MoMA is screening all of Lee Chang-Dong's films this upcoming week, and they kicked things off with a screening of Burning with an introduction and Q&A with Lee himself. He understands some English, but a translator was used the entire time. That slowed things down but no matter - he was extremely generous with his time, letting the Q&A run for what was probably a full hour. (At the end, he even asked for one more question, and not just one more question, but one from a woman as nearly all the questions thus far had been from men.) Afterwards, he stuck around to sign autographs (yes, I asked him to sign my copy of Poetry) and pose for selfies with fans.
Tough to remember it all, but he mentioned that NHK originally approached him about doing a film on this story, which is how things got started. Pre-production started in 2016 but there was a delay to clear up some rights issue with the story. As a result, one of their actors had to leave for a prior commitment, and that's when someone (I can't remember but I think it was his co-writer) suggested he talk to Steven Yeun. He goes to meet Yeun who (perhaps jokingly) says it was fate given the circumstances that led to this meeting which hadn't been originally planned.
What clinches the role for Yeun was when Lee asks him what he's been reading. When they were writing the script (and long before they met Yeun), Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra was on their mind, specifically the part where Zarathustra warns of humanity losing interest in anything more substantial, preferring simple and easy pleasures. Unfortunately, humanity doesn't get what he's saying and think this is wonderful. Lee says this is the current state of the world. So flash forward to Lee asking Yeun what he's been reading, and he says Nietzsche. Lee (perhaps jokingly) says maybe Yeun was right about fate after all.
Later on someone asked about Murakami's involvement. At one point he asked to see the scenario, but he gave no input and said nothing the rest of the time. Lee presumes that they both have an understanding that it's best to leave another artist to do their own work without interfering. His response reminds me of Dylan's approval but non-participation and non-input in I'm Not There, and just as Haynes had no idea what Dylan thought (and Dylan liked the film a lot, FWIW), Lee doesn't know what Murakami thinks of the film.
In response to another question, it's mentioned that the film's ending (or rather what Yeun's character actually did or did not do in the film) is intentionally ambiguous, but for Yeun that can't work because he needs to know for motivation. At the end of the shoot, Lee asked Yeun what he believed his character did or did not do, and Yeun simply said he'd rather not say. So presumably he came up with an answer in his head out of necessity, but he has not shared what that is. It's also mentioned that they were very careful in how they used Yeun's facial expressions in the film as it was key to the film's ambiguity.
I'm missing quite a bit of material, but regardless it was an excellent Q&A, especially since Lee is rarely able to make these types of appearance in NYC.