The New Zombie Apocalypse and Social Crisis in South Korean Cinema

Sung-Ae Lee


The popular culture version of the zombie, developed over the latter half of the twentieth century, made only sporadic appearances in South Korean film, which may in part be attributed to the restrictions on the distribution of American and Japanese films before 1988. Thus the first zombie film Monstrous Corpse (Goeshi 1980, directed by Gang Beom-Gu), was a loose remake of the Spanish-Italian Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti (1974). Monstrous Corpse was largely forgotten until given a screening by KBS in 2011. Zombies don’t appear again for a quarter of a century. This article examines four zombie films released between 2012 and 2018: “Ambulance”, the fourth film in Horror Stories (2012), a popular horror portmanteau film; Train to Busan (2016) (directed by Yeon Sang-Ho), the first South Korean blockbuster film in the “zombie apocalypse” sub-genre; Seoul Station (2016), an animation prequel to Train to Busan (also directed by Yeon Sang-Ho); and Rampant (2018, directed by Kim Seong-Hun ), a costume drama set in Korea’s Joseon era. Based on a cognitive studies approach, this article examines two conceptual metaphors which underlie these films: the very common metaphor, LIFE IS A JOURNEY, and the endemically Korean metaphor THE NATION IS A FAMILY.


Zombie, social crisis, South Korean cinema

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