Did you know that Valentine’s Day in South Korea is a bit different from Valentine’s Day elsewhere in world? In fact, Valentine’s Day is one of 12 “love days” celebrated on the 14th of every month in Korea. These days range from the popular (White Day, 14th March) or depressing (Black Day, 14th April), to the bizarre (Hug Day, 14th December) and everything else in between.
In any case, Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated in Korea, just like everywhere else in the world. But unlike it being a catch-all holiday like it is in the rest of the world, on 14th Feb, women give chocolate to men as a sign of affection. Men who receive these gifts will give a gift in return on “White Day”.
In the recent years, however, retailers have begun targeting not only women but also men. Hence, many stores put heavy focus on advertising chocolates just before Valentine’s Day. Of course, many advertisers capitalise on both Valentine’s Day and White Day by anchoring in early season sales of jewellery, sweets, lingerie, and other sentimental gifts.
This Valentine’s Day, however, we’re going to do something different but at the same time, Korean-themed. Instead of chocolates (or jewellery, or sweets, or lingerie), we’ve rounded up some of our favourite romantic Korean movies to share with all y’all 😉
From the ones that will make you laugh until you beg for mercy to the ones that will reduce you to choking back on your tears, enjoy:
Christmas In August aka 8월의 크리스마스 (1998)
Somewhere in Seoul, Jung-Won (played by Han Suk-Kyu) runs a small shabby photo studio. A humble shack passed down from his widower father, the studio is a space where Jung-Won goes about with his daily routine of dealing with fussy customers, enlarging photos of class heartthrobs for the neighbourhood kids and photographing pictures to place on funeral altars.
For Jung-Won, life seems to be a series of peaceful events, but in reality his time on earth is too limited for comfort. Barely in his mid-30’s but perhaps too aware of the meaning of death, Jung-Won accepts his fate despite the subtle gestures of concern coming form his old father and younger sister. Life goes on as usual until one day he meets Darim (played by Shim Eun-Ha) who works at the Traffic Control Division of the local district office is a regular customer at the studio.
Her daily visits to develop snapshots of parking violations and her somewhat bold attempts to capture his attention stirs a feeling inside Jung-Won with which he deals in anticipation. As his health gradually deteriorates, Jung-Won is faced with the painful duty of bidding farewell to family, friends, to the studio and to Darim.
Il Mare aka 시월애 (2000)
In 1997, architect Sung-Hyun (played by Lee Jung-Jae) moves into the home “Il Mare” that his estranged father built. One day, he pulls out a letter from his mailbox. The letter is from a young woman who addresses the new occupant of the “Il Mare” house. Sung-Hyun is surprised because he is the only person to have moved into the home. More letters arrive and in those letters her predictions are accurate. She warns about a flurry of snow on a certain day in January of 1998 and an ensuing flu virus.
Eun-Joo (played by Jun Ji-Hyun) is convinced that her letter has traveled back in time to December of 1997 and starts writing regularly to Sung-Hyun. Eun-Joo decides to ask Sung-Hyun to find her cassette recorder, which she lost at a train station. Sung-Hyun goes to the train station and gets a glimpse of Eun-Joo.
Failain aka 파이란 (2001)
In a corner of the neigbourhood electronic game room sits Kang-jae (played by Choi Min-Sik), the man bumming around with a cigarette butt in his mouth. His old friend from the heydays of ruling the backstreets has become boss of a crime organisation while he was merely endowed with a small video shop for his contributions to organised crime. Even this meagre business mostly constituted of selling porn videos to teenage delinquents is as unstable as his fighting skills.
The only time his mucous-ridden, bloodshot eyes brighten up is when he is sitting in front of the game machine…this is what makes him not just a browbeat but a ‘third rate’ browbeat.
An incident inadvertently forces Kang-jae to sign a life-risking contract with the boss of a major gang, a difficult decision but one that Kang-jae believed would help him return home triumphantly. Then out of the blue, he receives a letter:
Kang-jae…thank you for everything. With your help, I’ve been able to continue working in Korea. Everyone here is so kind. But you are the kindest of them all. Because you have married me.
After a brief moment of confusion, Kang-jae remembers the time when he went through a fake marriage for a few bucks. The warmth Kang-jae was feeling from the letter takes him into unfamiliar territory.
My Sassy Girl aka 엽기적인 그녀 (2001)
Gyun-Woo (played by Cha Tae-Hyun) is a college student, more interested in picking up girls, drinking with his buddies and avoiding his nagging mother whenever possible. While riding the subway, a drunken girl (played by Jun Ji-Hyun) then changes his fate forever. She’s nearly unconscious on the train and vomits on an older guy. She then leans over to Gyun-Woo and everybody assumes she is his girlfriend!
Gyun-Woo soon finds himself in a relationship he didn’t ask for, but soon unable to forget this sassy girl.
Windstruck aka 내 여자친구를 소개합니다 (2004)
Also known as the less popular prequel to “My Sassy Girl”, Windstruck centres on a story about female police officer Kyung-Jin (played by Jun Ji-Hyun) who spots a purse snatcher fleeing on foot. She’s off-duty, but gives chase anyways. Kyung-Jin arrests a man named Myung-Woo (played by Jang Hyuk), who she mistakes for the purse snatcher. The two are then paired together to patrol an area popular with underage students.
