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True Stories Behind Korean Films That Will Tug At Your Heartstrings

Korean cinema spans an enormous panorama of genres, starting from heart-pounding zombie apocalypse flicks to slow-burn romances sprinkled with intrigue, such that it certain looks like Korean filmmakers know no limits in terms of producing delightfully inventive fictional storylines.

That mentioned, a few of the most powerfully emotive Korean movies are those who stem from actual life individuals and occasions moderately than somebody’s creativeness. As a rule, these works make clear tragic conditions, exploring the despair and desperation of these concerned as they wrestle to beat no matter insurmountable problem stands earlier than them. Under are some movies based mostly on true tales which are certain to have you ever reaching for tissues by the tip.

Please be forewarned that this text accommodates spoilers, as it discusses the true occasions that impressed these movies.

The Lawyer

“The Lawyer” tells an impassioned story impressed by late president Roh Moo Hyun and his involvement in what grew to become generally known as the Burim case, through which the federal government of former authoritarian president Chun Doo Hwan arrested 22 democracy activists in 1981 and charged them with secretly supporting the North Korean regime. These arrested have been detained for as much as 63 days with out due course of, throughout which period the police tortured them and coerced false confessions stating that they have been North Korean sympathizers.


In response to those human rights violations, tax lawyer Roh Moo Hyun — who would go on to change into an influential human rights lawyer all through the ’80s, and later the president of South Korea — shaped a authorized staff alongside now president Moon Jae In and different allies to defend the arrested people. Sadly, regardless of the staff’s greatest efforts, 19 of the activists have been convicted of breaking the Nationwide Safety Regulation, subsequently serving jail time.


In direction of the tip of the movie, the trial is misplaced because it was in actual life, with the grief and disheartenment of the defendants’ households on full show as Music Kang Ho (who performs the movie’s Roh Moo Hyun equal) is forcibly dragged out of the courtroom. The movie doesn’t finish there, although, concluding on a one way or the other uplifting observe because of its ultimate shifting scene, which depicts the sense of solidarity that surged amongst Korean residents within the years following the case as they continued to struggle for democracy.

In February 2014, 33 years after the unique convictions, 5 of the 19 defendants within the Burim case have been acquitted of all fees via a retrial, throughout which the presiding choose dominated that the defendants’ unique confessions have been obtained underneath duress, in addition to that different proof used in opposition to the activists didn’t represent a violation of the Nationwide Safety Regulation. Sadly, because of the statute of limitations having expired, it’s unlikely that the law enforcement officials concerned within the Burim case will ever be held legally accountable for his or her actions.

Watch “The Lawyer” beneath:

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Voice of a Assassin

On January 29, 1991, 9-year-old Lee Hyung Ho was kidnapped and held for ransom. Over the course of 44 days, Lee’s mother and father tried to barter with the kidnapper — who demanded a ransom of 70 million gained (roughly $60,300) — via periodic cellphone calls, solely to finally lose contact with the perpetrator after Lee’s physique was present in a ditch close to his mother and father’ residence in Apgujeong. An post-mortem revealed that Lee had been murdered virtually instantly after being kidnapped.

The kidnapping of Lee Hyung Ho is considered one of Korea’s most notorious chilly circumstances, involving about 50 ransom calls in complete. Voice profiling based mostly on the cellphone calls means that the kidnapper was a person in his 30s who was very meticulous and clever. Whereas there have been many suspects within the case, the forensic investigation by no means produced sufficient proof to convict any of them of the kidnap-homicide. The 15-year statute of limitations ultimately expired in January 2006, a 12 months previous to the discharge of this film.


As a result of notoriety of the case this movie is based mostly on, most moviegoers on the time have been nicely conscious of how the story would tragically finish. The inevitability of the ending by no means detracts from the movie’s stress, nonetheless, making it really that a lot more durable to observe the mother and father’ futile wrestle to avoid wasting their son. The director of “Voice of a Assassin,” Park Jin Pyo, has mentioned that his hope is to not obtain public consideration for the movie itself, however for what he views as an absurd statute of limitations time period given the character of the crime. Park has additionally mentioned he hopes the assassin sees this film, feels the depth of what Lee’s mother and father should have endured, and is aware of that his wrongdoings haven’t been forgotten.

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My Father

“My Father” is based mostly on the story of Aaron Bates, who was adopted from Korea by an American household when he was 5 years previous. Though Bates had a contented childhood, as an grownup, he yearned to know who his organic mother and father have been, which led him to take a U.S. military task in Korea. Whereas stationed in Korea, he appeared on a TV program for Korean adoptees looking for their mother and father and was featured in a newspaper. Disappointingly, when it got here time for him to return to america, he had no new leads on who his Korean mother and father have been. Then, he acquired a name just a few years later saying {that a} man claiming to be his start father, Sung Nak Joo, wished to fulfill him.

