Have a Netflix account?
Using Netflix to improve your Korean is simple, fun and, yes, very addictive.
But make no mistake, it’s also highly effective!
Here’s everything you need to know about Korean movies on Netflix.
How Watching Movies on Netflix Can Improve Your Korean
- You’ll get exposure to a variety of Korean vocabulary. That’s because Netflix welcomes movies from a variety of genres. This will allow you to learn a combination of general and technical words and expressions on the main topic of the movie you’re watching.
- You’ll hear the correct Korean pronunciation. Whether it’s words or idioms, movies on Netflix are the real thing. They provide natural immersion through authentic content and fluent dialogue. Especially if you’ve never traveled to Korea and are studying Korean on your own, it’s important to hear the actual sounds of the Korean language.
- Learn the social etiquette. Speaking Korean isn’t just a matter of learning the language. You need to be able to activate it in context. Watching Korean movies on Netflix can help you understand the nuances of the language based on a variety of situations. They’re also a helpful way to gain familiarity with the honorifics system that exists in Korean.
- Stay on track of your studies. Learning while having fun is the best way to achieve fluency. Focusing on content that best suits your taste is a smart strategy to stay engaged in your studies over a long period of time.
Expert Strategies to Learn Korean by Watching Movies on Netflix
- Choose a movie you like. That’s the key to being consistent! Netflix offers a good selection of movies and is always adding new Korean movies to their database. If you’re located in Korea, you’ll notice that Netflix Korea currently has a smaller selection of content than Netflix USA, but that it offers movie subtitles in Hangul—which is awesome.
Previously, it was pretty easy to access other countries’ Netflix from anywhere with a VPN service like HideMyAss! VPN (i.e. to access Netflix Korea if you’re located in the USA), but as of 2016 Netflix has really been cracking down on this. Be sure to check the list of Korean movies on your country’s version of Netflix periodically if you don’t find the current selection that exciting. You can also use your excitement for Korean movies and your VPN power to branch out beyond Netflix, exploring all the Korean movies that are available online.
- Keep a notepad handy. Write down all new vocabulary and expressions you’ll want to use yourself, and go over your notes regularly. Use them both verbally and in writing.
- Watch the movie again, and again, and again! It’s a good strategy to focus on the language after you’re familiar with the story, as well as to activate recently learned vocabulary. By rewatching the film, you’ll also pick up the little language nuances you may have missed.
You don’t have to replay the movie right after you’ve just watched it. Try to let it sit for a couple of days to give yourself the time to absorb new words and expressions first. But be sure that the dialogues and storyline are fresh in your mind and only replay the movies you love. It should feel like fun, not like homework!
- Read the script. Not all Netflix movies will have a script available online, but it can be helpful if you’re struggling with a complex movie. If you can find the script, it’s helpful to read the dialogues along as the movie unfolds. To find the script, simply look up the name of the movie in Korean followed by 대본 (script) on Naver or even on Google.
- Act the part. When you start to really know the movie well, pick a scene and put yourself in character. Immerse yourself fully into the role, say the lines and have fun with it! You’ll quickly realize you’ll make tremendous progress in pronunciation and speed when speaking Korean.
- Try FluentU. You may want to cut to the chase and really focus on learning the language efficiently. If you’re looking for a tool that will save you research time and effort in your studies, try FluentU along with streaming services like Netflix.
FluentU is an online immersion platform that takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, vlogs, inspirational talks and more—and turns them into personalized language lessons. Every word comes with an in-context definition, image, audio and multiple example sentences. You can even click on a word to see how it’s used in other videos across the site.
There are also plenty of tools to organize and actively practice your language, such as multimedia flashcards, running vocabulary lists, downloadable transcripts and more. FluentU’s Learn Mode is perhaps the most unique tool of the learning program. Learn Mode supports quick, natural assimilation of a foreign language by asking you questions about a video based on what you already know.
The 7 Best Korean Movies on Netflix to Level Up Your Korean
Literal translation of Korean title: Old boy
This iconic 2003 mystery thriller is a must-watch for anyone, Korean language learner or not. Park Chan-wook’s “Old Boy” is that good. It’s so good that it was nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the Grand Prize in Cannes in 2004, among many, many other awards.
The movie follows Dae-Su, a self-centered drunk, as he’s bailed out of the police station yet again by a friend. One day, he’s kidnapped and wakes up in a room, where he remains prisoner for 15 years. He has no idea why he ended up in this cell, or who did this to him. With no communication from the outside world, his only escape is the television set in his room. Suddenly, he’s released and makes it a mission to avenge and understand what has been done to him. We won’t spoil it for you, but the denouement is absolutely breathtaking.
If you love “Old Boy” and its superb ending leaves you hungry for more, you’re in luck! The movie is part of a trilogy, so while the sequels aren’t available on Netflix yet, you can still buy “복수 삼부작” (the “Vengeance” trilogy) on Amazon.
This is the movie you should watch to learn 속어 (slang) and street Korean. You’ll also pick up a lot of informal speech in the process (it comes with the territory) and lots of cutting, declarative sentences.
Literal translation of Korean title: Suspicious woman
If you’re looking for a more entertaining Korean flick, don’t hesitate twice about watching “Miss Granny.” Charming and well-rounded, this delightful comedy became an instant blockbuster in Korea when it was released.
The story focuses on Oh Mal-soon, a 74-year-old widow who realizes that she’s becoming a burden on her family. Stubborn and foul-mouthed, she causes her children to become estranged from her. One day, as she visits a mysterious photo studio, she realizes that she has regained her youthful looks and finds herself in her 20-year-old body.
