Shin Sang-ok has surely had one of the strangest careers of any film director. Hailed as the Orson Welles of South Korea for the modernizing influence his 1960s work had on that country’s film industry, he his now best known for having been kidnapped (along with his wife, actress Choi Eun-hee) by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il only to escape to the United States and eventually become producer of the Disney kid flick 3 Ninjas and its sequels.
Shin was born in 1926 in the Hamyong province of what is now North Korea. He studied painting at the University of Tokyo and then returned to Korea and began his film career as a production designer on the first movie made in Korea after the Japanese occupation, Choi In-kyu’s Via Freedom. He began directing films himself shortly thereafter. His 1958 feature, Flower in Hell, was the first Korean film to feature an onscreen kiss, a mild precursor to the erotic content of his later work. Throughout the ‘60s, Shin… read more