Lee Chang-dong

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Lee Chang-dong
Lee Chang-dong 2010.jpg
Born (1954-07-04) July 4, 1954 (age 64)
Korean name
Revised Romanization I Chang-dong
McCune–Reischauer I Ch'angdong

Lee Chang-dong (Hangul이창동; Hanja: 李滄東; born July 4, 1954) is a South Korean film director, screenwriter, and novelist.[1] He has directed six feature films: Green Fish (1997), Peppermint Candy (2000), Oasis (2002), Secret Sunshine (2007), Poetry (2010), and Burning (2018).

Lee has won Special Director's Award at the 2002 Venice Film Festival and the Best Screenplay Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. He also won the award for Achievement in Directing at the 4th Asia Pacific Screen Awards.[2] He has also been nominated for the Golden Lion and the Palme d'Or. Lee served as South Korea's Minister of Culture and Tourism from 2003 to 2004.

Life and career

Lee was born in Daegu, the hub of Korea's main conservative party.[3] He graduated in 1981 with a degree in Korean Literature from Kyungpook National University in Daegu, where he spent much of his time in the theater, writing and directing plays. After a spell teaching Korean Language in high school, he established himself as a renowned novelist with his first novel Chonri in 1983. Later in his career, to the surprise of many, he turned to movie making.

Lee did not study film making before starting out. He penned two screenplays, Park Kwang-su's To the Starry Island in 1993 and A Single Spark in 1995. After being encouraged by his contemporaries to finally step behind the directors chair, Lee made Green Fish, a "critique of Korean society told through the eyes of a young man who becomes enmeshed in the criminal underworld",[4] in 1997.

In 2000, Lee made Peppermint Candy, a story following a single man in reverse chronology through 20 years of South Korean history (from 1980's student uprising, to the film's 2000 release).

All of his films have received critical acclaim and awards, with Oasis, a story involving a mentally ill man and a woman with cerebral palsy, winning the prestigious Director's Award at the 2003 Venice Film Festival.

He served as the minister of Culture and Tourism in the South Korean Government from 2003 to 2004. On the political appointment, Lee said:

At the time of President Roh Moo-hyun’s election campaign, one of the things he promised was that his Minister of Culture would be selected from the field of culture and art rather than a professional politician. Well, he got elected, and a lot of people recommended me as this new Minister of Culture. I never thought that this was an outfit that suited me particularly well, but had to accept it as one of those bitter cups one has to accept in the course of life.[5]

In October 2006, Lee was awarded with the Chevalier (Knight) order of the Legion d'Honneur (Legion of Honor) by the French government for "his contribution to maintaining the screen quota to promote cultural diversity as a cultural minister." It was delivered to the French embassy in South Korea by the French Minister of Culture, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres during an official visit.[6]

In 2007, Lee's fourth film, Secret Sunshine, was completed. At the 60th Cannes Film Festival, the film was entered in the competition category with lead actress Jeon Do-yeon, winning the Prix d'interprétation féminine.[7] It was released to theaters in South Korea in 2007, and was South Korea's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008.

In 2009, Lee was appointed as a jury member of the international competition in 61st Cannes Film Festival along with Isabelle Huppert, Shu Qi and Robin Wright Penn.

In 2010, Lee's film Poetry was released, garnering positive critical reviews, and winning the Best Screenplay Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Notably, the film's starring role was played by Yoon Jeong-hee, who was returning to the screen after an absence of 16 years.

In 2018, Lee's film Burning premiered at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, winning the Fipresci International Critics' Prize.[8]


Year Film Director Producer Screenwriter Notes
1993 To the Starry Island Yes also Assistant Director
1995 A Single Spark Yes
1997 Green Fish Yes Yes
1999 Peppermint Candy Yes Yes
2002 Oasis Yes Yes
2007 Secret Sunshine Yes Yes Yes
Never Forever Yes
2009 A Brand New Life Yes
2010 Poetry Yes Yes
2013 Hwayi: A Monster Boy Yes
2014 A Girl at My Door Yes
2015 Collective Invention Yes
2016 The World of Us Yes
2018 Burning Yes Yes Yes based on "Barn Burning" by Haruki Murakami

Frequent Collaborators

Actor To the Starry Island (1993) *screenplay A Single Spark (1995) *screenplay Green Fish (1997) Peppermint Candy (1999) Oasis (2002) Secret Sunshine (2007) Poetry (2010)
Ahn So-young
Moon Sung-keun
Shim Hye-jin
Song Kang-ho
Sol Kyung-gu
Moon So-ri
Ahn Nae-sang


Lee has published two volumes of shorts stories in Korean, including There's a Lot of Shit in Nokcheon in 1992.[9][10]

In 2007, Lee's short story, "The Dreaming Beast" (translated by Heinz Insu Fenkl), was published in the journal AZALEA.

Awards and honors



Secret Sunshine


Peppermint Candy

Green Fish

A Single Spark


  1. ^ Korean Writers The Novelists. Minumsa Press. 2005. p. 156.
  2. ^ https://www.asiapacificscreenawards.com/apsa-nominees-winners?nomination-winner-name=nominee&apsa-year-name=2017
  3. ^ "Chang-dong Lee". IMDB. Retrieved 2007-05-28.
  4. ^ Scott, A. O. "Director Profile". NY Times/Allmovie. Retrieved 2006-10-07.
  5. ^ "Yes, Minister: Lee Chang-dong Interviewed". Firecracker/UK Film Council. 10 September 2005. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved 2006-10-07.
  6. ^ "Former Culture Minister Lee Honored By French". KBS Global via Twitch Film. 29 October 2005. Archived from the original on 20 April 2008. Retrieved 2006-10-29.
  7. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Secret Sunshine". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  8. ^ Hopewell, John (May 19, 2018). "Cannes: 'Burning' Wins Fipresci Top Prize". Variety. Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  9. ^ Taylor-Jones, Kate E. (2013). "Lee Chang-dong and the Trauma of History". Rising Sun, Divided Land: Japanese and South Korean Filmmakers. Columbia University Press.
  10. ^ Korean Literature Translation Institute (2005). Korean Writers: The Novelists. Minumsa Press. p. 157.

External links

  • Nomination for the Gucci Group Award to be presented on September 3, 2007 at Venice's Palazzo Grassi during the 64th Venice Film Festival.
  • Lee Chang Dong Retrospective Singapore 2011
  • "On the Narratography of Lee Chang-dong: A Long Translator's Note" by Heinz Insu Fenkl
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