Han Suk-kyu

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Han.
Han Suk-kyu
Han Seok-Kyu.jpg
Born (1964-11-03) November 3, 1964 (age 51)
Seoul, South Korea
Education Dongguk University - Theater and Film
Occupation Actor
Years active 1990-present
Spouse(s) Im Myeong-ju
Korean name
Revised Romanization Han Seok-gyu
McCune–Reischauer Han Sŏkkyu

Han Suk-kyu (born November 3, 1964) is a South Korean actor. One of the leading actors of Korean cinema, Han's notable works include Green Fish (1997), No. 3 (1997), Christmas in August (1998), Shiri (1999), and The President's Last Bang (2005).


Han Suk-kyu is known as a family man, avid golfer, fisherman and voracious reader. He collects animation by Studio Ghibli and hopes to join Ghibli voice cast one day as a Korean-speaking character.[1][2][3] While a student at the Theater and Film department of Dongguk University, he sang in an amateur folk rock band. He took a brief, year-long contract as voice actor at KBS, before moving on to TV and film acting.

After a debut in the 1990 MBC campus drama Our Paradise, Han rose to stardom as "Hong-shik" in The Moon of Seoul (1994), a charming gigolo from the slums determined to attain wealth at all cost in the big city. "Choon-seop", an old friend from hometown played by Choi Min-sik, struggles hopelessly to stop "Hong-shik" from his self-ruin. The partnership of Han and Choi as uneasy allies or foes, parlayed into two flagship films of the 1990s: No. 3 and Shiri. Both the series and "Hong-shik" character have since become beloved icons, as part of the Korean television's golden era before the advent of Korean Wave.[4][5][6] The cast also features veterans who are now luminaries in Korean cinema: Na Moon-hee of The Quiet Family, Kim Hae-sook of Park Chan-wook's Thirst, and Baek Yoon-sik of Save the Green Planet!.

Before the end of the 20th century, Han headlined films that were critically acclaimed (Green Fish, No. 3) and commercially successful (The Contact, Christmas in August, Shiri—the latter two making particular impact in Japan).

Han's experience in the early stages of Korean cinema renaissance in the 1990s, cemented his belief in a script-driven model for movie-making. Thus the founding of "Makdong Script Festival" (named after his role in Green Fish), with co-sponsor film magazine Cine 21. Winners may claim two cash prizes funded by Han, with the potential to launch directing careers based from their own scripts. The annual contest is now extant over 10 years, with two titles produced so far: the comedy 2424 (2002) and Private Eye (2009) starring Hwang Jung-min.


Han went into an extended hiatus in 1999, declining several lucrative opportunities with name directors. Among them: Peppermint Candy, Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (as the father), and Fulltime Killer (as Andy Lau's friend/foe.) [7]

The break coincided with a surge in new talent, sophistication of technology, organization, and scale of production within the Korean film industry. Combined with other factors (such as his aloof and shy attitude towards the media, his over-exposure as a sensitive, bookish bourgeois typified by Maxim coffee commercials, and enduring actor's image as a cold intellectual incongruous with the rising vogue of populism defined by explosive passions of red-blooded machismo and sentimentalism, in a market of changing audience preference for a less measured, more corporeal acting style) have attempted to explain the lukewarm reception to his comeback.[8][9]

Double Agent, which netted one million admissions, was seen as a failure for a star labeled by the media as "box office guarantee." This was followed by a sizable backlash from netizens and the press, who rushed to bury the co-self-produced spy thriller as the public disgrace of a former golden boy.[10][11]

His press and image took further beating in the next two, even more polarizing films: the unforeseen tragedy surrounding The Scarlet Letter, and the incendiary political content of The President's Last Bang.[12] Nonetheless, these controversial works screened at Cannes, and were featured in a tribute to the actor at the Austrian FilmAsia festival.[13]

In spite of this rocky return to feature films, Han remains well regarded by such major directors as Park Chan-wook, Lee Joon-ik, Kang Woo-suk and Jang Jin. Compared to his peak popularity in the 90s, his work may seem an acquired taste for general audiences, although some cult following ensued for his ultra-sadistic turn in A Bloody Aria. [14][15][16][17][18]

He also remains well respected among major peers for his distinctive style (a cerebral and intricate minimalism driven by semantics and implosive restraint): Kim Hye-soo, Song Kang-ho, Oh Dal-su (especially for their collaboration in Forbidden Quest and A Bloody Aria), Sol Kyung-gu, and Choi Min-sik.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25]

Overall, his post-90s career is marked by less high-profile, "event" projects than personal interests, such as appearing in the quickie B-movie Mr. Housewife as keepsake for his children. As in the late 90s, Han continues to favor novice directors over safer projects under seasoned directors, in hopes of bringing new talents into the industry.[26][27] This, combined with aversion of the press (now playing a more critical and complex role to the entertainment circle), has earned him the image by turns of a taciturn loner, and a generous if loquacious intellectual.[28][29]

He remained self-managed until as late as 2006, before joining the KM Culture agency[30] due to increased regimentation of the industry.

