Kang Soo-youn, a Korean actor who was a star of 1980s and 1990s film and TV, died on Saturday. She was 55.
She was admitted to hospital in Seoul on Thursday after reportedly suffering a heart attack and being found unconscious. She died in hospital after a cerebral hemorrhage.
Kang was a child star from the 1970s and appeared in multiple films and TV shows in the pre-modern era.
After such a busy start, Kang was ready for a new direction in her career by her twenties. She received it, age 21, when she earned the best actress prize at the 1987 Venice Film Festival for her role in Im Kwon-taek’s “The Surrogate Womb.” Two years later, she won the best actress award in Moscow for another Im title “Come, Come, Come Upward.”
She held a prized place in Korean TV viewers’ affections with roles in coming-of-age drama “Diary of High School Student,” which ran on KBS from 1983 to 1986.
While most of her best-known roles occurred before the industrialization of the Korean film industry in the 21st century, Kang took the title role in SBS historical drama series “Ladies of the Palace” in 2001.
The Yonhap news agency reports that the show was the highest-rated TV series of that year.
“In the 1990s, she represented the changing images of women in Korean society in feminist films like ‘Go Alone Like Musso’s Horn’ and ‘Girl’s Night Out’,” Yonhap wrote.
Kang’s cherished status allowed her to be a high-profile but politically neutral co-chair of the Busan International Film Festival between 2015 and 2017, after the festival had been thrown into a prolonged period of internal turmoil and conflict with the local industry.
Her co-chairman from that time, and Busan festival co-founder, Kim Dong-ho will reportedly lead Kang’s funeral committee ahead of ceremonies on Wednesday and Thursday.
Although she had been largely absent from Korean screens for several years, Kang had recently shot scenes for “Jung-E,” a Netflix original film by “Train to Busan” director Yeon Sang-ho.
“More than anything I remember a public talk [Kang Soo-youn] had with Jeon Do-yeon at the Busan International Film Festival back in 2007, between the Venice best actress winner [Kang] and the Cannes best actress winner [Jeon]. There were so many people gathered there that I couldn’t even see the stage, so instead I watched the faces of the people watching them. The sense of awe and admiration of these people gazing at these two titans of contemporary Korean cinema is something I’ll never forget. It can’t have been easy for her, becoming a star at such a young age and living in the public’s eye for so long, but I admire her for her bravery and spirit,” wrote Darcy Paquet, Korean film chronicler and sub-titler.