Eugene Cho

10 Best [Korean] Films pt.1

i am proud to introduce the first of a handful of lists i will share in the next 10 years entitled, “10 Best…”  I begin today by sharing a list inspired by a question someone asked in a community group i visited last night: ‘know any good korean films?’  well, i’m glad that you asked to see my 10 Best [Korean] films.  i make these recommendations not simply because i’m korean-american and have a healthy level of pride in korean art & culture but because anyone that knows anything about film can attest how the korean film industry is making some serious waves around the world.  each year, you will see an increasing number of films being entered into international film festivals (and some that have walked away with notable prizes such as oldboy in the 2004 cannes film festival).  with the emergence of asian film festivals in growing urban cities around the world,  you’ll be learning more and more about korean actors, actresses, directors, and films.

so, while it helps to have korean-americans such as yunjin kim and daniel dae [i can’t speak korean worth a lick but i’m improving] kim as very visible characters in the ever slow moving drama series, ‘lost,‘ there have been many incredible korean films especially in the past 10 years.  it is pretty significant to note that the top korean blockbusters are earning higher ticket sales in comparison to hollywood films being marketed in korea at the same time [more on this later].  as crazy as this sounds, you’ll also see a growing trend of hollywood films being adapted from korean films such as the lake house (starring keanu reeves and sandra bullock) from Il Mare, my sassy girl, friend, among others.

let me also say that in my opinion, koreans don’t do comedy and satire very well.  it’s also very possible that my korean is at such an elementary level that i just don’t get the nuances of the comedy.  this may make sense because my wife is laughing at a film and i’m laughing at her laughing at the film.  my other explanation is that korea is a country and a people with an intense history of injustice, foreign occupation, a paralyzing korean war, poverty, incredible industrial and economic revolution, and technically, north and south korea are still at WAR and remain separated and divided as two nations.

these elements come out in films as dark, painful, melodramatic, and other emotions that can be summed up by the korean cultural concept of ‘HAN.  you will not see more gutwrenching, heartfelt, painful, and authentic tears and crying than you will in korean films.  to better understand korean people and culture, you must attempt to grasp this sense of HAN.  to my knowledge, there is no fair equivalent translation that gives ‘HAN’ justice in the english language.  only two comedies (and one is easily a melodramatic comedy that leaves you in tears] made it to my top 10 list and the rest are painful stories of divided families and loyalties, human depravity, the korean war, and the north/south korea separation. 

because i live in seattle, i get exposure to these films about 12-24 months after they’re released in korea.  there are several  well regarded films that are not on my list simply because i have yet to see them and this list is comprised of films i have seen with my own eyes.  lastly, i want to share that one of the reasons why i’m sharing this list is not simply because i’m a proud korean-american.  this is my small effort to encourage folks to enjoy the larger global world that we live in.  art, film, and culture that are emerging throughout the world give us a glimpse into the soul of different nations and people. 

click here to see the list of my top 10 korean films [i’ve seen]

Filed under: asian-american, culture

9 Responses

  1. BK says:

    Great resource for Korean films and dramas:

    http://www.koreanfilm.org/

  2. leah says:

    great book! used it for my christology final. park is also rumored to be working on a systematic theology series…can’t wait.

  3. e cho says:

    i want my book back leah!

  4. Rebecca says:

    no, Leah, give it to me…I want to read it and I can’t find it in the library online catalog. What’s up with that?

  5. cp says:

    i love your list but there’s one movie that’s missing…and this movie should be #1 on the list.

    it’s called “Failan”

    this movie affected me in so many different ways…in so may different levels. it’s about appreciating the things that surround us that we tend to ignore every day. this is a love story but a love story where the two people who fall in love never meets.

    there’s sad movies where you shed a tear here and a tear there but at the end of the movie…after the credits finish…i found myself, literally sobbing for a good 15 minutes.

    after the movie was over…after my tears, i wound up looking for my wife and child and gave them a big…big…caring hug for “failan” made me appreciate what God has blessed me with.

  6. […] ricky bobby’ and enjoy these films.  if you haven’t already, you’ll want to read part I in an earlier blog entry to better understand the context of this 10 best korean films [i’ve […]

  7. brokenheartedseoul says:

    Eugene. I haven’t been up on WordPress for a very long time, but I’ve managed to check out a couple of blogs here and there when I’ve had time. Without a doubt, none have been as moving, authentic, creative and compelling as this one. I lived in Korea just recently and I find myself more and more interested in understanding the culture, learning Korean, and quite simply making Korean friends. In fact, it is essential to overcoming the sorrow that I experienced while living in Seoul. Korea will forever be a part of who I am.

    I’m also at a major crossroads in my life and have been praying deeply for direction. To be even more honest, I’ve been giving up on God. I’m grateful to have stumbled upon your blog. You’re doing some extraordinarily great things and I’m eager to continue to check back on this site to see what you’ll have to say. I think, as a young person, one of the strongest ways that we learn is from the examples of others. Its hard to grow up sometimes. I’ve only read through this site for the very first time, but because I’ve gone through such utter hopelessness, it just feels like a special moment to me. I hope you’ll have some thoughts on the experiences I’ve posted on my blog, and I also hope to be able to learn from your example.

    Oh yeah! After seeing the preview, I think I’m gonna have to check out ‘Heart of the Game’ and when I get together with my girlfriend (who is half-korean) I’m gonna make sure we check out some of those Korean films. All the best! I look forward to hearing back from you. God Bless.

    Tiger

  8. e cho says:

    tiger: thanks for stopping by. i’ll shoot you an email directly.

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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