Help me find Korean pop culture
September 23, 2012 3:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm starting a Korean class next week, and I'd like to get a broader exposure to modern Korean media.

I want to get more exposure to the sound of spoken Korean, but also learn about Korean pop culture in the process (not K-pop, but the broader media landscape of film, music, etc). Right now it's mostly genre films:

Most of Chan-Wook Park's films (Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, I'm A Cyborg But That's OK, Thirst)
Ditto Bong Joon-Ho (Barking Dogs Never Bite, Memories of Murder, The Host, Mother)
A few Kim Ji-Woon films (A Tale of Two Sisters; The Good, The Bad, The Weird; I Saw the Devil)
Save the Green Planet
Some uncategorizable stuff (the bizarro animated movie Aachi & Ssipak, Kim Jong-Il's juche kaiju movie Pulgasari)

There's a surprisingly huge selection of Korean melodramas/soap operas on Hulu, but I'm not really sure which if any are entertaining in their own right for someone largely unfamiliar with the larger cultural context.

By all means, feel free to suggest stuff outside of film/TV/music so long as it's relatively accessible- I'm willing to try pretty much anything.
posted by Merzbau to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I watched a show called Pasta on Hulu. For someone who also has no background in Korean language or culture, I found it easy to follow and entertaining and pretty cute.

I'll be following this thread to see what other people suggest too..
posted by bleep at 3:30 PM on September 23, 2012

I can't seem to recommend City Hunter enough. It's because of this show that I'm itching to learn more about Korean culture and to learn the language.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:32 PM on September 23, 2012

What you want is Drama Fever. Most of the content on Hulu is actually by way of them.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:33 PM on September 23, 2012

Check out Dramabeans for recommendations!

I can't really deal with love triangle melodrama nonsense, but I thoroughly enjoyed Coffee Prince. It caused a stir at the time it came out, and to this day most of my Korean students have seen it, as well. It's so popular that there's actually a tie-in cafe somewhere in Japan right now.
posted by wintersweet at 3:35 PM on September 23, 2012

Seconding City Hunter, it is totally entertaining in its own right! Wouldn't surprise me if they do an American remake of it like they typically do with the really successful Asian films. It has an action/revenge-centric plotline but it's also quite lighthearted and there is a romance subplot too. It's quite big budget looking as well with some great settings and fight scenes.

I can also recommend "Secret Garden", despite the corny name it is actually very entertaining and probably one of the best made Korean dramas. The two leads are are an arrogant rich guy and a hardworking humble girl (which describes probably 90% of all K-dramas) but the twist is they somehow switch bodies leading to some deliciously awkward scenes. I know it sounds cheesy but don't judge it off my description, it's really worth watching!

Both of these are on Netflix streaming as well as the other services mentioned.
posted by pravit at 3:45 PM on September 23, 2012

I enjoyed Midas, which is a revenge drama revolving around financial shenanigans such as stock market manipulation.

Given your aims, though, instead of Korean dramas I would suggest watching Korean variety shows such as Running Man, Infinite Challenge, or 1 Night 2 Days.

(The recent Korean cable breakout hit Answer Me 1997 manages to provide a fantastic history of k-pop while telling its story of high school friends growing into adulthood, but since most of the dialogue is spoken in strong Busan / Gyeongsang dialect, it would be hard to follow for those new to the Korean language. The production company even uploaded some clips of the show to YouTube that were subtitled in standard Korean.)
posted by needled at 5:03 PM on September 23, 2012

How about some Kim Ki-duk? 3-Iron? Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.. and Spring?
posted by koucha at 7:44 PM on September 23, 2012

My brother told me to recommend Attack the Gas Station because he's too broke for a MeFi account.
posted by mkb at 8:28 PM on September 23, 2012

Welcome to Dongmakgol! It's like Saving Private Ryan meets Amelie. One of my favorite movies.
posted by danceswithlight at 8:32 PM on September 23, 2012

Thanks everyone; keep 'em coming!

I actually forgot to mention Attack the Gas Station in the OP- I haven't gotten to it yet, but the DVD's been sitting in my to-watch pile for about a week now.

City Hunter, Secret Garden, Running Man and Infinite Challenge all look promising. And thanks for bringing up Kim Ki-duk, koucha- I'd totally forgotten about 3-Iron. Adding that to my list right away.

Are any manwha titles regarded as classics or must-reads? Obviously I'd have to find those in translation, and would learn nothing about the spoken language and (unless I found a scanlation that included it) next to nothing about Hangul, but I'm a big comics nerd and it'll be interesting to see how the scene compares to other countries' graphic storytelling. The same goes for novels in English translation.
posted by Merzbau at 9:00 PM on September 23, 2012

All of the major Korean TV networks stream live and VOD. They include MBC, KBS, SBS, and more, but that should get your started. Those work from inside Korea -- I'm not sure if they'll work overseas as well, but they might.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:56 AM on September 24, 2012

I have a small passion for Korean historical dramas, such as The Great Queen Seondeok which is now available on Netflix streaming (YAY). It won't give you much in the way of contemporary idiom, but it is still pretty awesome.
posted by catlet at 6:33 AM on September 24, 2012

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