South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk dies from COVID-19 complications

Director Kim Ki-duk attends the photocall for the movie "Geumul" (The Net) at the 73rd Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files

VILNIUS/SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, a controversial figure both for his work and in his personal life, died in Latvia from coronavirus complications on Friday, a Latvian film official said.

Kim, who had won awards at the Venice, Cannes and Berlin film festivals, had been staying in the Latvian capital Riga, in a private capacity after travelling to neighbouring Estonia for work, according to Dita Rietuma, director of Latvia’s state National Film Centre.

Kim, 59, died at a hospital in Riga, Rietuma told Reuters, citing the director’s private secretary.

Latvian media Delfi first reported Kim’s death, referring to Vitaly Mansky, a Russian documentary film director who reportedly was working with Kim.

Kim earned global praise as a regular at international festivals but also faced criticism especially over his portrayals of women, including in the ultra-violent “Pieta”. That film won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2012.

His reputation was also damaged by several accusations of rape and sexual harassment by a series of actresses amid the global #MeToo movement.

Kim had not directly responded to those claims, but appealed in November after losing a lawsuit he pursued against one of the actresses and a local TV network that broadcast her accusations.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Frances Kerry