Ten highlights of contemporary South Korean cinema, now available to stream at SBS On Demand.
By
SBS Movies

30 Jun 2017 - 2:30 PM  UPDATED 30 Jun 2017 - 2:30 PM

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring

MA15+
South Korea, 2003
Genre: Drama
Language: Korean
Director: Kim Ki-duk 
Starring: Ha Yeo-jin, Kim Young-min, Oh Yeong-su, Kim Ki-duk
What's it about?
Under the watchful eyes of the Old Monk, a Young Monk experiences the loss of innocence when play turns to cruelty; the awakening of love when a woman enters their closed world; the murderous power of jealousy and obsession; the price of redemption; the enlightenment of experience. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring established Kim Ki-Duk as one of the major South Korean filmmakers, and became an unlikely commerical success upon its release in the United States.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring Review

3-Iron

M
South Korea, Japan, 2004
Genre: Romance, Drama
Language: Korean
Director: Kim Ki-duk 
Starring: Kwon Hyuk-Ho, Jae Hee, Lee Seung-yeon 
What's it about?
Young, taciturn Tae-suk (Jae Hee) enters strange homes while the occupants are away, gently insinuating himself into their empty spaces; tidying up, mending things, but never being disrespectful. In one home, where he uses the practice golf kit in the tiny backyard, he is discovered by the locked up and beaten up wife, Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon). But instead of raising the alarm, she leaves her abusive husband (Kwon Hyuk-ho) and joins Tae-suk in his curious form of home visits, and they both fall in love.

3-Iron Review

Samaritan Girl

M
South Korea, 2004
Genre: Drama
Language: Korean
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Starring: Seo Min-jung, Gwak Ji-min, Lee Eol
What's it about?
Yeo-jin and Jae-young are high-school girls working together in a prostitution scam in order to save money for a trip to Europe. Jae-young beds guys in hotel rooms for money, and Yeo-jin acts as her manager. But Jae-young falls for one of the guys, a musician. After she is fatally injured in a police raid, she tells Yeo-jin her final wish is to see the musician again. Out of love for her friend, Yeo-jin sacrifices her own virginity to persuade the reluctant musician to visit Jae-young's deathbed. She then vows to find all of Jae-young's men, sleep with them, and return their money.

Oldboy

MA15+
South Korea, 2003
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Language: Korean
Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring:  Choi Min-Sik, Kim Byeong-ok, Kang Hye-jeong, Yu Ji-tae
What's it about?
Currently sitting as the #66 highest-rated film of all time on the IMDb top 250, Oldboy remains arguably the film that Western audiences most strongly associate with South Korean cinema. The film opens with Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-Sik) finding himself kidnapped, waking up in a dingy hotel room with only a television. As he watches the news, he discovers that his wife has been brutally murdered and he has been framed. Oh Dae-su spends 15 years locked up in the room. Upon his release, he sets out to find who imprisoned him and why.

Oldboy Review

Thirst (2009)

MA15+
South Korea, 2009
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Language: Korean
Director: Park Chan-wook 
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Kim Hae-sook, Kim Ok-bin
What's it about?
Through a cruel twist of fate, a priest (Song Kang-ho) becomes a creature of the night. His new found need for blood brings with it a burgeoning lust, and as his moral framework begins to crumble, he descends into a maelstrom of sexual depravity and bloodletting. 

The Housemaid

MA15+
South Korea, 2010
Genre: Thriller
Language: Korean
Director: Im Sang-soo
Starring: Seo Woo, Jeon Do-Yeon, Lee Jung-Jae 
What's it about?
A remake of Kim Ki-Young's landmark 1960 film of the same name, writer-director Im Sang-Soo's update concerns Lee Euny (Jeon Do-Yeon), a housemaid hired by an upper class family. Soon enough, master of the house Hoon (Lee Jung-Jae) will become her lover, and the family’s world will begin to fall apart.

The Housemaid Review

A Bittersweet Life

MA15+
South Korea, 2005
Genre: Action, Adventure
Language: Korean
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Starring:  Hwang Jeong-min, Shin Min-ah, Yong chun, Lee Byung-hun
What's it about?
A gangster boss's right-hand man, Sunu, is asked to look after the boss's mistress while he is away and report straight back should the mistress cheat on him. The mistress is Heesu, a young cellist, and after spending some time with her, Sunu falls for her charms. When he catches her with another guy, Sunu hesitates but decides not to report it to his boss. This decision changes his life, launching an irreversible war with all the gang members who previously had been like brothers to him.

My Favourite Film: A Bittersweet Life

A Tale of Two Sisters

MA15+
South Korea, 2003
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Language: Korean
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Starring: Yum Jung-ah, Kim Kap-su, Moon Geun-Young, Lim Su-jeong 
What's it about?
Sisters Su-mi (Lim Su-jeong) and Su-yeon (Moon Geun-Young) return home after a stint in a mental hospital, and it is immediately clear that all is not right in the shadowy, foreboding mansion in which they live. Their recently widowed father (Kim Kap-su) has remarried, and their new stepmother (Yum Jung-ah) is jealous and insecure in her position. Tensions run high between the girls and their father, but things are even frostier between the girls and their new stepmother.

The Chaser

MA15+
South Korea, 2008
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Language: Korean
Director: Na Hong-jin
Starring: Seo Yeong-hie, Kim Yun-seok, Ha Jung-woo
What's it about?
Ex-detective-turned-pimp Jung-ho's (Kim Yun-seok) night is getting messy. Convinced his girls are running out on him, he sends one of his last remaining girls, Mi-jin (Seo Yeong-hie), on a desperate last job. Too late, he makes a bone-chilling discovery: this customer's home is where all of his missing girls were last sent.

The Last Princess

M
South Korea, 2016
Genre: Drama, History
Language: Japanese, Korean
Director: Hur Jin-Ho
Starring: Son Ye-jin, Park Hae-Il, Ra Mi-ran, Kim So-hyun, Baek Yun-Shik, Park Joo-mi, Ahn Nae-sang
What's it about?
Under the oppressive Japanese colonial rule, Deok-hye, the last Princess of the declining Joseon Dynasty, is forced to move to Japan. She spends her days missing home, while struggling to maintain dignity as a princess. After a series of failed tries, Deok-hye makes her final attempt to return home with help of her childhood sweetheart, Jang-han.


See a complete list of South Korean films available to stream at SBS On Demand.