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KajoPicks: 10 motivational Korean movies to inspire your day

Sometimes, a little short escape from reality to watch a movie can inspire your day.

These movies do not serve only as entertainment but they have plenty of lessons to teach the audience.

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Watch these motivational Korean movies to inspire you in fueling your passion.

If you are looking for motivational Korean movies to inspire your day, here are KajoMag’s suggestionS.

1.Marathon (2005)

Based on the true story of Bae Hyeong-jin, an autistic marathon runner, this movie was the fourth most attended Korean film of 2005.

Hyeong-jin’s mother, Park Mi-gyeong told in an interview that she didn’t want people want to label him as a child who couldn’t do anything.

When he was 10 years old, she started to teach him all kinds of sports, including running, swimming and hiking.

After years filled with training and challenges, Hyeong-jin finished the 2001 Chuncheon Marathon in the outstanding time of 2 hours, 57 minutes and 7 seconds.

Meanwhile, the movie circles around 20-year-old Cho-won (Cho Seung-woo). He lives with his highly protective mother Kyung-sook (Kim Mi-sook) and younger brother (Baek Sung-hyun).

Noticing that Cho-won had a gift for running, Kyung-sook decides to hire a proper coach to train her son.

Besides raising awareness on autism, this motivational Korean movie inspires viewers to persevere in facing adversity.

Watch the trailer here.

2.Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013)

Before you start to watch this drama, you might want to prepare tonnes of tissue. This motivational Korean drama is what happen if Sean Penn in I Am Sam (2001) was wrongly accused of murder.

The film circles around Lee Yong-gu (Ryu Seung-ryong) who is mentally challenged with the intellect of a six-year-old.

Due to an ugly twist of fate, he is wrongfully accused of molest and murder.

In the prison, he makes friends with other criminals in his cell. Touched by his kindness and purity, his cellmates help him to see his daughter by smuggling her into the prison.

The movie was a box office success, making it the fifth highest grossing Korean film of all time.

The main character Yong-gu is inspiring in a way that he teaches us to be child-like. Not in the sense of being childish and immature, but be kind to others like an innocent child.

Watch the trailer here.

3.Little Forest (2018)

If you are into a slice of life with no out of the world villain kind of movie, Little Forest (2018) is the film for you.

Directed by Yim-Soon-rye, the film is based on a manga series of the same name by Daisuke Igarashi.

The story follows Song Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri) who returns to her childhood home in a small village after failing to pass the national qualification exam to become a teacher.

In her home, she starts to reconnect with her childhood friend and trying to find her purpose of life again.

This movie carries a simple message about life. When things do not go the way you plan, it is important to take a step back and reflect on what to do next. Sometimes letting go can lead you to the things you always wanted in the first place.

Watch the trailer here.

4.The Sound of a Flower (2015)

How about a Korean movie about breaking barriers and stereotypes to inspire your day?

Here is a period drama based on the life on Jin Chae-seon. She was the first female pansori singer during the Joseon dynasty.

Pansori is a Korean genre of musical storytelling performed by a singer and a drummer.

Chae-seon grows up enjoying pansor performances. At that time, females are not allowed to learn pansori and perform in public.

She manages to find herself a pansori teacher, Shin Jae-hyo who agrees to train her for the national pansori contest organised by the king’s father Heungseon Daewongun.

However, no one must discover that Chae-seon is a woman or they both will be executed.

The movie stars Bae Suzy as Chae-seon who practiced pansori for year to prepare for the role.

Watch the trailer here.

5.Harmony (2010)

After killing her abusive husband, Hong Jeong-hye (Kim Yunjin) is sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.

Pregnant at the time of her arrest, she gives birth to a baby boy while in prison.

According to the law, she has to give the baby up for adoption. The time finally comes for her to give up the baby.

The prison chief promises that she can spend one day with her baby outside of prison if she successfully forms a prison choir group.

Jeong-hye recruits fellow inmate as the choir’s conductor. Moon Ok (Na Moon-hee) was once a musical professor at a university. But now, she is on death row for killing her adulterous husband.

Will Jeong-hye be able to succeed? This women empowering movie was the fifth best selling film of 2010 in South Korea.

Watch the trailer here.

6.As One (2012)

Speaking of women empowerment, As One (2012) is based on the first ever united South and North Korean table tennis team that completed at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan.

During table tennis competition, South Korean player Hyun Jung-hwa (Ha Ji-won) always comes up short in the gold medal matches against a rival Chinese table tennis player.

One month before the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships, she hears that a single Korean table tennis will be formed from South and North Korea.

Jung-hwa and her teammates oppose the idea. Despite the opposition, the united Korean table tennis team is formed.

When players from the South and North Korea teams meet at a training camp in Japan, they cannot even get along.

Meanwhile, Jung-hwa enters a war of nerves with the top North Korean player Lee Boon-hee (Bae Doo-na).

The movie serves as a reminder that sports has a gift to bring people together and should always stand above political barrier and differences.

Watch the trailer here.

7.His Last Gift (2008)

Tae-joo (Shin Hyun-joon) is a murderer serving a life sentence in prison. His old friend Yeong-woo has a daughter, Se-hee who is suffering from Wilson’s disease and desperately needs a liver transplant.

He is given a temporary release to save Se-hee’s life. Tae-joo then discovers that Se-hee’s deceased mother was his ex-wife.

Even more, he also discovers that Se-hee is in fact his biological daughter.

Now, he is determined to do everything he can do to save her life.

Watch the trailer here.

8.Punch (2011)

This movie brought a lot of buzz in South Korea due to its unconventional theme circling around intercultural marriage, the economic vulnerability of the disabled and stiff education system that primarily focuses on university entrance examinations.

It follows high-school student Do Wan-deuk (Yoo Ah-in) who lives with his hunchback father Jeong-bok (Park Su-yeong) and uncle Min-gu (Kim Young-jae).

His homeroom teacher Lee Dong-ju (Kim Yoon-seok) lives as his neighbour on the rooftop.

The movie circles around the student-teacher relationship between Wan-deuk and Dong-ju and how the latter inspires him to be a better person.

It is based on the novel Wandeuk by Kim Ryeo-ryeong which won the Changbi Prize for Young Adult Fiction in 2007.

Watch the trailer here.

9.The Himalayas (2015)

Um Hong-gil is the mountaineer known to be the first person to climb the 14 highest points on Earth.

This movie is inspired by his life, primarily focusing on his mentorship of two other climbers.

During a climb to Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, Hong-gil saves the life of Park Moo-taek (Jung Woo) and his friend Park Jeong-bok (Kim In-kwon).

After that, he warns them never to climb mountains again. However when a new adventure project comes up, Moo-taek and Jeong-bok are recruited into the team.

At first Hong-gil refuses to allow the duo to join, but they would not give up. So, he has no choice to let them in.

After climbing the first mountain together, friendship forms between Hong-gil and Moo-taek.

Due to his injury, Hong-gil is not able to climb mountains again. Moo-taek then decides to form his own new team using the techniques he learned from Hong-gil.

When climbing Mount Everest, Moo-taek dies during the descent. The movie continues on how Hong-gil and his old crew go to the Himalayas to find Moo-taek’s body.

The characters in the movie are inspiring as they are based on real people. Hong-gil who against all odds, climbs mountain again despite his injury as well as Moo-taek who refuses to take ‘no’ as an answer.

Watch the trailer here.

10.A Barefoot Dream (2010)

Here is another movie based on inspiring real people. A Barefoot Dream (2010) is based on the true story of Kim Shin-hwan. He is a retired Korean footballer who goes to East Timor after his business fails. There he coaches a youth football team.

The main character Kim Won-kang (Park Hee-soon) is a former footballer who has more downs than ups in his life.

He migrates to East Timor, thinking that there will be more opportunities for him.

There, he sees a group of kids playing football with bare feet. So he opens up a sports equipment store thinking that he can sell football shoes to the children.

However, none of the children can afford the shoes. He then decides to teach the kids how to play football.

The motivational Korean film was the entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards but it did not make the final shortlist.

Watch the trailer here.

Do you have other motivational Korean movies? Let us know in the comment box.

KajoPicks: 8 Korean dramas set during the Goryeo dynasty to watch

The Goryeo dynasty was a Korean kingdom which spanned the years 918 to 1392.

In the beginning, the once prosperous kingdom of Later Silla (one of the three kingdoms of Korea) ruled much of the Korean Peninsula since the late 7th century. Then the kingdom began to crumble in the late 9th century due to internal turmoil.

This caused the revival of ancient states of Baekje and Goguryeo which also known as Later Baekje and Later Goguryeo respectively.

From Later Goguryeo (also known as Taebong) came out a general named Wang Geon. In 918, four other top-ranked generals of Taebong; Hong Yu, Bae Hyeongyeong, Shin Sung-gyeom and Bok Ji-gyeom overthrew Taebong’s ruling king Gung Ye.

The generals then crowned Wang Geon as the king. After taking the name King Taejo, the new king renamed the kingdom Goryeo and begun the new Goryeo dynasty.

Subsequently, King Taejo peacefully annexed Later Silla in 935 and military conquered Later Baekje in 936. Hence, he successfully unified and ruled the Korean Peninsula under one ruling.

According to history, the Goryeo dynasty was a period of intense religious fervour. It was when everyone from the kings to the lowest subjects all were Buddhist.

The name “Korea” is derived from the name “Goryeo” which also spelled Koryo.

If you are looking for Korean dramas based on Goryeo dynasty, here are KajoMag’s suggestions:

1.Empress Cheonchu (2009)

This Korean period drama series is based on the granddaughter of Goryeo dynasty founder Taejo Wanggeon.

Known as Queen Heonae, she was the third Queen consort of King Gyeongjong of Goryeo who is also her first cousin.

The story plot circles around her desire to win back her son Mokjong from her brother Seongjong when he decides to have his nephew succeed him as ruler.

Seongjong believes she is not capable of raising him to become an Emperor. Plus, Seongjong and his wife do not have a child of their own.