Bates’s reunion together with his father created a media frenzy, as not solely was his father imprisoned for homicide, however he was additionally on demise row. Ordinarily, Sung wouldn’t have been in a position to meet with guests with out a glass partition standing between them, however the media was in such an uproar that jail authorities broke precedent and allowed Bates and Sung to fulfill face-to-face in a reception room. Although some might say the media overstepped their boundaries so as to sensationalize the reunion, Bates expressed gratitude towards them, because it was because of the media that he didn’t must see his father behind bars throughout their first assembly in twenty years.


Following his reunion together with his father, Bates requested the U.S. army to reassign him to Korea, which enabled him to often go to his father and study extra about each him and his late mom. Later, in search of affirmation that Sung was his organic father, Bates secretly ran a DNA check, solely to be baffled when the end result confirmed that Sung was not his father. After grappling with the shock of the end result and contemplating different proof that contradicted the DNA check, Bates determined to simply accept Sung as his father no matter what DNA testing mentioned, going so far as registering himself as Sung’s son so as to have the ability to accumulate his ashes sooner or later.

What makes “My Father” an actual gem of a movie just isn’t that it has Oscar-worthy appearing or sensible writing (actually, it’s a bit missing in each areas), however moderately that it presents a deeply emotional portrayal of the Korean adoptee expertise, highlighting each the heartwarming and the heartrending features of Bates and his father’s newfound relationship. As Bates himself has put it, his story is about extra than simply discovering his father; it’s additionally about love conquering all, studying to forgive, and having fun with the restricted time you could have together with your family members.

Catch the trailer beneath:

Northern Restrict Line

In June of 2002, just about each South Korean was enraptured because the nation’s soccer staff competed within the semifinals of the World Cup. Unbeknownst to most, nonetheless, as hundreds of residents stuffed the streets to cheer on their beloved sports activities staff amidst the festive temper that blanketed the nation, a battle was being waged on the Northern Restrict Line (a maritime demarcation line within the Yellow Sea, situated between North and South Korea).


The Second Battle of Yeonpyeong started on June 29, after North Korean ships crossed the Northern Restrict Line, ignored warnings from the South to show again, and attacked the South Korean patrol boats that have been monitoring them. The combating lasted for less than round half an hour, with South Korea being declared the victor, however the struggle was not with out its casualties. The battle resulted in six South Korean deaths, in addition to 18 critically injured.


Regardless of being a film ostensibly about warfare, “Northern Restrict Line” spends a good portion of its runtime centered on the on a regular basis joys and struggles of the naval workers who fought within the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong. The director of the movie, Kim Hak Quickly, mentioned his aim was to not politicize the occasion, however to take a humanitarian method that humanized the South Korean naval workers and their bereaved households, in addition to depicted the irony of the scenario: whereas on a regular basis residents have been blissfully celebrating a momentous event, their fellow countrymen have been combating to remain alive.

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Warning: This movie offers with the aftermath of the brutal sexual assault of a kid. Although the assault itself just isn’t depicted, it’s mentioned with some extent of (technical) element after the actual fact.

In December 2008, an 8-year-old lady, identified by the alias Nayoung, was kidnapped on her strategy to college by 57-year-old Cho Doo Quickly, who subsequently beat and raped her in a public bathroom, after which he left her for lifeless. Luckily, Nayoung survived the assault, and Cho was convicted of his crime. Sadly, although, Nayoung did maintain debilitating accidents which have left her completely and severely disabled. Regardless of having undergone such a horrific ordeal and the irreparable hurt finished to her, Nayoung and her household have been in a position to transfer ahead, with Nayoung at present attending college.


Cho is to be launched from jail in December of this 12 months, having spent 12 years behind bars, and is predicted to return to his spouse’s residence, which is claimed to be about 1 kilometer (roughly 0.6 miles) from Nayoung’s home. Police have pledged to trace Cho’s whereabouts for 20 years following his launch, in addition to to implement different applications to reduce his threat of committing future crimes.


Naturally, because of the nature of the incident that this movie relies on, “Hope” is a very heartbreaking watch. But what this film is finally meant to be is a heartwarming, albeit nonetheless gut-wrenching, story that’s certainly about hope, as its title suggests. The film’s director, Lee Joon Ik, mentioned that his aim was to take a horrific scenario full of despair and present how hope can bloom round it — versus specializing in the sensationalism of the crime itself — sustaining that he created this film to console and encourage victims of intercourse crimes.

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“Marathon” relies on the story of Bae Hyung Jin, an autistic marathon runner who completed the complete course of a marathon in 2001 in slightly below three hours. Though his time was removed from what would possibly qualify him as an elite runner, it did earn him nationwide recognition, and the mere indisputable fact that he efficiently accomplished the course was a victory for each him and his mom. The next 12 months, Bae grew to become the youngest Korean to complete a triathlon, finishing the course in slightly over 15 hours.


