K-wave fans are probably familiar with K-pop music and K-dramas. But often overshadowed by these are the Korean films!
Korean movies used to be quite under-the-radar for international audiences, due to the language barrier and inaccessibility outside of Korea. However, with more films going on licensed streaming platforms like Netflix, there’s plenty for you to choose from. Whether you want to keep up to date with the latest movie instalments, or revisit classic favourites, Korean movies give you more than enough material for your movie marathon night.
Not sure where to begin? Here are some popular reels to check out!
1. Train to Busan (2016)
Easily one of the biggest hits of 2016, Train to Busan can be partly blamed for the sudden revival of the “zombie apocalypse” trope in the horror genre.
The film’s protagonist is a workaholic fund manager named Seok-woo who is on a train, taking his young daughter to Busan to visit his ex-wife. Things start taking a turn for the worse as a viral outbreak begins to spread in the train, causing people to mutate and become flesh-eating zombies.
Not just your typical zombie movie, the film has its share of heart-stopping moments, with an intense plot as well as enough gore to keep you at the edge of your seat. If you love horror and/or an action film with a solid storyline, this is one film to watch. Can’t get enough of Train to Busan? The sequel to it, Peninsula, has also been released recently – you might still be able to catch it in cinemas now!
2. Parasite (2019)
Released in 2019, Parasite is a dark comedy film that shows the clear divide that exists between the rich and the poor, not just in South Korea, but all over the world, in general.
The film follows a family who lives in the slums, the Kims, as they con their way to being employed by the Parks, a ridiculously wealthy family. Through the Kims’ impersonations and time working under the Parks, more revelations and drama unravel.
Widely acclaimed for its social themes and symbolism, the film also doesn’t lack in the entertainment and cinematography aspect. Indeed, it has been highly raved by critics all over the world, and scooped up four Academy Awards at the Oscars 2020. Don’t miss out on this gem, even if you’re not into Korean movies!
3. My Sassy Girl (2001)
If rom-coms are your thing, My Sassy Girl is a must-watch classic. Its popularity is attested by it having spawned several remakes around the world, including in Japan and the US.
Based on a true story which first appeared as a series of blog posts, the film tells the roller-coaster ride of a story revolving around a girl (played by Jun Ji-hyun) and her relationship with a boy named Gyeon-woo (played by Cha Tae-hyun). Meeting by chance at a train platform, they began a tumultuous relationship marked by their wildly opposing personalities.
The film’s claim to fame is Jun-Ji-hyun’s spectacular portrayal of the female lead character, although Cha Tae-hyun also received critical acclaim and awards for his role in the film.
4. Miss Granny (2014)
If you’ve ever wondered what an old lady would do if she were somehow to wake up in her younger self’s body, look no further than Miss Granny.
The story follows the life of an old widow, Mal-soon, who shares a rather difficult and tumultuous relationship with her son and daughter-in-law. As certain circumstances lead to the son threatening to send Mal-soon to the nursing home, the old lady finds herself wandering the streets aimlessly, and eventually into a photo studio.
Alas, after having her photo taken, the 74-year-old finds herself in her 20-year-old body, much to her own shock. Yet, Mal-soon quickly finds ways to hide from her family and live out the life she wished she could have led, but never had the chance to.
From whacky rom-coms to fantasies, Korean films are anything but ordinary. Prepare yourself for countless twists and turns as you settle down with popcorn and one or more of these films!
Watching Korean films are a great excuse for learning Korean as well. Why not put on the Korean subtitles, or turn them off altogether, and practice your Korean comprehension skills? If your Korean level is not quite there yet, perhaps it’s time to sign up for some Korean language courses at Sejong Korean Language School to bring it up to par!