You don’t need to pay for an obscure, niche tool to find excellent Korean movies.
When your popcorn is popped and you’re looking forward to an evening watching movies, think Korean!
But just where could you source high-quality Korean films with accurate subtitles?
Is that even possible?
Well, if you’re wondering that, this post and you are a pair made in heaven. Here you’ll find the most trusted sources of Korean movies online—and your favorite streaming site might just hold the ticket.
This post is also perfect for another breed of reader—those who not only want to watch their favorite Korean actors and actresses cry, but who have study goals to meet, those who had the genius idea that movies aren’t just warm companions on a Saturday night, but are also effective tools for learning the Korean language.
We’ve got all the bases covered, and have something for both readers in this post.
If you’re the former, head on to the second section for the movie resources. If you’re a student of the language, then here are four quick tips for you.
How to Make the Most of Learning Korean with Movie Magic
After watching the film from start to finish (a few times), crying into your popcorn and enjoying it as you would any other film, you now need to take a different mindset when you begin to mine the movie for its language lessons. Remember these four tips!
1. Divide the movie into scenes
You need to consciously cut the film into its constituent parts.
Each scene has a focal topic, a unifying theme and is a universe unto itself. So, looking to scenes is a logical way of slicing the whole movie up. It has the effect of slowing everything else down, allowing you to focus on each moment at hand and each key point of the plot and character development.
A 90-minute film watched end to end won’t yield all its linguistic gems for you. You have to pause to really consider the linguistic and cultural lessons throughout the film.
So from this point onward, you shouldn’t watch any Korean movie the whole way through. Instead, do a deep dive into individual scenes where there’s more gold to be found.
2. Hit “replay” with a specific goal in mind
Repeat the scenes as often as necessary. The important key here is to have a specific goal in mind each time.
So, maybe for the first few times you’ll focus on vocabulary and hunt for words in the dialogue. Then when you have that down, maybe the next few times you’ll treat it like a podcast and focus on pronunciation, listening closely to the ubiquitous rise and fall of Korean tones when the characters speak. Then maybe, after you’ve become very familiar with the lines, you can talk along as the actors deliver their lines. This would give you a vivid firsthand experience of speaking Korean like a true native.
You can’t assimilate all the lessons in one go, so adopt purposeful repetition where each replay has a specific element of the language as its target.
3. Build your vocabulary with paper and pen
When you’re watching a movie (for language learning), you aren’t meant to passively sit back and let osmosis work its magic—at least not all of the time. When it comes to big-time learning, it doesn’t really work that way.
A movie is a wonderful tool, but it’s not necessarily a full-on shortcut. If your idea of learning is by watching and watching alone, and if you think the learning stops when the movie ends, then let this be a reality check. A movie won’t give up its juiciest lessons just because you’ve seen it a few times. You need to wrest those lessons from its clutches. Work it!
It could mean things like talking aloud to yourself, trying on Korean, in the middle of the night. Or having paper and pen ready to scribble down any interesting word you hear or see. It could mean talking back to the screen and shouting out Korean exclamations and expressions of disbelief. It could very well mean going online or looking up unknown words in a dictionary app and finding out as much about them as you can, or making decks of vocabulary flashcards and practicing day in and day out.
4. Read between the lines for cultural insights
A very important part of language learning is understanding the culture of the people who use it on a daily basis. It would be a linguistic tragedy if you only know Korean words without understanding the many facets of culture that go with them.
So you need to read beyond the lines and ask, for example, why did the antagonist (as evil as he is in the film), humbly bow to the elder stranger? What does this say about Korean culture? Why did the girl turn down the young guy’s affections, citing age when he was only three years younger than her?
These questions would give you an unprecedented look into the culture of your target language. And the more you understand Korean culture, the more you appreciate the language that reflects it.
Words, phrases and expressions take on more meaning. That’s when you know you’re really learning Korean.
7 Popular Websites to Watch Korean Movies with Subtitles
Netflix has an awesome collection of foreign movies and shows and has become synonymous with binge-watching. With its vast library of Korean movies, you’ll be able to do just that—even dedicate a whole weekend to it.
For the language learner, fight the urge to click on the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Keep your focus on Korean. There’s something there for everyone.
You’ll be happy to know that Korea, just like Japan, is an Asian film powerhouse. Ever since the “Korean Wave” hit the shores of America and the rest of the world, Korea’s film industry has been consciously creating moving pictures not only for the local market, but also for an international audience.
This equates to more material and is definitely great news for the language learner and Korean movie aficionado alike. So remember the four tips we’ve talked about earlier and you’ll be making the most of your $9.99 monthly subscription.
This is Amazon’s version of unlimited streaming of movies, TV shows and a whole bundle of other benefits that even includes free two-day shipping for eligible purchased items. But we’re not necessarily interested in those things here, even if you’re planning to buy yourself some great Korean learning books.
