10 Best Korean Love Story Movies

Friday, January 28 by Inkoo Kang

Looking for the 10 best Korean love stories? Why Korean love stories? Why not? Koreans are a strange and interesting people with both idiosyncratic and universal ideas about romance. Here are the ten best love stories in recent Korean cinema, ranging in mood from silly to suspenseful, tragic to bizarre.

  1. "3-Iron" This superb, near-silent film centers on a handsome drifter who lives in empty houses for a few days at a time while their usual residents are away. He finds an abused woman in a house he thought vacant, and they embark on a tender, wordless courtship, floating from house to house. Their borrowed lives hum gently along, until her husband finds and chases them with a 3-Iron. 
  2. "Ditto" The first of two time-traveling films on this list, this sweet but never sentimental love story is about two college students whose lives intersect through a magic ham radio (yes, you read that correctly). Like its protagonists, the film is romantic but practical, and a denser and more interesting work than the silly "She's in 1979; he's in 2000" storyline suggests, with an urgent political backdrop and an Oedipal underpinning just this side of squick. 
  3. "I'm a Cyborg, but That's Okay" This twisted quirkfest features a young woman trying to discover her life's purpose, she just happens to be in a mental hospital and thinks she's a robot ("I'm not a psycho, I'm a cyborg"). A compulsive thief (superstar Rain, who yodels in this movie) first pities, then falls for her. Their cathartic romance starts late in the film, but is well worth the wait, as it's portrayed in brilliantly offbeat images with superb special effects.
  4. "Il Mare" Love is an otherworldly force at times, so why can't its origins be otherworldly too? If you can get over the utter ridiculousness of two people falling in love over time-traveling letters, there's a lot to enjoy in this earnestly felt and beautifully shot movie about pretty people with pretty things suffering from pretty problems. 
  5. "Marriage is a Crazy Thing" Two smart, sexy, and jaded thirty-somethings bring their considerable baggage to a one-night-stand turned unexpected relationship. He doesn't want to get married and she does, but to someone who can afford to move out of his parents' place, so the two continue their affair even after her loveless marriage to a successful doctor. This awkwardly titled romance for grown-ups explores contemporary Korean attitudes toward marriage, an institution considered personally undesirable but socially necessary.
  6. "My Sassy Girl" In the best meetcute of all time, boy meets girl, girl pukes on boy. He takes care of her, for which he is beaten up, then becomes her boyfriend, for which he is beaten up some more. The movie is consistently hilarious in its first two acts, but takes an unfortunate turn toward Cheesetown in the third with a preposterous plot twist. 
  7. "No Regret" Ordinary love is heady, but star-crossed, doomed-forever love is euphorically intoxicating. (Or so I've been told.) An orphaned cab-driver and a well-connected playboy meet at a gay bar and fall in love, but their commitment to each other is attenuated by disapproving family members, while their lives are threatened by vengeful mobsters. 
  8. "Oasis" If you like to chase your romantic films with a little Prozac, you'll love this social realist fable about a mentally handicapped deliveryman and a shut-in with cerebral palsy. When her family discovers their relationship (after the most awkward sex scene ever), they try to keep the two lovers apart by any means necessary.  
  9. "Thirst" A suicidal vampire priest falls in love with a married woman, whose husband he then reluctantly kills (and not even for his blood). The love story is propelled by the vampire priest's refusal to give up on his beloved's guilt-induced insanity, even though being around her is making him crazy (on top of being a suicidal vampire priest!). 
  10. "Untold Scandal" A retelling of Dangerous Liaisons in 18th-century Korea, Scandal doesn't stray far from the classic French tale about two assholes who destroy girls' lives because they've got nothing else to do. The film is definitely sexier than other versions, partly because of its elegantly sensual period costumes, and partly because it doesn't make you think about John freaking Malkovich doing the nasty.
Do you like this story?