With the success of Parasite at the Oscars this year, which took home the award for Best Picture, more people are discovering Korean cinema for the first time.
Thankfully, there are plenty of worthy options available on Netflix Middle East, whether you want to binge-watch a new K-drama series or simply sit down to watch an old flick.
Here is are of some of our favourite picks on the streaming platform:
The films to watch
'The Host' (2006)
Before Parasite, director Bong Joon-ho and actor Song Kang-Ho teamed up for The Host. The film is a genre-bending action-adventure-horror about a giant mutant sea monster that is unleashed upon an unsuspecting Seoul. With plenty of social commentary and great creature effects better than in most Hollywood films released today, The Host is perfect if you are looking for an unconventional watch. It has been described as being "on par with Jaws".
'Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds' (2017)
Kim Yong-hwa's epic fantasy action film was adapted from a popular Korean web-comic. It features an all-star cast and is the fourth highest-grossing film of all-time in South Korea. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds follows a firefighter who heroically dies in the line of duty and is taken to the afterlife, where he must undergo seven separate trials to evaluate his life on Earth. His journey is helped by three guardians.
'Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days' (2018)
Netflix also has the previously mentioned film’s sequel, and which is as good. The second half of the fantasy action film series picks up mere minutes after the first and follows the same trio of guardians as they help another soul through its afterlife trials. However, as viewers learn during the first film, there is more at stake for everyone involved, including the chance for reincarnation.
This mystery thriller from Jang Hang-jun has quite a few twists and turns. Forgotten follows a young man named Jin-seok, who moves into a new house with his family. However, after his brother disappears for 19 days, then reappears having lost his memories, Jin-seok starts to believe this person might actually be someone else entirely.
'Steel Rain' (2017)
This is an action-thriller from Yang Woo-suk. Steel Rain tells the story of a North Korean secret service agent who fails to stop two top military officers from going rogue and starting a coup against the Supreme Leader (known as 'No 1' throughout the film). He heads to South Korea with the injured No 1 in an attempt to keep him alive and teams up with a bureaucratic aide to prevent a Korean war from breaking out.
The K-series to watch
The K-drama Vagabond aired in South Korea in 2019 and has 16 episodes. It follows the tale of a stuntman whose nephew dies in a mysterious plane crash while on the way to Morocco. Looking to find out the truth about the accident, he embarks on an investigation that leads him to uncover a bigger cover-up. The spy-meets-thriller-meets-romance stars Lee Seung-gi and Bae Suzy as the main leads.
'Crash Landing On You' (2019)
The series Crash Landing On You was the second highest-rated drama in Korean television history. It has 16 episodes on Netflix. Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin play star-crossed lovers in the series, which follows what happens after a South Korean heiress goes on a paragliding ride and accidentally gets blown off course and lands in North Korea.
'Descendants of the Sun' (2016)
This popular K-drama series first aired in South Korea in 2016 and easily won over fans throughout Asia. It's a love story about a doctor who saves lives and a special forces captain who carries out missions while the country is at war. Since the captain's missions are dangerous and top secret, this presents a predicament in their budding relationship. An interesting aside: the two leads married in real life after the series aired, but filed for divorce in 2019.
Netflix's first original Korean series Kingdom currently has two seasons, each with six episodes. However, unlike with other typical K-series, the instalments are much shorter, with some running at a little more than half an hour.
The show is set during the Joseon dynasty, with the first season focused on the story of the Crown Prince Lee Chang, who stumbles upon a life-threatening political conspiracy while also investigating the spread of a mysterious plague that seems to bring people back to life as zombies.
'When the Camellia Blooms' (2019)
When the Camellia Blooms was a hit when it aired in Korea and has 20 episodes, each a little over an hour long. The rom-com follows a single mother who moves to a small town to start her life over again. She meets and falls in love with a do-good police officer, but small-town gossip, social stigma and a plot line involving a serial killer all make things a bit more complicated.
The hit comedy series became a cultural phenomenon after airing in South Korea in 2014 and also spawned Chinese and Japanese remakes. It follows the story of a young man in his twenties with nothing more than a General Education Development certificate, who gets an internship at an office only to discover the harsh reality of working in the corporate world. Fun fact: it was the first Korean drama to film on location in Jordan.
'Because This is My First Life' (2017)
The bittersweet rom-com series follows two roommates in their thirties, who become housemates for financial reasons and eventually enter into a marriage out of convenience to appease their families. However, they soon find unexpected complications in their arrangement. The storyline keeps you hooked, but fans cite the chemistry between leads Lee Min Ki and Jung So Min as another reason why they enjoy the show.