South Korean director accused of assaulting actress says he was demonstrating a scene

South Korean director accused of assaulting actress says he was demonstrating a scene
This file photo taken on October 5, 2014 shows South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk speaking during an event at the 19th Busan International Film Festival in Busan.
PHOTO: AFP

To say Kim Ki-duk is not a director for everyone would be an understatement. He uses rape, prostitution and incest in his films to strip all pretense and examine the raw human emotions of impulse, violence and lust.

However, the controversial director may have gone a step too far: An actress has filed a complaint with prosecutors, alleging that the award-winning director physically assaulted her and coerced her to shoot an unscripted sex scene while filming "Moebius," which was released in 2013.

Kim Ki-duk holds his Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Award at a press conference at Megabox in Dongdaemun in Seoul in this September 2012 file photo. (Yonhap)

The 41-year-old actress, who was originally cast to play the role of the mother in the film, claimed that Kim slapped her and attempted to force her to shoot a sex scene that was not in the script. She eventually quit and actress Lee Eun-woo replaced her.

Kim's representatives denied that the director slapped the actress. It was a gentle tap on the face as part of coaching a scene, they said. They also denied forcing an unscripted sex scene.

Ahn Bhyung-ho, from the Federation of Korea Movie Workers' Union to whom the actress had reported the case, told local media that Kim's assault had been verified by people who were present at the scene.

He said that the movie industry and women's rights activists are working to form a committee to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.

Prosecutors are currently investigating the case.

"Moebius," which was screened at the 70th Venice International Film Festival, was originally banned in Korea due to its graphic depictions of violence and sex, especially underage and incestuous sex.

After cutting about five minutes of the movie, Kim re-applied for local screening later in 2013 and received an adults-only rating.

Kim is one of the most acclaimed directors in Korea. His "Pieta" won the Golden Lion at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. He was also the first Korean director to win the best film prizes at Venice, Berlin and Cannes festivals.

Kim's collection of prizes notwithstanding, the 56-year-old has often been at the centre of controversy, largely for his choices of subject matter, which have included taboo issues such as incest and physical mutilation.

In the recently released book "Inside Love: Viewing Kim Ki-duk through eyes of Lacan," culture critic Kim So-yeon noted Kim's tendency to "glamourise or glorify" prostitution in his films.

She points out that such an approach is merely a metaphor Kim uses to convey his message, adding, "It is of course, one of many approaches that we can take toward his work."

The director on Thursday released a statement in response to accusations he had hit and coerced an actress on the set of "Moebius" in 2013.

He said that he could not exactly recall the events from four years ago. However, he stressed that the strike happened while demonstrating a scene.

"I myself was in the scene and might have hit the opposing actress while following the viewpoint or hit myself. This happened while I was demonstrating and explaining that this was the scene I wanted," said Kim.

"In any case, it was from a director's stance, a situation that occurred while concentrating to heighten the realism of the film," Kim said.

The following is the translated version of Kim's full statement:

We (the actress and I) first started working on movies together in 1996 and have long been friendly. After I received an international prize, (the actress in question) asked to star in one of my films. After I received the Venice and Berlin director awards in 2004 she asked once again, so I offered her one of the two female roles in the 2005 film "Time," but she objected saying she was not satisfied with the role.

In 2012 after I received the Venice prize, she asked to star in one of my films again and agreed to star in "Moebius." After two shoots she unilaterally decided to give up starring in the film, and we could not get in touch with her after that. At the third shoot, we waited until 10 a.m. for her, but she did not come. The producer, who lived near her house, asked her to come to the set numerous times, but she ended up not coming. Because of the budget, we hurriedly revised the script for the other actress to play two roles and finished filming.

Four years have passed and this is the current situation.

Other parts are difficult to understand, but I hope to explain myself on the part about violence.

On the first day, the first shoot featured a husband and wife who were in an intense fight due to the husband's cellphone. It was four years ago so I do not remember well, but in my memory, I myself was in the scene and might have hit the actress while following the viewpoint or hit myself. This happened while I was demonstrating and explaining that this was the scene I wanted. It was around four years ago so I do not remember exactly.

In any case, it was from a director's stance, a situation that occurred while concentrating to heighten the realism of the film. Many crew members were watching and no personal feelings were involved.

Even so, if a crew member is able to give an exact testimony of the situation, I will see this as a chance to reconsider my stance as a film director and take responsibility for my actions.

Aside from the part about violence, the rest I believe is a misunderstanding that arose from my efforts to do my best (to depict) the scene in the scenario from a director's position.

In any case, I am truly sorry toward the actress who was hurt by the incident.

But she had said she would do her best in any role and asked twice to star (in one of my films) and made the difficult decision to star (in one). I wanted to make a good film together, but it is regrettable that the situation has turned out this way.

Lastly I hope there are no misunderstandings surrounding Korean film crew members and actors who make truly high quality films. I am so sorry (for the distraction) to the crew members who participated in the upcoming "The Time of Humans."

 

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