by etherealtaekibum, December 22, 2019

Short films have been prevalent throughout cinematic history pretty much since it first existed - the first-ever horror movies ranged from 45 seconds to 3 minutes in length as directors learned and tried out different methods to thrill their audiences.

They're a sub-genre in cinema that often gets overlooked, and yet countless short films are dotted around Vimeo, YouTube, Vidsee and other sites. New directors pour their hearts into short films, releasing 7 to 30-minute films in the hopes that as they're showcased, they'll be hired for a larger project.

Often, these films are vastly ignored, being pushed to the back of the YouTube search recommendations in favour of pirated English subbed 140p movie rips.

Today, I'm going through ten of my favourite South Korean short films that I've found over the year; films I've enjoyed - or ones I haven't enjoyed but their director shows great promise for the future, and they're a director to keep an eye on.

Got 30 minutes to spare? Grab a hot drink, a snack and delve into some of these wonderful short films.

7 minutes
DIR: Kwak Sae Mi

A Late Night follows a young college girl as she gets a late-night taxi ride back to her apartment building after classes. Once they pull up, she finds the cab driver will not drive off after she's gotten out of the taxi.

Watch it on YouTube here

A Late Night is the debut short film of director Kwak Sae Mi; she currently has two others - Heartsaver and Summer's Tale.
A Late Night was one of the first ones that I saw in the South Korean film short genre. Coming in at seven minutes long, this short thriller had my goosebumps raising. With tension causing me to sit on the edge of my seat, I found myself dreading and hoping for the protagonist as the short went on.
Being Sae Mi's debut film, I am left highly impressed and find myself looking forward to her other and future works. I highly await to see if she gets a full-length feature film in her career. In just seven minutes, Sae Mi manages to create an atmosphere that most thriller directors would envy. The actors perform their parts so spectacularly - it's not hard to imagine this genuinely is happening in South Korea, not a film. 

One of my favourites for sure, Sae Mi, has a solid debut performance with her directing, ranking an easy 9/10 from me. From this piece alone, I have no doubts we'll be seeing Sae Mi with a feature-length film in the future. Check out her three shorts; she's truly a talented woman.

9 minutes

DIR: Jeong Ji Won

Jeong Ji Won has only one directing credit to his name — The Viewpoint — but I cannot stress how much I enjoy this short film. The Viewpoint takes place in a police station with a man and woman pressing charges against a man who was being relatively unpleasant to the young woman. As the story progresses, we're taught a critically valuable lesson: everyone has a story, and your viewpoint to a story is different from everyone else's in a situation. 

Watch it on YouTube here.

Staying in the shorter side of short films within 8 and a half minutes (cutting credit time), Ji Won makes such a poignant story that truly made me tear up. The Viewpoint caused me to judge the main character just as the director desired us to. By the end of these 9 minutes, I was truly in tears, rubbing at my eyes, sniffing and doing my best to hold it together. The lesson in this short film is so important, and I feel like it's something that many of us these days forget; everyone's story has at least one other story, and both are needed to comprehend the full situation.

Another definite one of my favourites, Ji Won, has stunned me in less than ten minutes. I cannot wait to see what else this man has to bring to South Korean cinema.

25 minutes

DIR: Hong Seung Kyun

Longer than some but still only under 30 minutes, The Mother Earth is a dystopian drama short film in which art is banned. People cannot make music, create paintings or drawings, take photos or create dances without a grant from the government. A young man is discovered to have been making music illegally and runs for his life. With the help of a young woman, he finds a place to hide out where he is safe to do as he wishes.

Watch it on YouTube here

Directed by Hong Seung Kyun, The mother earth snatched my breath away. This did not feel like a short film - this felt like it was a full-length film; upon finishing this, I felt like I had sat in a cinema and watched an entire film. I was breathless, I was amazed, I was irritated (in a good way) by the plot twist, and I felt like I had just discovered an absolute gem. Seung Kyun currently has two other short films (Save Me and The Butterfly) that I am more than eager to watch.