Despite the conflict, Seongjong and his sister continue to work together to protect their country from invasion and internal power struggles.

Directed by Shin Chang-suk and Hwang In-hyuk, the drama stars Chae Shi-ra, Kim Suk-hoon and Choi Jae-sung.

2.Empress Ki (2013)

From 1270 to 1356, the Goryeo kingdom came under the Yuan dynasty of Mongol Empire. During this time, there were many intermarriages between Goryeo and Yuan dynasties.

Empress Ki was one of the primary empresses of Toghon Temur of the Yuan dynasty. She later became the mother of Emperor Zhaozong of Yuan.

Originally from an aristocratic family of Goryeo dynasty, she came to Yuan as an imperial concubine of Toghon Temur.

The drama Empress Ki (2013) revolves around a woman named Ki Seung Nyang (Ha Ji-won). It showcases how she slowly rises to power from a consort to Toghon Temur (Emperor of Mongol Empire) to become an empress of the Yuan dynasty.

If you love political dramas in the royal court with all the betrayal and framing, Empress Ki (2013) is definitely worth-watching.

It also stars Ji Chang-wook as Toghon Temur and Joo Jin-mo as Wang Yoo, the King of Goryeo.

The drama was a domestic and international hit, winning the Golden Bird Prize for Serial Drama at the 9th Seoul International Drama Awards.

Watch the trailer here.

3.God of War (2012)

The Goryeosa (History of Goryeo) is the main surviving history record of Korea’s Goryeo dynasty.

It was composed nearly a century after the fall of Goryeo, during the reign of King Sejong.

One of the historical figures written in it is Kim Jun. What makes Kim Jun interesting and different from other historical figures from Goryeo dynasty is that he is not of royal blood.

He is the son of an escaped palace slave who was raised by monks.

During the Mongol invasions of Korea, Kim Jun rises in the ranks to become the top military official.

He eventually becomes the ruler of Goryeo dynasty for 60 years in place of its king.

The drama God of War (2012) is based on the story of Kim Jun. It stars Kim Joo-hyuk as the real-life historical figure.

4.The Great Seer (2012)

Mok Ji-sang (Ji Sung) is a gifted seer who was born with the ability to see into people’s pasts and futures.

However, there are those who believe him to possess dark supernatural powers, thinking him possessed by ghosts.

As he grows up into adulthood in the late Goryeo era, he becomes a scholar of divination and fortune telling.

He eventually becomes a ‘king-maker’ who holds the key to a major political shift in the overthrow of Goryeo and the rise of Joseon dynasty.

The Great Seer (2012) is set during the turbulent decline of Goryeo when divination practitioners hold powers over the fate of the country.

5.Jeong Do-jeon (2014)

Jeong Do-jeon (1342-1398) is a real-life historical figure. He was a prominent Korean scholar-official during the late Goryeo to the early Joseon dynasty.

The drama focuses on the crucial role Do-jeon had in the planning and founding of Joseon dynasty.

Many critics hailed it as one of the most “authentic” and “realistic” Korean historical dramas.

The plot begins in 1374 during the final year of King Gongmin of Goryeo. At the time, the dynasty is marked with corruption and political chaos.

Then comes Do-jeon, a politician and aristocrat who helps Yi Seong-gye (later King Taejo) to establish a new dynasty, Joseon.

Starring Cho Jae-hyun and Yoo Dong-geun, the series won the Grand Prize (Daesang), Best Director and Best Writer at 41st Korea Broadcasting Awards.

Watch the trailer here.

6.The King in Love (2017)

Here is a fictional romance story based during the Goryeo dynasty. It tells the story of a young and ambitious monarch Won (Im Si-wan) and his childhood friend Wang Rin (Hong Jong-hyun) and a beautiful young woman named Eun San (Im Yoon-ah).

The three become best friends. Things start to change when both men fall in love with Eun San.

Even though Wang Rin is in love with Eun San, due to his duty to Won as his personal bodyguard and their friendship, he hides his feelings for her.

It is a romance melodrama stories about friendship, brotherhood and love.

The character Won is inspired by King Chungseon of Goryeo (1275-1325). He was the 28th king of the Goryeo dynasty. He was the eldest son of King Chungryeol and his queen from the Yuan royal family.

Watch the trailer here.

7.Shine or Go Crazy (2015)

Based on the novel of the same name by Hyun Go-woon, this is a drama about romance between Goryeo prince and a Balhae princess.

The Goryeo prince is a real-life prince named Wang So. In this drama, he is exiled from the palace and shunned by the royal family because there is a prophecy which foretells that he will turn the country into a river of blood. After his loses his right to the throne, he lives an isolated life.

Meanwhile, Shin Yool is the princess of Later Balhae (927-1030/1064). This ancient state in Manchuria emerged after Balhae was destroyed by the Liao Empire.

In the series, she narrowly escaped death as child at the hand of her own people because of a prophecy. The prophecy states that she will become “the light of another nation.”

Somehow, Wang So and Shin Yool are married and begin to fall in love with each other. How do they cope with their marriage and will Wang So claim his place on the throne?

Watch the trailer here.

8.Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)

Here is another drama based on Wang So who later became Gwanjong the fourth King of Goryeo.

A 25-year-old 21st-century woman, Go Ha-jin (Lee Ji-eun), is transported back in time to the Goryeo dynasty.

She wakes up in the year of 941 in the body of Hae Soo, among the many royal princes of the ruling Wang family. She initially falls in love with the gentle and warm-hearted eighth Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha-neul).

Then, her heart turns to Wang So (Lee Joon-gi), the fearsome fourth Prince who hides his face behind a mask and is given the derogatory label of “wolf dog.”

As the plots unfolds, Hae Soo finds herself unwittingly caught between the rivalry and politics among the princes over the fight for the throne.

In the midst of the political struggle among the princes to fight for the throne, it is about family, love and brotherhood.

Goryeo dynasty
Scarlet Heart Ryeo promotional poster. Watch the trailer here.

10 things behind the scenes of Korean dramas you might not know

More popularly known as K-dramas, Korean dramas are television series produced in South Korea.

Due to the spread of Hallyu (literally means Korean Wave), Korean dramas have become a popular source of entertainment worldwide.

How did the term Hallyu first come about? According to Korean Culture and Information Service South Korea, Hallyu is a term that was first coined in China by Beijing Journalists in the mid-1990s.

It was used to describe the fast-growing popularity of Korean entertainment and culture in that country.

The first Korean television series which opened the path for the rest of the dramas to global recognition is none other than Winter Sonata (2002).

It is widely considered to be the Korean drama that launched the K-dramas not only in Asia but also worldwide.

Starring Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo, it is the second part of the season-themed Endless Love series directed by Yoon Seok-ho.

The drama has all the basic elements of a successful TV drama; good-looking lead actor and actress, beautiful scenery and romantic plot circling around love and death.

On top of it, there is the melancholy music of the soundtrack to complement the storyline.

In South Korea, dramas appear on these public networks; Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) and Munhwa Broadcasting (MBC). Besides, the cable channels include Joongang Tongyang Broadcasting Company (JTBC), Channel A, tvN and Orion Cinema Network (OCN).

Each of these broadcasting companies has its own distinct thing they are known for when it comes to Korean dramas.

For instance, OCN is known for its thriller dramas such as Voice (2017), Tunnel (2017) and Special Affairs TEN (2011).

Viewers can always expect the best from tvN. As of April 2020, it holds 33 spots of the 60 on the list of highest-rated Korean television series in cable networks.

These include Crash Landing on You (2020), Reply 1988 (2016), Hotel Del Luna (2019) and Goblin (2017).

If you are a big fan of K-dramas, here are 10 things you might not know about what goes behind the scenes of Korean dramas:

1.How Korean dramas are produced

In the beginning, these television channels originally produced in-house Korean series by themselves.

However, since the 2000s, it has been outsourced to independent companies.

With that, the production cost is split between the production company and the broadcasting channels. The broadcasting channels usually cover around 50 per cent of the expenses.

Most of the expenses go to paying the top actors and actress who are starring in the dramas. Their salaries alone could take up as much as 55% (sometimes more) of the budget.

After that the rest of the budget goes to the salaries of the less-famous actors, extras, staff and overall production.

2.The amount of PPL in a Korea drama

What if there is not enough money to cover the budget of producing your Korean drama? That is when PPL comes in. PPL or product placement is a form of advertising by displaying the brand names and corporate logos of product in the drama.

According to Youjeong Oh in Pop City: Korean Popular Culture and the Selling of Place, the Korean drama industry only began to use PPL in 2000.

The Integrated Broadcasting Act became effective in 2000. It stipulates that any broadcasting business operator may announce a commercial sponsor, who provides costs, gift, a location, costumes, vignettes, information. Under this law, the direct displays of brand names or corporate logos in the middle of a show was totally prohibited.

Then in January 2010, the Korean Communications Commission eased the regulations regarding PPL.

Under the new law, Korean dramas were allowed to display brand names and corporate logos.

Since then, we have seen perhaps too many PPLs in a Korean television series. It is ridiculous yet commendable on how skillful to see these actors casually showcasing the advertisers’ brand names, like how they are able to showcase the brand name whenever they gulping from a bottle.

There are so many Korean series slammed for their PPLs because they mostly have nothing to do with the storyline and are distracting.

Meanwhile, there are cases of actors and actresses who turned down sponsorships in a drama to stay true to their characters.

For example ,Park Bo-young in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon rejected offers from luxury clothing brands. Her character is supposed to be middle-income and doing a lot of action scenes. It would be ridiculous to see her in high-end dresses.

3.How the actors are paid

It is interesting to know how these actors and actresses are paid. One thing for sure, every cast is paid different from the other depending on their experience and popularity.

Actor Park Jun-gyu revealed in Korean talk show Happy Together, “You get paid for each episode. It doesn’t matter if you shoot 10 cuts or 50 cuts, you get paid the same amount. But some actors only appear in photos, they are not actually acting in the drama. In that case, if it is someone who is well-known, the actor gets half of the amount of their pay. When you appear as a dead person and you are covered in white cloth, you get half of the amount. However if your face appeared as the dead body, then you get paid the full amount of an episode.”

