva Freedom!", the first Korean film made after the country achieved independence from Japan. During the "Golden Age" of South Korean cinema in the late 1950s and 1960s, Shin worked prolifically, often directing two or more films per year, earning the nickname the "Prince of Korean Cinema" [http://www.villagevoice.com/film/0209,stephens,32619,20.html "Pleasure and Pain"] by Chuck Stephens, villagevoice.com, February 27– March 5, 2002] The production company he started, Shin Films, produced around 300 films during the 1960s, including a Grand Bell Award-winning 1964 remake of Na Woon-gyu's 1926 " Beongeoli Sam-ryong".
During the 1970s, Shin became less active, while South Korea's cinema industry in general suffered under strict
censorshipand constant government interference. Most of the films he directed during the period ended up being flops. After Shin ran afoul of the repressive government in 1978, General Park Chung Heeclosed Shin's studio.
North Korean period (1978–1986)
In 1978, actress
Choi Eun-hee, recently divorced from Shin, was kidnapped from Hong Kongto North Korea. When Shin traveled to Hong Kong to investigate, he was kidnapped as well. The kidnappings were on orders of future dictator Kim Jong-il, who wanted to establish a film industry for his country to sway international opinion regarding the views of the Workers' Party of Korea. [http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,4120,929182,00.html "The producer from hell"] by John Gorenfeld, The Guardian, April 4, 2003, retrieved January 26, 2006] The North Korean authorities have denied the kidnapping accusations, claiming that Shin came to the country willingly. Shin and his wife made secret audio tapes of conversations with Kim Jong-il, supporting their story.
Shin was put in comfortable accommodations, but, after an escape attempt, was placed in prison. He was brought to
Pyongyangin 1983, to learn why he had been brought to North Korea. His ex-wife was also brought to the same dinner party, where she first learned that Shin was also in North Korea. They re-married shortly afterwards, as suggested by Kim Jong-il.
From 1983 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, eight years after his kidnapping, Shin and his wife escaped while in Vienna for a business meeting, before eventually fleeing to the United States, seeking political asylum.
Later career (1986–2006)
Shin worked in the US in the 1990s under the
pseudonymSimon Sheen, directing " 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up" and working as an executive producer for " 3 Ninjas Kick Back" and "", the latter starring Hulk Hogan.
At first, Shin was reluctant to return to South Korea, because he feared that the government's security police would not believe the kidnapping story. He returned to South Korea permanently in 1994, and continued to work on new movies. His last movie as director is "Kyeoul-iyagi" (The Story of Winter) (2002, unreleased).
He had a
liver transplantin 2004, and died of complications of hepatitistwo years later. At the time of his death, he was planning "Genghis Khan", a musical. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyunposthumously awarded him the Gold Crown Cultural Medal on April 12, 2006, the country's top honor for an artist.
Cinema of Korea
List of Korean language films
North Korean abductions of South Koreans
*imdb name|id=0645661|name=Shin Sang-ok
* [http://www.economist.com/people/displayStory.cfm?story_id=6849979 Obituary] from April 29th, 2006 edition of
* [http://www.koreasociety.org/film_blog/film_blog/shin_sang-ok_garden_of_evil_flowers_of_hell.html The Korea Society Film Journal: Review of "Flowers of Hell"]
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