True Stories Behind Korean Films That Will Tug At Your Heartstrings










Korean cinema spans an unlimited panorama of genres, starting from heart-pounding zombie apocalypse flicks to slow-burn romances sprinkled with intrigue, such that it certain looks as if Korean filmmakers know no limits with regards to producing delightfully artistic fictional storylines.

That stated, a number of the most powerfully emotive Korean movies are people who stem from actual life individuals and occasions relatively than somebody’s creativeness. More typically than not, these works make clear tragic conditions, exploring the despair and desperation of these concerned as they battle to beat no matter insurmountable problem stands earlier than them. Below are some movies based mostly on true tales which can be certain to have you ever reaching for tissues by the tip.

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

The Attorney

“The Attorney” tells an impassioned story impressed by late president Roh Moo Hyun and his involvement in what grew to become often known as the Burim case, by 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. Those arrested had 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 had been North Korean sympathizers.

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

Towards 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 Song 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 in some way uplifting be aware because of its last 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 had been acquitted of all prices by way of a retrial, throughout which the presiding choose dominated that the defendants’ authentic confessions had been obtained below duress, in addition to that different proof used towards the activists didn’t represent a violation of the National Security Law. Unfortunately, because of the statute of limitations having expired, it’s unlikely that the cops concerned within the Burim case will ever be held legally accountable for their actions.

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Voice of a Murderer

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) — by way of 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 one in all Korea’s most notorious chilly instances, 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. While there had 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 finally expired in January 2006, a yr previous to the discharge of this film.

Due to the notoriety of the case this movie is based mostly on, most moviegoers on the time had been nicely conscious of how the story would tragically finish. The inevitability of the ending by no means detracts from the movie’s pressure, nonetheless, making it really that a lot more durable to look at the mother and father’ futile battle to avoid wasting their son. The director of “Voice of a Murderer,” Park Jin Pyo, has stated 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 stated he hopes the assassin sees this film, feels the depth of what Lee’s mother and father will need to 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 outdated. Although Bates had a cheerful childhood, as an grownup, he yearned to know who his organic mother and father had been, which led him to take a U.S. military task in Korea. While stationed in Korea, he appeared on a TV program for Korean adoptees seeking their mother and father and was featured in a newspaper. Disappointingly, when it got here time for him to return to the United States, he had no new leads on who his Korean mother and father had been. Then, he obtained a name a couple of years later saying {that a} man claiming to be his delivery father, Sung Nak Joo, wished to satisfy him.

Bates’s reunion along with his father created a media frenzy, as not solely was his father imprisoned for homicide, however he was additionally on dying 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 satisfy face-to-face in a reception room. Though some could say the media overstepped their boundaries with a purpose to sensationalize the reunion, Bates expressed gratitude towards them, because it was because of the media that he didn’t need to see his father behind bars throughout their first assembly in twenty years.


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

What makes “My Father” an actual gem of a movie will not be that it has Oscar-worthy performing or sensible writing (in truth, it’s a bit missing in each areas), however relatively that it gives a deeply emotional portrayal of the Korean adoptee expertise, highlighting each the heartwarming and the heartrending elements 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 have got along with your family members.

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Northern Limit Line

In June of 2002, nearly each South Korean was enraptured because the nation’s soccer workforce competed within the semifinals of the World Cup. Unbeknownst to most, nonetheless, as 1000’s of residents stuffed the streets to cheer on their beloved sports activities workforce amidst the festive temper that blanketed the nation, a battle was being waged on the Northern Limit Line (a maritime demarcation line within the Yellow Sea, positioned between North and South Korea).

The Second Battle of Yeonpyeong started on June 29, after North Korean ships crossed the Northern Limit Line, ignored warnings from the South to show again, and attacked the South Korean patrol boats that had 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 severely injured.

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

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Warning: This movie offers with the aftermath of the brutal sexual assault of a kid. Though the assault itself will not be depicted, it’s mentioned with some extent of (technical) element after the very fact.

In December 2008, an 8-year-old girl, identified by the alias Nayoung, was kidnapped on her solution to college by 57-year-old Cho Doo Soon, who subsequently beat and raped her in a public rest room, after which he left her for useless. Fortunately, 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. In spite of having undergone such a horrific ordeal and the irreparable hurt performed to her, Nayoung and her household had been in a position to transfer ahead, with Nayoung presently attending college.

