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KajoPicks: 5 South Korean political movies to watch

When it comes to political movies, the storylines can often be intense and thought-provoking. Additionally when it comes to its characters, there is usually an idealistic one who does not understand the dirty rules of politics.

Unfortunately, there are not many Asian film industries daring enough to come out with political dramas on their own.

The South Koreans however, have a number of political movies worth paying attention to.

Regardless of where you come from, these Korean political movies portray stories that hit close to home.

So here are five South Korean political movies to watch:
1.1987: When the Day Comes (2017)

A Korean political movie based on a true story? Then it must be on our KajoMag list! Set in 1987, the film centers on the events leading up to the June Democratic Uprising in South Korea.

From June 10 to 29, 1987, the South Korean people from all walks of life held mass protests, forcing the ruling government to accede to the wishes of the people and hold direct elections for President, and institute other democratic reforms which led to the establishment of the Sixth Republic, the present day government of South Korea.

Instead of focusing on one particular character, the focus of the story shifts between several characters to tell the story of how the political resistance come about.

The main characters include an unscrupulous commissioner, a prosecutor who refuses to be intimidated by government corruption, a democracy activist who works as a prison guard, a journalist and a lieutenant.

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Each of these characters eventually play an important role in the political change which happened in the country in 1987.

2.Anarchist from Colony (2017)

Here is another Korean political movie based on a true story, in this case a real person. Park Yol (1902-1974) was a Korean anarchist and independence activist in the 1920s who was convicted of high treason in Japan for conspiring to attack the Imperial House of Japan.

The movie follows Lee Je-hoon as Park Yol who organises the anarchist group Heukdohoe during the Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Together with his lover Fumiko Kaneko (Choi Hee-seo), they plot a bomb attack upon Crown Prince Hirohito during his wedding.

Instead of focusing on plots and tactics, Anarchist from Colony (2017) gives viewers an idea of the differences of political beliefs during the Japanese occupation in South Korea which spanned from 1910 to 1945.

Back then, Park Yol was the poster boy for anarchism, an anti-authoritarian political philosophy that rejects hierarchies deemed unjust, and advocates their replacement with self-managed, self-governed societies based on voluntary, cooperative institutions.

Meanwhile, his lover Fumiko was a nihilist, a belief that rejected all authorities.

3.The King (2017)

In the world of politics, the one who silently holds a vital role is actually the prosecutor. In Malaysia, for example, the highest ranking public prosecutor is the Attorney General which is currently being held by Tan Sri Tommy Thomas. Besides being the principal legal adviser to the Malaysian government, the AG may institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence.

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The King (2017) focuses on Tae-soo (Jo In-sung) who decides to become a prosecutor believing that power is the most important thing in life.

He works his way up, joining a group of powerful prosecutors with wealth and authority. Soon, he learns that the world he enters is a food chain made of politicians, law enforcement, the media and even gangsters. But who will be on top of the hierarchy?

While In-sung’s character as Tae-soo is a sure draw for viewers, Jung Woo-sing who plays the villain Han Kang-shik is the reason you will be glued to the whole movie.

4.Inside Men (2015)
Lee Byung-hun playing the role of a gangster in Inside Men. Credits: IMDB

Having the press eating from the palm of your hand is the biggest advantage you can have as a politician.

Inside Men (2015) shows how an editor Lee Kang-hee (Baek Yoon-sik) is able to raise congressman Jang Pil-woo (Lee Geung-young) to the position of a leading presidential candidate using the power of the media.

In this film, double crossing in the world of politics is as common as brushing your teeth every morning.

So when a politician double-crosses a gangster as well as an ambitious prosecutor yearning to prove himself, then you have a game of revenge at the expense of the people’s future.

This Korean political thriller film has an interesting take on the unholy alliances between politicians, Korean conglomerates (chaebols), the press, prosecutors and mafia that who knows, might be happening in real-life.

5.The Mayor (2017)

This Korean political movie gives you the glimpse of the dirty tricks that could be played behind the scenes of an election.

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Blackmailing, wiretapping, corruption, murder are all just part of the game when it comes to an election campaign in this movie.

Viewers can watch how far a political candidate would go to protect his public image in order to stay in office.

It is thrilling, frustrating and hair-pulling tense but you can’t turn away as the political dramas unfold.

Plus, if veteran actor Choi Min-sik is playing the leading role? Then it is a must-watch movie.

He brilliantly plays the role of Byeon Jong-gu, the incumbent mayor of Seoul who seeks a third term which will set him up for a run at the presidency.

Then you have the naive advertisement specialist Park Kyeong (Shim Eun-kyung) who represents perhaps every idealistic person involved in the political world.

Before you start binge-watching, we warn you; most Korean political movies are as close to reality as you can get, so you won’t have a happy ending.

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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