Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ask a Korean! Wiki: Korean Science Fiction?

Dear Korean,

Can you recommend any good Korean or Korean American science fiction novels or movies?

Korean Trekkie

Dear Korean Trekkie,

Science fiction is just not the Korean's thing. Offhand, he can only think of Wonderful Days (2003), a critically acclaimed sci-fi animation movie (but a box office failure.)

Oh Wonderful Days, how the Korean hoped you would save Korean animation...

Readers, got anything?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. save the green planet (지구를 지켜라) is a favorite. maybe not sci-fi in the same sense you're asking for, but very definitely worth your time.

  2. Hasn't "The Simpsons" saved, or made, South Korean animation. 20 years and still going is a really great run.

  3. A friend of mine is a science fiction writer that lives in Seoul, and he has written a great deal about Korean science fiction. There's too many posts of his on the subject to link here, so if you're interested just check him out at his website here:

  4. The Korean can't believe he forgot Gord. Sorry Gord.

  5. Top of my head, I can only think of

    2009 Lost Memories ("F*CK YOU, JAPANESE PEOPLE!!!")
    천군 (= 웰컴투 동막골 - anything valuable)
    성냥팔이 소녀의 재림 (... well, my pothead friends like it when they're high)
    Natural City (*cough Blade *cough* Runner *cough*)

    SF... not exactly Korean cinema's strong suit

  6. Sci-fi is definitely lacking in Korean cinema. Which is no surprise in a country famous for historical dramas.

    Besides the films mentioned all I can come up with is 'I'm a cyborg but that's ok' 싸이보그지만 괜찮아. Which is more surrealist than sci-fi since the person just thinks they are a cyborg.

    And in the new film 'Moon' there is English and Hangul written on signs implying perhaps that a Korean corporation is in charge of mining the moon.

    I haven't seen it, but planning to, and heard it is excellent.

    In a country known for hi-tech industry it is rather surprising that sci-fi movies remain so rare.

  7. I was also going to suggest "Save the Green Planet." Great film.

    There's also "Host." That's more a monster movie though.

    "Wonderful Days" was terrible. I was at the premiere in Korea at the film festival. It was hyped up so much, but fell very very short.

  8. Don't have anything original to add except another recommendation for "Save the Green Planet!" and "The Host" (if you want to count that as scifi) and a big fat thumbs down for "2009 Lost Memories." Cool concept that got mired in melodrama bullshittery.

  9. 복거일이라는 소설가를 꼭 언급되요. 주류문학에 속한 SF 소설가로요. 비명을 찾아서는 2009 로스트 메모리즈와 저작권 다툼도 있었던 대체역사물이고, 미래에서 온 타임머신을 타고 조선시대로 떠난 기자의 모험을 그린 것도 있고... 소개하기 좀 그렇지만 목성 잠언집 같은 우주 식민시대를 그려본 작품도 있고요. 그렇습니다.

  10. ...If "Korean Trekkie" is still interested in exploring Korean *American* science fiction, here are several recommendations (in chronological order):

    - Aeon Flux (early-to-mid 1990s) by Peter Chung

    - Robot Stories (2002) by Greg Pak

    - Peter Chung's "Matriculated," one of the nine animated short films that make up The Animatrix (2003)

    - Of Tales and Enigmas (2006), a collection of short stories by Minsoo Kang

    - Cathy Park Hong's futuristic poem-novel Dance Dance Revolution (2007)

    Re Korean SF: many thanks to those who posted such helpful recommendations!

    1. I know I'm years late here, but:

      The Korean is right. SF is not Korea's thing. Why is a difficult question, the subject of much speculation and theorizing among Korean SF fans. My own theory is too complicated to explain here, and is anyway shifting constantly, though the last time I spoke of it in an academic sense (at WorldCon in 2010) my argument was that it had to do with Korea's particular historico-political zeitgeist at present, and the social function of SF in terms of shifts in the same in other places. More info if someone asks...

      Minsoo Kang's book is fantasy, not SF, or at least the majority of it that I've read is. (Not bad fantasy, just not SF.)

      And WONDERFUL DAYS is soundly hated by the few SF fans I I've discussed it with here, who say that it basically destroyed the Korean animation industry for domestic, creative work. (Especially SF. I suspect the guy who was making it had the same problem as the art film guy responsible for THE RESURRECTION OF THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL: a poor grasp, and too little respect for, the genre made them overestimate their own ability to construct an SF narrative, and a mess was the best they could do when they realized this mid-project.) I haven't managed to get the whole way through WONDERFUL DAYS, the motorbike stuff just seemed to go on and on and on and bored me.

      In any case, there are much more interesting Korean SF films out there, if you don't mind hunting for them. Three include SAVE THE GREEN PLANET (2003), NABI (2001), and THE HOST (2006). There will be at least one more soon, if my partner and I can secure the rights to adapt a certain Korean novel into an indie film. I'm hoping we can...

      I've got a series on Korean SF here -- that's the first post of many, and somewhat dated. It ranges from films to the SF scene here, to a little discussion of contemporary Korean SF books and magazines. I don't have much on older books, but if you're in Seoul there's a Korean SF library in Mapo and if you pay membership dues you can check out a ton of older Korean SF stuff. (I discuss the library in the final post of the series.)

  11. Wow, I just found this thread. Just on the chance somebody might revisit it, I'd like to add two titles. 한낙원/ Han Nak-Won(?) was an early pioneer of 'hard' science fiction writing (NOT fantasy-erroneously-called-SF, like some of the titles mentioned in previous comments). I remember two wonderful oldies by his hand, probably written in the late 50's or early 60's: 금성 탐험대 ('Venus Explorers') and 우주벌레 오메가 충 ('Space Bug Omega'). They were notable for exciting, action-oriented plots and strict adherence to plausible technological themes. The description of Venus in the first title and the Jovians in the second are not in accordance with what we know of those planets today, but they were solidly based on informed speculation of the time. I rather doubt they are in print today, but for those who live in Korea, a visit to a Seoul rare book shop might well be worth it. I know I'd love to read them again.

  12. The Trekkie was interested particularly in the KOREAN SCIENCE FICTION N O V E L S.
    The movies had already been seen. Of course, The Trekkie is open to new suggestion in the cinema too, but the books awake much more curiousity, because I've never ever seen any sci-fi in Korean literature.

    And speaking of movies, you guys forgot the Taekwon Robot V!!

  13. Thank you, Sam!
    That's the precise information that The Trekkie wanted to find out.

    *taking notes*

    Anyone got more?

  14. John, from Daejeon, I'd say The Simpsons did nothing to the Korean animation. Although most of the episodes were made in Korea, the majority doesn't know or doesn't care about it and it remains a classic in American animation. Being invented by Matt Groening, who's American and the cartoon is a parody of the American society, so it has no connections to Korea at all. I like The Simpsons, not to be missunderstood, but here the Korean studios were nothing but workers for the American product. Just like the Dr. Martens boots that were made in China or the Adidas, Nike or whatever sports wear, that was, also, made in China.
    And I'm not talking about the fake copies here. But about big corporations saving money.

    Korean animation studios don't release much Korean cartoons, but they DO work a lot for the various American and Japanese cartoons. Just take a look at the credits at the ending of a movie or TV series. After the main staff was listed, all of a sudden there appear much more Korean names than the rest of the staff. And of course, Korea and Korean animation gets no praise from the audience. It looks like Korean studios are too busy working for foreign products to make a reputation on their own stuff.

    I'd rather say Pororo was the one to save Korean animation. Hope it's not sold to Disney....


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