Body of South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk likely to be cremated in Latvia

Late director Kim Ki-duk (Yonhap)

Late director Kim Ki-duk (Yonhap)

SEOUL: The body of South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, who died from COVID-19 complications in Latvia, is likely to be cremated in the Baltic country, a diplomatic source familiar with the matter has said.

Kim’s family has asked the South Korean Embassy in Latvia to take care of the funeral process, the source said, citing difficulties in travel over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The South Korean Embassy is in talks with the family over the funeral process.

The 59-year-old director died early Friday (local time) in a hospital in the Baltic country, the Russian news agency TASS reported, citing the Latvian online portal Delfi. Kim is said to have suffered from COVID-19 related complications.

The report said Kim arrived in the country on November 20 and had been out of contact since December 5. Kim planned to buy a house in the resort city of Jurmala and acquire permanent residency, it said.

Jeon Yang-jun, executive director of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), told Yonhap News Agency that he heard the news of Kim’s death from an art critic in Kyrgyzstan.

The art house maverick earned international fame in 2004 when he won the Silver Bear award for “Samaritan Girl” at the Berlin International Film Festival. He also received the Golden Lion award for “Pieta” at the Venice Film Festival in 2012.

While his cinematic works captivated global audiences for many years, he has recently kept a low-profile in his native country amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

He was accused by an actress of sexual and physical abuse in 2017 when the #MeToo movement began to sweep the nation.

In October, Kim lost a lawsuit he filed against the actress and a local broadcaster who reported more allegations of sexual misconduct against him in 2018.

Filmmaker Kim Ki-duk was one of South Korea’s most decorated film directors, especially on the international stage. He rose to global fame after winning best director and best film awards at two of the three major international film festivals.

But he left his home country after becoming embroiled in the #MeToo movement, facing accusations of sexual and physical abuse from an actress in 2017.

Born to an impoverished family in the small rural town of Bonghwa, North Gyeongsang Province, Kim decided to become a movie director after watching the French romance film “The Lovers on the Bridge” (1991) and the American thriller “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) in France while in his early 30s.

Without formal education as a filmmaker, his first film, “Crocodile” (1996), received critical frowns for its excessive violence and depictions of women.

But his next steps were lauded by the world’s film festivals. His 1998 feature “Birdcage Inn” was invited to the Berlin International Film Festival, while “The Isle” (2000) was presented in the competition category of the Venice International Film Festival.

His 2001 thriller, “Bad Guy,” which competed for the Golden Bear at the Berlin fest, earned him his first-ever success in the local box office, though small, with 700,000 attendees.

The drama “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring” (2003) earned him a reputation as a notable director also in his home nation, sweeping best picture prizes at South Korea’s two biggest film awards, the Grand Bell Awards and Blue Dragon Film Awards.

Kim Ki-duk

Kim Ki-duk (Yonhap)

Since then, his filmography became more glamorous as he won the Silver Bear for Best Director at Berlin for “Samaritan Girl” in 2004 and the Silver Lion for Best Director at Venice for “3-Iron” the same year.

“Arirang,” a dramatic documentary film about himself, won the prize of Un Certain Regard, given to young talents with innovative and daring works, at Cannes in 2011.

His career peaked with “Pieta” (2012), his 18th feature film, which grabbed the Golden Lion for Best Film at Venice. Kim became the first South Korea-born film director to win the top prize at one of the three major international film festivals — Venice, Cannes and Berlin.


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