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Eulogies for legendary director Na Woon-gyu discovered

All Headlines 12:04 September 28, 2016

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- "What do I live and die for now? I, lying awake, pray deep in my heart for the eternal happiness of your sacred spirit as you have lived and died only for movies."

This is from the eulogy that actress Shin Il-seon wrote for the December 1937 issue of the monthly "Samcheolli (the Whole Land of Korea)" about four months after Korean director, screenwriter and actor Na Woon-gyu died at 35 on Aug. 9, 1937. Shin acted in Na's silent, black and white film "Arirang" (1926), which is regarded as the most influential film in early Korean cinema.

Ahead of the 90th anniversary of the film's opening on Saturday, Kim Ki-soon, head of record label Synnara Co., on Wednesday made public the monthly carrying eulogies for Na by Shin and three other actors -- Moon Ye-bong, Bok Hye-sook and Kim Yeon-sil -- all of whom starred in Na's films.

Seen here is the December 1937 issue of the monthly "Samcheolli" carrying eulogies for the deceased director Na Woon-gyu. Kim Ki-soon, head of record label Synnara Co. made public the magazine on Sept. 28, 2016, on the occasion of the upcoming 90th anniversary of Na's famous film "Arirang." (Yonhap)

Born in Hoeryong, North Hamkyong Province now in North Korea, in 1902, Na is considered the founder of Korean cinema during the Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945).

He made dozens of films during his short life, including "Deaf Samryong" (1929), "Looking for Love" (1929) and "The Grief of Geumgang" (1930), and acted in some 30 movies.

His first movie "Arirang," premiered at the now-defunct Danseongsa in downtown Seoul on Oct. 1, 1926, was a national sensation as the film made Korean cinema a means not just to entertain people but to metaphorically express the nation's resistance to the harsh Japanese colonial rule. Na himself lived a harsh life while fighting for national liberation. He was imprisoned from 1921-23 for his participation in the March 1, 1919 Independence Movement. He received his famous artistic pen-name "Chunsa" from another freedom fighter while in jail.

Shin, who played Na's sister in "Arirang," mourned in her eulogy, "How many times he cried for a deprived environment and how many times he cursed a dire reality!

"It's Na Woon-gyu who has led me to the film circle," Moon Ye-bong, who played Na's wife in the "The Ownerless Ferryboat" (1932), in her homage to the director.

"I think there's no one like Na who has done his utmost in nurturing young actors. The strong affection he had showed to young actors deeply moves me yet again to tears," she said.

Bok Hye-sook, who acted with Na in the tragic romance "Janghanmong" (1926)," evaluated him as an unprecedented figure in the Korean film history.

"I believe everyone in the film industry would have the resolution to complete things what he has left undone (after he died)," she said.

Kim Yeon-sil, who debuted in Na's "Farewell" (1926), recalled, "Not just I but all the other cast seem to have acted hard while forgetting all the sufferings owing to his passion (for movies) at that time."

Moon and Kim went to North Korea after Korea's liberation in 1945, and worked as actresses there.

Shin played an extra in the remake of "Arirang" (1957), made on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Na's original, while Bok gained fame as the country's first jazz singer.

"Samcheolli," which was published for 13 years from 1929, was an all-around magazine covering issues ranging from politics to economy and pop culture.

Cha Gil-jin, head of the Hangyeoreh Arirang Association in Seoul, said that he came to know about Na's human relations and activities a little more via the actresses' eulogies.

"A campaign to find out the reels of Na's lost original 'Arirang' is still going on, and thus I hope his films will be given new light on the occasion of 'Arirang's' 90th anniversary," he said.

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