In the past decade, Korean cinema has had a breakthrough moment in the U.S., as viewers discover films from Train to Busan and Parasite to Burning and Decision to Leave. 2023 is already racking up to be another great year for K-content fans, with Netflix contributing several Korean films to its largest Korean lineup yet, including some long-awaited action films and a feature-length documentary on the early career of Bong Joon-ho. Meanwhile, acclaimed films like Return to Seoul and Past Lives are exploring the lives of Korean women from across the globe.
Read on to discover the Korean films coming to U.S. theaters and streaming platforms this year. (If you're looking for the best Korean movies on Netflix or the best Korean movies of 2022 that are already available to watch, we've got guides to those too.)
This dystopian Korean thriller from Train to Busan and Hellbound director Yeon Sang-ho takes place on a 22nd century Earth that's no longer inhabitable due to climate change. In the middle of desolation, a war between survivors breaks out in the humans' only shelter. The only way to win and end the war lies in cloning the legendary mercenary JUNG_E (played by Kim Hyun-joo) into an immortal robot.
This thriller adaptation of the Japanese film Stolen Identity is any tech-obsessed woman's worst nightmare. One day on her way home from work, Na-mi (Be Melodramatic's Chun Woo-hee) loses her smartphone and it's returned by Jun-yeong (Run On's Yim Si-wan), after he installs spyware. The stranger begins tracking her everyday life and eventually approaches her while concealing his identity. Around the same time that Na-mi's ordinary life spins out of control, Jun-yeong's father, police detective Ji-man (Kim Hee-won), finds traces at his son at a crime scene.
The titular Bok-soon of this action thriller lives a double life. Played by Crash Course in Romance star Jeon Do-yeon, the woman is both the mother of a teenage daughter and a legendary professional killer with a 100 percent success rate. Caught between "the mission of killing someone and the mission of raising someone," Boksoon is thrown into a kill-or-be-killed confrontation after she refuses to complete an assignment. Sol Kyung-gu (Yaksha: Ruthless Operations), Esom (Taxi Driver), and Koo Kyo-hwan (D.P.) also star.
'The Point Men'
Hyun Bin (Crash Landing on You) leads this action flick's stacked cast, which also includes Hwang Jung-min (Narco-Saints) and Kang Ki-young (Extraordinary Attorney Woo). Based on true events that took place in 2007, the film follows efforts to rescue a group of Korean tourists taken hostage by a terrorist group in Afghanistan. When skilled negotiator Jae-ho (Hwang) struggles to handle the situation diplomatically, he has to team up with special agent Dae-sik (Hyun) and work against a ticking clock to rescue the hostages.
'The Devil's Deal'
This intense political thriller set in Busan in 1992 follows the confrontation and collaboration between politicians and gangsters. Assemblymember candidate Hae-woong (Cho Jin-woong) thinks that he's guaranteed to win his upcoming election, when his party, influenced by businessman Soon-tae (Lee Sung-min), decides to back a different candidate. A humiliated Hae-woog stays in the race as an independent, enlisting the help of loan shark gang leader (Kim Moo-yul Pil-do (Kim Moo-yeol). As the election goes on, both sides turn to illegal and violent means in order to ensure their victory.
'Project Wolf Hunting'
This gruesome prison-break thriller follows a group of convicts aboard a cargo ship, who coordinate an escape attempt that turns into a full-out riot. As they fight their way through the chaos, both the guards and the criminals, led by serial killer Park Jang-du (Seo In-guk), also have to avoid being killed by a mysterious monster stowed below. Jang Dong-yoon (The Tale of Nokdu), Park Ho-san (True Beauty), and Jung So-min (Alchemy of Souls) also star.
'Return to Seoul'
This acclaimed dramatic film finally hits theaters next month, after a year on the film festival circuit. It follows Freddie (Ji-min Park), a 25-year-old who returns to South Korea, the country of her birth, for the first time since she was adopted and raised in France. What started as an impulsive trip to visit friends becomes an unexpected and journey to track down her biological parents in the country she knows so little about.
This thrilling adaptation of the 2016 Spanish movie The Invisible Guest centers on Yoo Min-ho (So Ji-sub), the successful CEO of an IT company who wakes up in a hotel room to find that his mistress, Se-hee (Nana), has been murdered. Though the door was locked from the inside and there's no sign of an intruder, Min-ho insists that he's innocent and he hires superstar lawyer Yang Shin-ae (Kim Yoon-jin) to prove it. The classic crime noir plot is elevated by the cast's excellent performances, and flashbacks that call into question whether Min-ho's telling the whole truth.