Seung Kyun's focus currently seems to fully be on short films and music videos; it's unknown at the time of writing this article whether he will graduate to feature films. However, his short films stand for themselves as works of art, and I look forward to his 2020 upcoming piece.

29 minutes

DIR: Kwon Bong Keun

Another entry on the longer end of the spectrum but Let Me Cry For You is a stunning piece from Kwon Bong Keun. After a woman begins crying and finds she cannot stop, she is hired to cry at funerals.

Watch it on YouTube here

Bong Keun currently has two other short film credits to his name (Nuclear Family and My Dream, Greco-Roman), both of which are enjoyable but I found more average than Let Me Cry For You.

This is the longest short on the list but its one that stuck with me. I'm not altogether certain what it was about Let Me Cry For You that got to me, but something did. Watching this felt almost spiritual, watching the main character come out of her shell, and her self imposed isolation through something so saddening as she navigates life. I do find it slightly hard to convey what about this stirred so many emotions in me; I recommend experiencing and judging it yourselves. 

Bong Keun's other shorts fell a little flat for me, although they definitely will be enjoyable for others. This one specifically captured my attention in a way I cannot wholly explain, and I'm looking forward to seeing what else this man directs in the future. He has my full attention.

SEOL HEE (2016)
20 minutes
DIR: Bae Yeon Hee

Seol Hee follows the story of Yeon Hee as she bumps into Seol Hee - a girl with Down's Syndrome from her school she used to look after. Upon bumping into Yeon Hee once more at the convenience store she works, Seol Hee visits her every day. However, things never seem to stay happy for long as Yeon Hee comes to struggle with a decision. 

Watch it on YouTube here

Directed by Bae Yeon Hee, this short gave me decidedly mixed emotions throughout its short twenty-minute run on my screen. At first, this is very sweet and emotional but gets very dark very quickly as Yeon Hee navigates the challenge given to her as she tries figuring out the right thing to do. This left me with an aching heart, frustrated as the director wants us to feel, and feeling like I needed a sequel to see further how the story developed. This short is developed wonderfully but left me wanting more from the story and more from Yeon Hee.

This is Yeon Hee's only current directing credit, but I'm very excited to see what comes from them next. Seol Hee elicited so many emotions in me so quickly through just 20 minutes, and I hope Yeon Hee gets a feature-length film one day.

SUMMER, BUS (2017)
19 minutes

DIR: Cho Beom Sik & Ryu Jin Ah

Summer, Bus follows the everyday life on a bus as people hope to find warmth in their fellow humans. Following two different bus drivers, this short embarks on a warm and gorgeous journey across the South Korean bus routes.

Watch it on YouTube here

Created by two directors — Cho Beom Sik and Ryu Jin AhSummer, Bus is a stunning short film on hope, human kindness and the small things that humans do for others. This was a stunning piece of cinema that left me with a renewed faith in the world. It left me feeling warm inside, a smile on my face and feeling like the world was a more decent place than I'd begun thinking. Albeit fictional, watching this short leaves nothing but the heart aching for how good the world can truly be. 

This is the only credit to both Beom Sik and Jin Ah's names, but I find it so wonderful. I cannot wait for them to do more - and hopefully develop another collaboration together. This was simply stunning, they work wonderfully together, and one can merely quietly wait patiently to see what else they come up with.

4 minutes

DIR: Lee Ok Seop & Gu Gyo Hwan

Returning to a shorter piece for a moment - the shortest on this list, Girls On Top follows Woo Hee (Chun Woo Hee) and the — surprisingly, slightly emotional — story of her cactus. With humorous friend Joo Young (Lee Joo Young) we follow the story of break up and reunion - with a cactus.

Watch it on YouTube here

This is an unusual little piece brought to us by another collaboration of directors and screenwriters - Lee Ok Seop and Gu Gyo Hwan. This is comedic and fun that makes the viewer chuckle, feel alongside Woo Hee, and smile over the four minutes that it runs for. There isn't much more to say about girls on top; it's just brief, sweet and leaves you with a smile. 

