There’s more to South Korean cinema than ‘Parasite’South Korean screens are filled with far more interesting series and films. Once you watch these, you’ll realise the Oscar-winner was just the tip of the iceberg.
When the South Korean film Parasite won four awards at the Oscars, there was no one more proud than koreaphiles across the world—at least that’s how I felt. South Korean entertainment has been sweeping the world with online stream apps offering Korean movies and series as options to watch. Now, many are coming to realise how compelling this country’s competitive entertainment market is.
Korean dramas are addictive, entertaining, ingenious, funny and witty—all various genres have their own strengths, however. Some of the Korean thrillers are really quite sickening, and for years romantic movies have been melting hearts. Korean cinema and series can make you believe in the idealistic idea of ‘love’ and even the psyches of murderers. There is more to Korean entertainment than Boys Over Flowers or Parasite.
So, while you stream in movies and dramas for some distraction during this difficult time, why not explore some of the most admired Korean entertainment across countries.
This 2003 romantic film, starring Son Ye-jin and Cho Seung-woo, is also usually the first movie most fans will tell you the reason they fell in love with Korean drama. The film is about a mother and daughter both played by Son Ye-jin. Joo-hee (Son Ye-jin), the daughter, finds a box of her mother’s keepsakes from her first love. This may sound cheesy, but do try this film, as the classic love story will consume you. When you’re done watching you will find yourself asking for more. When that happens, look for A moment to remember, starring Ye-jin again, and understand why and how Korean romance manages to steal your heart. Add A Millionaire’s First Love and Architecture 101 to this loved-up list.
This series is a blast from the past for 80s kids, in a world before the internet, when every neighbour knew each other and community kids grew up together. The series tells a story of class dynamics and the innocence of youth. The 16-episode drama follows five high-school friends who live in the Ssangmundong neighbourhood of Seoul, as they try to set a path for their future. It’s a heartwarming series that received critical acclaim and is the third highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history. Many will tell you to watch it for the powerful cast, which includes Lee Hye-ri, Park Bo-gum, Go Kyung-pyo, Ryu Jun-yeol and Lee Dong-hwi.
The Netflix series was listed in the New York Times article, ‘The 30 Best International TV Shows of the Decade’. The series is divided into two seasons, in six parts, and is rather timely, given the times we are living in, as the Coronavirus grips the world and has countries around the globe on a lockdown. The Kingdom is another zombie-plague horror flick, where a prince tries to find out the reason behind the plague revealing the political conspiracy for power. The zombies in the series don’t fear the light, and only know to devour anything that has life. The series gets intense with each episode as the numbers of the infected keep rising. The tension of the mysterious infection gives you an adrenaline rush and good jump scares. But if this is too time-consuming you might want to watch ‘Train to Busan’ another zombie flick released in 2016 that brought back the wave of Korean movies and zombies.
The Prison Playbook steers away from the typical Korean series, as it will make you laugh and cry at the same time. The series is about Kim Je Hyuk, a famous baseballer played by Park Hae Soo, as he tries to adapt to prison life while getting back to baseball after being guilty of excessive violence, for assaulting a man who hit his sister. The drama simultaneously reveals various other prisoners’ stories while revealing Kim’s timeline. It’s an emotionally-driven ordinary story of prisoners seeking redemption. Kim, despite falling on hard times throughout his life, believes in perseverance.
A Taxi Driver
The 2017 film is based on real-life, set in the backdrop of the Gwangju Uprising in 1980 that saw a democratic movement against the martial law government. You might remember Song Kang Ho from Parasite; here the actor plays the innocent taxi driver, Kim Man Sup. Kim is a hard-working taxi driver in the country’s capital, trying to pay off his late wife’s hospital bills; he also has a daughter. Kim ends up being a driver for a foreigner in hopes of earning good money but finds himself amidst the conflict in Gwanju, trying to protect the foreigner who is a German journalist. Over the years, Song has been one of the South Korean actors to look out for, with his experimental and unique choice for movies. In case you decide to binge-watch Song’s movies, you might also want to watch Memories of Murder (also directed by Bong Joon Ho), it’s one of the most disturbing movies you will ever watch and it is based on a true story of South Korean serial killer. The subject matter is considered Korea’s first-ever serial killer case. Also add to the list, The Age of Shadows and Parasite of course.