Korean horror

Korean horror films have been around since the early years of Korean cinema, however, it was not until the late 1990s that the genre began to experience a renewal. Many of the Korean horror films tend to focus on the suffering and the anguish of characters rather than focus on the explicit "blood and guts" aspect of horror. Korean horror features many of the same motifs, themes, and imagery as Japanese horror.

Modern South Korean horror films are typically distinguished by stylish directing, themes of social commentary, and genre blending [1]. The horror and thriller genres are cited as gaining international attention to South Korean Cinema.

American Hollywood has adapted several Korean horror films such as Oldboy (2003 film), Into the Mirror (2003), and A Tale of Two Sisters (2003). Train to Busan (2016) and The Wailing (film) (2016) are rumored to currently have remakes in talks for production. [2][3]

The female ghost

The expression, "When a woman is full of resentment, she will bring frost in May and June" may offer some explanation for the popularity of the female ghost that is often featured in Korean horror films. Her deep feeling of resentment is cold enough to freeze the hot air that occurs during those months. The woman's vengeance is a thing to be feared, thus becoming the object of horror. In the past women have been oppressed and ignored for so long that the horrific rage and vengeance we see in the films have been brought upon by the many years of repression.[4] Another belief is that when a female dies before she gets to enjoy the pleasures of marriage and having children, she will not be able to move on to the "other side". Instead she becomes trapped between the two worlds and causes horrific phenomena.[5] The hierarchical domestic status a man's mother has and the often strained relationship with her daughter-in-laws in Korea is also used as a means of creating female villains in media. Films such as A Devilish Homicide (1965) and The Hole (1997 film) cast a murderous or cruel mother-in-law against the protagonist.


South Korean cinema is known for violent thrillers with themes of revenge like Bedevilled (2010 film), I Saw the Devil (2010), and The Vengeance Trilogy. Recent revenge films also tend to follow the characters seeking revenge rather than the protagonist being a victim of a vengeful ghost or person. The desire to create and see films about revenge is often explained as a result of social anger built up in a populace by South Korea's turbulent history. [6] Park Chan-wook director of The Vengeance Trilogy has said that his revenge motivated movies serve as a reaction to Korean culture's traditional value of peace making and Forgiveness. [7]

2010 Korean Horror Film Festival

The 2010 Korean Horror Film Festival was held in Mandaluyong City in the Philippines at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall from October 27–31 and through November 2–4. It worked together with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, The Korean-Philippine Foundation, Inc. and Shangri-La Plaza. With free admission attendees were treated to some of the best and highly successful Korean horror films. Films such as Arang, The Red Shoes, M, Hansel and Gretel, Ghost, Paradise Murdered, and Epitaph were among the films showcased.[8]

Influential Korean horror films

Whispering Corridors (1998) is seen as the film to have sparked the explosion of the Korean horror genre. It centers on the theme of school girls and the mysterious "other side", but also offered criticism of the Korean school system. Four more distinct horror films set in all girls schools were made as part of Whispering Corridors (film series).

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) is the highest grossing Korean horror film so far and the first to be screened in America. It was remade in America in 2009 as The Uninvited. Based on a folk tale titled Janghwa Hongreyon-jon, it tells the story of two sisters dealing with a controlling stepmother and a passive father.

Save the Green Planet! (2003) demonstrates Korean cinema's ability to blend genre in non-traditional ways. The film follows an unstable man who kidnaps and tortures an executive he believes to be an alien. It combines slapstick comedy, psychological thriller and sci fi horror.[9]

Train to Busan (2016) is an action horror take on the Zombie apocalypse. A man and his young daughter journey to see the girl's mother when a zombie outbreak occurs, forcing the passengers to attempt to survive till they can reach a safe zone in Busan. The film is one of the most internationally successful films from South Korea and broke domestic box office records.[10]

films such as Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018) have brought Korean horror films even more international attention.

