Here is our pick of the 10 best Korean film sequels, many of which even surpassed their originals.
10. Battlefield Heroes (2011)
Period drama specialist Lee Joon-ik is more well-known for his hits The King and the Clown and The Throne, but among his best regarded films are a pair of period war comedies, starting with Once Upon a Time on the Battlefield in 2003.
The 2011 film Battlefield Heroes continues to follow the shenanigans that take place during the war between the Korean states of Shilla and Goguryeo in 668.
While it has a who’s who of Korean cinema, and features many recognisable faces, the film was a slight box office disappointment and prompted Lee’s temporary retirement from the industry.
He returned just two years later with Hope.
9. The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure (2022)
Kim Nam-gil and Son Ye-jin were originally supposed to return for a follow-up to their swashbuckling 2014 hit The Pirates, a Korean stab at Pirates of the Caribbean, but amid of flurry of scheduling issues production was cancelled.
Arguably better than its predecessor, the film sadly debuted to little fanfare during the Lunar New Year holiday of 2022, when it became a pandemic casualty at the box office.
8. Confidential Assignment 2: International (2022)
Also back is Im Yoon-ah of Girls’ Generation as the daughter of Yoo’s police character, who now has two handsome hunks to fawn over.
One of the most successful Korean films released during the pandemic, the film doubles down on the comedy but is also no slouch in the action department.
7. My Wife Is a Gangster 3 (2006)
The early 2000s gave birth to many Korean gangster comedies, most of which spawned sequels, such as the six-part Marrying the Mafia saga. Best of the bunch may be the third instalment of the rival My Wife Is a Gangster franchise, which sees Taiwanese actress Shu Qi join the series.
Shu plays Aryong, the sword-wielding daughter of a Hong Kong triad boss who visits Korea after being framed for murder. There she is chaperoned by Lee Bum-soo’s local gangster Gi-chul.
When a hitman comes to find Aryong, Gi-chul brings her to the countryside, where they pretend to be a couple.
6. Steel Flower (2015)
Indie director Park Suk-young and actress Jeong Ha-dam partnered for a trilogy of films about Korean teenage runaways dubbed the “Flower Trilogy”, each starring Jeong as a teen named Ha-dam.
Improving on Wild Flowers, the pair deliver the harsh but beautiful tale Steel Flower, in which Ha-dam is a runaway trying and failing to hold down a job who dreams of escaping her drudgery through dance.
The film’s haunting soundscape, dominated by the sound of Ha-dam’s suitcase being pulled around the wintry landscape, leaves a lasting impression.
5. Steel Rain 2: Summit (2020)
An improvement over its predecessor, the film takes place on a submarine, where the heads of state of the Koreas and the United States are being held captive by a rogue North Korean operative. Angus Macfadyen is a hoot as a Trump-esque president.
Sharper and more restrained than Steel Rain, the film is clever, tense and surprisingly funny.
4. Voice (2005)
Voice is the fourth entry in the Whispering Corridors horror series, which all feature teenage grudge spirits haunting their former classmates at girls’ high schools. Each film features a new cast and a new debut director, in this case Choi Equan.
Kim Ok-bin makes her debut as the top singer of a school who dies mysteriously in her school’s music room and returns the next day to exact her revenge.
With great respect for its characters and sensitive and sumptuous staging, the film is a cut above other high-school horrors (save for one other special film further down this list).
3. Ash Flower (2016)
Park Suk-young’s “Flower Trilogy” closes out with its most poignant entry, Ash Flower, which swaps out the wintry urban backgrounds of the previous two entries. The film’s summer setting is gorgeously captured and yet no less harsh and desolate for its struggling young protagonists.
This time Jeong Ha-dam plays a teenager in a rural village who grows concerned for an 11-year-old girl who has just been abandoned by her mother. Carrying just a small suitcase filled with her worldly belongings, the girl arrives at the village bus stop seeking her father.
2. The Roundup (2022)
Detective Ma heads to Vietnam where he encounters a despicable Korean expat kidnapping and murdering other Koreans, ferociously played by Son Suk-ku. A thunderous chase begins, which brings them both back to Korea.
Far and away the bestselling Korean film of the pandemic with over 12 million tickets sold, The Roundup launched a franchise that is currently eyeing eight entries as well as spin-offs.
1. Memento Mori (1999)
The second and unquestionably the best entry in the “Whispering Corridors” franchise, Memento Mori, co-directed by Kim Tae-yong and Min Kyu-dong, is considered by some to be the best K-horror film ever made.
Once again taking place at a girl’s high school but with a different set of characters, the story focuses on two girls engaged in a romantic relationship – an extremely progressive thing for a Korean film circa 1999.
The story intercuts between their taboo relationship and the aftermath of the suicide of one of the lovers, when she returns to haunt the school and the prejudiced classmates who made her life hell.