Did you know that Christmas is the perfect time to learn Korean?
Think about it.
Schools are empty during the holidays.
Many offices lock up, too.
This means there’s a chance all your I’ve-got-no-time excuses have gone up in smoke.
Even if you do have responsibilities, the holidays still present unique opportunities to learn.
If nothing else, it’s the perfect time of year to get cozy on the couch and movie your way into Korean.
So in this post, we’ll look at how you can do just that.
We’ll also recommend some films you should watch this season.
So let’s begin…
How to Learn Korean with Movies During the Holiday Season
Language learning doesn’t take a holiday. Maybe you’re thinking, “It’s Christmas. I can finally take a break from all my Korean lessons!” Au contraire. The holidays are actually the perfect time to be beefing up on your Korean because regular routines often give way to seasonal activities. The old stumbling blocks give way to, well, some new ones.
Of course, there will be many activities vying for your time and attention—like the traditional five-hour traffic, shopping nightmares, parades and parties. The key really is to cleverly insert some Korean movie learning into those usual Christmas affairs. You don’t have to binge watch everything Korean Netflix recommends you. Nor do you necessarily have to take a scene-by-scene, line-by-line forensic approach to the films. But just as you’re immersing in the season, you should take the opportunity to get yourself immersed in the language.
Here are some things you can do:
- Stuck at the airport? Grocery line not moving? You know, experiencing the “Christmas rush” where everybody is actually at a standstill? Whip out your phone and watch some Korean movie trailers on FluentU.
Here's a quick look at the variety of video choices available to you:
Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.
Don't stop there, though. You can use FluentU’s unique quizzes to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions.
FluentU even tracks your progress and remembers all the words you've learned, making for a 100% personalized experience.
Review sessions use video context to help embed the words in your memory. The best part? You can access the full FluentU video library with a free trial!
Start using FluentU Korean on the website or download the app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
- Having good old family bonding in the family room? Instead of screening the usual American Christmas classics, or playing board games, why not upend tradition and casually suggest a Korean movie instead? Post your unique activity on social media and it’ll make your family look so freaking cool.
- Trying to escape helping in the kitchen? Or coming to blows with your dad because of his politics? Withdraw for a few minutes and cool down. Go to your room or some secluded area and watch the first 15-30 minutes of a movie. In a little while you’ll be ready to agree, “Yes, America is still the most powerful country in the world!” And, when you come back from your “mini-vacation,” dinner may be ready, too.
- Recovering from last night’s Christmas party? Stay in, watch a Korean comedy and get your head in a good place. Order in some Korean food and truly immerse in both the culture and language.
Well, you get the idea.
Just don’t waste this holiday and the opportunities it brings: Make it a point to get some Korean into your system, along with all the luscious hams, cheeses and wine you scarf down this year.
That said, let’s check out some K-films you might want to see this holiday season.
Ho! Ho! Ho! 7 Korean Movies to Snuggle Up to This Christmas
You may be able to find some of the movies below on convenient online streaming sites, and others are linked to online stores where you can check for the availability of the DVD. Just a reminder: Always check to make sure the DVDs you buy are region-compatible with your player. Otherwise you could be in for a not-so-happy holiday surprise!
“Christmas in August”
Nope, this isn’t about some hugely anticipated annual sales event in August that rivals Black Friday. This is something else entirely.
Jung-won (Han Suk-kyu) is a mid-30s photographer who spends his days in his humble studio. At a time when Instagram isn’t even yet a thing, he deals with the whole range of picture needs—from blowing up a pic of one’s crush, to making headshots that will be displayed on funeral altars. His days are mundane, blurring one to the next.
That is, until he meets Da-rim (Shim Eun-ha). She’s a sweet traffic constable who comes to his studio to have pictures of traffic violations developed. Very quickly, she develops a fondness for him. Our male protagonist plays it coy, almost being oblivious to her advances. One would be crazy not to fall for Da-rim, it seems, but interestingly enough, Jung-won succeeds in doing just that… at first.
