Master Korean cineaste ShinSang-ok passed away at the age of 80 late last night (April 11) in Seoul. With a career that spans the modern history of Korea, his life has often been compared to a film scriptitself.

Born in Cheong-jin (now in North Korea) in 1925 during the Japanese occupation, Shinstudied art at the University of Tokyo before he started directing films in 1952. Hemarried his wife and life-long muse, the famous actress Choi Eun-hee, the nextyear and spent a lifetime making films noted for their humanism, socialcommentary, innovativeness and sensuality.

In Jan 1978, his wife waskidnapped to North Korea while working on a film in Hong Kong. Six months later, Shin Sang-ok was also kidnapped, and subsequentlymade five films in North Korea.

In 1986, the couple made adramatic escape through the US embassy in Vienna. They lived in the US until 2000 when they returned to South Korea. In the meantime Shin had produced several US films under the name of Simon Sheen.

His most recognised worksinclude Mother And The Houseguest, Seong Chunhyang and Evergreen Tree, all starring Choi Eun-hee, and historical drama Prince Yonsan. Also of note are the fivefilms he made in North Korea, including Saltand Bulgasari - the latter of whichreceived a South Korean release in 2000, 15 years after production.

"His whole life was aboutfilms," says his widow Choi Eun-hee. "Whenever or wherever, he wanted to makefilms, and he was like a phoenix [rising up again from the ashes]."

International retrospectivesspotlighting the late director's works include one at the Pusan InternationalFilm Festival in 2001, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2002,and the Cannes retrospective screening of Evergreen Tree in 2003. He also sat on the juries of Cannes and the Deauville Asian Film Festival.

In addition to establishinga production company and film academy of his own, the late Shin was also aprofessor at Dong-ah Broadcasting College.

After a successful livertransplant two years ago, the late director suffered ill health and finallysuccumbed late last night. He is survived by his wife and children, who havebeen receiving a long line of mourners from the Korean filmmaking community, aswell as much attention from the press. His funeral is to take place on April 15.