Moreover if the actor appeared again in flashback scenes even when the character is already dead, then they get paid 30-40% of their pay of an episode. For narration, the actor would get paid up to 30% of their pay per episode.

Lee Byung-hun in Mr Sunshine (2018) reportedly made USD4.3 million with USD180,000 per episode.

In 2017, Lee Jong-suk and Lee Seung-ki were both paid roughly USD110,000 per episode for While You Were Sleeping and A Korean Odyssey respectively.

Meanwhile, according to Glassdoor, a producer in South Korea could earn around USD60,000 in average per year.

4.The ridiculous amount of time to shoot a drama

Unlike other television series out there, the first four episodes of Korean series are usually shot in advance.

Then, the rest of the episodes are shot continuously while the series is being aired. Hence, the storyline could change according to ratings and the viewers’ receptions.

There are cases where the crew would be still shooting or editing the episode while the episode is being broadcast.

An example is actor Kwon Sang-woo was still shooting Queen of Ambition (2013) 30 minutes before the last episode began to air.

As the production cost is high, the production companies seek to shoot the episode in the shortest time possible.

Due to this, Korean drama production usually adheres to tight shooting schedules and unfinished scripts. Most cast and crew only have one hour to sleep when filming.

The filming of these live-shoot dramas do get postponed mainly because unavoidable causes such as health issues and accidents.

However in rare cases, there are occurrences in which the cast leaves abruptly during the production.

In 2011, Han Ye-seul was cast as the main actress in Spy Myung-wol. She plays a North Korean spy who infiltrates the South to kidnap a popular actor, only to end up falling in love with him.

Following a dispute with director Hwang In-hyuk over her working conditions, she did not show up for filming on Aug 14-15, 2011. She then flew to thr United States on Aug 16. During her absence, an episode was canceled. Instead, KBS aired a special featuring highlights of the series.

While most people criticised her action, some fans defended her saying that stressful Korean drama live-shoot system was at fault.

5.The pre-production of Korean dramas

Since late 2015, production companies started to pitch and pre-sell the overseas broadcast and streaming rights of their dramas.

This allows the production company to have enough budget for the drama and they could complete shooting before it is broadcast.

Descendants of the Sun (2016) is an example of a successful pre-production of a Korean drama.

It managed it to secure investment and distribution at the same time allowing the drama to air simultaneously in China, bringing in more profits.

However, not all pre-produced dramas are successful. Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth (2016) and Uncontrollably Fond (2016) are some of the pre-produced dramas which suffered in low ratings.

6.Korean dramas written by famous screenwriters usually gain more hype

In American television series, there could be more than one screenwriter in-charge of the scripts and they are changeable throughout the season. Meanwhile in Korean series, it is usually written by one or one team of scriptwriters right until the last episode.

Korean drama screenwriters have better recognition and higher salary compared to Korean cinema.

Some of the famous scriptwriters are Hong Sisters, Kim Eun-sook and Noh Hee-kyung.

Hong Sisters are famous for Hotel Del Luna (2019) and Master’s Sun (2013). Kim Eun-sook is widely known for Secret Garden (2010), Goblin (2016) and The Heirs (2013).

These scriptwriters tend to have a say in their field including who to cast in their drama.

Hotel Del Luna
Hotel Del Luna poster.

7.The original soundtrack is like an album on its own

What makes these Korean dramas so addictive to watch is also the soundtrack.

Unlike in American series, Korean original soundtracks (OST) are specifically made for each series. It is crucial to choose the perfect OST for each scene in a drama to maximise the viewers’ emotion.

The combination of these soundtracks of one drama could be a chart-topping album on its own.

Sometimes, the actors themselves record songs for the dramas they acted in.

For instances are Kim Hyun-joong in Boys over Flowers (2009) and IU in Dream High (2011).

8.The rise of Korean web series

A typical Korean drama has 16 to 20 episodes. For Korean historical or family drama, the number of episodes could go up to 200 episodes.

Over the years, there has been a new rage over web dramas or web series especially among younger audience.

Unlike the conventional Korean drama in which the story could be dragged on, web dramas have more fast-paced storylines. It consists about 10 episodes with around 10 minutes per episode.

It is perfect for those who are looking for quick fix of Korean drama.

The cast consists of younger actors, giving them a chance to showcase their talents.

9.The adaptation of webtoon into Korean dramas

While the Japanese have their adaptations of manga or anime into dramas, the Korean have their webtoon which is a type of digital comic.

Unlike conventional comic books, each episode of a webtoon is published on one long vertical strip rather than in multiple pages. This is to make it easier to read on smartphone or computer.

Over the years, there are more webtoon getting their real-life adaptations into Korean dramas.

What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim (2018), Gangnam Beauty (2018) and Itawon Class (2020) are among the famous adaptations of Korean webtoons.

Whats Wrong With Secretary Kim
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim poster.

10.Exploitation of labour

On Oct 26, 2016, an assistant producer for Korean drama Drinking Solo (2016) took his own life. Six months after his death, his brother revealed his suicide note to shed some light on the circumstances surrounding his demise.

He wrote, “The phrase ‘exploitation of labour’, which the staff on set would say half jokingly and half seriously, dug a hole in my heart. We were forced to push the already tired workers into creating the results that the company wanted.”

Korean actor Gong Yoo also revealed the sad truth behind Korean dramas to Strait Times. He said, “A lot of the staff cannot sleep or rest well. They film from morning to night and if some voices and sounds cannot be captured, they have to go back to the recording studio. They can rest only after the recording is done.”

It is highly likely that the Korean entertainment industry will completely forego the live-shoot system.

First of all, it is hard to gain budget for pre-production dramas. Moreover, there is uncertainty of how well the drama would be received by viewers.

Many have argued that Korean leading actors and actress should be paid less in order to give more for the staff or hire more crews in lessen the workload.

10 things you should know about Empress Wu Zetian

Do you know what is the most expensive television series in Chinese history? With 82 episodes, The Empress of China (2014) boasts a budget of almost USD50 million.

The drama circles around Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in the Chinese history.

The plot of the drama roughly follows the historical accounts of the empress. It is based on events in the 7th and 8th-century Tang dynasty when Wu Ruyi (Fan Bingbing) enters the palace as one of Emperor Taizong (Zhang Fengyi)’s consorts.

Wu Zetian
Fan Bingbing as Empress Wu Zetian. Credit: Youtube.

The emperor soon takes notice of her and falls in love with her, inciting many to grow jealous of her.

They set out to destroy her numerous times by falsely accusing her of theft, murder and treachery.

She survives by her wits and intelligence but is kept at arm’s length by Emperor Taizong due to a prophecy foretelling a woman of Wu stealing the Tang Dynasty.

When Emperor Taizong dies, she is sent to a monastery to become a nun.

However, the Emperor’s youngest son Li Zhi (Aarif Rahman), who later becomes the Emperor Gaozong, has been in love with her since he was a child. (Yes, the emperor fell in love with his father’s lover). He brings her back to the palace and makes her his concubine.

She helped Li Zhi take back power from his Regent, and herself into the position of Empress.

She co-ruled with Li Zhi until his death, after which she ruled the country in her own right taking the name Empress Wu Zetian.

While the drama is entertaining to watch, the historical accounts behind the Empress Wu Zetian are way more intriguing. How close these accounts are to the truth of what happened? No one really knows.

Nonetheless, here are 10 things you should know about Empress Wu Zetian:

1.Empress Wu Zetian grew up as an educated child

Growing up as an educated young girl in this 21st century might not be a huge deal, but being an educated young girl in 7th-century China is.

Historians are not sure where Wu Zetian was born. Nonetheless, she was born in the seventh year of the reign of Emperor Gaozu of Tang dynasty in 624.

Her father Wu Shihou was in the timber business before holding governor posts and her mother was from a powerful family.

Since she was born into a rich family, Wu Zetian did not grow up doing domestic jobs. Unlike fathers in those era, Wu Shihou encouraged his daughter to study.

Thanks to her father’s encouragement, Wu Zetian was able to read and write as well as learn about politics, governmental affairs, literature and music.

A Tang Dynasty Empress Wu Zetian 1
Image taken from An 18th century album of portraits of 86 emperors of China, with Chinese historical notes. Originally published/produced in China, 18th century.  Credit: Public Domain.

2.When Empress Wu Zetian first entered the palace

Just like in the drama, Wu Zetian became one of the concubines to Emperor Taizong when she was just 14 years old.

Unlike the drama, Emperor Taizong was not that in love with her. Emperor Taizong’s love and attention was for his Empress Zhangsun, with whom he had three sons. He had no children with Wu Zetian.

According to custom, consorts of a deceased emperor who had not produced children were permanently sent to a monastic institution after the emperor’s death.

When Emperor Taizong died in 649, Wu Zetian was sent to Ganye Temple to live the remainder of her life as a Buddhist nun.

She didn’t stay there long. After Emperor Taizong died, his youngest son Li Zhi succeeded him as Emperor Gaozong of Tang Dynasty.

Once he was in power, Emperor Gaozong went to the temple allegedly to bring her back to the palace as his concubine.

There are several different accounts of what really happened between her and Emperor Gaozong. One account alleged that on the anniversary of Emperor Taizong’s death, Emperor Gaozong went to Ganye Temple to offer incense. That was when they saw each other after she had left the palace.

Emperor Gaozong did not favour his wife Empress Wang but favoured his concubine Consort Xiao. Seeing that Emperor Gaozong was still impressed by Wu Zetian at that temple, the empress invited her back to the temple with hope that an arrival of a new concubine would distract the emperor from Consort Xiao.

Another account pointed out that the Wu Zetian had never left the palace in the first place. Gaozong and Wu Zetian were already having an affair even when the late emperor was still alive.

3.She allegedly killed her own baby.

YouTuber Jack Rackam made a video about Wu Zetian in 2019, calling her “History’s Worst Mom”. But was she the worst mother of all time?

