South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee, once abducted by North Korea and forced to make films for the state, passed away at age 91, reports news agency “Yonhap news”.
Choi, born in 1926 in South Korea’s Gyeonggi province, began her film career in 1947 when she starred in “A New Oath” and soon after became one of the leading actresses of the time. Together with her then-husband Shin Sang-ok, she begins production company Shin Film Co and the couple becomes one of South Koreas most celebrated celebrity couples.
It’s 1977 when Choi Eun-hee receives an invitation from a businessman to direct a project in Hong Kong. She accepts, unaware that he is actually a North Korean envoy. Upon her arrival in China, she is kidnapped in order of Kim Jung-il, son of then North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung, who wants to bring North Koreas film industry to another level. A couple months later, Choi’s ex-husband director Shin is abducted in order of Kim as well.
Choi and Shin are forced to make propagandistic films to help North Korea’s communist film industry compete on international stages. Eight years pass when Kim decides to send Choi and Shin to Vienna, to promote their films and North Koreas film industry. Upon arrival in Vienna, the duo sought asylum at The United States embassy, which they are granted, and finally return home years later.
Choi’s life story off screen has been more dramatic and turbulent than a film. Choi wrote an autobiography “Confessions of Choi Eun-hee” in 2007 and her legacy includes multiple film awards, including the 47th Grand Bell Award in 2010 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
Photo credit: This still of Choi and Shin is taken from a film about the couple, titled “The Lovers and the Despot”.