Choi Eun-hee: South Korean actress kidnapped by Kim Jong Il dies

Tuesday, 17 Apr, 2018

Choi Eun-hee, a revered South Korean actress whose life in part resembled the plot from an improbable thriller, has died in Seoul at the age of 91. Beginning her film career in 1947's A New Oath, Choi became one of South Korea's leading actresses in the 1950s and '60s and one of the country's first female directors, reports Screen Daily. That year, while in Hong Kong, Choi was kidnapped by agents working for Kim, who believed she could help elevate North Korea's film industry, reports the BBC.

The story behind the kidnapping was that Kim Jong-il, as a huge movie buff, wanted the North Korean film industry to go global, but he understood that it couldn't do so at that moment, not with such poor film quality. She and her husband later managed to escape from the North and returned to South Korea, where she passed away on April 16, 2018.

Meanwhile, Shin had travelled to Hong Kong to find out what had happened to his ex-wife, where he too was kidnapped by Pyongyang agents. The couple were forced to make 17 movies during their eight-year captivity, Chosun Ilbo reported.

During the period, Choi won the best actress award at the 1985 Moscow worldwide film festival for her role in Salt, a film about Korean guerrillas fighting against Japanese colonial rule.

One film was based on a stage play by then-leader Kim Il Sung.

Finally, in 1986, the pair were allowed to attend a film festival in Vienna, where they successfully eluded their regime minders and fled to safety.

However the couple remained unhappy about the kidnapping episode and, despite always being accompanied by a significant security detail outside of North Korea, they managed to escape and find refuge in the United States embassy in Vienna in 1986. Choi retired from the film business, but later wrote an autobiography recounting her time in North Korea.