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Pianist Paik Kun-woo denies claims he abandoned his wife suffering from Alzheimer's

All News 10:59 February 08, 2021

SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korean pianist Paik Kun-woo has denied recent claims that he abandoned his actress wife, Yun Jung-hee, long suffering from Alzheimer's disease in France.

Yun is best known for her lead role in South Korean director Lee Chang-dong's "Poetry," which won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.

Late last week, a petition was posted on an online bulletin of the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae that the 76-year-old actress has been separated from her husband and struggling with Alzheimer's and diabetes alone in an apartment in suburban Paris.

It also argued that Yun's daughter lives near her residence but does not take care of her mother, and Yun's husband, Paik, has not visited his wife in about two years.

Yun's siblings are only allowed to visit the actress once every three months and telephone her once a month as if Yun is in detention, the posting said.

In this file photo taken Sept. 22, 2016, pianist Paik Kun-woo (R) and actress Yun Jung-hee participate in a special screening event in Seoul. (Yonhap)

However, Paik refuted the petition's claims, saying that Yun's apartment is next to her daughter's place, and a caregiver, designated by her family and a local court, looks after her.

"The couple had traveled together for their entire lives, but they've been unable to go places together due to Yun's health issues for the past few years," Vincero, Paik's agency, said in a statement released Sunday.

"The family decided to have Yun stay closely with her family in Paris, rather than in a nursing home," it said. "Living in an apartment next to her daughter's home, Yun has been in a calm and stable condition, with regular doctor's visits."

In 2019, Paik unveiled that his wife was suffering from Alzheimer's for about 10 years and living with their daughter in Paris.

The agency said Yun's family and siblings have been in a legal dispute over the adult guardianship since 2019, and a French court ruled in favor of Paik and his daughter in November last year.

The siblings' limited visits and phone calls are based on the court ruling, it added.

Yun was one of the most popular silver screen stars in South Korea in the late 1960s and 1970s since her big screen debut with "Sorrowful Youth" in 1967. She married Paik in the 1970s and had a daughter, a violinist based in Paris.

She has starred in more than 300 films, including "Poetry," since her debut before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. "Poetry" was her first silver screen project in 15 years.

In this EPA photo, actress Yun Jung-hee (L) and director Lee Chang-dong pose after winning best screenplay for "Poetry" at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 23, 2010. (Yonhap)

Paik, 74, is a renowned pianist in South Korea, nicknamed "pilgrim on the keyboard," having performed with multiple orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic.

Paik and Yoon received a top French cultural order in 2000 and 2011, respectively, for their contributions to the classical music and film scenes.

In this file photo taken April 5, 2011, pianist Paik Kun-woo (R) and actress Yun Jung-hee pose after Yun received a French cultural order, the Officier dans l'ordre des Arts et Lettres, in France. (Yonhap)


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