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Hong Sang-soo, Kim Min-hee confirm they are in love

Couple’s story mirrored in Hong’s latest film “On the Beach at Night Alone”

Director Hong Sang-soo and actress Kim Min-hee came out into the open with their relationship during a press conference Monday after a screening of Hong’s latest film “On the Beach at Night Alone.”

Kim had clinched a best actress award for the film at the Berlin International Film Festival last month.

“We are in love with each other. The reason we said nothing to the press so far is because we felt there was no need to explain such a personal affair,” Hong said.

Director Hong Sang-soo (Yonhap)
Director Hong Sang-soo (Yonhap)
The flick sparked nationwide buzz after it was revealed the storyline features a young actress having an affair with an older married director. Its plot parallels the relationship between Hong, 57, and Kim, 35, with the director confirming this for the first time Monday.

Hong added that news reports about the affair had caused “discomfort” in their personal lives and expressed hope that the conversation would stay on the movie. Such discomfort was also strongly indicated through a line in the movie, in which the couple’s mutual friends strongly criticize those who object to their relationship.

“People all have different opinions. If I disagree with someone, I would still respect that person’s opinion as long as it is not illegal or doesn’t harm other people. I would expect to be treated the same way,” Hong said.

While much of the film’s content -- including the personality of the main characters, their situation and the directing style of the film director -- was identical to the real-life couple, Hong denied that it was an autobiographical work.

“The reason I use such personal details is because they (personal details) help spark something in me. They help me to be more truthful,” he said.

The screening and press conference Monday marked the couple’s first official appearance together since the scandal broke last June.

Due to the pair’s popularity and the public’s interest in the scandal, the event attracted major media attention.

Neither Hong nor Kim will participate in any press or fan-related events after Monday’s press conference, which is unusual as actors and directors typically take part in such events to promote their movies.

The film, set for Korean release on March 23, tracks a young actress Young-hee going through a crisis set off by her affair with the director, played by Moon Seong-geun.

With her portrayal of the troubled actress, Kim became the first Korean to win the best actor or actress award at the Berlin festival.

Initially criticized for her poor acting skills, the model-turned-actress has blossomed into one of Korea’s most acclaimed thespians with memorable performances in “Helpless” and “The Handmaiden.”

For Hong, the flick earned him a third trip to the Berlinale after “Night and Day” in 2008 and “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon” in 2013.

The two worked together on the film “Right Now, Wrong Then” (2015), during which their relationship reportedly began. News of their alleged extramarital affair broke in June 2016, around the time the film “The Handmaiden” was released. The story escalated with reports of Hong having filed for divorce from his wife.

During an award acceptance speech in Berlin last month, Kim said she “respects and loves” Hong, which fueled suspicion about their relationship, along with the sight of the two holding hands at the ceremony.

By Yoon Min-sik (