World Actress kidnapped by North Korea dies at 92

10:26  17 april  2018
10:26  17 april  2018 Source:   bbc.com

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A South Korean actress , once kidnapped by North Korea and forced to make films for the state, has died at 92 . Choi Eun-hee was a leading actress in the South when she was kidnapped under the orders of then-leader Kim Jong-il in the late 1970s .

An account of the incredible story of movie director Shin Sang-Ok and actress Choi Eun-Hee, once South Korea 's golden couple, who were kidnapped by North Korea and held against their will.

This picture taken on April 16, 2018 shows a portrait of South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee on a mourning altar at a hospital in Seoul.: Ms Choi was one of South Korea's most famous actresses during the peak of her popularity © AFP Ms Choi was one of South Korea's most famous actresses during the peak of her popularity

A South Korean actress, once kidnapped by North Korea and forced to make films for the state, has died at 92.

Choi Eun-hee was a leading actress in the South when she was kidnapped under the orders of then-leader Kim Jong-il in the late 1970s .

Her ex-husband, a famous film director, was also abducted several months later. The duo later successfully escaped.

North Korea has always denied abducting the couple, saying they had sought sanctuary there.

Ms Choi died on Monday afternoon in hospital in South Korea.

"My mother passed when she went to hospital for kidney dialysis this afternoon," Ms Choi's eldest son, director Shin Jeong-gyun told news outlet Yonhap.

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A South Korean actress who was once kidnapped by the North 's agents on the orders of leader Kim Jong Un's late father and forced to make movies for the regime has died North Korea abducted hundreds of South Koreans under a state-sanctioned policy in the decades following the Korean War.

It sounds more far-fetched than anything a film-maker could invent - the story of how a director and a leading actress were kidnapped by North Korea and Five of them were returned to Japan in 2002 but Pyongyang says the other eight died , though Japan doesn't believe this. Image copyright EPA.

The kidnapping and a film buff

Born in 1926 in South Korea's Gyeonggi province, Ms Choi first began her film career in 1947.

She and her then-husband Shin Sang-ok eventually rose to be one of South Korea's most celebrated film directors and film stars.

But by the late 1970s, the couple had divorced and Choi's career had hit a downturn.

It was during that time that Choi was approached by someone posing as a Hong Kong businessman with a proposal to form a film-making company which would revive her fortunes.

According to a book "A Kim Jong-il Production", she was persuaded to go to Hong Kong. she was persuaded to go to Hong Kong. Once in Hong Kong, she was grabbed and sedated by a group of men.

Eight days later she was in Pyongyang in a luxurious villa that was constantly guarded.

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He resurfaced alive and well in North Korea where it came out that he was kidnapped to be Kim Yong Un’s very own English tutor. He was just 24 when he was abducted from the Yunnan Province after which police insisted that he must’ve died in an accident while out hiking.

It sounds more far-fetched than anything a film-maker could invent - the story of how a director and a leading actress were kidnapped by North Korea and Five of them were returned to Japan in 2002 but Pyongyang says the other eight died , though Japan doesn't believe this. Image copyright EPA.

Despite being divorced, Mr Shin and his ex-wife had remained close and he went to Hong Kong to look for her. He too was later abducted.

The late Mr Kim was said to be a great film buff, and an avid watcher of Hollywood movies. He had hoped that the couple's presence in the North could help their film industry compete on the international stage.

After eight years, the couple won Mr Kim's trust and were allowed to travel to Vienna to promote their films.

While in Vienna, the duo sought political asylum at the US embassy. They returned to South Korea years later and Mr Shin eventually died in 2006.

The outlandish tale has gone on to grip audiences across the globe. In 2016, a film titled "The Lovers and the Despot" premiered, following the life of the couple as they were kidnapped in North Korea.

'Gone but never forgotten'

Ms Choi's passing has been widely mourned across South Korea.

"I went to see her movie when I was in high school," said 82-year-old actress Um Aing-ran. "After seeing her acting I decided to become an actress."

Other social media users also remembered her.

"You were such a beauty. You really had a rough life, you are gone now but your passion for acting will never be forgotten," said one user on Naver. "I hope you reunited with Mr Shin and be happy."

"We say there is no life without a story. But her life was so dramatic," said another Naver user. "I [will] remember your elegance. Rest in peace."

Ms Choi's funeral will be held on Thursday in Seoul.

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