Once Wu Zetian entered the palace, she soon overtook Consort Xiao as Emperor Gaozong’s favorite and bore him four sons. By 654, Empress Wang and Consort Xiao were no longer deemed favourable to the Emperor.

So the two former rivals joined forces to go against Wu Zetian.

In the same year, Wu Zetian gave birth to a baby daughter. Some time after her birth, the infant died with reported evidence suggesting deliberate strangulation.

Wu Zetian immediately blamed the Empress of murder.

There are several theories what could have happened to the child. Since Chinese traditional folklore tends to portray Wu Zetian as a power hungry woman , naturally it was suggested that she strangled her own baby so that she could blame her rival.

Another theory is that the baby died due to carbon monoxide poisoning. This was possible as there was a lack of ventilation in those days combined with using coal as a heating method.

Besides that, it is possible that the baby died due to sudden infant death syndrome.

Regardless of what the cause of death might be, Wu Zetian blamed it on Wang, and the latter was removed from her position as Empress.

The peak of the rivalry between Wu Zetian and Wang took place in 655 when Wu Zetian accused Wang and her mother of using witchcraft.

Wang and Xiao were subsequently disposed from the palace.

When Wu Zetian heard that the Emperor was about to bring the two women back to the palace, she ordered them to be killed.

Wang and Xiao died in the most unimaginably cruel way; their limbs were cut off and they were both put in wine jars to drown to death.

She was alleged to have commented, “Now these two witches can get drunk to their bones.”

4.How she climbs to the throne

After the disposal of her rivals, Wu became Emperor Gaozong’s new empress consort in 655.

As she was a charismatic and well-educated woman, Wu Zetian rose to power becoming the most influential woman at court.

Emperor Gaozong was often sick and many historians believed she was the real power behind her husband’s throne. The emperor was just the puppet and Wu Zetian was the puppet master.

After Gaozong’s death in 683, she became the Empress dowager.

As her first son Li Hong grew older, he often came in conflict with Wu Zetian. It is believed that Wu Zetian poisoned Li Hong to his death in 675.

After Li Hong’s death, Wu Zetian’s second son Li Xian became the crown prince. In 680, he was accused of treason and he was exiled.

When he thought he could be free from his mother, something happened four years later when Li Xian in exile. In 684 when Wu Zetian was the empress dowager, she had her associate visit Li Xian to force him to commit suicide.

Wu Zetian’s third son Emperor Zhongzong succeeded his father in 684. However, Wu Zetian deposed him less than two months later in favour of her fourth song Emperor Ruizong. Again, many believed that Wu Zetian was the real ruler behind her son’s reign.

Six years later, Emperor Ruizong in turn relinquished the throne to his mother. Did he do that voluntarily? It is a debatable question.

Hence, Emperor Dowager Wu officially seized the throne in the brief Zhou dynasty (690-705), becoming the only female emperor in Chinese history.

5.Wu Zetian’s legacy at Longmen Grottoes

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There are 100,000 Buddhist images, 2800 inscribed tablets and 43 Buddhist pagodas found at Longmen Grottoes. Credits: Pixabay.

The only female Chinese emperor only took up the name Wu Zetian upon her coronation. She was previously known as Wu Zhao. She named her dynasty after the ancient Zhou Dynasty (1046 until 771 BC), from whom she believed herself to be descended.

While many records demonised Emperor Wu as the power-crazed ruler, no one could refute the legacy that she left behind.

One of them is located 12 kilometers from the ancient city of Luoyang called the Longmen Grottoes.

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Statues at Longmen Groettoes. Credits: Pixabay

In the largest cave of Longmen Grottoes, there is a statue called the Grand Vairocana Buddha. Historical records revealed that the Buddha statue was modeled after the Empress Wu Zetian. She supported the construction of the statue with her own money. What better way to leave your legacy than by putting your own face on a Buddha statue?

Today, the statue is often referred as the Eastern Mona Lisa.

6.The rebuilding of Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

This Buddhist pagoda was built in 652 and originally had five stories. Fifty years later, the exterior facade of the pagoda collapsed.

When Empress Wu Zetian came into rule, she had the pagoda rebuilt and added five new stories by the year 704.

However, a massive earthquake took place in 1556 reducing it to its current height of seven stories.

7.Her legacy at Daming Palace

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Daming Palace. Credits: Pixabay

Today, the Daming Palace is a national heritage site in China. This building once served as the imperial residence of the Tang emperors for more than 220 years.

Apparently in 634 Emperor Taizong ordered a summer palace to be built for his retired father, Emperor Gaozu.

However, Emperor Gaozu died in 635 before the completion of the palace and then the construction was halted.

In 660, Empress Wu took over the project, commissioning the court Yan Liben to design the palace.

The construction of the palace was completed under the reign of her husband Emperor Gaozong in 663.

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Daming Palace. Credits: Pixabay

8.How Empress Wu Zetian changed the Imperial examination

The Chinese imperial examinations were a civil service examination system in Imperial China for selecting candidates for the state bureaucracy.

Historians could not deny that Wu Zetian’s reign was a pivotal moment for the imperial examination system.

Before she came into power, the examination was only opened to the male members of the Li family (the aristocrats). When she officially took the title of emperor in 690, she opened the examinations to the lower class.

On top of this, she specifically created the palace and military examinations during her reign.

Furthermore, Wu Zetian started opening up opportunities to the wider population, including China’s then less prestigious area in the southeast.

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A 17th-century Chinese depiction of Wu, from Empress Wu of the Zhou, published c.1690. Credits: Public Domain.

9.She created her own Chinese character but failed

As numerous figures and paintings revealed from Tang Dynasty, the women back then wore male clothes and fitted blouses with low necklines.

They also rode horseback, practiced archery and played polo. Some historians believed that it was due to Wu Zetian’s influence in changing what women could or could not do.

While she could change how women dressed, she was unable to change how people wrote.

Wu Zetian herself was a writer, having published many papers and poetry under her name. She also commissioned the biographies of influential women back then.

In December 689, she introduced the Zetian characters in order to demonstrate her power.

However, she did not create the characters but they were suggested by an official named Zong Qinke (the son of one of her cousins).

Wu Zetian forced her subjects to use them during her reign but they fell into disuse right after her death.

10.Her fall from grace, not because of one man, but two

It is common in history or legend to see the fall of a powerful man caused by one woman.

In the case of Empress Wu Zetian, her lust over two men caused her downfall.

In 697, Zhang Changzong was introduced to Wu Zetian by her own daughter Princess Taiping. The emperor was 73.

So what do you do when you have an emperor who is old enough to be your grandma as your lover? Follow what Zhang Changzong did, and introduce your brother.

Changzong’s brother Zhang Yizhi was reported to be good looking, “his skin was white and beautiful and that he was good at singing.”

Subsequently, both brothers became her lovers. Wu Zetian promoted them into higher positions in her court.

They became objects of hatred as Wu Zetian clearly favoured them. By early 705, Wu Zetian was slowly becoming ill.

Her chancellor Zhang Jianzhi entered into a coup with the other officials. After killing the Zhang brothers and their families, they forced Wu Zetian to yield the throne to her third son Emperor Zhongzong who previously only ruled for two months in 684.

The cycle continued of aaaaa woman ruling behind a man just like Wu Zetian did, since Emperor Zhongzong was a rather weak ruler.

The real power laid in the hands of his empress consort Empress Wu and her lover Wu Sansi who happened to be Wu Zetian’s nephew.

The end of Zhou Dynasty

On March 3, 705, the Tang Dynasty was restored with historians generally viewing the Zhou Dynasty as an interregnum of the Tang Dynasty.

As for Wu Zetian, she died months later on Dec 16, 705. She was interred with her husband Emperor Gaozong at the Qianling Mausoleum.

Mike Dash from the Smithsonian Magazine summarised Wu Zetian’s later life perfectly.

He wrote in 2012, “After Gaozong’s death, in 683, she remained the power behind the throne as dowager empress, manipulating a succession of her sons before, in 690, ordering the last of them to abdicate and taking power herself. Not until 705, when she was more than 80 years old, Wu was finally overthrown by yet another son – one whom she had banished years before.

Her mistake had been to marry this boy to a concubine nearly as ruthless and ambitious as herself.”

10 things you might not know about Korean drama Hotel del Luna (2019)

Hotel Del Luna
Hotel del Luna’s official photo. Credits: Youtube

Written by famous screenwriter siblings the Hong Sisters, Hotel del Luna (2019) is the tenth-highest-rated Korean drama in cable television history.

It was a commercial success, recording the highest ratings in its time slot throughout its run. The series first aired on tvN on July 13 to Sept 1, 2019.

It follows Jang Man-wol, the beautiful but cold owner of Hotel del Luna or Guest House of the Moon for 1,300 years.

Korean singer IU, who is credited using her real name Lee Ji-eun for any acting role, plays the fashionable and charismatic hotel owner.

Unlike other hotelS, the clients of this hotel are all ghosts waiting to move to the afterlife. It is only visible to ghosts but humans can see it under certain circumstances like during a lunar eclipse.

Condemned to be the owner of the hotel after killing many people, Man-wol’s character gradually softens after she meets Goo Chan-sung (Yeo Jin-goo).

Chan-sung is the general manager of the hotel after his father made a deal with Man-wol 20 years prior.

The plot

Watch the trailer here.

The storyline revolves around Jang Man-wol who has to come to terms with her past so that she can move on to the afterlife.

The hotel’s employees are all ghosts, each of whom has their very own issue.

The longest employee of the hotel is the bartender Kim Seon-bi (Shin Jung-geun). He lived during the Joseon dynasty as the scholar Kim Shi-ik and was defamed. He is waiting to clear his name.

The chief housekeeper Choi Seo-hee (Bae Hae-sun) also lived during the Joseon era. When she gave birth to a girl instead of a boy, her in-law killed her baby, driving her to insanity. She vows to see the family tree die out before she moves on to the afterlife.

The third longest employee is the hotel receptionist Pyo Ji-hoon as Ji Hyun-joong. He is accidentally killed during the height of the Korean War. He is waiting for his younger sister so that they can move on together.