This movie is a slow burn of elegant scenes showing two people’s growing affection for each other. Language learners can follow along because the dialogues here are often simple and short.
The language is very understated and makes “Christmas in August” suitable as study material for Korean language beginners.
Nope, this isn’t about some hugely anticipated annual sales event. This is about memories… and a secret terminal illness.
This is one of those titles that sounds like the creators pasted random words on a huge wall, threw two darts—blindfolded—and came away with a premise for a movie.
“Mug Travel” is a 2007 animated film based on a TV series.
It’s Christmas, and the little girl Bebe is all alone. But not for long. She’s given a magical pendant by Santa Claus, and now, she can travel anywhere she likes—aboard a mug that functions as a teleportation device.
Bebe goes on amazing Christmas adventures, braving the North Pole and the searing desert, enjoying exotic islands and lush forests. If the previous movie brought you down because of its death theme, you’ll feel so alive as you go around the world with Bebe and her animal friends.
The creator of this film, Lim Ah-ron, saw a gap in Korean content targeted at preschoolers, so he made “Mug Travel.” Korean beginners can thank him for giving them a leg up in their studies.
It’s Christmas Eve, and it’s been reported that it’s not going to snow tonight, but it’s snowing in Tower Sky, the huge building complex in the heart of Seoul. It’s snowing… but just in Tower Sky and nowhere else. Because this address is unlike any other.
Mr. Jo, the owner of the building, has decided to throw a lavish “White Christmas” party that’s the envy of the whole city. Helicopters are flying, buzzing about the towers, tethered to snow machines and raining down snow on the rich and perfumed set, denying Mother Nature her verdict.
Oh no, not really.
A sudden updraft causes one of the helicopters to wobble precariously. A few seconds later, the unthinkable happens. The unstable craft hits the building, ultimately crashing into it, erupting into flames, sending shards of glass to the merrymakers down below.
And so, “Fatal Fire” becomes the theme of the party. Witness an epic adventure as partygoers jostle and ride the elevators to save their lives.
Beginner and intermediate language learners can benefit from the compelling context provided by the film. It’s nicely cut into manageable scenes, lines and dialogues, so the Korean language student won’t feel too overwhelmed by it.
But language learning aside, this film has kickass cinematography. It’s so visually gripping, the words, phrases and sentences uttered will be firmly seared in your memory.
“Happy Ero Christmas”
This one is a bizarre barrel of laughs. Byung-ki (Cha Tae-hyun) is a rookie policeman in Yuseong, his hometown. He’s not exactly your Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson type of cop who singlehandedly destroys terrorist cells. He instead singlehandedly hands you some promotional materials in which you have 0% interest.
One fateful day, Byung-ki, the guy we’re all rooting for, meets Min-kyung (Kim Sun-a), a beautiful angel who works for the local bowling alley. He instantly falls hard for her and tries all tricks in the book to woo her. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong book.
Things take a turn for the worse when it turns out that Seok-doo (Park Yeong-gyu), a local crime boss, also has the hots for Min-kyung, and is trying to hack his way into her heart. This naughty old man even convinces himself that he can bed Min-kyung on Christmas Eve!
Does he succeed? You’ll have to watch to find out. Intermediate and advanced language learners will get dialogues on par with their level in this film. The scenes will sharpen your listening skills and acclimate you to the speed and cadence of authentic Korean. If you’ve got time, you may want to watch this film a couple times this holiday season.
These next three films may not be about Christmas per se, but they sure tackle themes that we think about during the holidays. And they’re good films to watch whether you’re alone, with friends and family, or snuggling with a special someone.
“The Classic” is just that, a Korean classic. Once you watch it, it will always stay with you. Haunting you—but in a good way.
