Tidal Wave (Haeundae, 2009), a disaster movie that set up its effects-laden climax by being a convincing melodrama for most of its running time.
Han Jae-rim's The Show Must Go On at first seems like a gangster movie but it turns out to be a film about a man trying to keep his family together. Unlike other depictions of gangsters in the Korean peninsula, nothing is glorified in this narrative. Kang In-goo (Song Kang-ho) is a high-ranking mob boss, he wears nice suits and drives a Mercedes and yet he lives in a small, squalid apartment with his wife and child. He does act like a gangster whether he is forcing a hostage to sign a contract or bribing his daughter's teacher for better grades, but these actions never solve any of his problems, as Darcy Paquet said in his review of the film "What works so smoothly in other gangster movies only seems to bring on further complications and embarrassment here. The methods are the same, but the results are slow in coming". Perhaps In-goo is trying to conform to the idea of being a gangster as opposed to being naturally inclined towards this sort of behaviour.
Korean cinema has long made a point of showing citizens who conform to society and do everything it asks and still end up betrayed and left for dead. Considering that I am discussing a gangster film, the following point may be pushing it a little far, but I think In-goo's relationship with his boss is a similar representation: his boss believes In-goo to be more capable than his brother, yet he is ranked below. When the boss's brother tries to kill In-goo because of petty jealousy, In-goo is the one who ends up paying the price.
Roads have often been used symbolically in Korean cinema, most famously in Sopyonje where a pansori practicing family constantly wander along the road. Memories of Murder (Salinui chueok, 2003), also starring Song Kang-ho, begins and ends by a roadside in the country, which represents the circularity of a futile search. The protagonists in these films seem to be searching for lost homes, which can just as easily be interpreted as identities. With the separation of the peninsula and the troubled history and politics of the country many filmmakers simply placed their characters on roads that never seemed to lead anywhere.