10 Korean Historical Movies

Saturday, February 19 by Honora James

The cinematic history of Korea is chronicled on the reels of these 10 Korean historical movies. The selected Korean historical movies depict stories of love, hate, betrayal, tradition, and national pride, but always with the threat of, or an actual war in the background. 

  1. “To the Starry Island (Geu seom-e gago sipda).” In one of the key movie scenes, Moon Deok-bae tells his son that he wants to be buried on the island where he was born. When Deck-bae dies, his son Jae-gu sets out to honor his father’s final wishes. Jae-gu’s friend, Kim Chul, accompanies him, and notices the growing hostility of the villagers as they near the island. When they reach shore, Chul’s childhood memories resurface, and he remembers a North Korean invasion, and how some of the villagers became enemy informants. Then, Chul remembers that Deok-bae was one of the informants for the North Koreans, explaining why the people of the villagers hatred of Deck-bac.  
  2. “Marines Are Gone (Dora-oji anneun haebyeong).” This movie follows Gang Dae-sik as he leads a Republic of Korea marine squadron on a mission to regain Seoul. There are times in the movie when humanity overpowers barbarism, and love flash cross the screen for a moment.   
  3. “Sopyonje.” This movie shows the indirect effects of war on a people as they try to retain their ethnic and cultural heritage after foreign armies have returned to their homelands leaving behind constant reminders of their alien way of life. The setting takes place after World War II, and the Korean War have ended, and centers around a pansori singer, Youbong, and his efforts to keep the Korean folk singing art alive. 
  4. “In Search of Love (Salangeul chajaseo).” This movie is about three refugees of war; Kokosu, Dong-min, and Jong-hui. The three leave Korea for Manchuria at the close of the Joseon Dynasty, which fell in 1910 due to Japanese occupation.
  5. “The Three-Day Reign (Samil cheonha).” With the Yi Dynasty coming to an end a power struggle began for control of Korea between Koreans favoring the Chinese and those in favor of Japanese rule. Korean reformer, Kim Okgyun persuades the king to announce Korean independence. A Chinese agent reports the insurgency to Chinese rulers who mount an attack, and Korea’s three days of independence are over.
  6. “Viva Freedom (Jayu Manse).” This historical Korean movie features Han-joong an escapee from prison. Han-joong, and other Korean freedom fighters make a plan to overthrow their Japanese occupiers, but problems arise when one of the freedom fighters is caught by the Japanese with dynamite. Han-joong sets out to rescue his friend, and ends up taking refuge in the home of Mee-hyang, a collaborator with the Japanese. However, Mee-hyang falls in love with Han-joong and joins the Korean freedom fighters.
  7. “Painted Fire (Chihwaseon).” Once again in this movie China and Japan ar fighting for the control of Korea. In this antagonistic setting, Jang Seung-up, is trying to discover his identity as an artist.  
  8. “The Warrior (Musa).” En route to China, a diplomatic delegation guarded by Korean troops is attacked by Chinese and Mongolian soldiers, and all the diplomats are killed. However, in the skirmish the Koreans capture a Chinese princess, and use her safe delivery home as their key to survival.
  9. “The Sea Knows (Hyeonhaetaneun algo itda).” In this movie Korean students are forced to enlist in the Japanese army. Aro-un, and Inoue immediately get in trouble with Japanese officers for showing disrespect to one of their superiors. Mori, a Japanese officer, makes life particularly difficult for Aro-un.
  10. “Flame in the Valley (Sanbul).”All the men of a mountain village have left to fight in the Korean War, leaving the women alone. In comes Kyu-bok, a North Korean guerilla fighter, into the village, and moves in with the less than willing leom-rye and her mother-in-law, Han Eun-jin. A sexual relationship begins between leom-rye and Kyu-bok, igniting jealousy among other women in the village. 

So, there you have 10 Korean historical movies each portraying a resilient, and unconquerable people.

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