Disgraced Filmmaker Kim Ki-duk Dies of Coronavirus in Latvia

  • By Lee Tae-hoon, Roh Suk-jo, Kim Sung-hyun, Byun Hee-won

    December 14, 2020 13:41

    The death of celebrated movie director Kim Ki-duk has left many in the industry in a quandary after accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced some three years ago. 

    Kim died in Latvia last week of coronavirus complications at the age of only 60, according to the Foreign Ministry.

    While the international press wrote up generous tributes to Kim's talent, movie critic Park Woo-sung here said, "Most deaths call for mourning, but in some cases, doing so causes harm to others."

    Kim Ki-duk /Yonhap

    Before the accusations, Kim was revered as the only Korean movie director to win awards from all three major global film festivals in Venice, Cannes and Berlin. He won the Silver Bear for "Samaritan Girl" in Berlin in 2004, the Golden Lion for "Pieta" at Venice in 2012 and the Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes festival for "Arirang" In 2011.

    When he was accused of sexual assault by multiple women, Kim fled to Kyrgyzstan. He worked on a film project in Kazakhstan before moving to Latvia recently. Kim had planned to buy a house in the Latvian resort town of Jurmala in the hope of obtaining permanent residency there but could not be contacted by friends after Dec. 5, according to sources.

    The Korean Embassy there confirmed that Kim was taken to hospital in Riga to treat coronavirus but died of complications on Dec. 11, and said his family asked it to take care of the funeral. His body is expected to be cremated in Latvia and the ashes flown back to Korea.

    Kim grew up poor and had to drop out of middle school. After serving as a non-commissioned officer in the Marines, he traveled to Paris, where he spent the next three years teaching himself filmmaking. He debuted in 1996 by writing and producing the film "Crocodile." Internationally he is perhaps best known for "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter...and Spring," a meditative look at the life of a young Buddhist monk.

    His dark history of alleged sexual misconduct caught up with him in 2017. That year, an actress took him to court accusing him of slapping her face. The Seoul Central District Court sentenced him to a W5 million fine (US$1=W1,092). In 2018, media reports quoted sources accusing him of sexually assaulting actresses and crew in his movies.

    Kim sued the media and his accuser for defamation, but the charges were dismissed. Last year, Kim was on the jury of the Moscow International Film Festival, and this year he filmed a Russian-language film called "Dissolve" in Kazakhstan. 

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