Korean Popular Culture: Country’s Cinematic Output Ranks With The Best

Korean popular culture has become something of a hot topic in the wake of “Gangnam Style.” Although the country is getting plenty of attention for its catchy tunes and inspired dance moves, South Korea is intentionally known for its films as well.

Although the country has been churning out movies for decades, 1997 is considered to be the beginning of the industry’s golden age. Following the success of the 1999 movie Shiri, a thriller which stars Lost alum Yunjin Kim, producers began introducing more big budget films into South Korean cinemas.

Oldboy director Chan-wook Park’s JSA (Joint Security Area) managed to best the box office numbers posted by the aforementioned thriller in 2000. Park would go on to direct several popular films in the country, including two more chapters in his Vengeance trilogy.

Jae-young Kwak’s My Sassy Girl, a romantic comedy about a man’s relationship with his girlfriend, managed to beat both Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings at the box office. Director Yann Samuell later adapted the film for American audiences in 2008.

Korean popular culture seems strangely obsessed with violent, gritty stories, which may explain why the country’s film industry has produced as large number of genre films over the past several years. In 2008, filmmaker Hong-jin Na unleashed The Chase into theaters. The story follows the adventures of a pimp who attempts to the man responsible for roughing up his girls.

Director Jee-woon Kim’s 2010 thriller I Saw the Devil was banned from a handful of film festivals due to its graphic depictions of violence. The film is an unrelenting tale of revenge, one that may surprise those who are only versed in the ways of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video.

Other notable South Korean movies released over the past few years include Chan-wook Park’s thriller Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the monster movie The Host, the Marrying the Mafia series, the My Girlfriend is a Gangster franchise, and the Whispering Corridors films. Of course, these title are merely scratching the surface of what the industry has to offer.

Wikipedia has an exhaustive list of films that will appeal directly to those who have developed a fondness for Korean popular culture. Aside from the obvious cultural differences, most South Korean movies are just as polished and approachable as their Hollywood counterparts. You can find a handful of trailers for the aforementioned features embedded below.

Are you quickly becoming a fan of Korean popular culture?

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