My Korean Teacher is a charming tale of love lost, love found, bad timing and everything in between.
The film centres around Young-Ung, Yesung from K-Pop boyband Super Junior, a young Korean man living and working in Tokyo for a company delivering ginseng. Unfortunately his career at the company will be coming to an end after one last business trip to Okinawa and things start to go South very quickly when the business comes under investigation for something they’re shipping with the ginseng. To add more to the drama, Young-Ung’s relationship also ends in a particularly bad way leaving with nothing but the trip to Okinawa.
Just when he’s feeling at his lowest, two people enter his life that will change his life direction. They run a language school and are in need of a Korean teacher, a position that he takes up with very little confidence. At the school, he meets young single mother Sakura, played by Nozomi Sasaki, a woman working at a travel agency who needs to learn Korean ASAP to impress a CEO from a Korean company about to do business with the agency she works for.
This then begins a relationship of him teaching her, meeting her son Kei and grandmother as well as developing a very close friendship with Sakura. Along the way, complications begin to raise their head from a couple of other suitors which leads to Young-Ung begin to realise that there may be more than just a friendship there.
Straight off the bat, I really loved this movie. It’s incredibly cute and really easy to watch and quite beautiful in its storytelling. The movie was filmed in Okinawa, Japan and the landscape is simply breathtaking. From the gorgeous beach scenes, the bustling city streets and tranquil, peaceful village-like streets and scenery. The cast is all amazingly well matched and Yesung’s on-screen time with Nozomi is something you can’t take your eyes off, their chemistry is perfect. Also, considering that Yesung is a singer and not primarily an actor, he comes across very natural and has great comedic timing. Having said that, K-pop idols do wear many hats and rarely just sing. They’re usually involved in hosting variety shows and/or are also involved in K-dramas in Korea.
The other major cast members, Masahiro Sato who plays the owner of the language school named Kawamoto and Eri Fuse playing Sayuri, another teacher from the school are absolutely hilarious and the interactions they have with Young-Un at the end of most days in a bar are great. I found myself waiting for those scenes and in that regard, the film didn’t disappoint. Another part worth mentioning is with Kawamoto, Sayuri and Young-Un trailing Sakura around town. This segment in the film is so funny and one of the movie stealing moments. There are so many moment like that in the film though, from watching Young-Un and Sakura become closer throughout the film to the classroom scenes and even the scenes early in the story with Young-Un and his girlfriend, there’s some great stuff in there.
There’s a sub plot in the film involving Young-Un’s parents back in Seoul, Korea which initially doesn’t play out much but it has a really big bearing towards the end of the movie. This takes nothing away from the movie and only serves to pace it along and form a really solid story. The film has very solid, faultless direction from Director Yuzo Asahara which is making me want to check out more of his work.
I said this earlier in the review but yes, I really, really liked this movie and for me, is easily a standout from this year’s Japanese Film Festival. Get along to see it if you like rom-coms with a small twist of drama, you won’t be disappointed.
Final score: 9/10