The time has come once again for me to sit down and think about all the new Korean films I had the opportunity to see in 2013 and come up with my favorites. This year, I had a lot to choose from for this ritual as I've seen about 120 local films, so the task proved more difficult than usual.
With 127 million tickets sold and a remarkable nine Korean films featuring in the yearly top ten at the box office, 2013 was a huge year for Korean cinema. Prosperity does not always mean quality and the last few years have been disappointing as far as commercial Korean films have been concerned. Thankfully, in 2013 the industry succeeded in both attracting viewers to multiplexes and putting out high quality fare. That said, I still find myself more partial to the more fertile grounds of independent cinema, as seven low budget films made the list this year. While two films truly blew me away over the last 12 months today's industry still isn't putting out quite the same amount of gems as it was around ten years ago.
Films considered for this list had their first public screening (festival or commercial release) in 2013. Therefore a number of films released in theaters in 2013 but which debuted at festivals in 2012 won't be found here. Some of those, such as Sleepless Night and Pluto, featured on last year's list. I've also only included films that were funded and made by Korean companies and filmmakers. I may have liked Park Chan-wook's US debut Stoker more than most, but it wasn't part of this year's pool. I also haven't included shorts, otherwise Moon Byoung-gon's Cannes hit Safe or Lee Sang-woo's Emergency Exit (part of Jeonju's Short! Short! Short! omnibus this year) might have sneaked on to the list.
Despite how many films I was able to catch this year, there were still just a few I would have like to see before making this list, including Ingtoogi and City: Hall, but I think I was able to cover most of the bases.
Scroll through the below gallery to discover the Top 10 Korean Films of 2013. Be sure to let us know if you agree or disagree!
Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update, Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time).