It is understandable why it was such a fan-crazed drama. It has stunning cinematography, a storyline that keeps viewers guessing and outstanding acting even by the whole cast including the cameos.

If you are a fan of the drama, here are 10 things you might not know about Hotel del Luna (2009):

Spoiler Alert!

1.The ‘haunting’ during the filming

Filming any paranormal or ghost stories has long been associated with haunting even when the camera is off.

Annabelle, The Exorcist and The Nun’s filming sets all had alleged haunting. So does the filming of Hotel del Luna had its own ghost story off set?

Jin-goo in an interview CNA Lifestyle said, “While we were filming on set, there were few times when the fire alarm went off without anyone having done anything.”

At first he thought it was something supernatural, then it turned out the alarms just went off because the special effects crew had released too much smoke.

Meanwhile, Bae Hae-sun who plays Choi Seo-hee, the hotel’s housekeeper and room service provider shared another peculiar happening during the set.

When appearing on the talk show Happy Together, she said “When we were filming the lobby scene, when we were rehearsing and taking breaks everything was fine. But whenever we started the actual scene, we got a blackout. So as it was someone was watching and has turned off the switch at that very moment.”

Pyo Ji-hoon who plays the hotel receptionist Ji Hyun-joong added, “That actually happened many times especially when we are filming at the hotel.”

2.Senior actor Jung Dong-hwan took the role in Hotel del Luna just because of Lee Ji-eun aka IU.

In the drama, senior actor Jung Dong-hwan plays No Joon-suk. He is the hotel’s general manager for 30 and Chan-sung’s predecessor.

Dong-hwan revealed on the Oct 10, 2019 broadcast of Happy Together, “I received the casting offer for Hotel del Luna when I was really busy with performances for a play. I filmed all night long at the same time as doing my play. The director personally came to see me and said that IU was appearing in it. I didn’t need to see that script. Because IU was doing it, I said that I would do my best.”

The two actors first met in the drama You are the Best (2013). They were portraying a father and daughter pair.

3.Choi Tae-joon was offered a role in the drama.

On Mar 11, 2019, Korean actor Choi Tae-joon’s agency Huayi Brothers confirmed that the actor was in talks to star in the drama opposite Ji-eun and Yeo Jin-goo.

It was reported that Tae-joon had been offered the role Cho Woo-hyun. He is described as a second male lead and a descendant of Goguryeo aristocracy.

However a month later on Apr 4, Huayi Brothers announced that the actor decided to not appear due to conflicts regarding “the direction of the drama and the character’s role and importance in the drama.”

In the meantime, a source from tvN explained, “During the final stages of making adjustments about a month ago, his character was changed. After some discussion, both parties decided that Choi Tae-joon will not be taking on the role.

Immediately after Tae-joon turned the role, it was announced that Lee Tae-sun was taking a role in the drama.

As it turned out, the Tae-sun role is different from the role Tae-joon was in talks to take on.

In the final storyline of the drama, he plays the role of Yeon-woo and officer Park Young-soo. He is Man-wol’s fellow rebel who is like a brother to her.

He is then reincarnated as police officer Park Young-soo.

4.Here are some of the famous cameos

Besides talented main cast, the drama is also known for its star-studded special appearances.

Lee Joon-gi who appeared in the 2016 drama Scarlet Heart: Goryeo with Ji-eun made a cameo in episode 3.

Meanwhile, the talented Kim Won-hae who is known for his eccentric roles appeared as the corrupted mayor in the first episode.

Unfortunately, Hotel Del Luna was one of the last TV appearances of K-pop star Sulli. Sulli and Ji-eun were known to be incredibly close friends.

On one episode of “Night of Hate Comments”, Sulli discussed briefly about her cameo in the series.

“I was contacted by IU, who asked me if I could do it. She said it was a role that she liked. I didn’t know what kind of role it was, but I right away said I would do it.”

A couple of months after her appearance in Hotel Del Luna in mid-October 2019, Sulli was found dead by her manager at her house.

Ji-eun was reported to have stayed at Sulli’s wake for three days straight.

5.IU made an Instagram account for Jang Man-wol

Jang Man-wol in the drama is known to be foodie. She always posts foodstagrams before her meal.

During one of the dining out scenes with Jin-goo’s character, the script was supposed to be just Man-wol enjoy looking at the delicious food.

Ji-eun then suggested to change the set-up a bit. She asked if it was okay for Jang Man-wol to be on social media.

From there, she started to post behind the scenes photos of Hotel del Luna.

In Dec 2019 , the actress revealed that her phone was still logged into the account as a second account.

“There are times when it’s difficult because I get so many notifications, but the idea of logging out makes me feel somewhat sad, so I’m just leaving it as it is,” she said.

Jang Man-wol’s Instagram account has almost 900,000 followers to date.

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6.The size of Jang Man-wol’s wardrobe

Fashion lovers who watched the drama would agree-Jang Man-wol is a style icon.

It was reported that her wardrobe cost over 10 million won per episode. On average, she changes her looks every seven minutes per episode donning over 100 outfits throughout the drama.

First of all, she is not afraid of colours. Man-wol wears everything from something monochrome to bright colours such as bright red and fuchsia pink.

Since the character is over 1,300 years old, her outfits are most often a modern twist of the classic styles.

Her style covers timeless looks such as shoulder pad dresses, capes, balloon sleeves and bow neck.

Moreover, the attention to the detail of her every outfit is purely amazing. For a plain patterned outfit, Man-wol always rocks a statement brooch to pop up her look.

Her earrings, be they the dangling or studded types, never fail to complement her hair and outfit.

Speaking of her hair, Man-wal’s hairstyle is always on point especially her hair accessories. Nobody can rock hairpins like she does in the drama.

If you haven’t noticed, she always wears a ring on her left index finger.

While her day outfits are worth dying for, Man-wol’s night robes are just ridiculously beautiful. Who would wear those pretty robes to sleep at night?

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Jang Man-wol’s every look is on point. Credits: IMDB

7.Hotel Del Luna was the first draft for The Master’s Sun

In an interview with Korea Joongang Daily, the Hong Sisters revealed Hotel del Luna was actually the first draft for The Master’s Sun (2013).

Starring So Ji-sub and Gong Hyo-jin, the horror-romantic comedy is about a woman who starts seeing ghosts after an accident. Things take a new turn for her when she meet a cold and distant CEO.

Every time she touches him the ghosts that surround her disappear.

Additionally, the sisters revealed that they were inspired from the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast for this drama. However in Hotel del Luna, the Beauty is the one that got cursed.

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In this version of Beauty and the Beast, it is the Beauty who got cursed. Credit: Youtube.

8.The ending explained and the possibility of a second season

The younger sister Mi-ran also said in the same interview that the fate of the two characters were decided even from the start.

“Jang Man-wol was bound to leave while Gu Chan-seong was set to see her off. The relationship of the two was decided in that way from the beginning. The ending scene needed heavy CGI technology, so we finished writing the scripts for the scene a month before the final episode was due to air.”

The elder sister Jung-eun added, “The purpose of the hotel is comforting the souls of the deceased so that they move on to afterlife. Jang had to leave the hotel and that was the premise of the drama series when we created it in the first place. All the hotel employees could leave the hotel and move on to their next life with pleasure because their pain in this life have vanished.”

Furthermore, the Hong sisters thought Man-wol walking on the Yudo Bridge in style and Chan-seong watching her walk away was a suitable ending for the two characters.

The possibility of a second season?

Meanwhile in the epilogue, actor Kim Soo-hyun showed up as a cameo. He is the new owner of Hotel del Luna but with different look and name called Hotel Blue Moon.

This scene gives up to viewers that there might be a second season of the drama.

However, the sisters stressed that they do not have a detailed plan for a second season yet. The epilogue is added to give viewers the impression that the place for ghosts would remain.

Besides, a representative from tvN announced that it is difficult for them to give an answer on whether there will be second season or not because the staff have never discussed the possibility of a second season.

9.The conflicts behind the production team

In July 2019, a staff member of Human Art, the company working on the set of tvN’s Encounter and Hotel del Luna claimed that they have not been paid for over eight months.

After reporting about the issue to Ministry of Employment and Labour (MOEL), the CEO of Human Art allegedly threatened the staff members by delaying the payment even longer.

In response to the conflict, tvN stated the production company had completed their payment to the set team. It was the set team (Human Art) that did not pay their employees.

10.Was the role of Jang Man-wol solely written for Lee Ji-eun?

It was revealed that the Hong sisters were only willing to make the series if they could cast IU as Man-wol.

“Jang is a complex character with many different sides, from being haughty to charismatic to bossy to pathetic. We thought Ji-eun shares those sentiments with Man-wol. All of us including director Oh Choong-hwan, tried our best to coax her into taking the role,” Mi-ran explained.

The sisters had a plan B in case they could not get Ji-eun in portraying Jang Man-wol, by reversing the relationship and making it the story of male hotel owner and a female manager.

Jung-eun further added, “But if we had to that way, we may have lost some of the originality and wouldn’t be able to talk about reversed gender roles between a female boss and employee. So it had to be Ji-eun no matter what.”

What if Jang Man-wol was a man? As a viewer for the show, do you hope there will be a second season? Can you imagine how the story would have gone if they had carried on Tae-joon’s character? Let us know in the comment box.

KajoPicks: 5 Asian pandemic movies you should watch

On March 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

This was after there were over 118,000 cases of the coronavirus illness in over 110 countries.

WHO defines a pandemic as the worldwide spread of a new disease. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads around the world and most people do not have immunity.

Looking at the past, the viruses that have caused past pandemics originated from animal influenza viruses.

Pandemics have been an inspiration for many disaster movies out there. One of the popular ones is Hollywood movie Contagion (2011).

The real-life epidemics such as the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak and the 2009 flu pandemic have been inspirations and influences in Contagion.

Meanwhile, the chain of contagion in the movie is similar to the trail of Nipah virus that originated in Malaysia in 1997.

Another Hollywood movie that went viral during this Covid-19 virus pandemic was Outbreak (1995).

