Park Nam Ok, Korea’s first female movie director, passed away on Saturday at the age of 94. The director died from natural causes at her home in Los Angeles.
Park Nam Ok became Korea’s first female filmmaker in 1955 with her first and only feature film, the black and white “The Widow,” which she also edited. The movie focused on the struggles and issues facing widowed women during the Korean war, a highly controversial subject at the time. The lead character of Min-ja, one of thousands of Korean War widows, refuses to obey the Confucian codes that dictate she must remain faithful to her late husband.
Park Nam Ok was only permitted to release the film after the New Year, as it was believed to be bad luck if the New Year opened with a film directed by a woman. While making the film, she also had to work as a full-time mother, and had her infant child strapped to her back on set during production.
In 2001, the Women In Film Association of Korea produced the documentary, “Beautiful Life,” telling Park Nam Ok’s story. During an interview from in the documentary, Park Nam Ok can be heard saying, “I suffered tremendously when I was filming ‘The Widow,’ but looking back at that time, I would give anything to re-live those days.”