Lee Ok Seop currently has two other credits to her name — A Dangerous Woman, another short — in which Gyo Hwan stars, and Maggie, a feature-length film having screen-written and directed both. Gyo Han has also directed Where Is My DVD? in which he performed the main part. Both directors demonstrate great skill, prowess and talent throughout their pieces and for sure are going to go on to do many great things both together and in their solo work.

29 minutes

DIR: Gu Gyo Hwan

Where is my DVD? follows actor Gu Gi Hwan as he contacts his old directors to obtain DVDs of all of his past acting roles. We follow him across five different scenarios as he comes into contact with them. As he slowly collects them and makes progress throughout completing his acting collection, Gi Hwan must come to terms with a truth he didn't previously understand.

Watch it on YouTube here

Where is my DVD? is a film that I enjoyed. It's quirky and has a great many characters in such fully-fledged roles and personalities and overall, left me feeling pretty content. Although it can be a little confusing and may take a little time to fully understand what the truth that Gi Hwan needs to learn, this is still humorous, slightly emotional and all-round piece, a very strong short. Gi Hwan is played by the director himself — Gyu Hwan — and he does both roles to the utmost best he could; it was a very sound choice for him to do both the director and main role.

Aside from directing, Gyu Hwan has numerous acting roles to his name, including several shorts and blockbusters alike. He's a very active man in the industry. He's an extremely talented man, and I truly look forward to his next projects, both acting and directing.

19 minutes

DIR: Jung Ga Young

In this short, independent film director Ga Young (Jung Ga Young) has a film project in which she wants to cast Jo In Sung (Jo In Sung), but she has no script yet. Neither does she know the best way to contact him. She finds herself in for a surprise after In Sung himself gets in contact with her. 

Watch it on YouTube here

Love Jo. Right Now. is a film I wasn't sure of when I first found it. It seemed very fan-girlish in tone, and that's something I don't like in films. However, I saw someone's review saying it was delightful and enjoyable, so I decided to give it a go. I am glad to say I was pleasantly surprised by this short - it has a very nice balance between professional and fan-girl that works well and seems genuine, realistic and not creepy. Ga Young got the right balance and did so perfectly.

Ga Young has three directing credits and three directing & screen-writing credits to her name; all of them except Love Jo. Right Now. are feature-length films, and from this short, I look forward to watching through them. She is a director to check out.

12 minutes

DIR: Noh Do Yeon

Human Form is a twelve-minute short that follows a young girl as she navigates school and family whilst everyone around her is beautiful, hoping for her plastic surgery to become perfect.

Watch it on YouTube here

This short directed by Noh Do Yeon is a twelve-minute horror following the pressing stress on society to continually look perfect. This was chilling, unnerving and served a lesson in the dangers of narcissism, to a degree. This was dark, it unsettled me, and it was perfectly done. Do Yeon is well adapted to direct horror, and this shows off her expertise within just twelve short minutes.

Do Yeon currently has one other credit to her name, Night Watcher, a thirteen-minute thriller that I am eager to check out after having watched Human Form. I cannot wait to see what else she does in the future and eagerly await a feature-length horror from her.

These are just ten of many short films that have hailed from South Korea that are my (so far) top ten favourites. Have you seen any of these? If so, what was your opinion on them?

Are there any you think deserved to be on this list?

What are your favourite South Korean shorts?

Are there any up and coming directors you're looking forward to seeing more from?

Would you like to see an article like this for other countries short films?

If you're interested in seeing more short films from South Korea and around Asia, I have an ongoing list here.

See you in the comments!

save me south korea short short films a late night kwak sae mi heartsaver summer's tale the viewpoint jeong ji won the mother earth hong seung kyun the butterfly kwon bong keun nuclear family greco-roman seol hee bae yeon hee summer, bus ryu jin ah cho beom sik girls on top lee ok seop gu gyo hwan chun woo hee lee joo young a dangerous woman maggie where is my dvd love jo right now jo in sung jung ga young human form noh do yeon night watcher