Korean Film Festival DC
March 17–April 15

AFI Silver once again joins with the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries to celebrate the cinema of South Korea.

The ninth edition of this popular annual survey of one of the world's most dynamic national cinemas features an outstanding selection of new films plus a retrospective devoted to one of contemporary Korean cinema’s leading lights, writer-director Park Chan-wook, whose first US film, STOKER, opens in March.

The festival was organized by Tom Vick, film programmer for the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution. For complete festival information, including films screening at the Freer, visit asia.si.edu/KoreanFilm2013.

Thanks to the Korean Cultural Center and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Washington, DC, for their generous support.

Click to download festival brochure (PDF)

AFI Member passes will be accepted at all screenings in the Korean Film Festival.


This moody, atmospheric vampire movie stars Song Kang-ho (THE HOST, SECRET SUNSHINE) as a priest so devoted to healing the sick that he volunteers as a test subject for an experimental drug that ends up giving him a taste for human blood. His holy nature keeps him from draining human victims—he drinks from transfusion bags at the hospital where he volunteers—but he is unable to overcome the carnal urges his new sustenance brings and embarks on a torrid affair with a friend’s wife, who soon develops a bloody thirst of her own. Park Chan-wook blends suspense, humor and imagery that is as disturbing as it is beautiful in this offbeat story of a man of God earnestly struggling with desires both earthly and infernal. “A brilliant and gruesome work of cinematic invention as well as a passionate and painful human love story.” – Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com.

DIR/SCR/PROD Park Chan-wook; SCR Jeong Seo-Gyeong, inspired by the book "Thérèse Raquin" by Émile Zola; PROD Ahn Soo-hyun. South Korea, 2009, color, 133 min. In English and Korean with English subtitles. RATED R


Sun, Mar 17, 9:10--note new time!; Mon, Mar 18, 9:00

10th Anniversary!

The second film in Park Chan-wook’s “Vengeance Trilogy” became both his most popular and controversial work after it won the Jury Prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. In a riveting performance, Choi Min-sik plays Oh Dae-su, a man who is mysteriously imprisoned for 15 years, then just as mysteriously released. His search for his tormentor—and the secrets he uncovers—is a visually stunning, hyper-violent journey including such now-notorious scenes as the eating of a living octopus and a spectacular fight scene in which Oh, armed with only a hammer, defeats a legion of thugs. A neo-noir with echoes of classical tragedy that come to a head in its shocking climax, OLDBOY is, as Stephanie Zacharek writes in Salon.com., “Anguished, beautiful and desperately alive…a dazzling work of pop-culture artistry.”

DIR/SCR Park Chan-wook; SCR Hwang Jo-yun, Lim Joon-hyung, from the graphic novel by Nobuaki Minegishi; PROD Kim Dong-joo, Lim Seung-yong. South Korea, 2003, color, 120 min. In Korean with English subtitles. RATED R


Sun, Mar 24, 6:30


In this eccentric detective caper, a mysterious woman approaches a down-on-his-heels private eye with a disturbing assignment: track down the owner of a particular wristwatch, and kill him. He refuses, but follows the woman out of curiosity and finds himself embroiled in a byzantine search for a device that just might contain the secret to time travel. Director Oh Young-doo’s first feature, INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI, was an ingenious sci-fi movie made on a shoestring budget. Made with only a modest budget, YOUNG GUN IN THE TIME is a whimsical, bizarre adventure stuffed with oddball characters, not the least of which is its star, Hong Young-geun who, with his skinny frame, wispy moustache, Hawaiian shirts and trilby hats, is certainly the most endearingly unlikely leading man in Korean movies these days.

DIR/SCR Oh Young-doo; PROD Jang Yoon-jung, Yamaguchi Yukihiko, Iwasaki Nonoka, Hayashi Kaizo. South Korea/Japan, 2012, color, 95 min. In Korean with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Sun, Mar 24, 9:00; Mon, Mar 25, 9:40


Slightly less violent, but no less visually ravishing than the first two films in Park Chan-wook’s “Vengeance Trilogy,” LADY VENGEANCE has a plot as intricate and precise as a Swiss watch. Imprisoned for 14 years for a crime she didn’t commit, Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yeong-ae) immediately puts into action a complex revenge scheme on Mr. Baek (a very creepy Choi Min-sik), the sociopathic schoolteacher who forced her to confess her crime all those years ago. As the true extent of Baek’s sadism becomes more apparent, Lee plans a more and more baroque comeuppance for him, while flashbacks reveal how deeply he wronged her. “Dense with pathos, poetry and humor, this is Park's finest work to date.” – Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com.