After the adaptation of Keigo Higashino novel of White Night starring Son Ye-jin, Han has a long-awaited reunion with Choi Min-sik slated to begin production in Autumn 2009.[31]


Known for his distinctive voice and diction, Han has been a long-time mentor to Kam Woo-sung, including coaching the latter's enunciation for his film debut in Marriage is a Crazy Thing. Actors of the younger generation also continue to cite him as an influence; among them: Hwang Jung-min, Ryoo Seung-bum, Kim Myung-min, Kim Joo-hyuk of Blue Swallow, Kim Ji-soo of This Charming Girl, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi (who famously began a second career in Korea after seeing Han in Shiri), Rain, Lee Sung-jae of Barking Dogs Never Bite, TV heartthrob Lee Jin-wook, and the current darling of independent films, Im Ji-kyu.[32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40]

For his part, Han has cited influences by legendary Korean actor Kim Seung-ho, Al Pacino, Ken Takakura, The Godfather trilogy, and Hayao Miyazaki.



Television drama[edit]

  • Secret Door (비밀의 문, SBS 2014)
  • Deep Rooted Tree (뿌리 깊은 나무, SBS 2011)
  • Hotel (호텔, MBC 1995)
  • Love and War (전쟁과 사랑, MBC 1995)
  • Kareisky (까레이스키, MBC 1994)
  • Challenge (도전, MBC 1994)
  • MBC Best Theater: The Only Room for Them (그들만의 방, MBC 1994)
  • Three Families Under a Roof (한지붕 세가족, MBC 1994)
  • The Moon of Seoul (서울의 달, MBC 1994)
  • Pilot (파일럿, MBC 1993)
  • Sons and Daughters (아들과 딸, MBC 1992-3)
  • Eyes of Dawn (여명의 눈동자, MBC 1991-2)
  • Our Paradise (우리들의 천국, MBC 1990)
  • Han Ji-bong's Three Families (한지붕 세 가족, MBC 1986-1994)