We’re here for the Korean films housed in Prime.
For $99 a year ($10.99) a month, you can have unlimited access to all the goodness. They do have a cheaper offer for those people who only want video streaming benefits without the complete Amazon package—$8.99, same as the old Netflix rate.
They may not be blockbusters in their own right, but for Korean language learners, they contain plenty of gems that make each scene worth the price of admission.
In the first part of this post, we talked about some tips from handling films in order to turn them from mere blockbusters into legit language lessons. Well, FluentU found a way to automate all of this, and deliver you a total learning experience based on cool videos. Here’s how…
FluentU takes ordinary videos—like movie trailers, behind-the-scenes clips, actor interviews and more—and fine tunes them for the language learner.
You came here for videos with subtitles, FluentU gives you more—a whole lot more. Here you can choose English or Korean subtitles (or both) which are completely dynamic and interactive.
For example, in the normal scheme of watching a movie, when some unknown Korean word pops up in the subtitles, you’d have to Google its translation manually, researching several sites in order to familiarize yourself with it, its usage and its pronunciation. You’d then take a pen and write the things you’ve learned on paper.
With FluentU, you just hover over any word in the subtitles and out pops a dictionary entry that gives you everything you need to know about that word: Its various definitions, part of speech, pronunciation and even in-context sentence examples! Just imagine how this revolutionizes your watching and learning.
The name comes from two Chinese words which, when put together, mean “holder of precious things.”
And holder of precious things it is. Just barely a decade old, this joint project of media giants NBC Universal, Fox and ABC is rapidly building a treasure trove of Korean films to benefit the movie lover and the language learner alike. The latest releases immediately find their way to Hulu and it’s quickly outpacing the competition in the acquisition of new material.
Hulu Plus, at $7.99, will get you a reduced number of ads. But if you’re gunning for a zero-ad Hulu experience, then you can most definitely have it at $11.99 a month.
Although only available in the US and Japan, Hulu has always declared its intent to go international. So for international Korean language learners, you’d be well-advised to keep an eye out for this one.
YouTube is a warranted stop for Korean films with subtitles.
Like so many times before, you can really go down the rabbit hole with this one as it takes just a single movie and, before you know it, YouTube draws you in and recommends or autoplays one film after another.
YouTube’s comment section is quite active. If you care to look beyond the teenage girls gushing over Lee Minho, you can really find kindred spirits who have been bitten by the Korean bug and are using Korean movies as vehicles for both entertainment and education.
Speaking of which, in addition to movies, the media giant also serves up the freshest Korean music videos as well as language learning channels that make learning Korean approachable and fun. Give them a thumbs up and a “Subscribe.”
It’s a play on the words “video” and “wiki.”
Their movie collection isn’t as far-reaching as the other sources, but they’re much stronger in Korean drama series, which, if you really think about it from language learner’s perspective, are kind of like movies—that never end.
The thing about Viki is that their subtitles come from fans and contributors all over the world. The nice thing about this is that you can really get your Korean honed, practiced and basically tested by fire when you try being a contributor. Don’t worry, you don’t need to translate the whole movie, you can do it one line at a time. You can also rate the work of others. Try it, and get cracking on your Korean.
There’s a healthy community of subtitlers that you can learn from, and, if you reach Qualified Contributor (QC) status, you have the added perk of ad-free HD streaming, plus some feel-good badges.
Viki Pass, the site’s subscription plan, costs $4.99 a month or $49.99 for the year (discounted rate). If you’re not too keen on looking at the ads which are delivered to free accounts, then this is a cheap way of getting that uninterrupted Korean fix.
Drama Fever has indeed come a long way. Born in 2009, in a New York City apartment carrying just one Korean drama, it’s now (2016) a proud subsidiary of Warner Bros. How about that?
Drama Fever is slowly gaining momentum and will soon challenge incumbents like Hulu and Netflix in terms of Korean content. In a single year, 2013-14, its viewership has exploded 440%!
Its bevy of movies include favorites like “The Thieves,” “Penny Pinchers,” and “Runway Cop”—which aren’t only certain to entertain but can also provide you with hours of Korean language lessons. It really helps that the actors and actresses are extra easy on the eyes, making the “replay” technique for language learning we talked about earlier an utter delight.
So, how much would you pay for a premium Korean lesson like this? How about free for starters? The free accounts are ad-supported, but for just $0.99 a month, you can have the number of ads reduced. And for a completely ad-free experience, there’s the $4.99 plan.
Whether you sit for sheer entertainment or language education, watching Korean movies offers that special gift of letting you do both at the same time.
And with the online venues mentioned here, I’m sure you’ll have countless hours enjoying the best of Korean cinema.
So, microwave that popcorn and start the marathon!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.