Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Like Marvels and DC movies, films that can be interpreted as Korean superheroes have been continuously released, even if it’s small in number. From heroes of classical novels to the small-time psychic with powers, unique characters derived from Korean history and society have attracted the audience’s interest. This article will introduce the heroes in Korean films that present different charms from the heroes in Hollywood films.
The Soul Guardians (1998)
Released in 1988, The Soul Guardians can be considered as a ‘superhero film’ in terms of “heroes fighting against evil.” Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, which was published in ‘PC communication’ and gained immense popularity, it tells the story of exorcists with various abilities joining hands to stop the resurrection of evil. At the time, the movie made a hit in the box office, attracting 450,000 viewers in Seoul, showing amazing visual effects and colorful exorcism actions that were different from previous Korean films. However, the sloppy development and characters that have been changed from the original work left regrets for the fans of the original work.
Jeon Woochi: The Taoist Wizard (2009)
It’s a traditional Korean superhero film adapted from the classical novel “Jeon Woochi Story.” The film depicts the story of Jeon Woochi, the Taoist wizard trapped in a scroll, who gets released in modern time, 500 years later, and competes with his archrival Hwadam. The fact that this is a new film of Choi Dong Hoon, who directed The War Of Flower, grabbed the attention even from the production stage. Also, the flamboyant cast, including Kang Dong Won, Kim Yoon Seok, Lim Soo Jung and Yoo Hae Jin, made headlines. Jeon Woochi: The Taoist Wizard, which offered unique attractions of transformation and Taoist magic with talismans, is considered one of the most successful examples of Korean-style superhero, drawing 6.2 million viewers in Korea.
This is a Korean-style superhero film with a lot of focus on “confrontation.” It depicts an inevitable showdown between Cho In, who can control people with his eyes, and Kyu Nam, the only person who Cho In cannot control. Kang Dong Won and Ko Soo starred in the movie to each play Cho In and Kyu Nam, and there was even a joke that their looks were indeed the superpowers in the film. As a villain who commits evil acts but feels somewhat pitiful, and a hero who never gives up despite facing numerous crises, the film presents meticulous settings of the characters and exciting story.
Vampire Cop Ricky (2006)
The story follows a police officer Na Do Yeol, who becomes a vampire with enormous power, as he defeats the criminal organization that threatens justice. With the unique setting of a man turning into a vampire after getting bitten by a mosquito that already sucked the blood of Dracula, and the comic acting of Kim Soo Ro, who played Na Do Yeol, Vampire Cop Ricky showed a birth of a Korean-style superhero different from Hollywood. It was said that the movie was going to be made into a trilogy even before its official release, and the box office was also a hit attracting 1.5 million viewers, but no news of the sequel has been heard yet.
Psychokinesis, which revolves around Seok Heon, an ordinary security guard, as he gains the ability to move things via psychokinesis, tells the story of a small-time superhero. The fact that director Yeon Sang Ho of Train to Busan, actors Ryu Seung Ryong, Shim Eun Kyung, and Park Jung Min came together raised much expectations even from the production stage, but they quietly left the box office without reaching 1 million viewers. The awkward development in the latter half and somewhat absurd expressions used in the film were criticized.
The Divine Fury (2019)
The film depicts the story of a former martial arts champion Yong Hoo, who lost his father when he was young and is only left with the distrust in this world, fighting against the evil when he learns from Father Ahn that the wound left on his hand has an extraordinary power. Park Seo Joon and director Kim Joo Hwan worked together once again after Midnight Runners, and Ahn Sung Ki made headlines as he returned to the role of a priest fighting against the evil after The Soul Guardians. Unfortunately, the film failed to make a successful box office due to the flat developments that failed to make use of unique materials. In the trailer, the sequel was hinted, but the situation is unclear.
The Witch : Part 1. The Subversion (2018)
Kim Dami, who showed excellent performance in Itaewon Class, made a big-screen debut with The Witch, a film that also showed the potential of a Korean-style superhero movie. It depicts the story of Ja Yoon, who used to live a normal life, bringing back the memory of living as a human weapon when her family is threatened. Despite the worries of a rookie actor playing the lead role and an unfamiliar subject of human weapons created by genetic manipulation, the film made a hit in the box office by presenting a twist and intense action. As the title suggests, the sequel was expected from the start, and as both Kim Dami and director Park Hoon Jung expressed their intentions to participate in the sequel several times. We hope to hear the news of further production.
A Man Who Was Superman (2008)
Based on a short novel written by Yoo Il Han, the film revolves around a man claiming to be Superman, who cannot use his powers due to the Kryptonite put into his head by the villain. It’s not considered a superhero film, but it’s impressive in that it’s a story about a man who wants to become a superhero more than anyone else. Hwang Jung Min played the role of a man who believes himself to be Superman, and Jun Ji Hyun played the role of a documentary director who is fed up with fake-moving stories, presenting a heartwarming story that crosses both comedy and fantasy.
The Hero (2013)
Like A Man Who Was Superman, The Hero is also not a superhero film. It depicts the story of a father who decided to become a hero “Thunderman” in tight costumes when his son gets despaired as his favorite children’s drama was canceled. Oh Jung Se, who received much attention for his solid performances in When the Camellia Blooms and Stove League, played the lead role, portraying a touching emotions of a father who throws his everything in for his son.