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Actor Namgung Won: A living witness of Korean film industry

Veteran actor Namgung Won joined a highly select group of acclaimed figures in the Korean film industry last week as he became a member of the National Academy of Arts, a state-run organization of Korean artists dedicated to promoting the development of arts in Korea.

Namgung is only the second actor to become a member of the organization, after veteran actress Hwang Jeong-soon in 2006.

The prestigious group of prominent cultural figures in Korea includes directors Kim Ki-duk, Im Kwon-taek and Byeong Jang-ho, and screenwriters Shin Bong-seung and Kim Ji-heon from the film industry. 
Namgung Won (The Korea Herald)
Namgung Won (The Korea Herald)

Namgung, 79, whose real name is Hong Kyung-il, made his acting debut in 1958 with “When the Night Comes Again.” In a prolific career that spans some five decades, he has appeared in more than 300 films that range from thriller, action and war to romance and comedy. Many of them were directed by prominent filmmakers such as Shin Sang-ok, Kim Su-yong, Kim Ki-young, Jeong Jin-woo and Jeong Chang-hwa.

Namgung also starred in a string of popular action and war movies such as “The Red Scarf” (1964), “The North and South” (1965) and “Heungnam City That I Saw Last” (1987).

In the 1960s, he broadened his range, starring in a collaborative work with South Korean and Hong Kong film companies. He also starred in a Hollywood-produced war film based on the Korean War in 1981.

He took on even more diverse roles in the 1970s, playing a vulnerable middle-class man, a man with mental illness, and more.

Regarded as handsome and charismatic, Namgung also frequently starred in period films as powerful, strong figures.

Having been at the forefront of the Korean film industry, Namgung was elected the president of the 25th chapter of the Motion Pictures Association of Korea in April this year.

He also currently serves as the chairman emeritus of Herald Corporation.

The NAA, established in 1954, is a representative body of Korean artists and culture officials. It accepts members with more than 30 years of experience in acting, filmmaking, art, writing and more. It has a total of 91 members with four, including Namgung, inducted last week.

By Lee Woo-young (