April 12, 2006


Korean director Shin Sang-Ok

Last night, around 11pm, Korean director Shin Sang-Ok ended a two year struggle with Hepatitis C and passed away. He was 80 years old.

One of the big three Korean directors of that country's Golden Age, in the 50's and 60's Shin made many movies that are considered masterpieces, including MOTHER AND THE HOUSEGUEST, EUNUCH and EVERGREEN TREE. His movies were deeply felt and aesthetically accomplished, and many of the starred his wife, Choi Eun-Hee.

In 1978, Choi's wife was kidnapped by North Korea while making a movie in Hong Kong and six months later Shin was kidnapped as well. There has been some speculation that the two of them defected, but nothing was ever proved. For 8 years they lived in North Korea, where Shin made five films, including the giant monster/class consciousness flick, BULGASARI. In 1986, Shin and his wife escaped to the US through the American embassy in Vienna and lived there until 2000. During that time, Shin produced a number of kid's films under the name Simon Sheen, including three of the 3 NINJAS movies and a cheapo horror movie called GARDEN OF EVIL with Richard Grieco. He also directed one of the 3 NINJAS films, 3 NINJAS KNUCKLE UP. In 2000 he and his wife returned to Korea where he sought treatment of his Hepatitis.

Shin Sang-Ok was a truly great director whose life was derailed by a separated Korea. He directed 69 films and produced over 100, but when he was abducted to North Korea in 1978 he only had 8 left in him and one of them would star Hulk Hogan and Loni Anderson. Shin was born in North Korea, in the town of Cheong-Jin, while it was occupied under the Japanese, but he would make his masterpieces in South Korea (and he would make his dreck in America). One wonders what his career would have been like if it hadn't been sidetracked from 1978 - 2000. But, at least he died in Seoul.

April 12, 2006 at 08:52 AM in News | Permalink


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Perhaps the circumstances of Shin's ending up North Korea have never been proven to be a defection, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing. The book "Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader" by Brad Martin talks about some of those circumstances, including that the South Korean government had closed Shin's studio down and that he was in HK because he feared arrest. (Unfortunately, the book doesn't say exactly what Shin had done to earn such ire.) When Shin dissapeared it was widely assumed he defected to the North, and when he finally went public there was no international incident. Before his escape back to the South he and his wife had made several trips overseas for the North, including to France, so they weren't exactly the prisoners most people imagine. It's entirely possible that after a certain point Shin wanted to leave and, like everyone else in the North, wasn't allowed, but I think calling his initial dissapearence a kidnapping is not borne out by the facts.

Posted by: Scott | Apr 12, 2006 10:30:34 AM

Hollywood is already dancing on Shin's grave with an upcoming biopic that just got fast-tracked produced by the producer of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and with money put together by Boram, the folks who funded SEVEN SWORDS.


Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Apr 17, 2006 5:52:13 AM

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