“Way Back Home” (집으로 가는 길)

The first Korean film to be shot in the Caribbean, “Way Back Home” was shot in a real women’s prison, with some of the actual guards and detainees serving as background characters. The filmmakers clearly believe that while Jang Mi-Jeong (the woman on whom the movie is based) may have been guilty, her crime was less egregious than the way the Ministry of Foreign Affairs handled her case.

“Ode to My Father” (국제시장)

In a review that ran in the New York Times, film critic Jeannette Catsoulis gave “Ode to My Father” a big thumbs down for being “syrupy” and for having “packaged pain … likely to leave Western audiences cold.” While there is no doubt that director Yoo Je-Kyoon would’ve loved for American audiences to embrace his movie, it’s also undeniable that this film was not made with Western moviegoers in mind. It was made for Koreans.

“Secretly, Greatly” (은밀하게 위대하게)

“Secretly, Greatly” starts off as a comedy and veers off into a drama with a graphic, violent ending. Had the film stuck to one genre, the result would’ve been more cohesive and effective. Still, it’s a worthwhile film that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Kim Soo-Hyun shows impressive range in his dual portrayal of a North Korean spy and the dimwitted village idiot that’s his cover.

“Thieves” (도둑들)

A blockbuster hit in Korea, “Thieves” features an all-star cast that includes Jeon Ji Hyun and Lee Jung Jae. (The duo shared the big screen in the 2000 film “Il Mare” — the film that was later remade as “The Lake House” with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.)

“Always” (오직 그대만)

Don’t let this sunny photo fool you. “Always” (오직 그대만) just about broke my heart. Both So Ji Sub and Han Hyo Joo are appealing in their roles. They convey the right emotions, without being maudlin or resorting to histrionics. Some might say that the ending was cheesy, but I found it to be delightful and full of hope.

“Once Upon a Time in High School” (말죽거리 잔혹사)

Released in 2004, “Once Upon a Time in High School” is set in 1978. During this time-frame, South Korea was ruled under the brutal dictatorship of Park Chung-hee (the father of Korea’s current president Park Geun-hye). The movie depicts a bleak period where students had few rights and teachers could beat them at will. There’s a trickle down factor to that kind of abuse. The boys settle their differences not with words, but with fists, chairs and bats.

“Miss Granny” (수상한 그녀)

A huge hit in South Korea, where it was filmed, “Miss Granny” doesn’t have a unique plot. But, the director deftly takes an old premise (an elderly woman finds herself magically transformed into a 20 year old), adds some new twists, adds in some social commentary and creates a charming comedy full of music and scenes that will tug at your heart.

“The Little Penguin: Pororo’s Racing Adventure” (뽀로로의 슈퍼 썰매 대모험)

So, what the heck is a Pororo, you ask? If you can’t tell by the cover, it’s an adorable little animated penguin. In South Korea, where the “Pororo The Little Penguin” series made its debut in 2003, it’s the show for the preschool/kindergarten set. While it airs in more than 80 countries around the world (including Brazil, Australia, France, India and the United Kingdom), the show never made a concerted effort to break the U.S. market.

“Doggy Poo” (강아지 똥)

“Doggy Poo” is based on Kwon Jung-saeng’s 1968 children’s book of the same name. During that time period, South Korea was still in the process of recovering from the Korean War. It was still decades away from becoming the high-tech, wealthy country it is today. And I can’t help but wonder if the book wasn’t an allegory for how its citizens must sacrifice themselves (brutal work conditions, relentless hours spent studying at school) for the greater good of the country.

“Home by Christmas”

Julia Bedford (Linda Hamilton) is not having a great year. When the homemaker divorces her cheating and vindictive husband–who hides his assets and makes sure that she gets almost none of “his” money–she finds herself in a hopeless situation. The bleak and predictable premise is the basis of “Home by Christmas.”

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