The movie’s screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns actually conducted months of in-depth research studying pandemics.

Besides that, he recruited several well-established epidemiologists to develop a realistic plot.

The result? A medical disaster film focusing on an outbreak of a fictional Ebola-like Motaba virus.

It also speculates how far military and civilian agencies might go to contain the spread of a deadly and contagious disease.

If you are looking for Asian pandemic movies, check out this list:

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1.The Flu (2013)

This Korean pandemic movie explores the realistic response of humankind in the face of a pandemic.

The main character Kim In-hae (Soo Ae) is a single mother who works as a doctor in the infectious diseases.

When there is an outbreak of a mutated strain of H5N1 that kills its victims within 36 hours, the district of Bundang which has a population of nearly half a million people goes into chaos.

It also explores the worst case scenarios of what happens when rumours and fake news spread during a pandemic.

At the same time, The Flu also showcases how the lack of competency in governance could worsen the situation.

While most outbreaks start from an animal, the fictional outbreak in this movie derived from a group of illegal immigrants who died in a shipping container.

Watch the trailer here.

2.Infection (2004)

When a disaster movie meets a horror film, we have ourselves a Japanese flick called Infection (2004).

It was adapted from director Masayuki Ochiai’s earlier screenplay from the Tales of the Unusual.

Infection (2014) is set at a run-down and understaffed hospital.

When a patient with a strange black rash shows up, Dr Akiba (Koichi Sato) refuses to admit him.

The patient is left in the hallway. Then Dr Kiyoshi Akai (Shiro Sano) comes along to study his symptoms.

Things get creepy when that patient’s body mass starts to liquefy into green goo.

Watch the trailer here.

3.Pandemic (2009)

When the Covid-19 virus first started to break out in China, the doctors there dismissed it as pneumonia.

In this Japanese pandemic movie, Dr Tsuyoshi Matsuoka (Satoshi Tsumabuki) misdiagnoses a patient’s disease as a common flu.

Only after the patient’s sudden death, then he realises the disease is way more serious than he initially thought.

When he finds out that the newfound disease could possibly make a population extinct, Dr Tsuyoshi tries to find the cause of it.

4.Virus (2019)

Set against the backdrop of the 2018 Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, this Indian medical thriller was a major box office success.

It follows a man named Zakariya Mohammed who is infected and is brought to the Government Medical College, Kozhikode.

There he is diagnosed to be infected with an unknown virus and dies a few hours later.

Before he dies, Zakariya passes on the virus to 18 other people.

Critics mostly sung praise of this movie, saying it “a well-crafted movie,” and a compassionate, gripping medical thriller.”

Watch the trailer here.

5.Deranged (2012)

What could be the reason for people to jump into a river in a strange epidemic of drownings?

Jae Hyuk (Kim Myung-min) has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and is a former professor.

Now, he works as a pharmaceutical sales representative after losing his life savings in bad stock investments arranged by his brother, police detective Jae Pil (Kim Dong-wan).

Suddenly, the country is in shock as a series of dead bodies are found floating in the Han River.

Jae Hyuk is caught up in a wave of fear that grips the country after a series of dead bodies are found floating in the Han River.

Subsequently, it is found that the deaths are caused by an outbreak of virus-infected mutant parasitic horsehair worms known as yeongasi.

Once the worms infect the human brain, the infected people start to develop excessive hunger that turns to excessive thirst.

This results In the patient jumping into the river to quench their thirst.

When Jae Hyuk’s own family starts to exhibit symptoms of the infection, can he or Jae Pil save them?

Basically, Deranged (2012) plays around the conspiracy theory of what if the pharmaceutical industry purposely create a pandemic in order to gain profits.

Watch the trailer here.

KajoPicks: 10 movies inspired by the Korean war to watch

The Korean war began on June 25, 1950 when about 75,000 North Korean soldiers headed south to begin their invasion on South Korea.

The invasion was the first military action of the Cold War.

North Korea had its support from China and the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the United Nations, principally the United States, was supporting South Korea.

Overall, the Korean War was among the most destructive conflicts of the modern era. It was estimated about three million people died and that there were massacres by both sides.

The North Koreans were accused of torturing and starving their prisoners of war (POW). North Korea also became among the most heavily-bombed countries in history.

In popular culture, the Korean War has beenthe source of inspiration for many movies, especially by South Korea. As expected, the course of events in these movies have been heavily disputed by North Korea.

Here are 10 South Korean movies inspired by the Korean war to watch:

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The Battle of Jangsari (2019). Credits: Youtube.

1.The Last Witness (2001)

The movie follows Hwang-seok (Ahn Sung-ki), a political prisoner who is released after 50 years of solitary confinement. He is imprisoned as a communist sympathiser in the Korean war.

A day after he is released, a body with stab wounds is found near a harbour. Detective Oh (Lee Jung-jae) investigates the death and finds the deceased is named Yang, a former soldier.

Following the evidence, the detective comes across a blind antique dealer named Ji-hye.

As it turns out the murder victim Yang was responsible for the imprisonment of Hwang-seok.

This makes Hwang-seok a suspect for Yang’s murder. The plot unravels with a series of flashbacks to the Korean War and the infamous Geoje POW Camp.

Located on Geoje island, the camp was a UN POW camp which held North Korean and Chinese prisoners.

So what happened at the camp which connects with Yang’s murder?

Watch the trailer here.

2.Taegukgi (2004)

Directed by highly-acclaimed director Kang Je-gyu, this wartime action film stars Jang Dong-gun and Won Bin.

It explorers the story of what happens when two brothers fight each other from opposite sides of the war zone.

Brothers Jin-tae (Jang Dong-gun) and Jin-seok (Won Bin) are unwillingly drafted into the South Korean army during the Korean War.

A superior tellS Jin-tae if he can earn the highest award for a South Korean soldier, his younger brother can be sent home.

His heroism during the urban Battle of Pyongyang (Oct 17-19, 1950) when the UN forces recaptured Seoul finally earns Jin-tae’s nomination for the medal.

As things sometimes don’t turn the way we planned, both in movies and in real life, the brothers somehow have to face each other in a battle field.

This tragic war film is one of biggest successes in the South Korean film history, attracting up to 11.74 million people to the theatre.

Watch the trailer here.

3.Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)

Tucked away on a remote mountain and untouched by the ongoing Korean War, there is a village called Dongmakgol.

In a twisted fate, three fighting forces come together in that village.

First is a US fighter pilot whose plane crashed in the mountains, then there are three retreating North Korean soldiers and two lost South Korean soldiers.

When the North and South Korean soldiers want to fight against each other, the villagers of Dongmakgol have them agree to a temporary truce.

After a grenade destroys the village’s food storage, the soldiers decide to stay and help the villagers.

Meanwhile, the US believesthere is a major North Korean military presence in the village area and plan an air strike.

In order to spare the village from being destroyed, the soldiers decide to work together to divert the attack.

The movie is actually based on the same-titled long-running stage play by Jang Jin. Although it was director Park Kwang-hyun’s debut film, the film was a commercial and critical success.

Moreover, it was South Korea’s official entry for the foreign language film category of the Academy Awards in 2005.

Watch the trailer here.

4.A Little Pond (2009)

Noguen-ri (also known as No Gun Ri) is a village in North Chungcheong Province in central South Korea.

It is the closest site of the No Gun Ri massacre which took place during the Korean War.

The massacre saw the US military kill South Korean civilians who were fleeing their nearby villages.

A South Korean government committee in 2005 certified the names of 163 dead and missing and 55 wounded with many other victims that were never reported.

After reading the Korean translation of The Bridge of No Gun Ri by Associated Press journalists, executive producer Lee Eun of Myung Films was determined to tell the story on the screen.

Because the story is controversial, not many investors wanted to invest into the films. Many of the cast and crew involved in the movie did it pro bono with some even bringing their family members to play the roles of villagers.

5.71: Into the Fire (2010)

From June 1950 to March 1951, students were recruited to fight for South Korea during the Korean War. They called them student soldiers.

These students volunteered or were conscripted in the Republic of Korea Army as emergency troops to fight against the North Korea.

71: Into the Fire is based on a true-story of a group of 71 student soldiers during the Battle of P’ohang-dong on Aug 11, 1950.

Despite being undertrained, underarmed and outgunned by the North Korean forces, they managed to defend the local P’ohang girls’ middle school.

In the end, 48 of the student soldiers died defending the school. Directed by John H. Lee, the movie stars Cha Seong-won, Choi Seung-hyun and Kim Seung-woo.

The film was made in commemoration of those who fought during the Korean War. Moreover, the movie is to raise awareness of the existence and importance of the student soldiers at that time.

Watch the trailer here.

6.In Love and War (2011)

Inspired by the a true story of her grandmother, screenwriter Bae Se-young decided to write the movie In Love and War (2011).

A group of North Korean soldiers stayed for a couple of days at the grandmother’s home because her father was the village leader). Touched by the villagers’ hospitality, one young soldier said that he wanted to stay.

This movie, however, follows a group of North Korean soldiers who enter a small South Korean village who come to “liberate” them.

In fact, the troop’s officer actually wants to find the charming young girl he met 12 years ago when Korea was one country.

As the villagers offer them heartfelt hospitality, strong friendship forms between the soldiers and the villagers.

7.The Front Line (2011)

Set during the 1953 ceasefire of the Korean War, this movies follows the final battle in determining the border between north and south Korean peninsular.

On the Eastern front line of the Aerok Hills, the fight continues in securing a small piece of land.

Those who have watched this movie would agree; there is no villain in The Front Line (2011). Both sides are as guilty and ruthless as the other.

Moreover, there are scenes of camaraderie from both sides as well.

Like any other war films, this movie depicts the horror and sadness of wars whereby there is no “winning” side. When a war breaks, both sides are already losing as both suffer losses and casualties.

The movie stars Shin Ha-kyun, Go Soo and Lee Je-hoon. It was selected as South Korea’s submission to the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. However, it did not make the final shortlist.

Watch the trailer here.