Whereas this movie does discover Bae’s journey to turning into marathon-ready, the true focus is on what life is like for Bae and his mom, together with the touching relationship they’ve. Bae’s mom defined that she agreed to adapting her son’s story right into a film in hopes that folks would come to grasp autism higher and change into extra accepting of people like her son. She associated one incident the place her son by chance hit a person’s eyeglasses and walked away with out apologizing, after which the person started shouting at him. She mentioned disagreeable experiences like this should not unusual, as different individuals typically see her son’s habits as impolite and unusual, not realizing that he has a incapacity or understanding what it means to have autism.


“Marathon” caught moviegoers’ consideration when it was launched in 2005, drawing greater than 5 million attendees, and it is credited with having a notable affect on most of the people’s consciousness and understanding of autism on the time. When reflecting on the 2 years spent working with director Jung Yoon Chul, Bae’s mom mentioned essentially the most rewarding a part of making this movie was that her son was in a position to open up and befriend new individuals.

Watch the trailer beneath:

1987: When the Day Comes

“1987: When the Day Comes” portrays the heroics of on a regular basis Korean residents who fought to deliver democracy to Korea at a time when it was underneath the tough army regime of former president Chun Doo Hwan. The movie focuses on numerous individuals and occasions — such because the demise of scholar protestor Park Jong Chul and those that dared to disclose the reality behind his demise — that led to the June Democratic Rebellion, which was a nationwide democracy motion that led to Korea’s current day authorities.

CJ Leisure

Within the Nineteen Eighties, many faculty scholar activists started to insurgent in opposition to Korea’s authoritarian regime following the 1980 Gwangju Bloodbath, through which college students who have been demonstrating in opposition to the federal government have been assaulted and killed by authorities troops. Pupil demonstrations intensified in 1987 after one scholar, Park Jong Chul, was detained and tortured by authorities, leading to his demise. Though the federal government tried to suppress the story, the reality was ultimately delivered to gentle, additional fueling the general public’s outrage and mobilizing extra residents to hitch the resistance. In February 1988, Korea’s Structure was formally amended to strengthen civil rights, comparable to via the implementation of direct presidential elections.


The discharge of this film marked the thirtieth anniversary of South Korea’s June Democratic Rebellion. The movie’s director, Jang Joon Hwan, mentioned he wished to inform this story as a result of it’s about unusual individuals banding collectively to put in writing their very own historical past. Jang additionally talked about that he wished to emphasise the ability of hope and reality, which have been finally what enabled unusual individuals to do extraordinary issues whereas combating in opposition to an unjust authorities.

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I Can Converse

“I Can Converse” begins out as a lighthearted comedy that pits Na Okay Boon (Na Moon Hee), a cantankerous aged lady, in opposition to low-level civil servant Park Min Jae (Lee Je Hoon), who’s new on the town and has but to comprehend simply how indomitable Okay Boon is. At first, the 2 regularly butt heads, with neither celebration keen to yield to the opposite as Okay Boon information civil criticism after civil criticism, all of which Min Jae makes an attempt to resolve. Then Okay Boon makes an fascinating discovery.


Okay Boon needs to study English however can’t discover a appropriate instructor. That is, till she finds Min Jae fluently conversing in English at some point. Thus, Okay Boon switches gears and decides to pester Min Jae not about civil complaints, however about being her English instructor. Although Min Jae initially refuses her request, he ultimately has a change of coronary heart and turns into her tutor. Due to this new instructing association, the 2 steadily come to study extra about one another, creating a particular bond.



As Okay Boon continues her journey to study English, the movie reveals the true motive behind her want to talk English, delving into her expertise as a sufferer of sexual slavery by the hands of Japanese forces that when occupied Korea. It rapidly turns into clear that “I Can Converse” is about extra than simply with the ability to communicate English; additionally it is about with the ability to communicate up about previous injustices. Feelings proceed to swell till the climax of the film, when Okay Boon testifies earlier than the U.S. Home of Representatives, revealing the brutality that she and different ladies confronted a long time prior.


Though a lot of this movie is fictional, it’s true that a number of ladies testified earlier than the U.S. Home of Representatives in 2007 to move Home Decision No. 121, which asserts that Japan ought to formally acknowledge, apologize, and settle for accountability for its use of consolation ladies throughout its occupation of Korea (and different international locations) throughout the 1900s. The director of the movie, Kim Hyun Seok, mentioned that essentially the most fictitious side of this film is that the ladies testified in English, when in actuality, they testified in Korean. That mentioned, the testimony within the movie is certainly based mostly on precise occasions.

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Which Korean films based mostly on true occasions have moved you to tears? Tell us within the feedback!

seheee is a software program engineer by day and an avid Okay-pop live performance goer by night time. She additionally often makes an look on Twitter (@_seheee).

About the author

Kim Diaz

Kim recently joined the team, and she writes for the Headline column of the website. She has done major in English, and a having a diploma in Journalism.

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