Despite the fact that we all have our favorite Hollywood rom-coms, they might get old after a while. Then this is when South Korean cinemas come into the picture. South Korea, the media superpower of East Asia, is home to several romantic movies in addition to beautiful TV dramas. Among other notable qualities, South Korean movies have always been renowned for their soulfulness and the performers’ compelling performances.
Moreover, the massive volume of thrillers that the Korean cinema industry cranks out each year often crushes romantic ones, hence it would be a fantastic time for this genre to resurrect with ten of its shining examples from the 2000s.
‘More Than Blue’ (2009)
More Than Blue follows Kang Chul-Gyu (aka K) and Eun-won (aka Cream) two orphans who meet in high school and quickly form a bond. Yet he pushes her to marry a good and healthy man since K has terminal cancer, which he keeps from Cream. As a result, Cream eventually develops feelings for another man, but only because she wants K to be happy and since she has known about his condition the entire time.
Apart from its 2019 remake, More Than Blue is still a great original romantic film despite employing the same cancer and love motif. With a superb use of soundtrack and characters’ emotions that may remain in viewers for days after it concludes, More Than Blue is one of South Korea’s landmark romance movies of the decade.
‘The Classic’ (2003)
The 2003 melodrama features Son Ye-jin from the 2019 TV hit drama, Crash Landing on You and was directed by Kwak Jae-Yong of My Sassy Girlanother film on this list. The Classic explores the parallel love stories of a mother and her daughter, starting with the time the daughter, played by Ye-jin, discovers a collection of old letters that explain the events of her mother’s life.
The parallel narrative format contrasts the mother and daughter’s beliefs and behaviors as they experience two distinct historical and social eras which give the movie more depth. Despite having numerous clichés and anachronisms with an easily predictable plot, The Classic nevertheless deserves to be regarded as a classic melodrama due to the stellar performance of the cast, lovely romantic aspects as well as the outstanding storytelling.
‘My Sassy Girl’ (2001)
An actual narrative presented in a series of blog postings by Kim Ho-Sikwho later turned them into a fictional novel, served as the inspiration for Kwak Jae-Yong’s 2001 South Korean rom-com My Sassy Girl. The plot centers on Kyun-woo (Cha Tae-Hyun) and an unnamed girl (Jun Ji-Hyun) who fall in love but end up breaking up; As a result, they write each other love notes and bury them in a time capsule.
This 2001 love comedy, which was compared to Titanic and helped start the Korean Wave, was a huge hit throughout East Asia. The success of the film is attributed to a straightforward yet amusing screenplay, a cheesy but heartfelt love story with important lessons about accepting love to defeat destines. Several remakes of the film have since been released, including one from Hollywood in 2009.
‘Two Faces of My Girlfriend’ (2007)
Two Faces of My Girlfriend follows Gu-Chang (Bong Tae-Gyu), a 30-year-old virgin who has never had a girlfriend and is struggling financially. However, after meeting A-Ni (Jung Ryeo-Won), his entire world is turned upside down until he notices that the woman he is seeing is a bit different. Turns out that A-Ni appears to suffer from a split personality disorder.
Despite the year it was released, the film depicts mental health difficulties in a beautiful and accurate manner. Moreover, Jung Ryeo-Won hones her acting skills by clearly differentiating between her characters and increasing viewers’ interest in the movie. Lastly, the unbelievable chemistry between the lead actors, and the extraordinarily talented supporting actors are also reasons to visit this gem.
Another romantic masterpiece from filmmaker Kwak Jae-Yong is called Windstruckand it shares a theme with My Sassy Girl: a strong female lead. The film depicts Yeo Kyung-jin (Jun Ji-Hyun), a powerful and ambitious police officer who accidentally arrests Go Myung-woo (Jang Hyuk), a physics teacher while trying to catch a thief. The two eventually fall in love, but then the tragedy begins.
Windstruck ties viewers’ emotions with surprising turns and emotional scenarios in addition to its hilarious or romantic aspects, amazing action scenes, and magnificent scenery. Moreover, similar to her previous role in My Sassy GirlJeon Ji Hyun once again plays a woman with extreme dedication, respect, and talent that made the entire crew cry.
‘My Girlfriend is an Agent’ (2009)
My Girlfriend is an Agentwhich combines romance, comedy, and action, has the same vibe as Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The film centers on two ex-lovers who are both working on a covert mission to infiltrate the Russian mob and prevent them from using a biological weapon in Korea. The two must intervene behind each other’s backs to salvage the day while navigating a rocky romance.
My Girlfriend is an Agent is an action film that not only features furious action and car chasing sequences but also humorous and clever moments. Additionally, with the intrinsic romance of South Korean films, the spectator will experience a sense of suspense, comfort, and satisfaction, particularly in the scene where the leading couple practice sword fighting together.
‘I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK’ (2006)
I’m a Cyborg, but that’s OK is a funny and fascinating romance movie directed by Park Chan-wookwho is best known for his Vengeance Trilogy. The movie is set in a mental hospital with Cha Young-goon (Lim Soo-Yung) believing she is a cyborg while Park Il-soon (Rain) has been admitted to the hospital for kleptomania and antisocial behavior. Despite the evident difficulties of institutionalization, the two develop a unique romance.
I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK is a fantastic diversion for moviegoers searching for a change from popular romances. The usage of colors in the film is a significant highlight that gives the overall feeling of the picture a bright and welcoming sense. Furthermore, the film also left a lasting effect thanks to its poignant messages about human connection and sincere sympathy for mental health patients.
‘A Moment to Remember’ (2004)
A Moment to Remember centers on Kim Su-jin (Son Ye-jin), a wealthy woman who fell in love with Choi Chul-soo (Jung Woo-sung) because of his rough-and-tumble personality. After they were married, Kim Su-jin developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Choi decides to be at her side the entire time while her condition deteriorates.
The script of A Moment To Remember is hardly original, and it reminds viewers of numerous other well-known Hollywood movies that also deal with similar subjects. However, the movie swiftly wins the hearts of the audience thanks to the stunning cinematography, the natural chemistry between the actor, as well as the sweeping and liberal soundtrack.
‘Castaway on the Moon’ (2009)
After a failed suicide attempt, Kim Seong-Geun (Jung Jae-young) washes up on a deserted island in the middle of a river where he was spotted by an introverted young woman (Jung Ryeo-won) whose hobby is taking photos of the moon. The two eventually establish a deep connection through a unique exchange of messages in bottles, sand scribbles, and jajangmyeon (black bean paste noodles).
The script by director Lee Hae-Jun balances humor, hopelessness, and absurdity with a surprisingly melancholy ending made amusing by the film’s rich physical humor, snappy cinematography, and brief fantasy sequences. Additionally, Castaway on the Moon uses humor to criticize grave and alarming societal issues like antisocial conduct, the stigma associated with suicide behavior, and psychosis.
‘Il Mare’ (2000)
Il Mare portrays a “time-transcending love” between a woman named Eun-Joo (Jun Ji-Hyun) and a man named Sung-Hyun (Lee Jung-Jae). Despite never residing together, the two shared the same coastal house, Il Mare. After beginning exchanging letters, they start to fall in love with one another over time.
In contrast to more boisterous romantic comedies like My Sassy Girl, Il Mare presents a peaceful, contemplative perspective on relationships. Moreover, the movie is well-known for its stunning scenery and cinematography, which give it a dreamy feel. Despite being a box office failure, Il Mare earned enough fame to inspire a US remake, The Lake Housestarring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in 2006.
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