Philip Ahn (안필립; 安必立) — Frustrated Success (1970) 🇺🇸

February 15, 2022

If Phil Ahn is frustrated, he is trying hard not to show it. His palatial home in Northridge is filled with rare antiques and exquisite furniture given him by the government of Korea and other heads of states he has met, his career is flourishing with more than 300 pictures to his credit, and his famous Moongate restaurant in Panorama City is booming, yet his one ambition in life remains unsatisfied.

by John Ringo Graham

The ambition is to play a Korean on the screen. Phil himself is of Korean ancestry, and his father, Chang Ho Ahn (안창호) is now considered by the people of that nation to have been the literal father of modern Korea. The elder Ahn wrote the words to the current national anthem, and worked all his life for the liberation of his country from Japanese rule.

Dozens of books have been written about Chang Ho’s career, and his memory j is honored throughout the country once a year. Yet, in more than 30 years of acting, his son has never been given a Korean role to play. He has been a Chinese, Japanese (dozens of times) and a few other types in between, but never a Korean. He hasn’t despaired of achieving his goal, in fact he is now actively working on a project that is certain to bring recognition to him as a Korean.

Ahn hopes to bring one of the famous Pearl Buck novels to the screen whose setting is in Korea. When this happens, it will fulfill a life-long ambition. In the meantime, Ahn is busy with his regular career which makes big demands on his time. Television shows and motion picture work fill his days with challenging assignments, but in his free time, Ahn goes to Veteran’s hospitals, and makes tours of the Orient to encourage wounded soldiers who are in military hospitals.

He has traveled thousands of miles on these quests, and makes his time available to worthy causes. Because of his civic minded attitude, he was elected Honorary Mayor of Panorama City, and has remained in this post for several years. Ahn frequently travels to other Southland communities in his official capacity. During ceremonies in Buena Park for the ground-breaking of the new Movie World Cars of the Stars Museum, Ahn joined the mayor, Chamber of Commerce president, Chamber Manager, owner, James Brucker, Sr., and many other officials in welcoming the new attraction to Orange County.

When the subject of his father comes up, Ahn can hold the interest of friends for hours as he recites the exploits and achievements of the famous revolutionary. The elder Ahn didn’t use guns to overthrow the illegal Japanese rule, but resorted to education instead. He sensed early in his life that he needed to understand the Western mind and politics in order to help his people.

After getting one of the first passports ever issued by Korea, Ahn and his wife set out for America. Until this time, Korea was known as “the hermit Kingdom.” It discouraged foreign travel by it’s people and didn’t welcome outsiders who wanted to visit the backward nation. After arriving in San Francisco, the Ahn’s who had the highest formal and cultural education it was possible to gain in Korea, started to attend American schools.

The pair attended kindergarten first and worked their way up through the grades until Chang Ho Ahn was a fully educated man in all phases of European’ culture and studies. Armed with this knowledge, he returned to his homeland to work for the freedom of Korea. Traveling about the land, he preached the gospel of Japanese rejection to the masses of Koreans who knew almost nothing of the outside world.

He was alternately feted and hunted by the ruling Japanese prince who ran the affairs of Korea, since his ideas were dangerous to the control of the tiny country by the hated occupation forces of Japan. When the Japanese prince thought he could wip Ahn over with kindness and flattery, he did so. Failing in this, he would resort to force, but the wily revolutionary managed to stay a few steps ahead of his tormentors, reappearing in unexpected places to continue his campaign of overthrow by education.

Chang Ho Ahn never lived to see the realization of his lifetime dream, the establishment of the Republic of Korea. He died in 1938 in a Japanese hospital inside China where he was captured during the fall of Shanghai. The grateful people of Korea, however, have never ceased to honor the man who worked for more than 40 years to free them from the bonds of enforced slavery.

During World War II, Phillip Ahn was cast in dozens of propaganda films that stirred up hate for the Japanese. The roles he played were usually Japanese soldiers who tortured American flyers and soldiers for information. The pictures were so successful at building hate among audiences, he was personally attacked by people who took the movies seriously. Hate mail, threats on his life, and other manifestations of his unpopularity soon convinced Ahn the only way to stop it was to quit being an actor and join the Army — which he did.

He served with distinction throughout the war and returned to his career after the closing of hostilities. He has never stopped working since. Even though he has found it frustrating not to play a Korean, Phillip Ahn is certain to remedy the situation himself with the production of his own film dealing with Korea. As the old saying goes, if you can’t get someone else to do a thing — do it yourself. Ahn takes the statement literally.

Avid gardener — Ahn likes to putter in the garden of his Northridge estate when he has a few minutes to spare.

Famous patriot — Chung Ho Ahn, is revered in Korea in the same way George Washington is honored in America as the Father of his country.

Ready for work — Ahn is on call at a moments notice and may go to any part of the world for a motion picture roll.

Music fan — Ahn spends his evenings listening to stereo records when he is home.

Source: Hollywood Studio MagazineJanuary 1970