Former top Korean actor gathers signatures in Chicago to give reprieve for singer Kye Eun-sook

November 10, 2015
Actor Han Ji-il with a sign for a Chicago petition to help singer Kye Eun-sook (Yonhap)

Actor Han Ji-il with a sign for a Chicago petition to help singer Kye Eun-sook (Yonhap)

Han Ji-il, a 68-year-old South Korean film actor and producer who immigrated to America a decade ago, has reportedly recovered after losing consciousness Sunday following a petition drive to give reprieve for singer Kye Eun-sook outside a Chicago Korean supermarket.

In a phone call with Yonhap, Han said his roommate, 21-year-old college student Kim Jae-ho, called 911. Doctors told Han he was suffering from anemia due to malnutrition.

“Now that I’ve woken up, I’m going to go home and rest before starting up work again tomorrow and beginning to collect more signatures,” Han said.

Han was a top star in the 1970s and ’80s who won numerous Best Actor honors in South Korea. In the 1990s, he ran into financial trouble and found himself in a divorce scandal; in 2007, he immigrated to America, where he moved from Los Angeles to Philadelphia before settling in Chicago.

He has reportedly worked odd jobs to make a living, and has spent his time volunteering to help the elderly, North Korean refugees and suicide prevention efforts. He reportedly said he has a lot of stories to tell and that he would gladly return to Korea if he was offered an acting job.

Since last month, Han has petitioned for reprieve in the case of Kye, 53, who was arrested on charges of methamphetamine use in June.

Kye is known as a “Queen of Enka” and has been popular in Japan.

Han seeks to submit a petition to Korean courts signed by at least 1,000 Koreans and Japanese living in Chicago area. He has gathered up about 600 signatures so far. He says he never realized how difficult it is to get people’s signatures, especially when the subject is implicated in drug-related charges.

Han’s petition for Kye stems from sympathy. The two do not know each other, but he says he can identify with what she is

“Fans are cold-hearted,” Han said. “They pay a lot of attention to you when you are popular, but they are not so forgiving when you make a mistake. I’ve lived in seclusion for a long time, so I don’t know many people. It’s a lonely life, but I plan to keep offering my hand to those who are suffering.”