By Kang Aa-young
Actor Shin Sung-il died of lung cancer Sunday. He was 81.
Widely regarded as the "godfather" of Korea film, he was considered a legendary figure in the Korean film industry as he witnessed the rise of the industry and played a key role in it. He also served as a national legislator in the early 2000s, in his efforts to support the Korean movie industry.
He was diagnosed with stage-three lung cancer in June 2017 and had been undergoing chemotherapy at a hospital located in South Jeolla Province.
According to local media reports, he died at 2:25 a.m. Sunday. It is not publicly known where Shin died, but it is believed to be the hospital where he had been staying.
"If there is Toshiro Mifune in Japan, Marcello Mastroianni in Italy, Gregory Peck in America and Alain Delon in France, we have Shin Seong-il here," star director Park Chan-wook recalled in a book published by the Busan International Film Festival to honor Shin.
"Without understanding Shin Seong-il, it is hard to get a grasp of film history or modern culture of Korea."
Shin, an undeniably top actor here, appeared in total of 530 movies, starring in 506 of them.
Debuting in director Shin Sang-ok's 1960 comedy film "Romantic Papa," Shin soon rose to stardom with "Only for You" in 1962. Then drama films such as "The Barefooted Young" in 1964, "Keep Silent When Leaving" in 1964, "Dangerous Youth" in 1966 and "A Burning Youth" in 1966 made him a major star.
He also gained attention after marrying renowned actress Um Aing-ran in 1964. In the same year alone, the couple starred in 26 movies, dominating Korea's film industry. The two remained one of the most notable married couples among Korean celebrities.
In addition to his wife, Shin partnered with different top actresses like Kim Ji-mee, Yoon Jeong-hee, and Moon Hee in a variety of movies. He appeared in 51 movies in 1967.
Shin's career reached its peak when he starred in movies made by renowned directors of the 1960s, including Kim Kee-duk, Lee Man-hee, Kim Soo-yong, Chung Jin Woo and Lee Seong-gu His solid career continued through the 1970s.
Movies such as "Heavenly Homecoming to Stars" in 1974, "Winter Woman" in 1977 and "Gilsoddeum" in 1985 well presented his appealing and diverse acting skills.
Shin's last film was "Door to the Night" in 2013.
He is survived by his wife Um, 82, one son and two daughters.
The memorial service will be held at the Asan Medical Center in Seoul. According to The Korea Film Actors Association, a special funeral will be held to honor him but they are still discussing details with his family.