If you thought Korean movies are all about fluffy romances or menacing zombies think again! There are several action-packed Korean war movies that will leave you thrilled.
Most people, especially in the west are unaware of South Korea’s political history and only know vaguely about the North Korea-South Korean conflict.
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But the Korean war is one of the most important parts of world history. Korea, which was under Japanese occupation during the second world war also had a part to play during that troubled time.
And there are several Korean military movies that have been made on these subjects too!
So if you want to watch an adrenaline-raising action movie while also getting schooled on Korean history, there’s nothing better than these best Korean war movies.
Korean War Movies 2021
I’ve picked out some of my favorite Korean war movies that are also highly critically acclaimed.
Release Date: 2017
Starring: Jung Woo-sung, Kwak Do-won
Directed By: Yang Woo-suk
Our Rating: 8.5/10
What I like about Korean war movies is that they aren’t just action flicks. They tell a layered story with pointed criticisms and commentary on real-world politics.
Steel Rain shows how a ruthless American Administration doesn’t hesitate to put Korean lives on the line when it gives South Korea just 48 hours to resolve a conflict with North Korea.
The movie follows a North Korean Special Agent Eom Chul-Woo who teams up with a South Korean bureaucrat to prevent another Korean war.
The name of the movie “Steel Rain” comes from the name of the nuclear weapons which are about to be fired on the Korean peninsula if Eom Chul-Woo fails in preventing the war.
Northern Limit Line
Release Date: 2015
Starring: Kim Mu-yeol, Jin Goo, Lee Hyun-woo
Directed By: Kim Hak-soon
Our Rating: 9/10
If war movies based on real-life incidents are your favorite, you’ll love the film, Northern Limit Line!
This military flick is based on the incident known as the second battle of Yeonpyeong.
In the year 2002, South Korea plays host to the FIFA world cup. Taking advantage of the government’s distraction, the North Korean navy attacks the South Korean vessel PKM 357.
The movie follows a fictional character Corporal Park Dong-hyuk, who’s aboard the vessel.
Despite there being several creative liberties, the movie remains faithful as much as possible to the real-life incident which ended in four casualties and 19 more personnel being injured.
Release Date: 2016
Starring: Lee Jung-jae, Lee Beom-soo, Liam Neeson, Jin Se-yeon
Directed By: John H. Lee
Our Rating: 7/10
This Korean war movie is based on a real-life incident – the Battle Of Inchon. The film is a fictionalized account of the real-life “Operation Trudy Jackson” that led up to the events of the Korean war.
In 1950, South Korea and the US form an alliance to prevent North Korean occupation of their territory.
Surprised to see Liam Neeson here? He plays Douglas MacArthur, the very real American General who was in charge of the operation.
In this movie, a group of South Korean soldiers disguise themselves as North Korean army men to gather intelligence about North Korea’s military tactics and future plans.
In Love and War
Release Date: 2011
Starring: Kim Joo-hyuk, Jung Ryeo-won, Yoo Hae-jin
Directed By: Geon-yong Park
Our Rating: 7.5/10
Interested in Korean war movies? Action isn’t your cup of tea? Don’t worry!
In Love and War is a comedy-drama-romance film that will satisfy your historical curiosity of the 1950 Korean war but without the heavy drama or battles.
The movie revolves around a small South Korean village that is overrun by North Korean forces during the 1950s Korean war.
To save their lives, the villagers grudgingly welcome the troops and hijinks ensue.
In the midst of all this, the officer of the North Korean troops, Jung-Woong has an agenda of his own – to find his childhood love, a girl he met 12 years ago when Korea was unified.
But as the war gains traction, can the residents of the village and the North Korean forces have a peaceful coexistence?
Welcome to Dongmakgol
Release Date: 2005
Starring: Jung Jae-young, Shin Ha-kyun, Kang Hye-jung
Directed By: Park Kwang-hyun
Our Rating: 9/10
I really like it when Korean war movies showcase the civilian struggle of any war. And that’s exactly what Welcome to Dongmakgol does.
The movie revolves around an idyllic village called Dongmakgol that is so remote that it’s residents don’t even know that there is war going on around them.
