[PICK] Korean Films that Brought the Hottest Issues in the 2010s

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun


The year 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Korean films. Currently, the movie industry is facing a slump due to the aftermath of COVID-19, but this article will cover the Korean films that left a deep impression in the 2010s, hoping that it will recover soon.


1. Parasite, 2019

Credit: CJ Entertainment

The best achievement ever recorded in Korean films in the 2010s is Parasite. Starting by winning Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival as the first Korean film, the movie swept the world’s leading film festivals and eventually won four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards. It also made a hit in the box office. Parasite has surpassed $200 million in worldwide box office, and recently became the second-most streamed film in Hulu.


2. Along with the Gods series, 2017-2018

Credit: Lotte Entertainment

For the first time in the history of Korean films, the first and the second part of the movie was produced simultaneously. Contrary to the public’s concerns, visual effects, in which Dexter Studios participated in, were much better than expected. The first part of the film attracted 14.41 million viewers with its heartwarming story. The total production cost, estimated at around 35 billion KRW (approx. 28,743,660 USD), was solely recouped only from the first part. The second part, which was released in the summer of 2018, also attracted 12.27 million viewers, making Along with the Gods series the first series films to both surpass 10 million viewers.


3. Roaring Currents, 2014

Credit: CJ Entertainment

Series of Hollywood blockbusters and films from big domestic distributors were released one after another, making the movie industry hot in the summer of 2014. Of them, the most brilliant was Roaring Currents. The film set a new record even from the first day of release and attracted a total of 17.61 million viewers, still securing the No.1 spot in the box office history in Korea.


4. Snowpiercer, 2013

Credit: CJ Entertainment

Director Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer targeted overseas markets from the get-go. It invested $40 million, the largest production cost in the history of Korean films, to film overseas, including the Czech Republic and Austria, with actors from home and abroad, including Song Kang Ho, Go Ah Sung, Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton. As the work aimed at overseas markets from the production stage, the film was sold to 167 countries around the world, marking the all-time highest sales in the history of Korean films.


5. Train to Busan, 2016

Credit: NEW

Train to Busan is the first Korean film that tied the live-action film with animation. While preparing for Seoul Station, prequel animation, which depicts the chaos created by zombies in Seoul, the idea of Train to Busan was developed and completed. The film was invited to Cannes Film Festival’s Midnight Screenings and received favorable reviews, and has garnered explosive popularity since its release in Korea, surpassing 10 million viewers. This summer, Peninsula, which depicts the story four years after Train to Busan, will be released.


6. The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol, 2014

Credit: Cinema Dal

In 2014, BIFF was hotly debated over whether to show The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol. BIFF decided to screen the film to protect the independence of the festival, but Seo Byung Soo, the Mayor of Busan at the time, opposed it, causing a major conflict. To which, many filmmakers at home and aboard campaigned to ensure BIFF’s independence, and fortunately, it is now normalized and allowing the movie fans to watch the film.


7. The Wailing, 2016

Credit: 20th Century FOX Korea

Not only did The Wailing introduce the fun of the genre, but it also created a craze of interpreting and finding symbols and hidden meanings. People who watched the movie first posted reviews with interpretations of hidden codes, to which various opinions were poured out. People from all walks of life, from critics to shaman, talked about The Wailing from their own perspectives, and these interpretations and debates over the film continues to this day,


8. I Saw The Devil, 2010


I Saw The Devil became the first Korean commercial film to receive the result of restricted-screening (the film cannot be seen in regular theaters, but only in limited theaters). Since there are no theaters that can screen the movies that were rated with restricted-screening, it was practically impossible to release the film in Korea. So the production company edited the problematic scenes and received a rating of NC-17 in Korea after three deliberations.


9. Race to Freedom : Um Bok Dong, 2018


The movie put in 15 billion KRW (approx. 12,335,535 USD) for production, but received a disastrous result of 170,000 viewers. Even before the official release, there were many concerns regarding the quality of work, and such concerns became a reality. In addition, the term UBD was born (derived from Um Bok Dong, used like the ‘unit of box office dealing’ where 100 UBD = 1 Roaring Currents), becoming the object of national ridicule.


10. My Love, Don’t Cross That River, 2014

Credit: CGV Art House, Culture DM

My Love, Don’t Cross That River attracted a total of 4.8 million viewers, an all-time high box office record in the history of independent films in Korea. Although it did not receive much attention until the official release and only a few theaters screened the movie, the fact that it made a box office hit only from voluntary interests from the viewers and word of mouth implies much to the current film system where the monopoly of large films is generalized.

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