Korean Films: We Aren’t All About Vengeance

It’s so easy to find [1][2][3]. Just google “list of Korean vengeance films” and you’ll find tons of comments that say something along the lines of:

Nobody does revenge films like South Korea.

Though that may be true at the moment, we are more than just a nation that exports vengeance that caters to what “international film” fans like to call “edgy” filmmaking. Yes, Oldboy and the whole Vengeance Trilogy were good, but these aren’t all of what our films are about. However, just look at how international film fans are going completely crazy about any vengeance film that gets released outside South Korea, as if films like The Chaser, Bedevilled or I Saw the Devil are the second coming.

The sad thing about it is that when these fans take a look at other examples of our cinema that don’t immediately fit the lines of a vengeance film — or let’s be forgiving and pretend people can make distinctions between J-Horror and K-Horror, as well — they never seem to label these films as “edgy” or groundbreaking. Why? Oh, it’s just another drama! It’s just another romantic comedy!

Even worse is when films get negatively labeled as melodramatic just because, as a predominantly Western audience, we are afraid of emotions and avoid them as if they may corrupt our souls.

Is it wrong to feel deeply affected by a war movie where two brothers get separated by the cruelty of destiny to fight each other in the Korean War on Taegukgi? Is it wrong to more than enjoy a movie about friendship like Take Care of my Cat or Sunny? Is it wrong to consider a romantic comedy a great piece of filmmaking in the case of My Sassy Girl or I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK? Certainly not.

Is it wrong to judge a movie’s sentimentalism when it’s actually a cultural thing, whether or not you show your over-dramatic feelings? Is everything supposed to be emotion free to be well regarded “internationally“? Maybe.

Maybe we should stop seeing foreign films with our foreign eyes and begin watching their films like they watch them. This is perhaps why an internationally acclaimed director such as Kim Ki-duk is hardly well-regarded in South Korea.

Part of the 2012 Korean Film Blogathon

Ghost Writer

Here. There. Everywhere. Punished soul that usually watches what nobody wants, but sometimes gets lucky.

1 Response

  1. October 1, 2013

    […] writes KOREAN FILMS: WE AREN’T ALL ABOUT VENGEANCE over at Yam […]

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