Love soon blooms for the couple.
A Moment To Remember aka 내 머리속의 지우개 (2004)
27-year-old fashion designer Soo-Jin (played by Son Ye-Jin) goes into a convenience store to buy a Coke, but accidentally leaves it on the counter. Remembering the Coke, Soo-Jin walks back to the store and sees a man (played by Jung Woo-Sung) walking out of the store with a can of Coke. Soo-Jin, believing the drink is hers, snatches it from the man’s hand and downs the drink in one gulp. Later on the bus, Soo-Jin remembers that she also left her wallet at the convenience store. When goes back to retrieve her wallet, the clerk hands her the wallet and the can of Coke she left behind. Oops.
One day, while surveying a construction site that her father is in charge of, Soo-Jin sees the same man she mistakenly believed took her drink. The man’s name is Chul-Soo and is he the foreman at the construction site. Soo-Jin begins to fall for Chul-Soo and begins to woo him. A relationship develops and Soo-Jin and Chul-Soo eventually marries.
Life seems great for the couple, but Soo-Jin’s forgetfulness worsens and she soon learns she a rare form of Alzheimer’s.
200 Pounds Beauty aka 미녀는 괴로워 (2006)
Han-Na (played by Kim A-Joong) is a very large girl with a warm heart. She also possesses an unbelievable voice. Han-Na wants to become a pop-singer, but due to her extra-large appearance, can only work as a faceless singer. She provides the vocals for a popular singer named Amy (played by Ji Seo-Yun), a beautiful young lady that can’t carry a note to save her life.
Han-Na is also in love with Amiys music producer, Sang-Joon (played by Joo Jin-Mo), but it’s a one-sided love. One day, Han-Na is invited to Sang-Joon’s birthday party and receives a red dress from him to wear to his party. Han-Na is excited, yet scared. The dress is revealing and quite extravagant. With her very large figure, she is not sure if she can wear such an outfit. Han-Na does eventually go to the birthday party in the red dress, but is mortified when petite Amy appears in the same red dress. During the course of the birthday party, Han-Na absorbs more emotional trauma and she simply disappears for one year.
Han-Na then returns as the beautiful Jenny.
More Than Blue aka 슬픔보다 더 슬픈 이야기 (2009)
K (played by Kwon Sang-Woo), a radio producer who loves a woman named Cream (played by Lee Bo-Young), is told that he has only a few months left to live. Because he knows Cream’s biggest fear is to be left alone, he keeps his illness a secret and urges her to marry a guy named Ju-Hwan (played by Lee Beom-Soo). One day, Cream announces that she is in love with Ju-Hwan.
Daisy aka 데이지 (2011)
Set in Amsterdam, Daisy tells the story of a love triangle between a young girl and the two men in her life. Hye-young (played by Jun Ji-Hyun) is a painter in Amsterdam who looks after her grandfather’s antique shop during the week and earns extra money as a street painter on weekends. It’s through her painting that she meets Jeong-woo (played by Lee Sung-jae), an Interpol cop who is chasing a criminal, but keeps Hye-young in the dark about his real work. The other man, Park Yi (played by Jung Woo-sung), is a hit-man who found a soft spot for her and watches her from afar for some time.
However, being shy and ever mindful of the dangers of his professional career Park Yi can only make small gestures to her while still staying in the shadows. Hye-young is dying to meet the man who leaves flowers on her doorstep every day, and built a bridge over a stream for her after she once fell in. Both men try to woo her from afar while still hiding their identities, as she remains alone but moved by these incredible gestures to her. It’s only a matter of time before the hit-man and Interpol agent cross paths and things really begin to unravel in this action-fueled romance story.
Architecture 101 aka 건축학개론 (2012)
35-year-old architect Seung-Min (played by Uhm Tae-Woong) receives a visit at his office from a woman. Seung-Min doesn’t recognise the woman at first, but then realises the woman is Seo-Yeon (played by Han Ga-In). Seo-Yeon is his first love, but he hasn’t seen her since his freshman year in college. Seo-Yeon now has a request. She wants to hire Seung-Min to rebuild her home on Jeju Island.
15 years ago, Seung-Min (Lee Je-Hoon) is a naive young man beginning his architecture studies in college. He first meets Seo-Yeon (played by Bae Suzy) in his Architecture 101 class. As they work on a class project together, Seung-Min and Seo-Yeon begin to fall in love.
Back to the present day, Seung-Min is hesitant to take Seo-Yeon’s job offer. Seo-Yeon persists and even goes to his boss with her wish. Seung-Min now has no choice, but to take on Seo-Yeon’s home project. Old memories of love and heartbreak will soon resurface, as they find themselves at different junctions in their lives.
That’s all we’ve got, peeps. What were some of your favourites? Were they on the list too or did we not include them? Let us know which ones you simply will not have enough of until today and maybe even after this Valentine’s Day 😉