Yu Won Jun who wrote a page in the history of the Korean film is still remembered by many people as a talented film star.
In more than half a century he played the main parts in more than 130 films and enjoyed the most fruitful life in the filmdom as awardee of the Order of Kim Il Sung, Labour Hero and People´s Artiste. People loved him for his unique acting, but loved him all the more for his part of the main character of the feature film My Home Village produced for the first time after liberation of Korea.
It was after liberation that Yu Won Jun entered the filmdom. He was born as the son of a maltreated rickshawman in Juche 8 or 1919. He was driven out of the school halfway as he failed to pay school fee and suffered as a day labourer. After liberation he played the part of the main character in a performance and for it he was recalled to a specialized art organization. He was quite a foreigner in the art society, but for his fortitude and enthusiasm in any work, he drew attention of the producers and soon played the part of the main character in the first feature film made in Korea after liberation. He was happy. The story of an ordinary tenant peasant Kwan Phil, the main character of the film who lived under all sorts of maltreatment and humiliation, was the past of Yu Won Jun himself. For his life´s experience, he could play the part very vividly and simply.
One day the great leader Kim Il Sung saw the film and stressed the need to represent well the character of the anti-Japanese guerrilla Kwan Phil who has grown up as a revolutionary in the course of an arduous struggle. For it, he said, there must be a scene in which he tells other guerrillas about his home village and a scene of his remembrance of his mother and his girl friend. It was the starting point of the glorious life of Yu Won Jun. The film enjoyed enthusiastic welcome of cinema-goers. At that time many people did not know actor Yu Won Jun, but all knew Kwan Phil, the main character of the film My Home Village.
Yu Won Jun´s son Yu Yong says:
“My father told his children about his life. During the Fatherland Liberation War, he went south up to the line of River Rakdong as a political operative, and on his march for temporary strategic retreat, met with a motor. When soldiers found my father, they stopped the motor, shouting He´s Kwan Phil of the film My Home Village! And they gave a lift to my father and his party.
Later President Kim Il Sung recollected the story. Great Kim Jong Il also remembered the story. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Workers´ Party of Korea, my father participated in the celebrations as a delegate. At that time, great Kim Jong Il, remembering the story, said it shows how much people loved the main character of My Home Village Kwan Phil.”
Here are some facts showing the great trust of Kim Jong Il in Yu Won Jun.
In Juche 55 or 1966 Kim Jong Il was guiding the work of filmdom and paid special concern to many artistes of whom Yu Won Jun was one. One day he gave Yu Won Jun as keepsake his own picture and Yu´s picture he had taken and wrote in the back:
On the one road forever.
In memory of January 19, 1966. Kim Jong Il. He pressed the hand of Yu Won Jun warmly, saying he was believing in them and proposing effecting a revolution in the cinema first as intended by the leader. Elated by his trust and love, Yu Won Jun and other artistes devoted their talents and passion as performers of revolution in literature and arts.
In August Juche 87 or 1998 great Kim Jong Il, speaking highly of the life of Yu Won Jun, told officials: Yu Won Jun was a world´s film star….He was an authoritative actor, an actor loved by the people. It is a great pride of the filmdom that it has a course of a genuine life like that of Yu Won Jun. He was an unforgettable talented and faithful man who grew up along with the history of our Party, along with the history of our revolution under the care of the leader and the party. Yu Won Jun was a world´s film star who was loyal to the leader and believed in the Workers´ Party of Korea alone invariably for half a century.
In his 80s he excellently played the role of the host of the molten iron family, the main character of the part Workers of the multi-part feature film The Nation and Destiny before concluding his honourable life as a film star.
He died, but his merits in the history of the Korean film will be told long along with the main characters he represented in many films.