Cho is to be launched from jail in December of this yr, having spent 12 years behind bars, and is anticipated 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 packages to attenuate his threat of committing future crimes.

Naturally, because of the nature of the incident that this movie is predicated on, “Hope” is a very heartbreaking watch. Yet 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, stated that his purpose was to take a horrific scenario stuffed with 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” is predicated on the story of Bae Hyung Jin, an autistic marathon runner who completed the total course of a marathon in 2001 in just below three hours. Although his time was removed from what would possibly qualify him as an elite runner, it did earn him nationwide recognition, and the mere proven fact that he efficiently accomplished the course was a victory for each him and his mom. The following yr, Bae grew to become the youngest Korean to complete a triathlon, finishing the course in a bit of over 15 hours.

While this movie does discover Bae’s journey to changing 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 know autism higher and develop into extra accepting of people like her son. She associated one incident the place her son by accident hit a person’s eyeglasses and walked away with out apologizing, after which the person started shouting at him. She stated disagreeable experiences like this should not unusual, as different individuals typically see her son’s conduct 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 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 stated 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.

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1987: When the Day Comes

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

In the 1980s, many school pupil activists started to insurgent towards Korea’s authoritarian regime following the 1980 Gwangju Massacre, by which college students who had been demonstrating towards the federal government had been assaulted and killed by authorities troops. Student demonstrations intensified in 1987 after one pupil, Park Jong Chul, was detained and tortured by authorities, leading to his dying. Although the federal government tried to suppress the story, the reality was finally dropped at mild, additional fueling the general public’s outrage and mobilizing extra residents to affix the resistance. In February 1988, Korea’s Constitution was formally amended to strengthen civil rights, corresponding to by way of the implementation of direct presidential elections.

The launch of this film marked the 30th anniversary of South Korea’s June Democratic Uprising. The movie’s director, Jang Joon Hwan, stated he wished to inform this story as a result of it’s about unusual individuals banding collectively to jot down their personal historical past. Jang additionally talked about that he wished to emphasise the facility of hope and reality, which had been finally what enabled unusual individuals to do extraordinary issues whereas combating towards an unjust authorities.

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I Can Speak

“I Can Speak” begins out as a lighthearted comedy that pits Na Ok Boon (Na Moon Hee), a cantankerous aged lady, towards low-level civil servant Park Min Jae (Lee Je Hoon), who’s new on the town and has but to appreciate simply how indomitable Ok Boon is. At first, the 2 regularly butt heads, with neither celebration prepared to yield to the opposite as Ok Boon recordsdata civil grievance after civil grievance, all of which Min Jae makes an attempt to resolve. Then Ok Boon makes an attention-grabbing discovery.

Ok Boon desires to study English however can’t discover a appropriate trainer. That is, till she finds Min Jae fluently conversing in English in the future. Thus, Ok Boon switches gears and decides to pester Min Jae not about civil complaints, however about being her English trainer. Though Min Jae initially refuses her request, he finally has a change of coronary heart and turns into her tutor. Thanks to this new instructing association, the 2 steadily come to study extra about one another, creating a particular bond.


As Ok 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 after occupied Korea. It rapidly turns into clear that “I Can Speak” is about extra than simply having the ability to communicate English; it’s also about having the ability to communicate up about previous injustices. Emotions proceed to swell till the climax of the film, when Ok Boon testifies earlier than the U.S. House of Representatives, revealing the brutality that she and different ladies confronted a long time prior.

Although a lot of this movie is fictional, it’s true that a number of ladies testified earlier than the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007 to cross House Resolution No. 121, which asserts that Japan ought to formally acknowledge, apologize, and settle for duty for its use of consolation ladies throughout its occupation of Korea (and different international locations) through the 1900s. The director of the movie, Kim Hyun Seok, stated that essentially the most fictitious side of this film is that the ladies testified in English, when in actuality, they testified in Korean. That stated, 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? Let us know within the feedback!

seheee is a software program engineer by day and an avid K-pop live performance goer by evening. She additionally sometimes makes an look on Twitter (@_seheee).

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