(LEAD) S. Korean veteran actor Shin Sung-il dies of lung cancer

Shin Sung-il is shown in this file photo. (Yonhap)
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Shin Sung-il is shown in this file photo. (Yonhap)

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SEOUL, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) -- Actor Shin Sung-il, the most popular heartthrob of South Korea's movie industry in the 1960s-70s, died of lung cancer on Sunday. He was 81.

Shin, who also served as a national legislator in the early 2000s, died at 2:25 a.m., people close to him said. They didn't say where Shin died, but he had been undergoing chemotherapy at a hospital in South Jeolla Province since he was diagnosed with stage-three lung cancer in June last year.

Shin, a good-looking star who was often called the "James Dean" of South Korea, debuted in 1960 and appeared in 524 films, including "The Barefooted Young" and "Keep Silent When Leaving," both from 1964, and swept a number of movie awards in the country.

In 1964, Shin married Um Aeng-ran, one of the most popular actresses at the time, in what the media called the "marriage of the century" and which drew about 4,000 people from across the nation. The couple appeared in a series of movies together.

According to a book published by the Busan International Film Festival, 51 movies were released in 1967 alone with Shin playing the lead role. He appeared in 324 of a total of 1,194 films released in South Korea between 1964 and 1971.

"It is unprecedented that the movie industry of a country relied on a single person like this," Park Chan-wook, one of the best-known South Korean movie directors, said in the book. "Without understanding Shin Sung-il, it is impossible to fathom out not only South Korea's movie history, but also the history of South Korea's modern art."

Shin also displayed a keen interest in politics.

He ran unsuccessfully for the National Assembly in 1981 and 1996 and was finally elected a lawmaker in 2000.

Shin Sung-il is shown in this file photo. (Yonhap)
Shin Sung-il is shown in this file photo. (Yonhap)

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