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10 more South Korean movies based on real-life events to watch

You have read our 10 South Korean movies based on true stories. Now, we have 10 more films inspired by real-life events that you need to watch while learning a bit about South Korean’s history:
1.71: Into the Fire (2010)

The Battle of P’ohang-dong which took place during the early Korean War was a fight was between the United Nations and North Korea from Aug 5-20, 1950 around the town of P’ohang-dong, South Korea.

71: Into the Fire (2010) is based on true story of a group of 71 under-trained, under-armed, and outgunned South Korean student-soldiers who took part in the battle.

For 11 hours, this group of students defended the local P’ohang-dong girls middle school from an attack by North Korean forces.

Unfortunately, most of the students died during the battle as they were unmatched against the North Korean’s special forces commando 766th Unit.

2. A Taxi Driver (2017)

The Gwangju Uprising took place in Gwangju city from May 18 to 27, 1980.

After President Park Chung-hee was assassinated on Oct 26, 1979, Chun Doo-hwan, a former South Korean army general successfully led a military coup and became the de facto South Korean leader.

The uprising in Gwangju began when local Chonnam University students demonstrated against Chun’s martial law government.

In response, the South Korean army and police used firearms, violence and even sexual assault to suppress the protest.

Meanwhile, the Gwangju citizens stood up against the authority by robbing local armories and police stations.

This 2017 South Korean movie centers around Kim Man-seob (Song Kang-ho), a taxi driver who ferried a German journalist named Jurgen Hinzpeter (Thomas Kretschmann) around Gwangju and past military cordons.

Man-seob’s character in the movie is loosely based on real-life Kim Sa-bok while Hinzpeter (1937-2016) was the real-life German TV reporter who reported on the Gwangju massacre to the world.

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Apart from A Taxi Driver, the real-life events which happened in Gwangju also inspired other movies such as May 18 (2007) and Peppermint Candy (1999)

3. The Attorney (2013)

Speaking of Chun Doo-hwan, another incident called the “Burim case” of 1981 happened during Doo-hwan regime.

The military government arrested 22 students, teachers and office workers who belonged to a book club without warrants and on fabricated charges that they were North Korea sympathizers.

The Attorney (2013) is loosely based on this event in which tax lawyer Roh Moo-hyun formed a legal team with Moon Jae-in and Kim Kwang-il to defend the group.

Today, the real-life Moo-hyun went on to become the 16th South Korean president while Jae-in is currently the South Korea president.

4. 1987: When The Days Come (2017)

Even after the Gwangju Uprising, university students continued to protest against Doo-hwan.

One of the students, Bak Jong-cheol was detained and interrogated for his role in the student protest. During the interrogation, the authorities used the infamous waterboarding technique to torture Jong-cheol which led to his death.

The movie is set in 1987, focusing on the real-life events that led up to the June Democratic Uprising including the death of a student protester during police interrogation.

Unlike the Gwangju Uprising which was limited to the city, the June Democratic Uprising was a nationwide democracy movement in the country that brought about mass protests from June 10 to June 29, 1987.

5. The Battleship Island (2017)

Hashima Island is commonly known as “Gunkanjima” meaning “Battleship Island”. This uninhabited island was where Korean civilians and Chinese prisoners of war were forced to work during the Second World War.

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Sadly, it is estimated that about 1,300 labourers died on the island due to exhaustion, malnutrition and accidents from poor working conditions.

Inspired by the events on Hashima Island, The Battleship Island (2017) is about an attempted prison break from the forced labour camp.

6. Northern Limit Line (2015)

Starring Kim Mu-yeol, Jin Goo and Lee Hyun-woo, Northern Limit Line is a naval thriller film based on the real-life events of the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong.

The battle was a confrontation at sea between North Korean and South Korean patrol vessels near Yeonpyeong island in 2002.

During the real-life events, two North Korean patrol boats crossed the contested border and engaged with two South Korean patrol boats.

Subsequently, the North Koreans withdrew before South Korean reinforcements arrived.

Unsurprisingly, the North Korean state media outlet slammed the movie being distorted while conservative South Korean leaders recommended the film.

7. Sea Fog (2014)

Here is a movie based on the ugly side of real-life human trafficking cases. The islands of South Korea’s southwest coast have been used as routes for illegal Chinese immigrants to enter the country seeking for better life.

In 2001, 25 of these illegal immigrants were suffocated to death in the storage tank of a fishing vessels. Instead of giving them a proper burial, the boat crew dumped their bodies into the sea.

Sea Fog is a romanticized version of this real-life event with the youngest crew member Dong-sik (Park Yoo-chun) trying to protect a young female migrant.

8. Norigae (2013)

This year, the K-pop fandom was rocked by its biggest scandal in the industry ever. Big Bang’s youngest member Seungri was named a suspect for offering prostitutes to clients at his nightclub.

Before this scandal, there was the death of actress Jang Ja-yeon. In 2009, Ja-yeon killed herself, leaving behind a shocking suicide note.

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She described how she was beaten and forced to entertain and have sex with program directors, CEOs and media executives.

Inspired by the events surrounding her death, Norigae (2013) follows a journalist in finding the truth behind a young actress’ suicide.

9. Another Family (2013)

Imagine a movie that was both invested in and produced solely by crowdfunding and all the actors in the cast worked in the film for free.

That was how much the South Korean public wanted this movie to happen. Another Family (2014) was based on the true story about the legal battle between Korean conglomerate Samsung and its employees who contracted leukemia.

Meanwhile, the movie was a fictionalised account of the real-life story of Hwang Sang-ki. Sang-ki was a taxi driver who waged a four-year legal battle against Samsung.

His daughter Yu-mi was diagnosed with advanced stage of leukemia two years after working at a Samsung semiconductor factory. Then in 2007, she lost her battle to cancer at the age of 23.

10. Birthday (2019)

The world was shocked when the news of the Sewol Ferry Disaster broke out. On the morning of Apr 16, 2014, the ferry sank while carrying 476 people en route from Incheon towards Jeju.

Overall, 305 passengers and crew members died in the disaster. In addition to that, more than half were rescued by fishing boats and other commercial vessels.

Most of the victims were secondary students from Danwon High School, Ansan city.

Inspired by the incident, Birthday (2019) follows how a family copes with the grief from the loss of their son in a tragic accident.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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