Korea’s Cannes winners honor Roh

'Thirst' win overshadowed by national tragedy

SEOUL — Any celebrations for  Korean pic “Thirst’s” win at the Cannes Film Festival were overshadowed by the suicide of former president Roh Moo-hyun and North Korea’s nuclear tests.

“Thirst” helmer Park Chan-wook’s Cannes jury prize missed out on the media attention lavished on previous Korean Cannes winners, as the country went into mourning for Roh and dealt with the increasing crisis surrounding North Korea’s nuclear tests.

At Thursday’s press confab to celebrate the win, the somber “Thirst” team wore black suits to honor Roh.

Park said he was enormously shocked at the death, which has hit the Koreans in the same way that President Kennedy’s murder shocked Americans.

“When I heard of the news, my legs were so trembling that I couldn’t stand still. But I had to conduct a couple of things including interviews in a chaotic state of my mind,” said Park. “I don’t know what to say — Roh was a great commoner.”

Meanwhile, “Secret Sunshine” helmer Lee Chang-dong, who served on a jury at Cannes this year and was Minister of Culture and Tourism in Roh’s government, was at Roh’s home in Bongha, southern Korea, where the former president is lying in state. He is assisting other former cabinet members who are greeting thousands of people paying their last respects.

Box office observers are watching to see if Roh’s death and the national funeral on Friday influence theaters this weekend, when helmer Bong Joon-ho’s “Mother” is released nationwide.

Roh jumped to his death Saturday while hiking with a bodyguard in his hometown of Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province. The former president, who finished his five-year term last year, was under investigation on suspicion of taking bribes.