Outgoing Mi-so (Kim Da-mi) and introverted Ha-eun (Jeon So-nee) couldn't be more different, but they become fast friends when they meet at 13-years-old on Jeju Island. This gorgeous film, adapted from the Chinese film of the same name, follows the pair over the next 14 years of meeting and parting, friendship and love, longing and jealousy. Byeon Woo-seok also stars as their teenage classmate Jin-woo.
Premiere: March 15 in limited theaters
This feature-film debut of Korean-Canadian playwright Celine Song has been racking up stellar reviews since making its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. It follows two long-lost childhood friends, as Nora (Greta Lee) reunites with Hae Sung (Love to Hate You's Teo Yoo) years after her family's emigration from South Korea tore them apart. As the married Nora and visiting Hae Sung wander the streets of New York City, they wonder what their lives would be like if they chose one another.
Premiere: June 2 in theaters
This sequel to the hit 2018 crime action flick Believer will bring back a stacked cast led by Jo Jin-woong (Signal) and Cha Seung-won (Our Blues). Believer 2 will follow police detective Won-ho (Jo) as he teams up with Brian (Cha) and other gang members as he continues his mission to track down Mr. Lee, the head of Asia's biggest drug cartel. Happiness and W star Han Hyo-joo will also join the sequel as Big Knife, another shady character who knows the true identity of Mr. Lee.
Premiere: TBA on Netflix
Money Heist: Korea stars Jeon Jong-seo and Kim Ji-hoon will reunite in this revenge-based action thriller. Ok-ju (Jeon) is a former bodyguard who's friends with ballerina Min-hee (Drive My Car's Park Yurim). When Min-hee asks for a favor, Ok-ju seeks revenge on the mysterious Choi (Kim) on her friend's behalf.
Premiere: TBA on Netflix
This biopic is based on the true story of the careers of master Go player Cho Hun-Hyun (played by Squid Game's Lee Byung-hun) and his protégé-become-rival Lee Chang-ho (Hellbound's Yoo Ah-in). The Grand Slam winner took in his student when the younger was just ten years old, with Chang-ho working tirelessly to surpass his expert teacher. Their rivalry later comes to a head in the match of a lifetime, played at a time when the game of Go was more popular than the World Cup. (For anyone unfamiliar, Go is the game of black and white stones that was featured in The Glory and the first Knives Out.)
Premiere: TBA on Netflix
'Yellow Door: Looking for Director Bong's Unreleased Short Film' (Working Title)
Netflix is dipping its toe into the world of Korean documentaries this year, with a film exploring the early career of Oscar-winning Parasite director Bong Joon-ho. When he was a university student in the early 1990s, Bong made his first-ever film, a 22-minute stop-motion short called Looking For Paradise. The film was screened for 10 members of cinephile club Yellow Door on Christmas 1992, and has never been seen since. Yellow Door will follow director Lee Hyuk-rae's quest for the beloved director's unreleased film.
Premiere: TBA on Netflix
This sweet college rom-com has a sci-fi twist, telling two love stories across different timelines. In 1999, Kim Yong (Yeo Jin-goo) has just returned to school after completing his military service when he meets his first love, Han-sol (Kim Hye-yoon). In 2022, Mo-nee (Cho Yi-hyun) is a sophomore of the same university, who has a secret crush on her best guy friend Young-ji (Na In-woo). During a total lunar eclipse in both years, Yong and Mo-hee are able to communicate with one another across time through an old ham radio, and begin to share their love stories with each other.
This sports comedy centers a team of inexperienced players trying out for the Homeless World Cup, an international soccer tournament. They're led by Yoon Hong-dae (Park Seo-joon), a hot-headed professional player who becomes coach of the thrown-together team as part of his disciplinary probation. As he gets to know the group of underdogs, Hong-dae learns how to become a true leader. IU also stars as documentary producer Lee So-min, who documents the team's journey all the way to the competition in Hungary.
'The Roundup: No Way Out'
This third installment of the Crime City series—after 2017's The Outlaws and last year's The Roundup—pits "beast cop" Ma Seok-do (Train to Busan's Don Lee) against Joo Seong-cheol (Stranger's Lee Joon-hyuk), a conglomerate heir who teams up with Japanese mob boss Riki (Munetaka Aoki) to commit heinous crimes across Korea.
Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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