Sunday, June 4, 2017

Jang Keun Suk's Human Time Actor Ahn Sung Ki - 2017-06-04

This is the second blog post in our series about the film, Human Time. While Jang Keun Suk is occupied with filming, we will continue to publish blog posts on all the actors and anything else we learn about the film. 

Ahn Sung Ki Filmography

Ahn Sung Ki was born in Daigu in 1952 and grew up as a child actor, graduating from Kyundong junior high school and appearing in director Kim Ki-young's celebrated film The Housemaid(1960. He was a later graduate of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, specifically Vietnamese as he expected to go to Vietnam during the Vietnamese War.

However, the war wound down before he graduated and, thus, his second language no longer became necessary. Nevertheless, he volunteered for military service after graduating from university, serving as an artillery officer (1974 ~ 1976).

Because of his ability to speak several foreign languages, UNICEF appointed Ahn as a representative, and his image is often seen in advertisements on planes traveling to Korea. Due to his brand as Korea’s national actor, he has acted twice as the President of South Korea in the movies Romantic President (2002) and Hanbando(2006).

On 23 June 2012, Ahn, along with Lee Byung-hun, became two of the first Korean actors to leave their hand and foot prints on the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. The Korean Film Producers Association recommended him for his body of work.

Okay, that’s his top line bio. But much more needs to be said about this prolific actor who has acted in 131 films.

After winning the award for best child actor in Defiance of a Teenager at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1960 (his third film with Kim Ki-young), Ahn was able to make the most of this early experience and to become an adult actor of proven professionalism. After stepping away from cinema during his later teenage years, college and military service, Ahn returned in the late 70s.

“There were far fewer parts for teenagers so I decided at that time to return to normal life, focus on my studies and become a normal high school student. I went to university and did my military service, and the reason I returned to acting was because at university I studied Vietnamese and I had desire to participate in the Vietnam War, but though there was a scheme that allowed university students to participate in military service and apply to be a general [Reserve Officers Training Course]. At the time I was about to graduate, they began withdrawing soldiers from Vietnam and eventually in 1975 the Vietnam War was over. So, I wasn’t able to use my degree in Vietnamese, The war had depleted, and I couldn't find employment for about two years afterwards. That led me to return to films because I felt I had some ability, and that’s how I started my acting career again.”

He proved his caliber which was unmatched by actors in the 1970s and gradually developed an intellectual image. Moreover, he has appeared in some of the most important and iconic films of the 80s and 90s.

He was the on-screen persona for politically conscientious directors in the 1980s such as Lee Jang-ho, Bae Chang-ho, and Park Kwang-su, and filled his resume with socially conscious works such as A Fine Windy Day, People in a Slum, Whale Hunting, Mandara, and Chilsu and Mansu through to the early 1990s. But it was director Kang Woo-suk’s Two Cops that marked a turning point for Ahn, previously known as a talented actor in socially realist films. Pairing up with Park Joong-hoon, he played a corrupt policeman and revealed his potential in the comedy genre.

His subsequent breakout role was as a serial killer in Nowhere To Hide in which he exuded charisma without even uttering a single word. He places a greater focus on the depth of a character, not the importance of the role, and continues to make a series of hit movies in the 21st century such as Silmido, Hanbando, May 18, and Radio Star. Silmido (2003) was his first movie to break the 10-million-viewer mark, and Radio Star (2006) remains, perhaps, his personal favorite.

Thanks to his unique style, to his ability to play complex roles, and to perform a wide variety of characters, Ahn won the respect and admiration not only of the audience but also of the critics. It should be noted, too, that he appeared in some of the most famous breakthrough films of the Korean New Wave, including Nowhere To Hide – one of the first Korean films to be commercially released in the West – with his regular onscreen partner Park Joong-hoon. His immense presence and charisma has been a foundation of Korean cinema.

He has built the most consistent acting career in Korea and is known as “the National Actor.” 2011 also saw countless audiences flocking to see him in films including the 3D blockbuster and , a social drama that critically pointed out the corruptions in Korean judiciary system. In addition to his native Korean films, Ahn acted in the US-Korea co-production alongside Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman. He also continued to appear in the commercial genre films such as Revivre, Love and..., The Hunt, and Trot.

