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    Director Shin Sang-ok and his wife actress Choi Eun-hee, noted Korean film artists who have made pictures in both South and North Korea, arrive for a Washington press conference, May 15, 1986

    Kidnapped South Korean Actress, Darling of Kim Jong-il Dies at 91

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    Choi Eun-hee was kidnapped in 1978 by the North Korean secret service by personal order of Kim Jong-il, who was the actress’ number one fan. She and her husband later managed to escape from the North and returned to South Korea, where she passed away on April 16, 2018.

    Choi Eun-hee, a South Korean actress, has died in Seoul at the age of 91. She was a famous actress in her homeland and even beyond. The late DPRK head Kim Jong-il was a huge fan of hers and it was this admiration that later determined her uneasy fate.

    READ MORE: 'Day of Sun': North Korea Celebrates Anniversary of Founder's Birth

    Kim Jong-il ordered the kidnapping of Choi Eun-hee and by January 22, 1978 she was on the northern side of the border. Her ex-husband, famous film-maker Shin Sang-ok was also allegedly kidnapped (some rumors have claimed he could have voluntarily left for the North) and two years later was reunited with her. Eventually, they even remarried.

    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. So he ordered Choi Eun-hee and her husband to create films for the DPRK and gave them vast resources to do so. Their creations managed to win awards at film festivals in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.

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    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 US embassy in Vienna in 1986. After spending several years in the US, they finally returned to their homeland.

    Kim Jong-il is the father of Kim Jong-un, current head of the DPRK. Kim Jong-il ruled over North Korea since the death of Kim Il-sung in 1994 up until his own demise in December 2011. During their eight years of captivity, Choi Eun-hee and Shin Sang-ok, he held significant posts in the structure of Workers' Party of Korea.


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    filmmaker, actress, history, Kim Jong-il, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Korean Peninsula, South Korea
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