Choi Eun-hee

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Choi Eun-hee
Born (1926-11-20) November 20, 1926 (age 91)
Nationality South Korean
Occupation Actress
Years active 1947–2006
Spouse(s) Shin Sang-ok (divorced 1976, remarried 1983)
Korean name
Hangul 최은희
Hanja 崔銀姬
Revised Romanization Choe Eun-Hui
McCune–Reischauer Ch'oe Ǔn-hŭi

Choi Eun-hee (born November 20, 1926) is a South Korean actress. She began her film career in 1947 in the film A New Oath. For the next 20 years, she was one of the biggest stars in Korean film and led the Shin Film company along with her husband, the director Shin Sang-ok.

In 1978, Choi and Shin, whom she had recently divorced due to Shin having committed adultery, were kidnapped in Hong Kong to North Korea by order of Kim Jong-il.[1] Kim's plan was to have Shin work as his propagandist and for Choi to be the star. Shortly after agreeing to the demands of Kim, they were remarried at his recommendation. The couple finally staged their escape in 1986 while on a trip to Vienna, fleeing to the United States embassy and requesting political asylum.[2] According to the Internet Movie Database, from 1955 to 1985, Choi appeared in eighty-one films. She received the award for best actress at the 14th Moscow International Film Festival in 1985, for her part in the film Sogum.[3][4][5][6]

With Shin, she wrote an account of their years in Pyongyang.[7] Shin also wrote his autobiography shortly before his death.[8]

In 2015, an English-language biography of her life (along with Shin Sang-ok) was published by Paul Fischer titled A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker.[5] In January 2016, at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, in the World Cinema Documentary Competition, a documentary about the North Korean ordeal, entitled The Lovers and the Despot and directed by Robert Cannan and Ross Adam, was presented.

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role
1958 A Flower in Hell So-nya
1960 To the Last Day
1961 The Houseguest and My Mother
1962 A Happy Day of Jinsa Maeng Ip-bun
The Memorial Gate for Virtuous Women
1963 Rice
1964 Red Scarf Ji-seon
Deaf Sam-yong
1965 The Sino-Japanese War and Queen Min the Heroine
1967 Phantom Queen
1968 Woman

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1959 2nd Buil Film Awards Best Actress A Flower in Hell Won
1962 5th Buil Film Awards Best Actress The Houseguest and My Mother Won
1964 2nd Blue Dragon Film Awards Popular Star Award N/A Won
1966 9th Buil Film Awards Best Actress The Sino-Japanese War and Queen Min the Heroine Won
4th Blue Dragon Film Awards Popular Star Award N/A Won
2006 5th Korean Film Awards Lifetime Achievement Award N/A Won
2008 28th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Lifetime Achievement Award N/A Won
2009 17th Chunsa Film Art Awards Chunsa Daesang (Grand Prize) N/A Won
2010 47th Grand Bell Awards Lifetime Achievement Award
for the Advancement of Cinema
N/A Won


  • Choi Eun-hee (2007). Ch'oe Ŭn-hŭi ŭi kobaek: yŏnghwa poda tŏ yŏnghwa kat'ŭn sam 최 은희 의 고백: 영화 보다 더 영화 같은 삶 [Confessions of Choi Eun-hee] (in Korean). Seoul: Random House Korea. ISBN 9788925513997. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kim, Chanmi (2013-08-12). "배우 최은희 "외도로 이혼한 신상옥 납북 후 용서했다"". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. 
  2. ^ "Same Bed, Different Dreams". This American Life. 2015-05-02. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 
  3. ^ "14th Moscow International Film Festival (1985)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-03-16. Retrieved 2013-02-10. 
  4. ^ Sebag-Montefiore, Clarissa (Jan 28, 2015). "The Day North Korea Really Did Steal the Show – The Book 'A Kim Jong-Il Production' Explores a Bizarre Case in Cinema History". The Wall Street Journal. New York. Archived from the original on January 29, 2015. Retrieved Aug 27, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Fischer, Paul (February 3, 2015). A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power. Flatiron Books. ISBN 978-1250054265. 
  6. ^ Kirby, Michael Donald; Biserko, Sonja; Darusman, Marzuki (7 February 2014). "Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - A/HRC/25/CRP.1". United Nations Human Rights Council: 288–89 (Paragraph 905). Archived from the original on February 27, 2014. In 1978, South Korean Actress Ms Choi Un-hee was abducted from Hong Kong after travelling there to meet people in the movie industry. After being forced onto a boat by DPRK agents, Ms Choi demanded an explanation from the abductors, to which they replied “Madam Choi, we are now going to the bosom of General Kim Il-sung”. On her arrival in the DPRK on 22 January, she was met by Kim Jong-il who took her on a tour of Pyongyang. Upon learning of her disappearance, Ms Choi’s ex-husband Shin Sang-ok, a leading filmmaker, went to Hong Kong to look for her. He was also abducted from Hong Kong by the same DPRK agent in July 1978. Kim Jong-il said to Mr Shin upon his arrival in the DPRK “I had ordered the operations group to carry out a project to bring you here as I wanted a talented director like you to be in the North.” This information is consistent with the accounts from former DPRK officials who were personally involved in abductions who indicated that Kim Jong-il personally signed off on abduction orders. During their time in the DPRK, Mr Shin Sang-ok and Ms Choi Un-hee were involved in a number of DPRK-produced movies of which Kim Jong-il was the executive producer. The couple escaped into the United States Embassy while visiting a film festival in Vienna in 1986. They later settled in the United States; Mr Shin has since passed away. 
  7. ^ 우리의 탈출은 끝나지 않았다: 신상옥·최은희 비록 Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ 난, 영화였다 : 영화감독신상옥이남긴마지막글들 Archived 2010-05-25 at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading[edit]

  • Breen, Michael (2011). Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader (2nd ed.). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118153796. 
  • Bärtås, Magnus; Ekman, Fredrik (2015). All Monsters Must Die: An Excursion to North Korea. Toronto: House of Anansi. ISBN 978-1-77089-881-3. 

External links[edit]