As the spotlight continues to focus on North Korea in world news due to ongoing geopolitical tension, it's interesting to learn more about one of the most reclusive countries in the world through the lens of South Korean cinema and dramas. Naturally, some of the stories are action thrillers, but many are also romantic adventures. A gripping experience is guaranteed.

The 160-mile-long DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), at 2.5-miles in width, divides the Korean Peninsula into North Korea and South Korea. It is important to remember that the DMZ was established to maintain the cease-fire agreement signed in 1953, following the Korean War, but there is no permanent peace agreement yet between the two Koreas.

Of course it's not an easy task to portray stories related to North Korea, but these South Korean productions have done a great job in entertaining the viewers while giving us a dose of the real-life conflicts and consequences.

1. The Berlin File, starring Ha Jung Woo, Han Suk Kyu, and Jeon Ji Hyun

A North Korean agent stationed in Berlin is on the run, along with his wife who is a translator, when he is pursued by both North Korea and South Korea. The tense espionage movie, released in 2013, became a hit and won many awards, including Best Actor for Ha Jung Woo.


2. King 2 Hearts, starring Lee Seung Gi , Ha Ji Won, and Jo Jung Suk

Lee Seung Gi is the South Korean Crown Prince who enters into an arranged marriage with Ha Ji Won, the daughter of a North Korean general. In addition to thrilling actions and romantic interludes in the drama, there is a famous hot kiss occurring near a refrigerator. Ha Ji Won has great action scenes and saves the King. (It's also interesting to see how they travel back and forth across the DMZ.)


3. Spy Myung Wol, starring Han Ye Seul, Eric Moon, and Lee Jin Wook

The drama is totally fun because the story is so unbelievable, with a North Korean spy infiltrating South Korea by becoming an actress. She then falls in love with Eric Moon, who plays a top actor. Will she betray North Korea for love? The drama's theme song is lovable too.


4. Secretly Greatly, starring Kim Soo Hyun and Park Ki Woong

Kim Soo Hyun plays a North Korean agent who goes undercover in South Korea and disguises himself as the neighborhood idiot living in a small village. A mixture of comedy, action, and Kim Soo Hyun's abs in this uniquely poignant movie.


5. As One, starring Ha Ji Won and Bae Doo Na

This movie is based on a true event, which sounds more incredible than fiction. In 1991, the two Koreas put their differences aside and united as one Korean team for the first time and competed in the World Table Tennis Championship held in Japan. Guess which team won?


6. Peninsula (aka Hanbando), starring Hwang Jung Min and Kim Jung Eun

A big-budget production about a united Korea, set in a future time, where the Korean President is desperately trying to keep conflicting interests at bay to preserve the new but fragile alliance.


7. IRISIRIS 2, and spinoff Athena: Goddess of War

The famous espionage series, IRIS, starring Lee Byung Hun and Kim Tae Hee, traces the recruitment and training of two rookie agents for a black-ops agency. The ensemble of memorable characters includes competing agents from North Korea and South Korea. The hit series is followed by IRIS The Movie, IRIS 2 (starring Jang Hyuk and Lee Da Hae), and a spinoff, Athena: Goddess of War (starring Jung Woo Sung and Cha Seung Won).


8. Doctor Stranger, starring Lee Jong Suk, Park Hae Jin, and Kang So Ra

Lee Jong Suk plays a genius surgeon who lives under disguise in South Korea while searching for his long-lost love from North Korea. Park Hae Jin plays a doctor who is on his own secret revenge mission. They end up in the same hospital.


9. City Hunter, starring Lee Min Ho and Park Min Young

Our young hero, played by Lee Min Ho, returns to South Korea to revenge for his father, whose black-ops team was betrayed on a secret mission to North Korea many years ago. The hit drama includes thrilling action, deep dark secrets and corruption at the government's highest level, and a real-life romance between the two leading stars off the screen. 

COMING SOON

城市猎人

Starring Lee Min Ho (Heirs) and Park Min Young

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10. Descendants of the Sun, starring Song Joong Ki, Song Hye GyoJin Goo, and Kim Ji Won

Alpha Team's Song Joong Ki and Jin Goo are sent around the world for peacekeeping missions. They are also sent into the DMZ for special operations. In their spare time, they try to find romance. This 2016 smash hit has attracted many new worldwide fans to K-dramas.


North Korea continues to be a fascinating subject for South Korean movies and dramas. After all, the people in the two countries are related with a common ancient civilization and lineage. Many of the stories are quite idealistic in the hope of an ultimate reunion, while others are action thrillers about covert agents and special operations. There are also some fictional dramatization about a modern Korean monarchy, which doesn't exist anymore and seems unlikely to ever return given current realities.

There are many more movies and dramas on this subject. Which ones would you add to this group?

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(photo/image credit as tagged or referenced)