Kim Ki-Duk, one of South Korea's most acclaimed directors, whose work was fundamental in attracting international attention to its modern cinematic output, has died at the age of 59. He was hospitalised in Riga after travelling to Latvia to buy a house in the coastal town of Jumala, and passed away from complications of Covid-19.
According to Variety, Kim had been intending to move to the country and shoot a film in neighbouring Estonia.
Working on tiny budgets in order to preserve his independence, Kim produced films which were striking in their individuality, often tackling difficult or controversial subjects, or simply breaking the unspoken rules of cinema. He was known for creating intense character interactions with very little dialogue, for breaking cultural taboos and for using shockingly violent imagery. The Isle and 3-Iron dealt with sadomasochistic romances, Samaritan Girl and Bad Guy explored exploitation in sex work, and Moebius and Pieta took on issues around incestuous desire. The director told something of his own story in 2011's Arirang, which won the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes..
Kim won numerous film festival awards over the course of his career. Alongside his work as a director, he was a skilled cinematographer and a writer. In the latter capacity he was known for his generosity, giving scripts away to directors whose careers he wished to advance.
Despite his artistic achievements, Kim has a troubled reputation within the acting community. In recent years he was subject to several accusations of sexual assault and in one case he was issued with a fine. He never directly responded to the claims but in one case he sued on the basis of false accusation. He did acknowledge that several of his films had involved animal cruelty, saying that it was something he would always regret.