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[Newsmaker] Iconic Korean movie star Kang Soo-youn dies at 55

Iconic Korean movie star Kang Soo-youn (BIFF)
Iconic Korean movie star Kang Soo-youn (BIFF)


Kang Soo-youn, the iconic Korean movie star who brought home the nation’s first acting award from the Venice film festival, died on Saturday at the age of 55.

The tragic news came two days after she was taken to hospital on Thursday for a cardiac arrest.

Kang died of a cerebral hemorrhage at 3 p.m. at a hospital in southern Seoul, her family said.

Kang’s funeral committee is led by Kim Dong-ho, founder of the Busan International Film Festival and the current Gangneung International Film Festival chairman. The funeral committee members consist of Korean veteran actors and directors including Kim Ji-mi, Park Jeong-ja, Park Joong-hoon, Son Sook, Ahn Sung-ki and Im Kwon-taek.

 
A portrait of Korean movie star Kang Soo-youn at a funeral parlor at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul (BIFF)
A portrait of Korean movie star Kang Soo-youn at a funeral parlor at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul (BIFF)


A memorial altar has been set up at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul and her funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. The ceremony will be livestreamed on Korean Film Council’s YouTube channel.

Kang, born in Seoul in 1966, was an acting icon in the 1980s and 1990s.

When she was 4, she debuted as a child actor for local broadcaster TBS, and soon became a prominent child actor here.

At 21, she reached a turning point in her career when Kang’s performance in “The Surrogate Womb,” directed by Im Kwon-taek, won her the best actress award at the Venice International Film Festival.

With the win, she became the first Korean actor to win an acting prize at one of the world’s three most prestigious international film festivals -- Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

In 1989, she won the best actress award at the Moscow International Film Festival for her role in another of director Im’s films, “Come, Come, Come Upward” (1989).

Throughout the 1990s, Kang starred in several local box office hits, cementing her status as one of the top actors during the period. The films that she starred in include “The Road to Race Track” (1991), “Blue in You” (1992), “Go Alone Like Musso’s Horn” (1995) and “Girl’s Night Out” (1998).

She also left a strong impression on Korean audiences as the protagonist of SBS’s megahit period drama “Ladies of the Palace” (2001). 
Kang Soo-young in a scene from Im Kwon-taek’s award winning “Come, Come, Come Upward” (Yonhap)
Kang Soo-young in a scene from Im Kwon-taek’s award winning “Come, Come, Come Upward” (Yonhap)

From 2015 to 2017, she served as co-executive director of the BIFF.

Most recently, Kang was set to make her comeback on the big screen for the first time in nine years with the Netflix sci-fi movie “Jung_E,” directed by Yeon Sang-ho which was scheduled to be released in the second half of the year.

Kang took a break from acting after appearing in “Hanji” (2011) and “Jury” (2013).

Tributes have poured in from the Korean film industry on social media for Kang.

“Kang Soo-youn, a great actor. I prayed for her recovery so it is heartbreaking. Rest in peace,” Moon Sung-keun, who starred in “The Road to the Race Track” with Kang, said.

Korean actor Kim Yeo-jin offered her condolences to the late actor: “Honorably, in my first movie, I played her friend.”

Others recalled the lasting impact she left on them.

“During an event for ‘Revivre,’ CEO Lee Chun-yeon and Kang Soo-youn supported me. I was grateful,” actor Kim Kyu-ri said of Kang at the BIFF. “I thought that I want to be an actor like her. I didn’t know that I would send Lee Chun-yeon so vainly last year, and also Kang at so similar time.” Veteran Korean producer Lee died in May last year at the age of 70.

Director Yeon, who worked on her posthumous work “Jung_E” together with Kang, wrote, “Rest in peace. I will always remember a year that we spent together.”

Netflix’s South Korean arm honored the actor in a statement on social media, saying she had “always showed great acting and good energy on set.“

Organizers of the BIFF on Saturday said they will not forget her hard work.

“Former executive director of the BIFF Kang Soo-youn worked hard to promote Korean cinema to the world,” the BIFF said on social media. “From 2015 to 2017, she devoted herself to the successful operation of the Busan International Film Festival as the executive director.”


 
Kang Soo-youn in a file photo taken in October 2021 (Yonhap)
Kang Soo-youn in a file photo taken in October 2021 (Yonhap)


By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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