The late Kang Soo-youn recognized, praised by 'Jung_E' director

From left, actor Ryu Kyung-soo, director Yeon Sang-ho, and actor Kim Hyun-joo pose for a photo at the press conference for "Jung_E" held at Lotte Cinema in Gwangjin District, eastern Seoul, on Thursday. [YONHAP]

Late actor Kang Soo-youn helped make “Jung_E” possible, according to the director of the Netflix original.

"In a way, Kang was the energy and inspiration behind how our film got made and came to be,” director Yeon Sang-ho said at a press conference held Thursday at the Lotte Cinema, Konkuk University Station in Gwangjin District, eastern Seoul.

“Jung_E” is a soon-to-be-released Netflix sci-fi thriller about a researcher at an artificial intelligence lab in a post-apocalyptic future, who sets out to clone the brain of a hero — her own mother.

In the film, a civil war breaks out in an outer-space shelter made by humans who can no longer live on Earth due to climate change. Kim plays the cloned version of legendary soldier Jung_E, while Kang plays Seohyun, the original Jung_E’s biological daughter who is a researcher seeking to clone the brain of her mother to supply humans with a force to fight robots.

Starring Kang, Kim Hyun-joo and Ryu Kyung-soo, the film was an ambitious project in a market not always receptive to science fiction flicks.

During Thursday’s event, the directors and actors alike commemorated Kang, a pioneering figure in Korean film and a crucial cast member for the “Jung_E” crew.

“It was unbelievable to work with Kang, and we miss her very much,” said actor Kim. “She taught us all so much and took care of us as a group. And to reunite with director Yeon was also a fortunate thing.”

Kang, who passed away on May 8, 2022 at the age of 55 from cerebral hemorrhage, was one of the first Korean actors to gain international recognition. She won the Best Actress award at the 44th Venice International Film Festival in 1987 for her role in “The Surrogate Womb” by director Im Kwon-taek.

Yeon directed “Train to Busan” (2016) and “Hellbound” (2021). In "Jung_E," he pushed the idea of dystopia to the limit in fantastical settings.

He said that he wanted to make a sci-fi movie filled with cyberpunk elements and create a factory-like and realistic tone for the film, and deal with the central question of whether humanity is only exclusive to humans.

“'Jung_E' is a Korean sci-fi story,” he said. “By that I mean that it’s a personal story between a mother and daughter and not just a sci-fi with action scenes and a philosophical message. I think the title of the film, which is also very Korean and familiar to us, will draw viewers into the story.”

“Jung_E” will be released on worldwide Netflix on Jan. 20.