5 Movies Travelers Should Watch Before Visiting South Korea

November 1, 2018

5 Movies Travelers Should Watch Before Visiting South Korea

In South Korea, film and travel are closely intertwined. South Korean studios are known for not dismantling the filming locations of movies that turn out to be globally popular, instead turning these locations into hiking spots, tourist traps, and other Instagram-worthy destinations. Here are some of the movies that you need to see before you set foot in gorgeous South Korea.

King and the Clown

This is the movie that started the flower boy trend not just in Korea but arguably in the world. Starring the now-iconic Lee Joon Ki in the breakout role that catapulted him to global fame, King and the Clown is a historical drama that reveals a lot about the country’s imperial history. Much of the movie was shot at the Buan Movie Theme Park in Gyeokpo, where several replicas of ancient Korean palaces, temples, and rooms can be visited by tourists.

My Sassy Girl

After several foreign-language adaptations, the original My Sassy Girl from 2001 continues to be the gold standard by which tragic rom-coms around the world are measured. A key part of this movie’s plot is when the star-crossed lovers promise to meet at “The Lonely Tree” where they buried a time capsule. You can visit this same, lone pine tree on a small hill at Jeongseon-gun, in Gangwon-do via a nice afternoon hike. What’s New Korea suggests doing this in the summer, when the area is carpeted by gorgeous greens – perfect for a slow weekend picnic.

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War

As North Korea invades the South in the 50s, two brothers are forced to fight in the war due to government enlistment. Wanting to bring out the best in his men, the commander promises the older brother that if he fights hard enough to earn a medal, his younger brother would be honorably released from the frontlines. What ensues is an intense and ultimately tragic tale that has garnered mostly positive reactions from critics and fans alike. The Brotherhood of War is a two-hour and 20-minute look into the divide between North and South Korea, what it means to be the older sibling in this culture, and how far one man will go to protect his family.

Train to Busan

This now-iconic horror movie is responsible for diverting tourists from the popular South Korean city of Incheon near the capital to the current tourist hot spot that is the large city of Busan. Train to Busan is without question one of the biggest international hits to ever come out of Korea. The film is a testament to how the horror genre can be a good gateway into learning about another country’s culture. This is because despite the language barriers that exist between nations, most of the time, the horror/suspense tropes tend to be very similar. This way, horror movies are able to connect people across a variety of platforms. Slingo’s zombie title Lost Vegas which is loosely based on the film of the same name further entrenches all horror fans into the timeless and infinitely familiar zombie genre. Like the Train to Busan it takes one of horror’s most iconic monsters and ties it directly to a real place, creating a direct connection for both locals and visitors. The film is set for both an American remake, and a Korean sequel. Oh, and expect videogames too, lots of them.

The Attorney

The Hollywood Reporter rightly considers The Attorney a “fascinating departure” from the usual South Korean film fare that manage to reach western shores. Set in the 80s and based on historical events, it features the courtroom experiences of human rights activist-lawyer and former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun. The Attorney is a low-key study of modern Korean culture, history, and the class divide. While it won’t take you to the most picturesque places in the country, it will give you an idea of how South Korea’s modern culture came to be.

Featured image credit: By Francisco Anzola – Changdeokgung Garden Pavillion, CC BY 2.0,

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