8.The Long Way Home (2015)

Set three days before a truce takes place during the Korean War, here is another about the unlikely friendship between North and South Korea.

It follows Nam-bok (Sol Kyung-gu), a simple farmer before his conscription into the army.

He then receives an order to deliver a top secret document but an attack by the North Korean army leads him to lose the document.

In the meantime, Young-gawang (Yeo Jin-goo) is a teenage North Korean soldier. While his team is heading to the South, they are bombed and he is the only one left.

As he is about to return home, he comes across a top secret document.

What happen to both of them when their paths cross?

Watch the trailer here.

9.Operation Chromite (2016)

Here, Liam Neeson plays American General Douglas MacArthur who sends eight members of the Korean Liaison Office on a secret mission behind North Korean lines.

The team is led by a South Korean Navy Lieutenant Jang Hak-soo (Lee Jung-jae). They are tasked to carry out a covert operation called Operation “X-ray”.

Their mission is to determine the placement of North Korean defenses (such as mines and artillery) and the tactical characteristics of the Incheon harbour.

The success of the mission will allow MacArthur to launch the Incheon Landing Operation.

The event in the movie is a fictionalised version of the real-life CIA and US military intelligence operation “Trudy Jackson”.

Watch the trailer here.

10.The Battle of Jangsari (2019)

Starring Kim Myung-min and Choi Min-ho, this movie is the second installment in a trilogy following Operation Chromite (2016).

It tells the true story of a group of 772 student soldiers who staged a small diversionary operation at Jangsari beach in Yeongdeok village.

By doing so, they hope to distract North Korean attention from Incheon where the Incheon Landing Operation is about to take place.

Meanwhile, an American reporter and war correspondent Maggie (Megan Fox) who covers the Korean War is trying to to get help from the international community.

Help is definitely needed as the student soldiers struggle to accomplish their mission due to lack of proper training, weapons and food supplies.

The fictional character Maggie is actually based on American war correspondent Marguerite Higgins and photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Both Higgins and Bourke-White were covering the Korean War for New York Herald Tribune and Life respectively.

One critic said the film started out as something like Saving Private Ryan and ended up on the same lines as Pearl Harbour.

Watch the trailer here.

Miryang gang rape, the case which inspired Korean movie Han Gong-ju (2013)

Directed by Lee Su-jin, Han Gong-ju (2013) is a South Korean film starring Chun Woo-hee in the title role.

Based on the infamous 2014 Miryang gang rape, the film follows a rape victim named Gong-ju who is forced to change schools and trying to rebuild her life.

The movie premiered at the 2013 Busan International Film Festival. It also won numerous award including the Golden Star at the 2013 Marrakech International Film Festival, the Jury Prize, the Critic’s Prize and the Audience Award at the 2014 Deauville Asian Film Festival.

Any and every rape case is heinous, but the Miryang gang rape case and the issues around it will make your blood boil.

Here are five things you need to know about Miryang gang rape, the case which inspired Korean movie Han Gongju (2013):

1.Behind the scenes of Han Gongju (2013)

Speaking to the Korean Film Council in an interview, director Lee Su-jin said the movie was inspired by a true story although he did not attempt to recreate the entire story.

Instead, the director decided to focus more on the life of the victim after the crime rather than on the crime itself.

At the same time, he wanted to give courage to all the Han Gong-jus out there who find themselves in the same situation.

Miryang Gang rape case
Chun Woo-hee as Gong-ju in the movie. Credits: Youtube

2.What happened?

In 2004, at least 41 male high school students gang raped several middle school and high school girls over the course of 11 months in Miryang city.

The first victim was raped up to 10 times by three to 24 high school boys in each occurrence.

The boys even blackmailed her to keep quiet unless she wanted pictures of her rape to spread around her school.

Then, the girl was ordered to bring her cousin and younger sister. Both of them became victims of the boys’ assaults. The boys were also accused of raping two other girls.

3.What happened to the criminals?

One of the victims’ aunts reported the rape to the police. In the beginning, the policeman only arrested three of the boys. This triggered anger and protests from the public.

The police subsequently arrested nine other students and booked 19 of them without detention.

The most frustrating part was that ultimately only five of the suspects were sent to a juvenile detention center. None of the 41 rapists were convicted of criminal charges.

Rumour has it that some of the boys came from affluent families but it is not confirmed.

This is not the only time the South Korean court was accused of giving light sentences in a rape case.

In an unrelated case, a suspected rapist was acquitted by the South Korean court due to his penis being too curved (!) to have been put in the victim’s vagina without assistance.

4.The aftermath of the Miryang gang rape

In 2008, the South Korean Supreme Court ordered the state to compensate the victims for violating their rights and leaking their identities to the media.

One of the police officers who was stationed at the Ulsan Southern District Police Precinct allegedly told the victim, “You have ruined the reputation of Miryang.”

Some other comments by the police include “Did you try to entice the guys?”, “The boys would lead the city were all arrested” and “I am afraid that my daughter will be like you.”

Moreover, the police leaked enough documents to the media for them to identify the victims.

Even worse, the police forced the victims to directly face the suspects instead of viewing them through a one-way mirror.

The Supreme Court stated in the ruling, “By making the victims identify their attackers in an open area, the police failed to protect the rights of the victims and caused them to suffer humiliation. Such an act can never be justified even with the stated claim by the police that they did so to expedite the probe.”

With that the court said the state must pay each victim 30 million won and their mothers 10 million won.

5.The similarities between Miryang gang rape and Han Gong-ju (2013)

The movie never directly references the real-case, although when the main character Gong-ju (Chun Woo-hee) is asked by her friend at her new school if she’s ever been kissed, after a painful pause – Gong-ju replies about 40 times. This is the number of offenders in the real life Miryang case.

Another similarity is when a group of angry parents attacked Gong-ju for having put their sons in jail.

In the Miryang case, one of the girls reportedly had to quit school. She was repeatedly visited by the boys’ parents in the classroom and verbally attacked for reporting their sons to the police.

Besides that, the victims were blamed for “seducing the boys” and “not behaving properly as girls.”

5 YouTube channels featuring unsolved cases you need to follow

There is something about unsolved cases, especially cold cases that transfix true crime fanatics out there.

Perhaps, all the unanswered questions and the conspiracy theories keep the stories of these unsolved cases being retold over and over again.

For the victims who have disappeared without a trace, everyone who knows of the stories want answers, whether it’s in the hope that those families will have closure, or to restore their own sense of justice in the world.

For those thirsting for justice on behalf of those murdered, unfortunately, many perpetrators of these unsolved murder cases were identified long after their natural deaths.

If you are interested in unsolved cases, here are 5 YouTube channels to follow:

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There are many reasons why criminal cases remains unsolved such as lack of evidence and human factor. Credits: Pixabay.

1.Buzzfeed Unsolved Network

With more than 3.55 million subscribers, Buzzfeed Unsolved Network gives viewers everything from the unsolved crimes, disappearances, conspiracy theories to supernatural incidents.

The best part of these videos especially on unsolved cases is that it presents all the possible theories of what might happen.

From famous unsolved cases such as the death of JonBenet Ramsey to lesser known cases such as the disappearance of Dorothy Arnold; Buzzfeed Unsolved Network has them all.

Speaking of Dorothy Arnold, she was an American socialite and heiress who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in New York in December 1910.

On that day, Arnold told her friend that she had planned to walk through Central Park before returning home. When she failed to return home for dinner, her family grew suspicious.

There are so many theories, alleged sightings and rumours surrounding her disappearance even decades after she was last seen. These theories include kidnapping, suicide and abortion gone wrong.

One of thing for sure, her fate remains unknown to this day.

2.Heavy Casefiles

This YouTube channel does not only cover cold cases but also latest unsolved murders and disappearances.

It also keep viewers updated with cold cases that were finally solved.

For instance, the murder suspect of two sisters who was finally identified 31 years later.

On March 5, 1984, Yleen and Lillie Kennedy were found found dead with gunshot wounds in Houston, US. Despite the extensive investigation, the authority was not able to identify any suspects.

In 2009, the DNA found on the crime scene was processed with latest technology but there were no matches found. Finally in 2015, the suspect Edmond Beauregard Degan was identified and subsequently charged with the double murder of the Kennedy sisters.

If you are interested in unsolved mysteries, missing persons cases or unresolved crimes, this is the YouTube channel for you.


With more than 200,000 subscribers, Merc makes videos about mystery, true crime, horror, facts and short documentary videos.

The channel upload almost once a week. Its cold cases fall under ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ which now has at least 79 videos.

There are many unresolved cases out there being featured on this channel including Oklahoma Girld Scout murders.

Less than two months before the murders, a camp counselor discovered that her belongings had been ransacked and her doughnuts stolen at Camp Scott in Oklahoma, US.

Inside the empty doughnut box, there was a disturbing hand-written note vowing to murder three campers. The management of the camp thought it was just a prank.

Then on June 13, 1977, the bodies of three girl scouts between the ages of 8 and 10 were found 140m from their tent at the camp.

Evidence showed that they had been raped, bludgeoned and strangled. At first, the case was classified as solved when Gene Leroy Hart, a local jail escapee with a history of violence, was arrested.

However, he was acquitted when he stood trial for the crime so the murders still considered unsolved.

4.Cold Case Detectives

In October 2015, an American woman Ebby Steppah made an erratic phone call to her older brother, Trevor. Her brother described her as seeming “disoriented” during their conversation. Her last words to Trevor was “I’m f**ked up” then the phone call ended. This was the last know contact anyone had with her.

Days before her disappearance, she had accused four men of gang-raping her at a party she attended.

Two days after her disappearance, her abandoned car was discovered in a park.

Ebby remained a missing person for nearly three years before her body was discovered in a drainage pipe not far from where her car had initially had been found.

Authorities classified her death as a homicide. It is one of the unsolved cases featured on Cold Case Detective.

Created by TJ Ruesch and the team behind Top5s and DestinationDeclassified, the viewers can also send a request to research a specific cold case.