DIR/SCR Park Chan-wook; SCR Jeong Seo-Gyeong; PROD Cho Young-wuk, J. J. Harris, Beth Kono, Lee Chun-yeong, Lee Tae-hun. South Korea, 2005, color, 112 min. In English, Korean and Japanese with English subtitles. RATED R


Sun, Mar 31, 7:30


Television and movie heartthrob So Ji-seop (ALWAYS; ROUGH CUT) plays Ji Hyeong-do, a hit man who goes rogue, in this action-packed drama from first-time director Im Sang-yun. In a sly commentary on Korea’s ruthless business culture, he works for an assassination agency structured like a corporate workplace – employees punch the clock, work in cubicles, and are presented with plaques commemorating career milestones. Finding himself to complete several heart-wrenching assignments, Hyeong-do resolves to leave the company. But quitting the assassination business involves much more than submitting a letter of resignation. Bookended by a pair of spectacular action sequences that have to be seen to be believed, this film is a surprisingly fresh addition to the genre.

DIR/SCR Im Sang-yun; PROD Jeong Yong-Wook. Korea, 2012, color, 97 min. In Korean with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Tue, Apr 2, 9:30; Wed, Apr 3, 9:20


One of the first films to expose international audiences to what became known as the Korean New Wave, JSA: JOINT SECURITY AREA is a prime example of Park Chan-wook’s ability to balance genre thrills with intellectual and emotional depth. Structured as a classic whodunit, it begins with a Swiss UN investigator of Korean ancestry traveling to the DMZ to investigate the killing of two North Korean troops by a South Korean soldier. Through an extended series of flashbacks, it’s revealed that conflicting accounts from both sides conceal the surprising truth that the soldiers involved had developed a secret cross-border friendship. JSA’s power—which is brought home with an emotional wallop in its brilliant final image—derives both from its artfully constructed suspenseful narrative and its tragic depiction of young men whose bonds of friendship can be destroyed in an instant by their military indoctrination.

DIR/SCR Park Chan-wook; SCR Jeong Seong-san, Kim Hyun-seok, Lee Mu-yeong, from the novel by Park Sang-yeon; PROD Lee Eun Soo. South Korea, 2000, color, 110 min. In Korean with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Thu, Apr 4, 7:00

I’M A CYBORG, BUT THAT’S OK 싸이보그지만 괜찮아

Variety’s Derek Elley calls I’M A CYBORG, BUT THAT’S OKAY “witty, playful, romantic, tragic…a whole chocolate box of emotions.” Veering away from the stylized violence of films like OLDBOY and LADY VENGEANCE, director Park Chan-wook takes a lighter turn with a whimsical tale of love in a mental institution between a boy who thinks he’s disappearing (played by Korean pop star Rain) and a girl (Lim Su-jeong of HAPPINESS and ALL ABOUT MY WIFE) who thinks she’s a robot. Park’s genius for color and visual design is evident throughout this poignant, playful, pastel-hued romance.

DIR/SCR/PROD Park Chan-wook; SCR Jeong Seo-Gyeong; PROD Lee Chun-yeong. South Korea, 2006, color, 105 min. In Korean with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Tue, Apr 9, 7:00; Wed, Apr 10, 9:15


This film “defies genre conventions,” writes Maggie Lee in Variety. “It develops into a coming-of-age romance, then into a sci-fi thriller and supernatural fantasy, resulting in a strange but undeniably imaginative blend of fey sweetness, psychosexual nuance and dark allegory.” When a family discovers a feral teenager living in their barn, they take the boy in and, with the aid of a dog training manual, slowly begin to civilize him. Soon his superhuman strength and odd behavior indicate that this is no ordinary boy, but the product of a shady scientific experiment, and when he runs afoul of their nefarious landlord, his life—along with the strong bond he’s formed with the family’s daughter—is in peril. Director Jo Sung-hee’s debut feature END OF ANIMAL announced his narrative and visual inventiveness. This ravishingly beautiful, alternately tender and absurdist film was a box office smash in Korea and confirms him as one of Korea’s most talented young directors.

DIR/SCR Jo Sung-hee; PROD Kim Sujin, Yoon InBeom. South Korea, 2012, color, 122 min. In Korean with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Sun, Apr 14, 7:45; Mon, Apr 15, 7:10
Screenings canceled. We regret the inconvenience.