Since no one recognizes her, she decides to start a new life as Oh Doo-ree, after iconic actress Audrey Hepburn, and begins a career in music.
Through this film you’ll gain a better understanding of the Korean hierarchy system and how things like age affect the language. Pay special attention to how people address Oh Mal-soon and Oh Doo-ree, and how the old and young women reciprocate. This is a critical element in the Korean language that’s often hard to comprehend for English speakers.
This obviously includes the differences between 반말 (informal speech) and 존댓말 (honorific speech), but not just those. Politeness given to the elderly goes beyond language and encompasses one’s overall demeanor, deference and even the freedom to voice your opinions.
Literal translation of Korean title: International market
This is one of the most successful Korean movies of all time and the second-highest grossing film in Korean cinema. Its Korean title translates literally to “international market.”
“Ode to My Father” takes us back to the Korean War, when Korean families became separated and experienced the division of the peninsula. In this story, a young boy, Duk-soo, loses track of his sister amidst the chaos of the Hungnam evacuation, where thousands of refugees were transported by U.N. troops from North to South Korea in 1950. Troubled, his father decides to stay behind to search for her, but makes Duk-soo promise to care for the rest of the family when they arrive to the South.
The young boy agrees, and devotes the rest of his life to support the household, working all sorts of odd jobs from guest worker at the deadly coal mines of Germany to traveling to war-torn Vietnam to save his family’s small import-export business.
The movie is a goldmine for advanced business talk and international business vocabulary. It’s a good idea to take notes and pay attention to the technical terms spread throughout the movie, as you’ll quickly realize they’ll come in handy if you intend to do actual business with Koreans. Also, it’s a good idea to observe the business etiquette and how negotiations are conducted in Korea.
Literal translation of Korean title: The graduate
“Commitment” is a thrilling spy movie featuring T.O.P. from the K-pop boy band BIGBANG. He plays the privileged son of a disgraced North Korean, who is sent to a labor camp with his younger sister after their father couldn’t complete a mission.
At the camp, the son makes a deal with their father’s superior: to finish what his father failed to accomplish in exchange for their freedom. After two years of intense training, the boy finally arrives to South Korea where he’s hosted by a couple of North Korean spies and enrolls at a local school. There he takes a liking to a bullied schoolgirl who shares the same name as his sister.
He eventually receive his mission, to kill a defecting North Korean agent plotting against the government.
This movie is a great way to gain awareness about the differences between 한국어 (Korean) and 조선어, the Korean spoken in North Korea. While you watch, pay attention to the vocabulary and accent of the North Korean characters. You’ll quickly realize that what you’ve heard is true: The Korean language has evolved on both sides of the peninsula since the war.
Literal translation of Korean title: Mister
“The Man from Nowhere” is another action-packed thriller that was an instant hit at the box office when it came out in 2010.
The movie follows a former black-op-soldier-turned-pawn-shop-owner Cha Tae-sik, who befriends his next-door neighbor, a little girl named So-mi. One day, the girl’s mother, a heroin addict, steals drugs from a dangerous drug and organ trafficking cartel, hides them in her camera bag, and sells them at Tae-sik’s pawn shop, without him realizing what was in the bag.
When the gang finds out about the missing drugs, they go on to kidnap So-mi and her mother, which leads Tae-sik to embark on a bloody mission to rescue the girls.
This is another great movie to learn 속어 (slang) and to pick up a lot of useful informal idioms and vocabulary you wouldn’t learn in your usual textbooks. Keep in mind that most of the language used in this movie wouldn’t be appropriate in traditional or business settings, so don’t be tempted to use it yourself when speaking to your Korean friends or business partners. Rather, it’s a good way to learn a side of the Korean language you’re not necessarily exposed to and know how it fits in.
Literal translation of Korean title: Beauty inside
A good movie should explore the limits of our imagination, which is exactly what “The Beauty Inside” does.
The story is about Woo-jin, a furniture designer with a secret: He’s also a shapeshifter. Every day, he wakes up in a different body. Sometimes he’s a younger woman, sometimes he’s an old man and sometimes he’s a foreigner. Waking up in the morning is always a surprise, and something that’s hard for him to get used to.
The only thing that reminds him of his real identity is his girlfriend Yi-soo, who knows his secret and still stays by his side. The problem is that he constantly needs to figure out how to get reunited with her every day, which leads to some misunderstandings and comical situations.
The film is a solid way to learn everyday Korean—how real Koreans actually speak with each other. The movie features plenty of natural language, useful idioms and very common words you should know to handle for a casual conversation in Korean.
Literal translation of Korean title: Battle of Yeonpyeong
If you’re interested in modern Korean history and geopolitics, put “N.L.L.” on the top of your to-watch list.
The movie takes place during the second naval battle of Yeonpyeong in 2002. At the time, South Korea’s soccer victories dominated the media and public’s attention, and the North used this distraction as an opportunity to illegally cross the Northern Limit Line, a disputed line in the Yellow Sea that serves as a de facto maritime boundary between North and South Korea.
“N.L.L.” follows South Korean patrol boat 357 and its men, who suddenly find themselves under surprise attack from the North.
“N.L.L.” features a plethora of military, diplomacy and geopolitical words and expressions that will help you set a solid foundation for your studies. There are also a lot of technical government and army terms that may come in handy when you read the news or listen to Korean podcasts.
These Netflix movies will help you acquire the tools you need to take your Korean studies a step further. The best part of it? You’ll learn the language while also having fun and increasing your understanding of Korean culture!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.