5.Criminally Listed

This Canadian-based YouTube channel is curated for fans of true crime. It aims to bring the most interesting true crime stories and unsolved cases that most viewers have never heard of before.

They have at least 29 videos dedicated to unsolved mysteries. They cover all kinds of topics such as unsolved mass murders, unsolved disappearances ad unsolved serial murders.

In addition to that, this channel also has playlists on serial killers, true crime stories and cannibals.

One of the unsolved cases featured on the channel is the Keddie Murders.

The murders took place in Cabin 28 of the Keddie Resort probably during the late evening of Apr 11, 1981.

Glenna Susan ‘Sue’ Sharp, her son John Steven Sharp, daughter Tina Lyn Sharp and John’s friend Dana Hall Wingate were all found dead.

Sue’s two younger sons Rick and Greg together with their friend Justin Smartt were also in the house but left unharmed.

There were multiple suspects over the years but to this day, no charges have been filed.

#KajoPicks: 10 South Korean fantasy movies you need to watch

A good fantasy movie is always fun to watch. Well, primarily because these movies challenge your imagination.

Here are 10 South Korean fantasy movies for you to watch:

1.Vanishing Time: A Boy who Returned (2016)

Vanishing Time: A Boy who Returned (2016) is a Korean fantasy movie inspired by true events.

Director Um Tae-hwa was inspired by the 2014 sinking of MV Sewol where 304 people died.

He believed that the government tried to hide the truth after the Sewol disaster.

The story follows 13-year-old Su-rin who moves to a remote island with her step-father after her mother passes away.

There, she befriends an orphan boy named Sung-min. One day, they decide to explore a cave together with a group of kids.

During their adventure, they discover a glittering egg. According to their local folktale, the egg could instantly turn a child into an adult.

Believing the myth, Su-rin tries to stop the boys from taking the egg. However, the boys take the egg anyway.

When she follows them out of the cave, she finds that the rest of the group have disappeared.

Hence, the police is immediately dispatched. They assume that this is an abduction case and begin their investigation.

Meanwhile, Su-rin tells the police about finding the egg but nobody believes her.

Suddenly, a mysterious man in his 30s shows up and tells Su-rin that he is Sung-min.

Starring Gang Dong-won as adult Sung-min and Shin Eun-soo as Soo-rin, the movie is Tae-hwa’s second long film. He is mainly known for his short films.

Watch the trailer here.

2.Jeon Woo-chi: The Taoist Wizard (2009)

Here is another Korean fantasy movie starring Gang Dong-won. Based on a Korean folktale, the film was the third best selling film of 2009 in Korea.

The story begins in the Chosun Dynasty in 1509 when there is a magician named Jeon Woo Chi (Gang Dong-won) and his dog-turned-man.

Eventually, Jeon Woo Chi is sealed inside an ancient scroll for a crime he did not commit. Fast forward to 2009, he is summoned from the scroll to bring peace in a modern day Korea wracked by goblins.

The problem is Jeon Woo Chi becomes more interested in sight-seeing and womanizing rather than save the day.

Also known as Woochi: The Demon Slayer, this Korean fantasy movie is written and directed by Choi Dong-hoon.

Watch the trailer here.

3.The Piper (2015)

After the Korean War, Woo-ryong (Ryoo Seung-ryong) and his son Young-Nam (Goo Seung-hyun) walk to Seoul.

Woo-ryong wants to get Young-nam treated for tuberculosis. Along the way there, they find an obscured path on a mountainside road.

Woo-ryong decides to take the hidden path. The father and son pair soon come across a village. At first look, the village appears well-off and peaceful. The residents are led by a village leader (Lee Sung-min).

Subsequently, Woo-ryong learns the village is an idyllic place to live, except the area is infested with rats.

He offers to get rid of the rats and the village leader offers to pay him a hefty sum in return.

At the same time, Woo-ryong also falls for a young female shaman (Chun Woo-hee) in the village.

While everything appears to be going well, Woo-ryong’s nightmare is about to begin.

This fantasy movie is inspired by the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The legend dates back to the Middle Ages, describing a piper who dressed in multicoloured (which is the meaning behind ‘pied’) clothing.

The piper was hired by the town to lure rats away. We warn you; The Piper (2015) is the darker and more twisted version of the legend.

Watch the trailer here.

4.Will You Be There? (2016)

Soo-hyeon (Kim Yun-seok) is a successful physician who, during a humanitarian aid operation, saves the grandchild of an elder in Cambodia.

In return, he receives a few pills, which he tries when he is back in Korea.

As it turns out, these pills take him exactly 30 years back in time.

Knowing that he doesn’t have much time left due to a serious illness, he wants to meet his girlfriend Yeon-ah (Chae Seo-jin) who died in an accident (coincidentally) 30 years ago.

When he meets his younger self (Byun Yo-han), he realises that he can change the past.

As time runs out for him, can Soo-hyeon change his future by toying with the past?

Will You Be There? (2016) is based on the French novel, Seras-tu-la?, by Guillaume Musso.

Watch the trailer here.

5.The Phone (2015)

Here is another Korean fantasy movie about people wanting to rescue their dead loved ones.

A magnetic field anomaly allows a man to phone into the past to talk to his wife before she is murdered.

To save her, he has to identify the killer and warn her before the anomaly vanishes.

Through the phone call, the man enters a thrilling battle against time to rescue his wife.

This action thriller fantasy film is directed by Kim Bong-ju in his directorial debut.

It stars Son Hyun-joo, Uhm Ji-won and Bae Seong-woo.

Watch the trailer here.

6.The Restless (2016)

The Koreans believe that when a person dies, their soul spends 49 days in Jungcheon before their eternal fate is decided.

From there, they either go to heaven, hell or rebirth. And that is where accomplished demon hunter Yi Kwak finds himself as he lies on the edge of death.

Following his fiancee Yon-hwa’s tragic death, Yi enlisted with the royal squad of elite demon exterminators.

He enters Jungcheon where he finds Yon-hwa again. Unfortunately, she does not recognise him as she is a spirit of the afterlife now.

Moreover, she is deeply entangled in a great war between the white-clad warriors of reincarnation and a swarm of dark spirits determined to invade the living world.

The battle is desperately close to a terrifying ending, so Yi must draw his sword to defend the woman he loves.

To make matter worse, his deceased former mentor Banchu is the mastermind behind the demonic rebellion of dark spirits in Jungcheon.

Directed by Jo Dong-ho, The Restless (2006) stars Kim Tae-hee and Jung Woo-sung.

Watch the trailer here.

7.Psychokinesis (2018)

This movie is the first Korean superhero film. It is also director Yeon Sang-ho’s second live-action film after his live-action debut Train to Busan (2016).

It revolves around a bank security guard who gains telekinetic superpowers after drinking water from a mountain spring affected by a meteor.

Shin Seok-heon (Ryu Seung-ryong) then decides to use them for saving his estranged daughter and her neighbourhood from an evil construction company.

Many critics praised this movie saying it is one of the finest superhero movies of the decade.

Thrillist writer Karen Han stated, “The only pity is that Psychokinesis isn’t receiving a theatrical release outside of South Korea. Despite being about an ultimately mundane conflict, it’s filmed with the same energy and grand sense of scales as any recent blockbuster. Maybe it’s a little silly, but all superhero films are. Yeon is just the rare breed of director who knows how to turn that kind of genre stamp to his advantage.”

Watch the trailer here.

8.A Werewolf Boy (2012)

A mother moves with her daughters Sun-yi (Park Bo-young) and Sun-ja (Kim Hyang-gi) to a large home in the countryside.

They moved there under the advisement of her doctor as Sun-yi suffers from a lung ailment.

The home is provided by Ji-Tae (Yoo Yeon-Seok), the son of a business partner who worked with their deceased father.

While the family gets acclimated to their new surroundings, Sun-yi finds that a wild boy (Song Joong-ki) lives within a locked room in the barn.

At first, the family takes him in believing he is just an orphan with little social skills. Not everything in life appears like it seems, so is the boy hiding a secret?

The movie had its world premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema Section of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

Besides that, it was screened at the 17th Busan International Film Festival that year.

This movie is one of the most successful Korean melodrama movies of all time.

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A Werewolf Boy is definitely one of the must-watch Korean fantasy movies of all-time. Credits: Youtube

Watch the trailer here.

9.Heaven’s Postman (2009)

If you could write a letter to your loved one in heaven, what would you say?

Kim Jae-joong plays as Shin Jae-joon who used to be a promising young CEO of an IT company.

One day, he unexpectedly becomes a postman. His work? To deliver the letters grieving people have written to their loved ones in Heaven.

Eventually, Jae-joon comes across Hana, who writes a letter full of resentment to the dead man that she used to love.

So he proposes that Hana delivers responses which come back from Heaven. Then they both think up various ways to give peace and happiness to those who are alive and left behind, sometimes by writing the responses themselves.

It is a story of love and acceptance as well as finding closure in the sorrowful experiences of life.

10.Along with the Gods series

Along with the Gods movies series are definitely on our list of must-watch Korean fantasy movies.

This action film is directed by Kim Yong-hwa and based on a webtoon by Joo Ho-min.

It stars Ha Jung-woo, Cha Tae-hyun, Ju Ji-hoon and Kim Hyang-gi. The film was shot as one but presented in two parts.

The first part, Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds, was released on Dec 20, 2017.

In the meantime, the sequel,titled Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days, was released on Aug 1, 2018.

The third and fourth installment is currently in development with Kim Yong-hwa returning to direct the sequels.

As for the plot, the first movie follows a firefighter navigates the afterlife with the help of three grim reapers.

Meanwhile, the second film circles around the three grim reapers guiding their 49th soul. After guiding their 49th soul, only then they could gain reincarnation.

Overall, the storytelling, CGI, and especially the acting for both movies are all terrific. The second film broke the opening day record in South Korea with more than 1.2 million viewers on the first day of its release.

Watch the trailer here.

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The third and fourth of Along with The Gods are another two must-watch Korean fantasy movies. Credits: Youtube.

Do you have any favourite Korean fantasy movies? Let us know in the comment box.

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