Korean films may not be the Netflix go-to for the average American college student, but the genre offers a surprising variety of quality films. Several celebrated Korean films and television series are available to stream and get you out of your slump while you wait for shows like Orange is the New Black to return. From action to drama to comedy, Korean television and film come with subtitles included, and are sure to add a unique twist to your watchlist.
Korean Television Drama Series: “Boys Over Flowers” (2009)
Welcome to Shinhwa High, a prestigious school for the rich and privileged. Established by the billionaire dollar corporation, Shinhwa, the school is flawless– except for the harsh bullying that occurs within its walls. On a dry-cleaning delivery run, commoner Geum Jan Di (Hye-sun Koo) stumbles upon a student about to jump off the school’s roof and saves him before he falls. In order to protect Shinhwa’s reputation, Jan Di is offered a spot to attend the school. Soon, she meets F4, or “Flower Four,” the most wealthy and powerful attendees of the school, who also happen to walk in slow motion as students ogle at them. Led by Goo Joon Pyo (Min-ho Lee), heir to the Shinhwa corporation, the F4 are not to be messed with. When Jan Di becomes a target of their bullying, her perseverance and boldness make two members fall head over heels for her. Caught in a love triangle between the stubborn Goo Joon Pyo and the sensitive Yoon Ji Hoo (Hyun-joong Kim), Jan Di must decide where her true feelings lie. Jan Di’s permanent pout and clumsiness definitely stir a few laughs, but the highlight of the series is the banter between Joon Pyo and Jan Di, who are as opposite as they come. Most importantly, Jan Di stays true to her independent nature. Each episode ends on a heart-pounding climactic note making it nearly impossible not to watch the next.
Korean Action/Thriller Film: “Commitment” (2013)
Meet Kang Dae-ho, a typical teenager attending a South Korean high school. Soft-spoken and intelligent, Dae-ho is seemingly ordinary, except for the small detail that he is a lethal North Korean spy. After his father’s mission went awry, Myung-hoon and his sister Lee Hye-in (Yoo-Jeong Kim) are sent to a labor prison camp. In order to save his sister, Myung-hoon must finish his father’s work. Posing as the foster child Kang Dae-ho, Myung-hoon goes undercover at a South Korean high school, meanwhile locating his father’s killer. K-Pop fans will immediately recognize the lead actor as Choi Seung Hyun, more commonly known as rapper T.o.p. from the South Korean boy band sensation Bigbang. No one messes with T.o.p.
Korean Fantasy/Romance Film: “A Werewolf Boy” (2012)
Upon its release in 2012, “A Werewolf Boy” became the most profitable romance film in South Korean history up to that time. A family must move to a house in the countryside of South Korea to protect the health of the older daughter Kim Sun-yi (Park Bo-young) who suffers from lung problems. There, the family encounters a feral teenage boy, Chul-Soo (Song Joong-ki) who has been raised by wolves. Taking Chul-Soo in as their own, they attempt to civilize him, but there is a monster lurking within him. “A Werewolf Boy” is full of humor, such as when Chul-Soo gets hit on the back of the head with a newspaper for howling too loudly at the moon. It is a more stylistic and original approach to the typical beauty and the beast romance, especially for a release in the modern-day era. No more shirts being thrown off and prolonged eye contact. “A Werewolf Boy” emphasizes only the love between a family and the monster they must teach to become human.
Sammi Brennan can be reached at Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org.