List of notable films

Korean horror directors


  1. ^ Staff, The Playlist (2014-06-26). "Primer: 10 Essential Films Of The Korean New Wave". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  2. ^ Omar, Aref (September 29, 2018). "#Showbiz: Hollywood treatment for Korean zombie hit 'Train To Busan'?". New Straits Times.
  3. ^ "Scott Free Productions in Talks to Remake South Korean Film 'The Wailing'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  4. ^ "Why Do Korean Horror Movies Have Only Female Ghosts?" Asian Correspondent. Accessed Dec 2010.
  5. ^ "Fantastic Mode of Film" Korean Film Council. p.8. Accessed Dec 2010.
  6. ^ Andrew Lowry (2011-03-31). "Slash and earn: the blood-soaked rise of South Korean cinema". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  7. ^ Burama, Ian (April 9, 2006). "Mr. Vengeance" (PDF). The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "Shang Cineplex hosts 2010 Korean Horror Movie Festival". Inquirer LifeStyle Archived 25 October 2010, Accessed December 2010.
  9. ^ Indiewire (2005-04-19). "For All Mankind: Jang Jun-hwan's "Save the Green Planet"". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  10. ^ Kil, Sonia (2016-07-25). "Korea Box Office: Runaway 'Train to Busan' Smashes Records". Variety. Retrieved 2018-11-17.

External links

A Tale of Two Sisters

A Tale of Two Sisters (Hangul: 장화, 홍련; RR: Janghwa, Hongryeon; lit. "Rose Flower, Red Lotus") is a 2003 South Korean psychological horror drama film written and directed by Kim Jee-woon. The film is inspired by a Joseon Dynasty era folktale entitled Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, which has been adapted to film several times. The plot focuses on a recently released patient from a mental institution who returns home with her sister, only to face disturbing events between her stepmother and the ghosts haunting their house- all of which are connected to a dark past in the family's history.

The film opened to very positive reviews from critics and won Best Picture at the 2004 Fantasporto Film Festival. It is both the highest-grossing Korean horror film and the first to be screened in American theatres. An American remake titled The Uninvited was released in 2009 to largely negative reviews.

A Woman with Half Soul

A Woman with Half Soul is 1973 South Korean horror film by Shin Sang-ok.

Apt. (film)

APT (Hangul: 아파트; RR: Apateu) (released as 9:56 in Singapore) is a 2006 South Korean horror film, directed, produced, and written by Ahn Byeong-ki and starring Ko So-young. It is based on a webtoon by Kang Full. The name APT is from the English word meaning apartment. The film had 644,893 admissions nationwide.

Cinderella (2006 film)

Cinderella (Hangul: 신데렐라) is a 2006 South Korean horror film. It was directed by Bong Man-dae and starred Do Ji-won and Shin Se-kyung.

Coma (South Korean miniseries)

Coma (Hangul: 코마) is a five-part series co-produced by two South Korean firms, SIO Film and OCN. It is a horror-mystery film set in a hospital that is being shut down due to its dubious practices.It was shown at the 7th Jeonju International Film Festival in 2006.

Death Bell

Death Bell (Hangul: 고死: 피의 중간고사; RR: Gosa: Piui Junggangosa) is a 2008 South Korean film. The only Korean horror film released over the summer of 2008, it is the first feature by former music video director Chang (real name Yoon Hong-seung), who also co-wrote the screenplay. Death Bell stars Lee Beom-soo in his first horror film role, and K-pop singer Nam Gyu-ri in her acting debut. Set in a Korean high school, the film's native title refers to gosa, the important midterm exams that all students are required to sit.

Lady Hong

Lady Hong (Hangul: 미녀홍낭자; RR: Minyeo Hongnangja) is a 1969 South Korean film directed by Kim Ki-young.

Memento Mori (film)

Memento Mori (Hangul: 여고괴담 두번째 이야기; RR: Yeogogoedam dubeonchae iyagi; also known as Whispering Corridors 2: Memento Mori) is a 1999 South Korean horror film, and the second installment of the Whispering Corridors film series. It is a sequel to 1998's Whispering Corridors, and is also set in an all-girls high school, but the films are otherwise unrelated. Memento Mori was one of the first Korean commercial films to depict lesbian characters. However, prevailing Korean attitudes constrained its potential to be widely viewed, even more so as the controversial themes targeted the teen demographic.

Phone (film)

Phone (Hangul: 폰; RR: Pon) is a 2002 South Korean horror film written and directed by Ahn Byeong-ki and starring Ha Ji-won and Kim Yoo-mi. The film is a complex and disturbing love story that involves possession and ghosts.


Sorum is a 2001 South Korean horror film and the feature film debut of director Yoon Jong-chan. Starring Kim Myung-min and Jang Jin-young, it tells the story of a young taxi driver who moves into a dilapidated old apartment building, the site of a brutal tragedy thirty years earlier. The film has been nominated for and won several awards.

