South Korea’s ‘first world star’ Kang Soo-youn dies at 55

Written by The Frontier Post

Evelyn Lau

SEOUL: Kang Soo-youn, the first Korean actress to win an acting award at the Venice Film Festival, has died aged 55.

She was honorifically nicknamed Korea’s “first world star”.

Kang suffered a cardiac arrest at her home in Seoul on Thursday and was taken to a nearby hospital. The actress’ family said she died two days later of a cerebral haemorrhage at a hospital in southern Seoul, The Korea Herald reported.

Born in Seoul on August 18, 1966, Kang began her a career as a child actor in the 1970s. She then became an internationally acclaimed actress in the 1980s and 1990s with roles in film and television.

Her breakout role came when she played a vulnerable teenager in 1987’s The Surrogate Woman and later won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival as well as the Best Actress award at the Nantes International Film Festival.

Since the news of her death, a number of fellow celebrities in South Korea have paid tribute to her on social media. The tributes, translated from Korean, were shared by The Korea Herald.

Korean actor Kim Yeo-jin, who appeared in Girls’ Night Out with Kang, shared her condolences: “Honourably, in my first movie, I played her friend.”

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

Jung-E director Yeon wrote: “Rest in peace. I will always remember a year that we spent together.”

In the 1990s, Kang appeared in numerous movies, including 1991’s Road to the Racetrack, 1993’s That Woman, That Man and 1998’s Girls’ Night Out.

In 2001, she returned to television after a 15-year hiatus, starring in Ladies of the Palace. The historical drama broadcast 150 episodes. The Yonhap news agency reports that the show was the highest-rated TV series of that year.

In the 2010s, she only appeared in two films: 2011’s Hanji and 2013’s Juri. Continuing her contribution to film, she was named as the co-director of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in 2015 but left in 2017. Before her death, she had filmed scenes for Jung-E, a Netflix original film by Train to Busan and Hellbound director Yeon Sang-ho.

Organisers of the BIFF on Saturday said they would not forget her hard work in making the event a success.

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

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