Top 5 Korean Movies for Learning About Korean Culture

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Korean movies are awesome! Funny, scary and always entertaining, there are so many to choose from. Whether you want to improve your Korean, soak up K culture or just sit back and relax, there will be something in this list for you!

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5. A Taxi Driver

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

Released:  2017

A Taxi Driver is, perhaps unsurprisingly, about a cab driver operating in Seoul in 1980. Through his day to day work he accidentally becomes embroiled in the Gwangju Uprising. The reason this film is so compelling is that it's based on true events. Not only do viewers get to brush up on their Korean language skills, they also get to discover some Korean history.

 

Critically acclaimed, the cast have received praise for their emotionally weighted portrayal of historical events. The film was also a huge commercial success, becoming the highest grossing Korean movie in the year it was released. Definitely one to watch!

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4. Old Boy

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

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Released:  2003

Old Boy is a dark action thriller based on a Manga comic. The story revolves around Oh Dae-su, who is imprisoned in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing why. During this time he finds out his wife has been murdered and he is being framed for it. He spends years practicing how to fight and planning what to do next. Upon his release he tries to find the identity of his captors and exact his revenge.

The film received great critical acclaim for the depth of its storytelling as well as its action sequences. It has won several awards, including the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Awards. It has been highly praised by many prominent directors, including Quentin Tarrantino and an American version of the film was also released in 2013, staring Josh Brolin.

A great film for many Korean language students. Just bear in mind it is very violent and definitely not appropriate for children!

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3. Burning

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

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Released:  2018

Burning is based on a short story by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. It's a psychological drama that tells the story of a who's childhood friend returns from a trip with a mysterious stranger. After time, he begins to get suspicious of this newcomer and believes his friend to be in danger.

 

The antagonist of the film is played by Steven Yuen of Walking Dead fame. The film itself has paved the way for Korean cinema in the West, receiving excellent reviews for its ability to create a powerful sense of uneasiness and tension. Many have said that the well known Korean movie Parasite would not have become as widely recognised without this film setting the bar.

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2. Train to Busan

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

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Released:  2016

This story follows the relationship between a writer and a psychiatrist who both suffer from mental illness due to childhood trauma. Both protagonists help each other along their journey of acceptance within society and eventually develop a romantic relationship. 


Although a love story at heart, the narrative also revolves around how mental illness is treated in Korea and how people live with them. It goes further in addressing other topics such as the transgender movement, gender roles and more in ways that allow audience to empathise. The drama is a true masterpiece and will never be forgotten by K-drama fans the world over.

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1. Parasite

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

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Released:  2019

Parasite is a dark comedy directed by Bong Joon-Ho. Without giving away spoilers, it's about a poor family who gradually infiltrate a wealthy household in a bid to improve their lives. Not only does this give the viewer an insight into all levels of South Korean society, it also lets them understand how these two disparate elements interact and how they perceive each other.

Parasite has won its place at the top of our list for 2 reasons: Firstly, it is undeniably entertaining. With elements of comedy, thriller and at times even horror, this movie really does have it all. The second reason is for the sheer number of accolades the film has received. With numerous awards for best director and best screenplay, parasite was recognised by many critics as one of the bets films of 2019. This is a first for a Korean movie and is even more impressive considering the whole thing is in Korean and depicts a society very different from what we're used to in the West. In short, Parasite is a perfect example of how film can bridge cultures and educate us on different societies.

Now you have loads of new movies to watch, it might be helpful to brush up on your Korean!

Luckily for you we offer group and private courses for all levels. You can take these courses either online or in person at our London offices where you will meet lots of like-minded Korean language fans.

For other great ways to familiarise yourself with Korean society, why not check out some of our other Korean resources?