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

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Iconic Korean movie star Kang Soo-youn (BIFF)

Kang Soo-youn, the iconic Korean movie star who won the Venice Film Festival’s top national actor award, died on Saturday at the age of 55.

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

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

Kang’s funeral committee is headed by Kim Dong-ho, founder of the Busan International Film Festival and current president of the Gangneung International Film Festival. The funeral committee members are made up of veteran Korean 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 home at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul (BIFF)

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

A memorial altar has been erected at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, and his funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday. The ceremony will be broadcast live on the Korean Film Council’s YouTube channel.

Kang, born in Seoul in 1966, was a theater icon in the 1980s and 1990s.

At the age of 4, she made her debut as a child actor for local broadcaster TBS, and quickly became a top 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 this victory, she became the first Korean actress to win an actress award at one of the three most prestigious international film festivals in the world – Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

In 1989, she won the Best Actress award at the Moscow International Film Festival for her role in another film by director Im, “Come, Come, Come Upward” (1989).

Throughout the 1990s, Kang starred in several local box office hits, cementing her status as one of the best actresses of the period. Films 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’ megahit period drama “Ladies of the Palace” (2001).

Kang Soo-young in a scene from

Kang Soo-young in a scene from “Come, Come, Come Upward” by Im Kwon-taek (Yonhap)

From 2015 to 2017, she was Co-Executive Director of BIFF.

Most recently, Kang was set to return to the big screen for the first time in nine years with the Netflix sci-fi film “Jung_E,” directed by Yeon Sang-ho, which was slated for release in the second half of the year.

Kang went on hiatus after starring in “Hanji” (2011) and “Jury” (2013).

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

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

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

Others recalled the lasting impact she left on them.

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

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

The South Korean branch of Netflix paid tribute to the actress in a statement on social media, saying she had “always shown excellent acting and good energy on set”.

BIFF organizers on Saturday said they will not forget his hard work.

“Former BIFF executive director Kang Soo-youn has worked hard to promote Korean cinema to the world,” BIFF said on social media. “From 2015 to 2017, she devoted herself to the smooth running 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)

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