The film, which depicts a makeshift family living on the fringes of Japanese society, won the highest honor at the region's film awards, which took place in Brisbane, Australia.
The best director prize went to Nadine Labaki for 'Capharnaüm' (Lebanon), Screen International reported.
The success of 'Shoplifters' marks the first time that a Japanese film has won the best feature film APSA in the event’s 12 year history. Kore-eda has been nominated eight times in total to date.
In accepting the award in Brisbane, the film's producer, Hijiri Taguchi, read a prepared statement from Kore-eda, who is currently on location in Paris, shooting Juliette Binoche starrer 'La Verite': "Following last year, it was a great honor to be nominated in three categories. This award is a great unexpected gift, considering this is the first feature film [APSA] award for Japan. We will have a great new year’s holiday thanks to this award, thank you very much."
In a spread of awards representing the geographical and cultural diversity of the Asia Pacific region, APSAs went to films from Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lebanon, China, Korea, the Russian Federation, Singapore and Turkey. Winners in the feature fiction categories were determined by the APSA International Jury, comprised of Russian producer Alexander Rodnyansky ('Leviathan'), Indonesian director Nia Dinata ('Arisan'), Nepalese director Deepak Rauniyar ('White Sun'), Georgian producer Vladimer Katcharava ('Hostages') and Chilean actress Antonia Zegers ('The Club').
Rodnyansky said, "'Shoplifters' turns an intimate story about an unusual family into a metaphorical social analysis that is relevant not only for Japan, but everywhere."
The Jury Grand Prize was awarded to Lee Joon-dong and Lee Chang-dong for 'Burning' (Korea). The win adds to their collection of APSA wins. Both previously won Best Feature Film for 'Secret Sunshine' (2007) and were nominated together for 'Poetry' (2010) and 'Burning'. Alongside his win for 'Secret Sunshine', Chang-dong has also won Best Children's Feature Film for 'A Brand New Life' (2009), Achievement in Directing for 'Poetry' and Best Youth Feature Film for 'The World of Us' (2016).
Acting honors went to India's Nawazuddin Siddiqui, for his portrayal of Saadat Hassan Manto in Nandita Das' 'Manto'. Director Das also received a career achievement award for her acting and directing accomplishments, with the prestigious FIAPF Award for achievement in film in the Asia Pacific region. Chinese star Zhao Tao was named best actress for 'Ash is Purest White' (China, France).
Best Screenplay was awarded to Dan Kleinman and Sameh Zoabi for Tel Aviv on Fire (Israel, Belgium, France and Luxembourg).
In 2018, 46 films from 22 countries and areas of the Asia Pacific region received APSA nominations, including the first nomination for a film from Uzbekistan.