South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, who won the top award at the Venice Film Festival in 2012 but later faced allegations of trying to force an actress into shooting off-script sexual scenes, has died at the age of 59.
The Baltic News Service cited Latvia-based Russian documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky, president of an international documentary film festival in Riga, as saying Kim died after falling ill there with Covid-19.
Kim’s death was indirectly confirmed by the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, which said a “South Korean male in his 50s died while being treated for Covid-19 at a hospital in Latvia during the early hours of December 11 local time”.
It declined to identify the director due to privacy concerns.
Kim travelled to Latvia on November 20 to buy a house in Jurmala, a seaside resort near the capital Riga, and to apply for a residence permit, the Lithuanian public broadcaster said.
He won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival with his 2012 film Pieta, a brutal mother-and-son tale of revenge and redemption. He also won prizes for best director at festivals in Venice and Berlin, and another at the 2011 Cannes festival for his movie Arirang.
While his movies often won critical acclaim, many moviegoers, especially women, considered them disturbing because of excessive violence and depictions of rape and castration.
A year after the Venice success, Kim faced the allegations at home, which he vaguely denied, saying there had been a misunderstanding, although he acknowledged he might have hit the actress while instructing her.
She dropped out and the movie, Moebius, a dark and violent story about an estranged family, was finished with a different actress.
Kim was fined 5 million won (£3,400) over assault charges in 2018, but prosecutors eventually decided not to pursue charges of sexual abuse against him, citing insufficient evidence.
His career in South Korea was effectively ended in 2017-18 after three actresses made new accusations on investigative news show PD’s Notebook, which was broadcast on Korean public broadcaster MBC.
He later launched criminal and civil suits against MBC and the original Moebius actress, accusing them of defamation, but his claims were dismissed in courts.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Riga was contacting the man’s family and offering help in arranging a funeral.