Recommending Korean Historical Films (Part 2)

Hello, everyone. Hope you all had good weekend. Here I come back with Part 2 of Korean History films! Last article was about Joseon Dynasty (조선왕조) and the colonial era. Today’s article will be covering topics closer to the present: war, post-war, and present. Also, I thought the movies from the last article were all too serious and tragic. So, this time I brought movies from more various genres. I hope you get interested in those movies, and better understand how the Korean culture have evolved over time.


귀향 Spirits’ Homecoming (2016)


<Spirits’ Homecoming> is one of the rare films dealing with the sexual slavery issue during Japanese Colonization era. Due to financial issues, the film could not be released on time; publication had been delayed. However, after its budget problem was heard on the media, citizens donated money, and some actors voluntarily featured in the film without getting paid. For me, personally, one thing that I wasn’t satisfied was that historical facts were too much mixed up with spiritual ceremonies. However, still Koreans remember this movie as recommendable anyways. The audience around me exited the theaters shedding tears, including me.

News from Arirang Channel:


6.25 Korean War: On June 25th of 1950, the Communist army from North invaded the South. The United Nations, with the United States as the principal force, came to the aid for South Korea. China, with assistance from the Soviet Union, came to the aid for North Korea. The war lasted for three years, causing a catastrophic amount of casualties to both sides, then came down to a ceasefire in 1953. The Korean war has divided the peninsula into two until today.


웰컴투 동막골 Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)


The war within one nation destroyed not only the life of common citizens, but young men who were forced to serve their army without reasons, leaving behind their families and dreams. In a small village, Dongmakgol, war seemed be of no meaning in the village. The film itself, staff and actors had been nominated in lots of film festivals, and received awards and praises. The film also contains some comical, at the same time, aesthetic scenes, so it will not be boring to watch.

Welcome to Dongmakgol Trailer:


태극기 휘날리며 Tae Guk Gi, the Brotherhood of War (2004)


There is a Korean old proverb: blood is thicker than water. It means the relationship of family connected by “blood” is above anything else. Even though the war took everything, it could not separate the love toward family. However, due to this love, ironically the brothers were torn apart, and fought not for love, but for honor, and eventually for nothing. The film hit a record breaking 12 million audience in Korean box office.

United States trailer:


Post-War, The Period of Dictatorship and Development: Beginning with Syngman Rhee, the first president, the government of Republic of Korea was established, adopting democracy and market-oriented economy. This period, which is after the war to the near present, was a period of rapid economic development and political instability. Its economy grew more rapidly than any other countries. However, in this process toward prosperity, a series of oppressive autocratic governments took power in South Korea with American support and influence.

26년, 26 Years (2012)


The topic of the movie is the 5.18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising (5.18 광주 민주화 운동). Chun Doo-hwan (전두환) had become the default leader in 1979, after leading a successful military coup. On May 17 of 1980, Gwangju citizens demonstrated against Chun and his corrupt government. During the demonstration, the troops blocked the entire boundary of the city, so that its citizens would not be able to move out to the neighboring cities. Many young university students, who rose against the government were fired upon, killed, and beaten in an unprecedented attack by government troops. Even though the concept of assassination is fictional, the movie implies the effort of common citizens who fought for democracy, versus the wealthy corrupt government officials who are still alive.   


써니, Sunny (2011)


What would the life of our parents be like in the 1980s? Undergoing the period of uprisings and social movement, friendship still remains. Writing letters to a radio station, recording favorite singer’s songs in a cassette tape, staying up all night thinking of their crush… Parents fall into nostalgia, children experience the period never lived. The movie was quite a success in box office. With nostalgic music and comical dialogues of the characters, it was never boring to watch; but some comments do exist that the ending scene should have been improved.

Sunny Trailer:


Article by Sangeun from Korea, a Junior in Business Administration

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