The webtoon-based K-Drama Moving has gained some tremendous attention since its premiere in August 2023. Some Koreans, however, are choosing to skip the series because of actress Han Hyo Joo.
Amid the series’s success, Koreans are re-visiting the actress’s controversies; One involving her younger brother, Han Ji Hoon. It was reported back in June 2014 that Han Ji Hoon—when he was a First Lieutenant while serving his military duty in the South Korean Air Force—bullied a private to death.
Private First Class Kim Ji Hoon, who was an aspiring economist at the prestigious Korea University, enlisted in the Air Force on February 25, 2013. Appointed an aide-de-camp, Kim began serving as part of the 15th Special Missions Wing. Unfortunately, Kim also began enduring physical and mental harassment from his sunbae or “senior” aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Han.
By June 28, 2013, Private Kim was taken in for a consult with the Air Force medical officer and, ultimately, diagnosed with a dissociative identity disorder. The medical officer ordered that Private Kim be taken to the Armed Forces Capital Hospital for treatment, and the visit was scheduled for July 3, 2013.
Between his diagnosis and his scheduled hospital visit, though, Private Kim endured another aggressive behavior from Lieutenant Han. On June 30, 2013, Lieutenant Han ordered Private Kim to iron the Brigadier General’s uniform for an official event with the then-President Park Geun Hye. Occupied with the task, Private Kim was unable to answer an important call. Because of the missed call, the Brigadier General ended up running late to the official event.
Lieutenant Han blamed Private Kim for the whole situation; He “penalized” the Private (along with two other Corporals), making him do push-ups while wearing full gear. Having survived the hellish day, Private Kim apologized to the two Corporals—and was found dead by suicide at 4AM on July 1, 2013.
According to the Military Police’s investigation, Lieutenant Han was a notorious bully. The investigation revealed that Lieutenant Han bullied Private Kim by burying him in an unbearable workload and then penalizing him after work hours for not being able to complete the work. Private Kim’s dissociative identity disorder was thought to have been caused from the stress.
The Air Force, however, kept Private Kim’s death and unannounced to his family for three weeks. When, on July 23, 2013, the Private’s family was notified, the Air Force promised Private Kim’s family that his death would be considered “line of duty.”
Soon, though, Private Kim’s death was classified as “general,” and the investigation was rushed to conclusion. When Private Kim’s father demanded the Air Force to disclose the details of the investigation, the Air Force denied all requests; That is, until close to ten months later, the data was shared on April 9, 2014.
On May 21, 2014, Korea University’s Department of Economy put up an informative poster, letting the students and the nation know about Private Kim’s death. And soon enough, it was revealed that Lieutenant Han, responsible for Private Kim’s death, is actress Han Hyo Joo’s younger brother. It was also revealed that the Han siblings’ father is a Reserve Lieutenant Colonel for the Air Force. These relatively influential connections soon made Koreans wonder whether the investigation had been carried out fair and square.
As more Koreans raised questions, by June 2014, the Korean media finally began reporting on the tragic truth behind Private Kim’s death. In August 2014, after confronting massive backlash, the Air Force agreed to honor Private Kim’s death to be a line-of-duty one, and only then was Private Kim finally buried to rest in peace at the Seoul National Cemetery.
In September 2014, the Military Court of Korea sentenced Lieutenant Han to a suspension of indictment. The Air Force claimed, “While the Lieutenant admitted to penalizing Private Kim and causing some physical and mental distress, it was not with malicious intent and/or it cannot be verified whether the penalties were abusive.” Also citing Lieutenant Han’s “young age” and potential to “become a better person in the future,” the Military Court of Korea let Lieutenant Han off the hook for the death of Private Kim.
In November 2014, the Air Force Disciplinary Committee sentenced Lieutenant Han to a two month pay cut. While Private Kim’s family tried to appeal all of these decisions, the case officially closed in December 2014. Based on what has been reported since, Lieutenant Han has been working as a civil service officer after completing his military service.
Actress Han Hyo Joo received a ton of heat for her younger brother’s case. Because she came from an Air Force family, and because she once served as the Air Force Ambassador, Koreans blamed her “by association,” and she was criticized as fiercely as was Lieutenant Han.
More importantly, though, the actress was accused of “trying to cover up her younger brother’s news by influencing the press.” In fact, on May 22, 2014, after Korea University exposed Lieutenant Han’s case, the actress sent out a press release about her “act of kindness of saving a wildlife from the freeway.” On September 25, after reports of Lieutenant Han’s sentence, NAVER removed “Han Hyo Joo Dongsaeng” from its “Most Searched Keywords” and replaced them with gibberish like “Han Hyo Joo Do-eng.” The search for “Han Hyo Joo Do-eng” yielded no results, eventually being accused of media manipulation.
Fast forward a decade, the discussion about the actress and her brother’s past remains intense. Some Koreans believe that, since 2013, the actress is being unfairly trolled for a controversy that isn’t technically her fault. Other Koreans believe that she “deserves the blame by association,” especially because she has never taken a clear stance about the case or tried to explain herself against the blatant accusations regarding the case.