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6 Must-See Movies for Americans Stationed in Korea

Over the past few decades, the Korean film industry has made major waves in the global market, with recent films such as Parasite captivating global audiences. Camp Humphreys, South Korea is the largest overseas U.S. military base, and Osan Air Base and USAG Daegu and Yongsan serving sizable communities, so many military members and their families get the unique opportunity to see some of the themes depicted in Korean cinema up close and personal.

Movies not only provide entertainment, but they offer insights into a nation's history, culture, and customs, and can be a great way to learn more about a nation. For any military kid stationed overseas, I highly recommend watching some of your host nation's films to gain a deeper appreciation for your temporary home. I recently concluded three years at Camp Humphreys, and found Korean cinema to not only be highly enjoyable, but also highly educational as I explored the country and learned more about its past and its people. Here are six of my favorite Korean movies that you, too, can learn from during your time in the land of the morning calm.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Extreme Job (2019)

This action-packed comedy was actually the first Korean movie I ever watched, and it immediately had me craving some fried chicken. The story follows five misfit cops who go undercover as the owners of a fried chicken restaurant in a hilarious attempt to catch a notorious drug dealer. While this selection is more entertaining than educational, it does provide a small glimpse into Korea's food culture, as fried chicken places are on practically every block.

Photo Credit: IMDB

The Way Home (2002)

If you go anywhere in Korea, you'll see a lot of elderly people sitting at the market, walking down the street, or relaxing at a park. The Way Home provides a glimpse into the life of one such Halmoni (grandmother) who lives a very simple, old-fashioned life in the country. The film focuses on her relationship with her grandson, a spoiled little boy who comes to live with his grandmother for a time while his mother looks for work in the big city. Not only will The Way Home warm your heart, but it will also change the way you look at the older generation as you pass them on the streets of Korea.

Photo Credit: IMDB

The Throne (2015)

If you drive about half an hour from Camp Humphreys or Osan Air Base, you'll find the bustling city of Suwon with its magnificent Hwaseong Fortress and Temporary Palace. Though splendid in architecture and decor, the real-life story behind the fortress is anything but. The Throne recounts the tragic true tale of Crown Prince Sado, whose political imprisonment and execution at the hands of his father inspired his son to build the fortress and palace near his grave so that he could visit his dead father.

Photo Credit: IMDB

The Last Princess (2016)

Like The Throne, The Last Princess offers another look at Korea's tragic history. This film is a fictionalized account of the trials of Princess Deokhye, the last princess of the Great Han Empire, who was forced into exile in Japan during the Japanese Occupation of Korea. The Occupation period played a major role in the shaping of modern Korea, and there is still a lot of resentment toward Japan due to the atrocities that were committed. You'll also want to visit Deoksugung and Changdeokgung Palaces in Seoul to get the real history behind the movie, as well as to see some of the depicted historical sites.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Ode to My Father (2014)

Ode to My Father is a heart-wrenching account of the aftermath of one of the nation's most well-known events: The Korean War. Beginning in the middle of the conflict and following one man's journey for 60 years up to the present day, the film is a touching tribute to the struggles of the older generation that lived through the war and endured so much turmoil before Korea became a modern world power. You'll definitely need tissues for this epic drama, as the sacrifices and struggles of the main character highlight the courage many Koreans have displayed throughout the past several decades.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Train to Busan (2016)

Chances are you've heard of Train to Busan, as it is one of the most popular Korean movies in America. Unlike most of my other selections, this one isn't historical or educational, but it's a pretty neat look at modern Korea, especially if you're living in it. Now, before you turn this one away because it's a "zombie movie," you should know that I'm not a fan of horror or anything scary or gruesome. HOWEVER, this movie is so good that it won me over; not only are the zombies unlike anything you've seen in an American film, but there is a surprising amount of heart and social commentary packed into this thriller.

Like I said earlier, these are only six of the films I really, really liked, and I am by no means a cinema addict or expert. There are so many other great movies out there other than films spoken in English, and I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try any movie from another country! Movies offer a unique perspective into our beautiful, diverse world, and can help you become a more informed citizen of our planet.


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