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]