Pachinko—based on the New York Times bestselling novel of the same name—premiered on Apple TV+ last month. Starring Academy Award-winner Yuh-Jung Youn, Lee Minho, Jin Ha, and Minha Kim, Pachinko chronicles a Korean family across four generations who dream for more than their current social and financial circumstances provide.
So far, the show’s critical consensus is that its highly anticipated debut has lived up to book fans' and critics' lofty expectations. Notably, Rolling Stone asserts Pachinko is “technically impressive on all levels” and The Atlantic calls the new series “sublime.” Given the current hype around the Apple Plus show, you may be in search of more Korean drama media, especially ones that center narratives on family, romance, and/or women’s plight.
Thus, here are ten K-drama films to watch if you love(d) Pachinko.
The Handmaiden (2016), directed by Park Chan-wook, is a thrilling tale of (sapphic) love and revenge set in Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s. People will love this film for the historical fiction, unexpected plot twists, the development of romance despite class differences, and the satisfying liberation of the film’s central female characters.
Parasite (2019), directed by Bong Joon Ho, was an especially impactful K-drama film in the global west. After its debut, the film became a cultural phenomenon, going on to win Best International Feature Film, Best Director, and Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars. Similar to Pachinko, Parasite is about family, hope, class struggles in Korea, and the pursuit to overcome cyclical and generational poverty despite the inherent obstacles of a capitalist system.
A Tale of Two Sisters
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), directed by Jee-woon Kim, is a reimagining of a notable Korean folktale that follows a family haunted by tragic deaths that have happened within their lineage. At its core, this horror film is about overcoming generational trauma, the reuniting and subsequent separation of families, an exploration of mental illness and an examination of how our family history can haunt us.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Another film by Park Chan-wook, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) is the final film in an epic revenge trilogy that follows Lee Geum-ja (Yeong-ae Lee)—known to her cellmates as “the kind Ms. Geum-ja”—as she tracks down the people who betrayed her. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a woman-centered revenge plot on righting wrongs, forming a community to achieve justice, and reuniting with loved ones that were left behind.
Failan (2001), written and directed by Song Hae-sung, is a film adapted from the Japanese novel Love Letter that follows a woman who needs to gain legal citizenship so she enters into a marriage of convenience with a gangster. Failan is an unconventional story about love, longing, courage, class and citizenship, and maintaining hope in spite of bleak or unjust circumstances.
Never Forever (2007), directed by Gina Kim, is a critically-acclaimed romantic drama about an American woman who unsuspectedly falls in love with an immigrant worker despite her already being married to another man. The film is a heartfelt exploration on self-discovery and falling in love despite class divides.
Snowpiercer (2014) is another staple creation of Oscar-winning director Bong Joon Ho. This post-apocalyptic drama, based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, depicts an ice age that forces earth’s last survivors onto a super train that spans around the globe. This critically-acclaimed film is an examination of power, revolt, and achieving liberation at any cost.
High Society (2018), directed by Byun Huk, follows a married couple who considers trading their ethics for entry into the high society of South Korea. This film explores the intersection between morality, wealth, and power. And, ultimately, questions what it takes to transcend class divides and gain access to a world built on oppressive exclusivity.
The 2020 thriller Call, directed by Lee Chung-hyeon, depicts a serial killer who examines a woman’s past and subsequently puts her life on the line to change her fate. Call begs the question—how far would you go in taking your destiny into your own hands?
The Witch: Subversion
The Witch (2018), directed by Park Hoon- jung, explores a woman’s escape from a government facility after she’s lost her memory. 10 years later, the same woman appears on a televised competition to win money for her family. However, while on the show, faces from her past threaten to turn her life upside down.
This is a twisted tale of the cost of freedom, how an unresolved past can threaten one’s present and future, and what it sometimes takes to take care of the people you love when you have few resources.
The K-drama film and television industry is expansive, innovative, and simply entertaining. Apple Plus’ Pachinko may introduce many people to the wondrous story-telling and production of K-dramas, but hopefully, viewers and fans of the show don’t stop there.
As this list suggests, there are a plethora of worthy films to indulge your K-drama itch, all you have to do is pick a movie genre and let the binge-watching commence.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Image Credit: CJ Entertainment
Ebony Purks is a graduate student at the University of Incarnate Word working toward getting her Master’s degree in communications. She is also a freelance writer, interested in writing about pop culture, social justice, and health; especially examining the many intersections between those subjects.