Actor Kim Joo-hyuk died from a traffic collision on October 30.

From an acting transformation to a recent acting award, Kim Joo-hyuk’s 2017 was burning brighter than anyone else’s. That’s what makes the news of his death all the more shocking and heartbreaking.

On October 30 at approximately 4:30 p.m., Kim Joo-hyuk was driving his Mercedes-Benz SUV near the entrance of an apartment complex in Gangnam-gu, Seoul when his vehicle rear-ended a Hyundai Grandeur and hit the wall of a nearby apartment building. The vehicle then rolled down a flight of stairs and flipped over, causing a great deal of damage to the car. Kim Joo-hyuk was then taken to the Konkuk University Medical Center where doctors unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate the actor. Kim Joo-hyuk passed away two hours after arriving at the hospital at approximately 6:30 p.m. He was 45 years old.

The year 2017 was a deeply meaningful one for Kim Joo-hyuk. After showing his guy-next-door charm on the variety show 2 Days & 1 Night that airs weekly on KBS2, “Gu Taeng” – as he was affectionately called by his cast members on the show – went running back desperately into the world of acting. In the film Confidential Assignment that was released in January, Kim Joo-hyuk took on his first ever role as a villain and completely transformed his image as an actor. He received wide praise for his work as Cha Ki-sung, the leader of a North Korean gang. His natural sounding North Korean dialect and the wicked glint in his eyes helped to bring in 7.8 theatergoers to watch the film. Kim Joo-hyuk put on an impassioned performance when he played another villain in the movie The Tooth and the Nail, which opened in theaters in May. After having appeared in a number of successful romantic comedies over the years, the late actor explained that he had “a hunger to act”.

After debuting in 1998 through the Seoul Broadcasting System, Kim Joo-hyuk was in his 20th year in the film and television industry. Despite being a veteran actor, he felt the need to take on new challenges in his career. “Whatever you do in life, I thought you needed to stay with it for 10 years, but now that I’m in my 20th year as an actor, I’m feeling and experiencing new things,” Kim Joo-hyuk explained. He added, “It doesn’t have to do with a confidence in my acting. I’ve gained a perspective that allows me to see the same line of dialogue or situation in a different way.”

Kim Joo-hyuk had recently received an award for best supporting male actor on the 27th at the 1st Seoul Awards for his work on Confidential Assignment. He exclaimed, “I’ve been acting for 20 years, but this is my first time receiving a big award.”

He was also active in the world of TV dramas. Kim Joo-hyuk starred In an eight-part drama series that aired in September on tvN titled Argon. He played the role of Kim Baek-jin, who is a news anchor that pursues honest reporting. Even after his perfect portrayal of the warm-hearted character, in an interview that he did with Ten Asia after the conclusion of the drama series, Kim Joo-hyuk revealed, “What can I do to be a better actor? Am I doing this right? Not a day goes by when I don’t think about these things. My contemplations have become a habit.”

Kim Joo-hyuk was experiencing a renaissance of sorts in 2017 as an actor. He was also awaiting the release of two more films – Dokjeon and Heungbu – in 2018. Although he had planned to make a special appearance in Rampant where he would collaborate again with director Kim Sung-hoon and actor Hyun Bin, whom he had worked with previously on Confidential Assignment, it has been reported that his scenes had not yet been filmed.  

Kim Joo-hyuk’s 2017 had been blazing with more intensity than for anyone else, which made all of us look forward to what he would do in the future. The promise he showed makes the sudden news tragic of his passing all the more heartbreaking.

Translated by Jennifer Earwood