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A Farewell to Byun Hee-bong: Legendary South Korean Actor Passes Away at 81
The South Korean film industry is mourning the loss of veteran actor Byun Hee-bong, who recently passed away at the age of 81. Byun was a highly respected figure in the industry, having appeared in numerous films throughout his career. He was best known for his collaborations with Oscar-winning director Bong Joon Ho, having worked with him on several acclaimed movies such as “Memories of Murder”, “The Host”, and “Parasite”. Byun’s passing is a great loss to the South Korean entertainment world, and his contributions to the industry will always be remembered.
Battling Pancreatic Cancer and a Life Well-Lived
According to the semi-official Yonhap News agency, Byun passed away on Monday due to complications arising from a recurrence of pancreatic cancer that he had previously experienced and received treatment for. The exact details surrounding his death were not revealed.
A Journey through the World of Entertainment
Byun, originally from Jangseon in South Jeolla Province, began his career in live theater, although the exact date of his entry into this field is not mentioned. Subsequently, he transitioned to working as a voice actor for the state television network MBC in the year 1966.
A Stellar Career on the Small and Big Screen
During the 1980s and 1990s, Byun contributed to several noteworthy television series. These include the 1981 production titled “The First Republic,” the 1985 series “The Joseon Dynasty 500 Years: Seouljungmae,” and the 1999 drama “The Legendary Doctor Hur Jun.”
Byun’s early records of appearing in feature films date back to the 2000 film “Barking Dogs Never Bite,” which marked director Bong’s breakthrough. Notably, he played significant roles in three other films directed by Bong. These include the critically acclaimed “Memories of Murder” in 2003, the highly successful “The Host” presented at Cannes in 2006, and “Okja,” a creature feature that served as Netflix’s inaugural Korean film production and also premiered at Cannes.
Recognition and Celebrations of a Brilliant Talent
Byun’s remarkable portrayal of Hie-bong in “The Host” earned him numerous accolades, including six nominations for best supporting actor in Korea and across Asia. Notably, he converted two of these nominations into wins, triumphing at both the Asia Pacific Film Festival and Korea’s prestigious Blue Dragon Awards.
His exceptional talent and widespread popularity were further recognized when he was voted as the most popular actor in the TV category at the 21st Baeksang Arts Awards, thanks to his role in the series “The Joseon Dynasty 500 Years.”
A Legacy to Remember
Byun, renowned for his versatility as a character actor, garnered extensive recognition and popularity for his extensive and prolific television career, which spanned several decades, even continuing into his seventies.
In the 21st century, Byun showcased his talent as a regular cast member in various notable TV series. These include his appearance in MBC’s 2003 mini-series titled “Something About 1%,” the 2010 drama “My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho,” the widely adapted 2014-2015 series known as “Grandpas Over Flowers Investigation Team,” and the series “Pinocchio” backed by IHQ-NEW.
Awarded for Excellence in South Korean Pop Culture
For his noteworthy contributions to the advancement of South Korea’s pop culture, Byun received the prestigious Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit in 2020. This esteemed award, considered the second-highest honor in the realm of South Korean cultural distinctions, served as a well-deserved recognition of his significant impact on the nation’s cultural development.