This is the story of a college girl who, one day while cleaning the attic, finds an old box. Turns out, the box hides a diary and preserved letters from her mother’s past. She begins to read them, one by one, and slowly begins to piece together those parts of her mother’s past that until now remained a secret.
She discovers a love triangle involving her mom, her dad and her dad’s friend. Theirs was a story of intense love, deep friendship, bloody wars and grievous regret. Meanwhile, as she gradually forms a clearer picture of the past, she finds parallels in her own present day experiences. What does the last page of the diary hold? Will what happened in the past be the same thing that will happen in her future? Find out by watching the film.
Intermediate language learners can definitely pick up vocabulary and sentence construction lessons in this film—especially considering that one aspect of the movie deals with the written form of the language.
In addition, intermediates can look beyond the film itself and study the songs used in it, like “너에게 난 나에게 넌” (Me to You, You to Me). Learning the lines of songs hones vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation skills. Singing in tune is, of course, out of the question.
This movie is half in English and half in Korean. So for language learners who think a lighter study load is ideal for the holidays, get a load of “Okja.”
This movie would also be ideal for beginners who want to get their feet wet. The vocabulary used is simple enough, and there’s less material to be digested, so you can really take your sweet time. There’s a little bit of learning interspersed in a full movie experience.
“Okja” is a great film to watch with friends and family this year. It’ll tug those heartstrings that have remained dormant the past 11 months.
“Okja” is about a pig. But not just any pig. She’s a super breed developed by an American company. Ten years ago, while still a piglet, Okja was sent to Korea to be raised locally by a mountain farmer. 25 other piglets were sent all over the world as well. After 10 years, Okja grew up to be the biggest and best of the brood—an experimental success!
Well, at least that’s how the Mirando Corporation, the group that genetically engineered Okja, sees it. And now, ten years later, they want a return on their investment and plan to take her back to New York.
But that’s not how Mija, the farmer’s granddaughter, sees it. Okja, in the ten years she’s been with them, has become a friend, a companion and a beloved member of their little family. This enormous but strangely cute animal is not just some pet, but a friend who once saved her from certain death.
What happens when a greedy corporation and a young Korean girl clash head on? “Okja” will keep you on that precarious line between agony and relief.
“Please Teach Me English”
Let’s round up this list on a high note. “Please Teach Me English” is a comedy of errors—a lighthearted look at language learning, with a little love story and some mischief on the side.
But don’t just focus on the funny. This film is made for those who have taken the leap and decided to learn another language. It features characters who are studying English, but will resonate just as well with students going the other way—English speakers trying to learn Korean. It goes straight into the heart of every learner’s motivation. Think about it. Why are you trying to learn Korean? Why are you reading this post… at a time when you could be partying or sleeping or eating?
Motivation plays a big part in learning Korean, or any language for that matter. It’s what fuels us to continue even when progress seems to be going the other way.
“Please Teach Me English” is about Park Mun-su (Jang Hyuk) and Na Young-ju (Lee Na-young), who are classmates in an English class run by the beautiful Catherine (Angela Kelly). Young-ju has feelings for Mun-su. But, as is often the case with unrequited love, he’s too preoccupied chasing after other girls.
Can Young-ju, a homely government office worker, make a self-confessed womanizer fall in love with her? Will the stars align, or will the gods smile and jeer?
Find out in this riotous film.
While any Korean learner may find this film relatable, intermediate language students especially will benefit from studying the delivery of the lines, the natural rhythm of the language and the melodic back-and-forth of conversations.
And that rounds up our list!
There are so many more Korean movies out there for you and your family.
Why don’t you get a few laughs, a few cries and a shock or two in between?
Watch some Korean movies and you’ll be the better for it. They can even be fodder for family dinner conversations.
So to close, let me wish you a Merry, Merry Christmas!
My wish for you is that by New Year’s, you’ll have gained not only some calories and a few inches, but also some lines and dialogue that you’ve lifted from K-movies.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.