So what happens when a US Navy Pilot and both South Korean and North Korean soldiers land in the village by accident?
The movie was South Korea’s official entry to the 2005 Academy Awards.
The Battleship Island
Release Date: 2017
Starring: Hwang Jung-min, So Ji-sub, Song Joong-ki, Lee Jung-hyun
Directed By: Ryoo Seung-wan
Our Rating: 8/10
If you’re interested in Korean war movies set during the World War II, this is a fantastic choice.
The movie is set in Hashima Island during the Japanese colonization of Korea in the 1940s.
In this island over 400 prisoners of over are forced into hard labor and are subjected to all kinds of torture.
One day, a group of prisoners plot their escape.
The Battleship Island sheds light on several atrocities committed by imperial Japanese in Korea.
From experimentation on prisoners to kidnapping Korean women to make them “comfort women”, this movie exposes a harsh truth.
The Last Witness
Release Date: 2001
Starring: Lee Jung-jae, Ahn Sung-ki, Lee Mi-yeon
Directed By: Bae Chang-Ho
Our Rating: 7.5/10
This film was adapated by a book called The Last Witness by Kim Seong-jong.
The movie is also not the first adaption of the the book, there is an earlier version that came out in 1980.
The Last Witness follows Hwang-seok, a political prisoner who’s just been released from jail after solitary confinement for 50 years.
Less than 24 hours after Hwang-seok’s release a man is found stabbed to death. And as Detective Oh investigates the case, we see Hwang-seok’s past come to light.
Was Hwang-seok really a communist sympathizer? Or was he falsely imprisoned. I won’t spoil the movie for you, see for yourself.
Release Date: 1964
Starring: Shin Young-kyun, Choi Eun-hee, Choi Moo-ryong
Directed By: Shin Sang-ok
Our Rating: 7.8/10
With a Hallyu wave, a lot of westerners are interested in Korean dramas and Korean movies. But Korean cinema has a rich history too.
There are several Korean war movies from the yesteryears that wil leave you mesmerized.
The movie red scarf revolves around Major Na Gwan-jung, a fighter pilot who lives in the moment.
One day he meets Ji-seon, the widow of his comrade who is forced to become a bargirl after his death. He helps provide for her and takes care of her falling in love in the process.
But as the Korean war rages on, is there any chance of a happy ending for Gwan-jung?
The Battle of Jangsari
Release Date: 2019
Starring: Kim Myung-min, Megan Fox, Choi Min-ho
Directed By: Kwak Kyung-taek, Kim Tae-hoon
Our Rating: 7.2/10
This movie is a sort of sequel to the movie Operation Chromite that I’ve reviewed above. While that movie covered the Battle of Incheon, The Battle of Jangsari focuses on a lesser known battle.
As the Korean war begins, a group of 772 soldiers stage a diversion at Jangsari beach in the village of Yeongdeok to draw North Korean forces away from Incheon.
Kim Myung-min and Choi Min-ho play the soliders who battle lack of supplies, weapons, training, etc. and yet fight on bravely.
Megan Fox on the other hand, plays Maggie (a fictional character inspired by war correspondent Marguerite Higgins) who urges the internation community to help Korea.
Release Date: 1991
Starring: Lee Hye-sook, Kim Bo-yeon
Directed By: Jang Kil-su
Our Rating: 6.7/10
Silver Stallion is one of those hidden gems of a movie! Like most of the other Korean military movies on this list, Silver Stallion is also based on the Korean war.
In fact, it is based on a novel called Eunma neun oji anhneunda (The Silver Stallion Will Never Come) by Ahn Jung-Hyo.
The movie shows how the life of a simple village girl Eon-rae changes after the UN forces enter Korea.
From depicting the atrocities against women committed during war times to the cultural and social changes such a time brings with it, this movie does a great job of giving war a human voice.
If you love watching riveting films which have more than a hint of realism then these Korean war movies will be perfect for you.
They are based on several real-life conflicts in history like World War II, the Vietnam war (in which Korea participated), and the Korean war.
What I like most about these Korean military movies is that they are not limited to showing action on the battlefield.
Mostly they explore the human conditions and lives that are affected by war.
So these Korean films aren’t just entertainment, they will make you think.