"I think I've been able to come this far by giving my all in every film in which I've appeared," he said.

Besides being an actor of international fame, Ahn has become a true national icon. He is, for example, omnipresent in the advertising industry, where he often plays the role of a reliable father. The Korean collective imagination seems to have entrusted him to represent the “human” face of power. This explains why he played twice the role of the President of the Republic.

In a December 2014 interview, Ahn said, “I began acting as a five-year-old child continuing until the late 60s; then I took a ten year break during which I completed my military service and I returned to film-making in 1977.

“At that time, Korea was going through a really frightful and horrifying period under the rule of Park Chung-hee and that was a really dark time for Korean cinema too, and when I returned to acting thinking it would be my lifelong career I discovered there were many things I couldn’t communicate through film. I found that disappointing and difficult.

“After Park Chung-hee’s death, you could feel we had more breathing space – there was a movement of life slowly creeping in – and when I worked with director Lee Jang-ho on a film called A Fine Windy Day it allowed me to be acknowledged as an adult actor. From there, I specifically chose to focus my acting on stories that I wouldn’t have been able to in the 70s – for example, in the 70s if a story had a female lead it would always have to be a love story – and those choices of course included Chilsu and Mansu; as well as Nambungun, and White Badge which dealt with the Vietnam War and showed the perspective of soldiers and the consequences of being in war, whereas films had previously dealt with soldiers’ performances and the good outcomes they achieved. These were the types of films I was choosing.

“It’s extremely hard to find a good script, and it is my belief that a great script will never fail as a film. One good thing about being an actor is that obviously while there is the premise that you have to do well and you must continue to appeal, there are, nonetheless, roles and characters that you can play even as you get older.

“I have singer friends who have produced hit songs, but as they become older it’s not as easy to produce big hits, and lifelong they’ll be repeating the hits they had when they were younger. In my opinion, I wish they’d try something new or do something different, but it feels like they are unable to. As an actor, as you get older and get more wrinkles, there are more roles that those wrinkles can speak to.

“There aren’t any specific roles that I’m attracted to but thinking about the cathartic effect that a film has is what attracts me ultimately. If I can move people’s hearts and touch them in some way, those are the roles I want to take. As you get older, the roles in films and the parts you play may get smaller, but the most important thing is that my presence and my skill is not reduced. So, rather that concentrate on size, you focus on constantly having depth in roles, and thinking is something I will contemplate in the future continually. By having continued depth, I’ll still be able to move the hearts and minds of people.”

In 1996, he was awarded the "Sports Nipon Art Grand Prize" with Sleeping Man directed
by Okuri Kohei, a renowned Japanese director. And in 1997, Ahn was regarded as the best actor by «Cine21», today’s most important Korean film magazine. Furthermore, he’s been the recipient of
the Daejong Film Festival, Best Actor (1982, 1984, 1994); the BaekSang Award, Best Actor (1988, 1989, 2012); the Asia-Pacific Film Festival Best Actor (1987); Critics Choice Awards Best Actor
(2006); Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Best Actor (2012); the Beksang Award, Best Supporting Actor (1984); and in 2015 the Korean Association of Film Critics Special Appreciation Plaque.

The extraordinary versatility in the use of different registers has allowed Ahn to build a style that can be perfectly adapted to any film, genre and context. His strength is his ability to dress the part of any role, as only great actors can do. For his part, Ahn has done nothing but to do what he has always done, turning his attention everywhere, without any prejudice, accepting different roles and dealing with a really impressive multiplicity of directors. It is very likely that now, more than ever, he is in the ideal position for an actor-star like him, so much so that his image, now gloriously reassuring as that of a “patron”, allows him to be “the” face of a national cinema that knows how to keep together tradition and modernity.



  1. Thanks! Ahn Sung Ki is surely a very interesting person and competent actor. He surely has come a long way and has gained a lot of experience in the different roles he played.Another excellent choice for your new movie, director Kim!

  2. Thank you very much for awesome co star with JKS

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Thank you for sharing with us, Cri!