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Beloved actor Yoon Jeong-hee dies, aged 79

Jan. 20, 2023 - 13:51 By Kim Da-sol
Yoon Jeong-hee (The Korea Herald)

Yoon Jeong-hee, a South Korean cinema icon and beloved actor, passed away at the age of 79 in Paris, according to a movie industry official on Friday.

She had long suffered Alzheimer's disease. She had been staying in Paris since 2010 with her violinist daughter Paik Jin-hee.

"Yoon Jeong-hee, my wife and beloved actress, left the world peacefully, as if she was dreaming, listening to the sound of our daughter Jin-hee playing a violin. Based on her will, we will quietly conduct a private funeral in Paris," said Yoon's husband and pianist Paik Kun-woo in an e-mail statement. Paik said Yoon passed away at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 19 local time.

"I hope you to remember Yoon for long time, as an actress who had passion for film her entire life," he added.

As one of the most prolific actors of her day, Yoon was part of the "troika” of female actors deemed the most influential from the 1960s to the 1980s. She rose to stardom with her debut film "Cheongchun Geukjang (Youth Theater)” in 1967, sweeping up various local film awards.

She is best known for "Mist" (1967), "Longing in Every Heart" (1967), "An Old Potter" (1969) and "A Shaman's Story" (1972). She appeared in some 280 films in her long career.

As a prolific figure on the film entertainment scene, she also served on the jury at various international film festivals such as the Montreal World Film Festival in 1995, the Mumbai Film Festival in 2010, the Dinard Festival of British Cinema and the Blue Dragon Film Awards in 2016.

After a hiatus of 16 years, she came back to the big screen by working with renowned Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong on “Poetry,” released in 2010 when she was 64.

With “Poetry,” she won a number of accolades in and out of the country, including at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The film was recognized for best screenplay at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Yoon played a character with Alzheimer’s in the film.

It was her husband, pianist Paik Kun-woo, who unveiled in 2019 that Yoon had been living with Alzheimer’s for the past 10 years.

The two tied the knot in 1976, two years after they first met in Paris. Yoon went to Paris for film studies in 1973.

In her later years, Yoon became the subject of a legal battle over her legal guardianship between her family and siblings.

In 2019, Yoon's siblings accused Paik and their daughter Jin-hee of neglecting the ill actor and claimed legal guardianship of her in France.

Yoon’s daughter Jin-hee later won a case in a Korean court in 2021 over the legal guardianship of her mother. Although Yoon’s siblings appealed, the case is expected to be dismissed with her death.