Hong Kong Film Fest: South Korean Director Lee Chang-dong to Get Lifetime Honor

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Lee Chang-dong

The acclaimed auteur of Cannes competition title 'Burning' will be honored during the Hong Kong event in March.

South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong will be honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Asian Film Awards, it was announced Wednesday. The 13th edition of the awards ceremony, which is presented annually during the Hong Kong International Film Festival, will be held March 17.

Renowned for such works as Green Fish (1997), Peppermint Candy (1999) and Oasis (2002), Lee most recently made waves with 2018's Burning starring Steven Yeun. The film competed for the Palme d'Or at Cannes last year and became the first South Korean film to make the shortlist for the Oscars' best foreign-language film category.

Lee was a successful novelist before becoming a director rather later than most of his peers. The 64-year-old began his film career as a scriptwriter and assistant director to Park Kwang-su on 1993's To the Starry Island. Lee quickly established himself as one of the most influential figures in Asian cinema with his realistic depictions of people who are socially marginalized and misunderstood.

In 2002, Lee was appointed South Korea's culture minister. Upon stepping down from his official post, he directed his fourth feature, Secret Sunshine (2007), which earned its lead actress, Jeon Do-yeon, the best actress award at the 60th Cannes Film Festival. His next work, Poetry (2010), won best screenplay at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Eight years after Poetry, Lee returned to directing with Burning (2018).

"Although my films often depict political and economic problems of South Korea, they weren't my focus. My main interest has always been about human beings. I believe film is the best medium to show something about human beings," said Lee. "A lifetime achievement award is a heavy responsibility. I asked myself whether I deserve this award, what I have achieved and how valuable it is to the audience and the filmmakers. In that respect, I still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. I understand this award as a sign that I should work harder."

Said Wilfred Wong, chairman of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society: "Director Lee is no doubt one of the significant filmmakers in the world, and the award is to recognize his work and his exceptional contribution to Asian Cinema. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Korean cinema; and I believe Lee will continue to contribute to the growth of Asian cinema."