South Korea, the land of K-dramas and K-pop music, has also brought its unique touch to the zombie genre, captivating audiences around the globe with its gripping storytelling. In the past few years, Korean zombie movies have significantly risen in popularity, becoming a prominent sub-genre within the horror genre owing to their distinct flavour. With the rise of Korean dramas, streaming platforms like Netflix have also played a significant role in introducing a wider range of international audiences to the captivating world of Korean entertainment.
One of the key factors contributing to the success of Korean zombie movies lies in their cultural context. Korea has a rich history of storytelling, often rooted in traditional folklore and mythology. By infusing their films with these elements, Korean directors add a unique flavour to the genre. They draw inspiration from their own cultural narratives, superstitions and societal issues, creating a captivating blend of horror, drama and social commentary.
Another factor is the high production values and visually stunning aesthetics seen in Korean zombie movies. The directors pay attention to detail, crafting atmospheric settings, impressive special effects and meticulously choreographed action sequences. The cinematography often showcases breathtaking landscapes or grim urban environments, contributing to the overall immersive experience.
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Korean zombie movies are also known for their compelling storylines and well-developed characters. Unlike typical Hollywood blockbusters (we aren’t taking any names), these films place a significant emphasis on character development and explore intricate relationships. The protagonists are often ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations, battling not only hordes of the undead but also their own personal demons.
So, whether you’re already a fan of the zombie genre or just starting your journey into the world of Korean cinema, be prepared to immerse yourself in the world of flesh-eating zombies. Grab some snacks, call over some friends and start binge-watching our recommended Korean zombie movies.
The best Korean zombie movies to binge-watch (preferably not alone!)
Train To Busan
Train to Busan is a highly acclaimed Korean zombie film directed by Yeon Sang-ho. Released in 2016, it gained international recognition for its intense action sequences, emotional storytelling and engaging characters.
The movie follows Seok-woo, a workaholic fund manager, and his young daughter Su-an as they board a high-speed train from Seoul to Busan. However, an outbreak of a mysterious virus occurs on the train, turning people into ravenous zombies. As the infection starts spreading rapidly, Seok-woo, Su-an and a group of other survivors must fight their way through the carriages, facing relentless hordes of the undead.
The film stands out for its tight pacing, heart-pounding suspense and well-choreographed action scenes. It also explores human emotions and relationships amidst the chaos, creating a gripping narrative that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. The film received critical acclaim for its performances, direction and social commentary on class division and self-sacrifice, and is widely regarded as one of the best zombie movies of recent years.
IMDb rating: 7.6/10
Released in 2020 and directed by Cho II-hyung, #Alive is a Korean zombie film which is based on the Hollywood film Alone written by Matt Naylor.
The film centres around a young man named Oh Joon-woo, who finds himself trapped in his apartment during a sudden and deadly zombie outbreak. As Oh Joon-woo navigates the harrowing situation of being isolated and surrounded by zombies, cut off from the outside world, he must use his wits and limited resources to survive. As he tries to find a way out, he connects with a neighbouring resident, Kim Yoo-bin, who is in a similar situation.
If you are looking for a zombie movie with a psychological element then #Alive makes for the perfect choice, given it also explores themes like the emotional toll of isolation in the face of a zombie apocalypse.
IMDb rating: 6.3/10
When a homeless man becomes infected with a strange virus that turns him into a zombie, chaos erupts throughout the city of Seoul as the infection starts spreading rapidly. In the midst of all the chaos are a father, his estranged daughter and her boyfriend trying to navigate the outbreak and find safety amidst the growing horde of zombies.
The prequel to the aforementioned Train to Busan, Seoul Station is an animated zombie film which, as its name suggests, is set in the heart of Seoul. Though it is an animated movie, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s light-hearted fare. On the contrary, this film stands out for its dark and gritty animation style, which enhances the atmosphere of horror and desperation. It also delves into social issues such as poverty, homelessness and the struggles of marginalised individuals during a crisis.
IMDb rating: 6.1/10
Rampant is a historical zombie drama directed by Kim Sung-hoon which combines elements of period dramas and zombie horror to create a unique and exciting blend of genres.
Set during the Joseon Dynasty in Korea, the film follows the story of Crown Prince Lee Chung. When the prince returns to the kingdom after studying abroad, he discovers that it has been overrun by nightmarish creatures known as Night Demons who rise from the dead to terrorise people. As Lee Chung becomes involved in a battle for his kingdom’s survival, he must navigate political intrigue and treachery while trying to protect his subjects from the relentless and deadly Night Demons.
For those who love action sequences, Rampant also has some impressive battle scenes to watch out for.
IMDb rating: 6.3/10
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, Peninsula serves as a sequel to both Train to Busan and Seoul Station, taking place approximately four years after the events of the first film. In this film, the zombie outbreak has devastated the Korean Peninsula and the area has been abandoned by the rest of the world.
The story follows Jung-seok, a former soldier who escaped the initial outbreak but is sent back to the quarantined peninsula on a dangerous mission. He then encounters a group of survivors and together they must not only fight against the relentless zombies but also the immoral humans who have turned to lawlessness in the post-apocalyptic landscape. While the film has managed to maintain the zombie element that made its prequels so popular, this time it has also focused on the harsh realities of a post-apocalyptic world.
IMDb rating: 5.5/10
A supernatural thriller, The Wailing is a Korean zombie movie that blends elements of horror, mystery and suspense. Directed by Na Hong-jin, the 2016 film follows Jong-goo, a police officer in a small rural village investigating a series of mysterious and gruesome killings that appear to be connected to a strange illness affecting the villagers. As he delves deeper into the case, he encounters a mysterious woman, a shaman and dark supernatural forces that threaten the safety of his family and the entire community.
The Wailing has been lauded for its atmospheric tension, intricate storytelling and ambiguous narrative that keeps viewers guessing until the very end.
IMDb rating: 7.4/10
(Hero and feature image credits: Courtesy IMDb/Train To Busan and Alive)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Train To Busan is one of the highest rated Korean zombie movies as per IMDb ratings. It has an IMDb rating of 7.6/10.
Answer: Alive is one of the best Korean zombie movies that is currently available for streaming on Netflix.
Answer: While not a movie, there is a reality show centred around zombies called Zombieverse that is soon coming to Netflix. Set in Seoul where a zombie virus outbreak is spreading uncontrollably, the reality show will feature players who must outwit the dead while facing challenging quests.