Things I Have Learned Watching Korean Movies
Everyone drinks beer, even small children.
Everyone smokes, and they really like Zippo lighters.
The preferred mode of suicide is jumping off things, and people jump off things a lot – even things that aren’t that tall. They seem very sure about the fatality of jumping from a second floor window or balcony.
In fact, lots of death by falling in general: suicide, homicide or accident. Probably because guns are largely unavailable to Korean civilians… come to think of it, the only people I’ve noticed carrying guns in the movies are gangsters and military. Even the cops have to use tasers.
Hey, DHL delivery men are everywhere!
The cities are corrupt and full of dark secrets.
Rural communities are corrupt and full of dark secrets.
Do not go into the woods for any reason, unless you are a ghost or a killer looking for places to dump dead bodies.
If there is only one woman living in a remote area, there’s a 100% chance that she is the regional prostitute.
Movies are more like novels, cycling through several different plot lines, shifting conflicts, and large casts of characters. This is why so many films are 2 1/2 hours long, yet seldom feel boring. There’s always something happening. This is a big difference from American movies, which can often belabor a single thin plot-line for 80 minutes and still feel too padded out.
There’s always that one person who wails and carries on at a funeral while everyone else is stoic and silent.
Snipers always turn out to be pretty ladies. Subversive! Also subversive: female cops and serial killers.
Eyelid surgery is never not creepy, and bad things usually happen to the girls who have it (those vain whores!).
So many people play piano.
People in small towns really don’t like outsiders, especially if they come from the big city.
Buddhist traditions seem to mesh well with the more benevolent aspects of Christian ideology. Sure, you will always have judgmental, fire-and-brimstone bible-beaters, but you also have prayer through meditation, and serenity and generosity as a form of spiritualism.
I’m not saying all of these things are true of life in South Korea (any more than Hollywood movies represent the life of the average American), but the movies create their own reality revealing what a different culture finds entertaining. Hint: it’s not that different from what we do. Sex, violence, explosions, anxieties over failure and the search for a good life.