The Housemaid (1960 film)

The Housemaid (하녀, Hanyeo) is a 1960 black-and-white South Korean film. It was directed by Kim Ki-young and starred Lee Eun-shim, Ju Jeung-nyeo and Kim Jin-kyu. It has been described in Koreanfilm.org as a "consensus pick as one of the top three Korean films of all time". This was the first film in Kim's Housemaid trilogy followed by Woman of Fire. The film was remade in 2010 by director Im Sang-soo.

The Ring Virus

The Ring Virus (Hangul: 링) is a South Korean horror film adapted from the Japanese novel Ring by Koji Suzuki. A joint project between Japan and Korea, this version has Park Eun-Suh as the creator of the cursed videotape. Although the filmmakers claimed that the film was adapted from the novel, there are various scenes in the film that match the 1998 film Ring, such as the sex of the lead character, some of the scenes on the videotape as well as copying other film scenes directly from the original film, including the film's climax.

The Wailing (film)

The Wailing (Hangul: 곡성; Hanja: 哭聲; RR: Gokseong) is a 2016 South Korean horror film directed by Na Hong-jin about a policeman who investigates a series of mysterious killings and illnesses. It was both a commercial and critical success.

Thirst (2009 film)

Thirst (Korean: 박쥐; Bakjwi; literally: Bat) is a 2009 South Korean horror film written, produced and directed by Park Chan-wook. It is loosely based on the novel Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola. The film tells the story of a Catholic priest—who is in love with his friend’s wife—turning into a vampire through a failed medical experiment. Park has stated, "This film was originally called 'The Bat' to convey a sense of horror. After all, it is about vampires. But it is also more than that. It is about passion and a love triangle. I feel that it is unique because it is not just a thriller, and not merely a horror film, but an illicit love story as well." The film won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It is the first mainstream Korean film to feature full-frontal male nudity.

Three... Extremes

Three... Extremes (Chinese: 三更2; pinyin: Sāngēng 2; Hangul: 쓰리, 몬스터; RR: Sseuli, Monseuteo; Japanese: 美しい夜、残酷な朝; Utsukushī Yoru, Zankokuna Asa) is a 2004 international East Asian horror film collaboration consisting of three segments by three directors from three countries. It is a sequel to, and follows the concept of Three (2002), this time with more established directors.

Its first film, Dumplings, was expanded into a theatrical feature film.

Train to Busan

Train to Busan (Hangul: 부산행; RR: Busanhaeng, Hanja:釜山行) is a 2016 South Korean zombie apocalypse action thriller film directed by Yeon Sang-ho and starring Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, and Ma Dong-seok. The film mostly takes place on a train to Busan, as a zombie apocalypse suddenly breaks out in the country and compromises the safety of the passengers.

The film premiered in the Midnight Screenings section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival on 13 May. On 7 August, the film set a record as the first Korean film of 2016 to break the audience record of over 10 million theatergoers. The film serves as a reunion for Gong Yoo and Jung Yu-mi, who both starred in the 2011 film The Crucible.

An animated prequel, Seoul Station, also directed by Yeon, was released less than a month later.

Voice (film)

Voice (Hangul: 여고괴담 4: 목소리; RR: Yeogo goedam 4: Moksori; also known as Whispering Corridors 4: Voice and Voice Letter) is a 2005 South Korean horror film, and the fourth installment of the Whispering Corridors film series. The film was the debut film for its three young actresses, as well as director Choi Ik-Hwan, who had served as an assistant director on the first film of the series. It was screened at the 2006 San Francisco Korean American Film Festival.

Whispering Corridors

Whispering Corridors (Hangul: 여고괴담; RR: Yeogogoedam) is a 1998 South Korean horror film. It was part of the explosion in Korean cinema following the liberalization of censorship in the aftermath of the end of the country's military dictatorship, and makes a strong social commentary on authoritarianism and conformity in the harsh South Korean education system.This film is the first installment of the Whispering Corridors film series, and was followed by four sequels (Memento Mori, Wishing Stairs, Voice, and A Blood Pledge), though none of the sequels share a continuing plot or characters with each other.

Wishing Stairs

Wishing Stairs (Hangul: 여고괴담 3: 여우계단; RR: Yeogogoedam 3: Yeowoogyedan; also known as Whispering Corridors 3: Wishing Stairs) is a 2003 South Korean horror film. It is the third installment of the Whispering Corridors film series set in girls high schools, but, as with all films in the series, is unrelated to the others; apart from a song being sung in one scene that is a pivotal plot in Voice.

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