14 Korean Movies You Probably Didn’t Know Were Based On True Stories

All have roots in the truth!

Some of the best and most gripping movies actually take their story from real life events. Although these movie plots sound like the stuff of imagination, they are actually rooted in the truth. From creepy crime stories to the more heartwarming tales, these Korean movies may just surprise you with their true background.


1. The Chaser

The dark thriller follows the story of a serial killer being chased by a corrupt former officer who has come into some financial difficulties. The serial killer character is actually based on a real-life, hammer-wielding killer who targeted women before he was finally captured by police. Fun fact: Prior to his arrest, the real killer was caught but was released after they thought he was a simple thief!


2. Northern Limit Line

The movie is set in 2002 and based on the real-life events of the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong. In the movie and in real life, a North Korean patrol boat crossed the northern limit line and was warned to turn back. Soon after a second boat crossed the line and began to threaten and harass the South Korean vessels. Eventually, shots were fired and the rest we’ll keep secret to avoid any spoilers!


3. Memories of Murder

Another thrilling crime story, “Memories of Murder” is based on the story of South Korea’s first serial killer. Although the movie doesn’t mention it, between 1986 and 1991, 10 women were found murdered in Hwaseong. But the movie does focus on the two detectives who were assigned to the case and who were ill-equipped to deal with the situation.


4. Silenced

“Silenced” also known as “The Crucible”, tells the story of hearing-impaired students who were abused for years before a newly-appointed teacher brings everything to light. In reality, this story is based on actual events that took place at a real school where deaf students were repeated victims of assaults by faculty members. It even depicts the later court proceedings that let the faculty off with minimal punishments. Fun fact: The movie prompted the immediate shut down of the school as well as a revised bill that abolished the statute of limitations against sex crimes against minors and the disabled.


5. Spy Myung Wol

This K-Drama tells the story of North Korean spy Han Myung Wol who infiltrates the South under orders to kidnap popular actor Kang Woo only to fall in love with him. While this plot seems like it would be nothing but pure imagination, there some truth to it. In 1977, a director and his actress wife were kidnapped to make North Korea’s film industry compete on the international stage!


6. My Father

The film tells the tale of an adopted son who is searching for his biological parents in South Korea. During his search, he meets his real father who is a condemned murderer on death role and decides to learn more about his father’s life and his own. And of course, its based on true events! Fun fact: The release of the film was controversial because the family of the victims related to the case didn’t support the production but upon its release, it topped box office charts.


7. The Admiral: Roaring Currents

This movie is set in 1597 when Japan attempted to invade Korea with a fleet of 300 ships. Korea, meanwhile, was severely outnumbered with only 12 ships but despite these odds, they went to battle! Like the others on this list, this was based on the very real battle that would end up going down in history as the Battle of Myeongnyang.


8. 71: Into The Fire

The story of 71 students who fought off hundreds of North Korean soldiers in front of a middle school during the Korean War definitely doesn’t sound like it could possibly be real but real it is!  For 11 hours, the group of students defended a local middle school which was a strategic point for safeguarding the Nakdong River perimeter.


9. Where The Truth Lies

Also known as “The Case of Itaewon Homicide” this film is based on the true story of the Itaewon murder case. The story absolutely shocked Korea when it first came to light. In the movie and in real life, a college student was found dead in an Itaewon Burger King. Two troubled U.S. teenagers became suspects for the case and the rest we’ll leave to you to find out!


10. Way Back Home

“Way Back Home” focuses on the true story of an ordinary Korean housewife who was imprisoned for 2 years in Martinique after being wrongfully accused of smuggling drugs at a Paris airport.


11. The President’s Last Bang

A 2005 satiric black comedy film about the events leading up to the assassination, as well as the aftermath of the event, of Park Chung Hee, the president of South Korea from 1963 to 1979. Fun fact: The portrayal of Park was so controversial that a lawsuit was filed and the court ordered 3 minutes and 50 seconds be censored from the film.


12. As One

“As One” is based on the real-life story of a South Korean and North Korean table tennis players who unite together to play in the 991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan. The movie portrays all the struggles they faced to come together into a united team.


13. Signal

The famous crime series is actually inspired by a few different real-life criminal cases in South Korea including the infamous Hwaseong serial murders that also inspired “Memories of Murder”!


14. Cart and Awl

In July 2007, a large discount store owned by a giant conglomerate fired its contract employees only to replace them with outsourced workers so they could bypass a law that required employees be given regular-worker status after a certain period of time. This real-life event actually inspired two different movies “Cart” and “Awl” that focused on two different perspectives of the event.

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