BIFF 2023: Because I Hate Korea Movie Review – A lifelike call to chase your dream

A lifelike call to chase your dream

Opening film of the Busan International Film Festival, the introspective Because I Hate Korea is an exploration of the misunderstood. In a press interview at the festival, writer/director Jang Kun-jae describes it as a film about today’s unfulfilled youth on a global level – ‘Because I Hate [insert here].’ He says there’s already of host of memes out there – the antithesis of the ‘I Love New York’ style campaign.

Inspired by Chang Kang-myoung’s 2015 novel of the same name, it’s had a few updates designed to reach its current target audience of young people in the pursuit of happiness. Covid has unfortunately – or fortunately – played a part too, changing the filming schedule and the location to New Zealand making it the film it is today.

Our protagonist, Gye-na has a nice life – graduated university, a decent job, a nice boyfriend. Yet she’s feeling the ennui hard – enough to push her to consider leaving the country, cramming all her dissatisfaction into the idea that the problem is Korea itself. There’s a determined hope that somewhere else is happier. With this simple/not simple idea in mind, she abandons her job, boyfriend and family, setting off for the warmer climes of New Zealand. Warmer is happier, right?

As Because I Hate Korea takes us back and forth in time, dipping into some of her less happy moments in Korea, as well as her real-life struggles in New Zealand, it’s almost difficult to follow at some points. But eventually it all strings together, demonstrating that life is inevitably a mix – that it’s worth trying, failing and trying again. Maybe it is about finding a suitable climate in which to weather life’s storms.

Led by 31-year-old Go Ah-sung, who’s been involved since the project started several years ago, she also leads Tracer, Radiant Office and the fabulous Samjin Company English Class alongside Esom and Park Hye Soo. The film is bursting with interesting characters, all trying to find their own path. From Gye-na’s boyfriend Ji-myung, played by Kim Woo-kyum, who’s determined to become a journalist to her first expat friend Jae-in, played by Joo Jong-hyuk, who’s seeking an easier life in NZ. Whichever choices they’re making, all are earnest, each following his or her own dream, no matter how vague it may be and trusting the universe to take them there.

Between warm colors and close shots, some upside down when things don’t feel right, there’s an intimate if sometimes befuddling feel as you get to know and understand Gye-na, and she gets to know herself along with us. The film also touches on the reality of creating a new adventure – it’s not always as glamorous as it sounds. There are certainly moments that feel like ‘it’s time to give up’ – and many well-meaning people ready to convince Gye-na to simply come home.

Life lessons range from ‘others don’t get it and you don’t need to convince them’ to ‘change is hard’ and ‘no matter how different, things are the same everywhere.’ But not everyone is ready to manage their big dreams and that’s the difference between those who express dissatisfaction and those that do something about it.

With a run-time of 106 minutes, there are bits that seem like the roller coaster will never end. But maybe that’s because, like life, there’s so much drudge between the sunnier moments. Gye-na keeps on going, meeting people, sometimes positive influences, others not so much and having new experiences.

Through the ups and downs, you may find yourself siding one way or the other. The idea of a state of happiness is an interesting one, something that’s different for everyone. And it’s so intimate you can’t help connecting your own dots.

Even though Because I Hate Korea focuses on a woman in her late 20s, it’s relevant to anyone who’s actively noticing an absence of happiness. If you’re feeling a similar state – misunderstood and not in the right place – this film is an affirmation that you are seen.


See the Director + Cast interview story here to find out what this story is really about. To read more stories from the Busan International Film Festival, click here

Feeling unfulfilled like Gye-na? Ready for change? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Feel free to check out more of our movie reviews here!

  • Verdict - 8/10

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