  1. ^ Korean Wave star and neighbor Song Seung-heon aspires to be a family man like Han, who eschews the popular social life of drinking for domesticity of house chores and child-rearing; Sept. 7, 2008 interview.
  2. ^ Sensational report of Han reading 100 titles a month, March 28, 2007.
  3. ^ Han on his family's admiration for Miyazaki; May 8, 2005 interview.
  4. ^ Prominent TV writer Choi Wan-kyu aspires to create classic characters as Han's role in The Moon of Seoul, July 25, 2007 interview.
  5. ^ Producer of Temptation of Wolves (2004) compares debut role of actor-idol Kang Dong-won to Han in The Moon of Seoul, August 20, 2004.
  6. ^ TV actor Kim Byung-se models his gigolo character in Chunja's Happy Events (2008) after Han's 1994 performance; May 15, 2008 article
  7. ^ At Choi Min-sik's suggestion, Park Chan-wook settled on actor Yoo Ji-tae, for his resemblance to Han -- who's the closest to Park's conception for the arch-nemesis character Woo-jin. Interview from April 27, 2007
  8. ^ Han prefers actors meet the public through acting, not "garbage" talk in interviews, October 21, 2004.
  9. ^ Although a popular spokesman in commercials, his choice in unsavory roles after 2003 has thwarted his wholesome image and appeal to advertisers; October 8, 2007 interview with A Bloody Aria director, Won Shin-yun.
  10. ^ Outspoken actor Yu Oh-seong joins the panning of Double Agent, using it to criticize the Korean film industry and the bestowing of "National Actor" status upon Han; Interview from September 20, 2004.
  11. ^ The furor over his hiatus, "mysterious" absence from public life, and subsequent return is parodied in the romantic comedy Mr. Handy, with pastiches of Shiri and Double Agent.
  12. ^ Director Bong Joon-ho on freedom of speech, and praises film, cast, and crew of The President's Last Bang, Essay from February 15, 2005.
  13. ^ Program schedule for FilmAsia Festival, January to July, 2005.
  14. ^ Park Chan-wook is quoted by Kim Ji-soo from a private gathering, for praising Han's "superlative" work among Korean actors in The President's Last Bang; October 31, 2006 article.
  15. ^ Lee Joon-ik mentions Han as among the next-generation leading men, after the elder icons Ahn Sung-ki and Park Joong-hoon of his Radio Star; September 29, 2006 interview.
  16. ^ Powerful producer-director Kang Woo-suk plans to collaborate with Han as a crazed villain; June 18, 2008 interview for Public Enemy Returns.
  17. ^ Jang Jin on turning to other actors when first-choice such as Han declined the roles in My Son and The Big Scene; April 25, 2007 and August 19, 2005 interviews.
  18. ^ Director Noh Young-seok, of the surprise indie hit Daytime Drinking, desires future collaboration with Han after being "shocked" by his "unique acting" in A Bloody Aria; Interview from February 13, 2009.
  19. ^ Kim Hye-soo on Han's "detailed" performances and desire for future collaboration; Interview for Tazza: The High Rollers from Sept 14, 2006.
  20. ^ Song Kang-ho on Han as one of the senior actors paving way for younger generation; March 29, 2007 interview.
  21. ^ Song Kang-ho on Han entering the actor's prime, while falling out of favor with general audiences; May 2005 GQ Korea interview.
  22. ^ Song Kang-ho considers it "pointless" to rank actors like himself, Han, Choi Min-sik, and Sol Kyung-gu, April 29, 2005 interview.
  23. ^ Sol Kyung-gu, before presenting a lifetime achievement award to director Yu Hyun-mok, names Han among a pantheon of Korean actors who have influenced the industry. The 6th Korean Film Awards (MBC), December 1, 2007.
  24. ^ Choi Min-sik considers acting, and actors like himself, Han, and Song Kang-ho are ill-suited to ranking a la Olympic medalists; Interview for Chihwaseon, May 9, 2002.
  25. ^ Choi Min-sik credits close friend Han for the early career-turning roles in No. 3 and Shiri, and desires future collaboration; March 18, 2005 interview; March 26, 2005 article.
  26. ^ Director Kim Jee-woon recalls Han's insistence on filmmakers to attend Song Kang-ho's theater performances in the late 90s when casting for the burgeoning film scene; July 21, 2008 interview for The Good, The Bad, and The Weird.
  27. ^ Dogville was a key inspiration to do more unconventional films; Interview for The Scarlet Letter, October 21, 2004.
  28. ^ Director Im Sang-soo describes Han as a "perfect, unusual actor" and "lone wolf" driven by frustration, to a skeptical journalist; February 28, 2005 interview with Ddanzi Ilbo.
  29. ^ Korean GQ characterizes Han's post-heyday career as a lonely maverick who prefers to work in margins of the industry, on personal rather than commercial projects; Sept. 2008 editorial.
  30. ^ http://www.kmculture.co.kr/
  31. ^ "Choi Min-sik, Han Suk-kyu reunite in Night of the Hunter after 10 years", June 23, 2009 article.
  32. ^ Many impressions of Han's voice and diction appear in variety shows, TV dramas, gag concerts, and amateur videos online. The best known of late being Park Joong-hoon in the June 2007 broadcast of the Grand Bell Awards.
  33. ^ Kam Woo-sung on Han and Shim Hye-jin as acting influences, Interview on April 15, 2006.
  34. ^ Kam Woo-sung on Han's friendship and desire for future collaboration, Interview on March 16, 2007.
  35. ^ Hwang Jung-min on Han as an influence since his early days in theater, and desire for future collaboration; December 22, 2007 article.
  36. ^ Ryoo Seung-bum quoted on Han's career as blazing a trail for younger actors who want to find their own paths, April 25, 2009.
  37. ^ Kim Myung-min on Han and Choi Min-sik as the Korean actors he respects the most; April 23, 2008 interview.
  38. ^ Kim Ji-soo and Kim Joo-hyuk name Han's work in The President's Last Bang as their most admired performance by a Korean actor. That role, plus Han's No. 3, are the kind of options she considers lacking for Korean actresses.
  39. ^ Lee Jin-wook on Han as his acting influence; April 18, 2008 interview.
  40. ^ Im Ji-kyu, of Milky Way Liberation Front and Who's That Knocking On My Door?, on Han as a role model of versatility and unique style, December 18, 2007 article.

External links[edit]