“Train to Busan” Reminds Me of the Ugly Reality of Korean Society

I was ecstatic to watch this movie because since the trailer of the movie Train To Busan was released, it was already making a buzz not only in Korea but around the world. When I watched Train To Busan trailer Online, I knew that the movie was promising, and true indeed, it became an instant blockbuster especially in Korea. In fact, the movie made a record as the highest single-day gross of US$9.64 million in Korea. It also topped the box office of Singapore and other neighboring South East Asian countries. So what kind of sorcery do you think has this movie brought to the audience? Why it has officially became a blockbuster hit?

To start with, it’s a zombie movie. Yes, another zombie movie with a not so complicated story line. At first I thought I will never be thrilled about this anymore because I’ve had enough of walkers in The Walking Dead TV series. Not to mention several movies with the same theme. The only thing that’s new in this movie is, they have zombies V.2.0. They leveled up their monsters by making them run faster, think a little and maybe more ugly and scary. I admit they got me in that aspect. Now, put that zombies in a bullet speed train and trap them along with greedy, coward and oblivious passengers. The result: A thrilling ride and a very entertaining show. I guess that’s the perfect formula!

However, as I look deeper into the movie, it somehow reminds me of the kind of society Korea has nowadays. The zombies, the riot, and the adrenaline-rush scenes are just metaphors of the reality about Korea. Let me specify my points one by one.

1. It reminds me of how chivalry has evolved in Korea

I supposed to say Chivalry is Dead, but it would be unfair for the Koreans if we are going to judge them like that in the context of a movie. As much as I would like to agree as per my four years stay in Korea is concerned, I would rather call it an evolution than totally dead. Koreans are respectful at some point but there are some aspects where being a gentleman is no longer a trend in this country. In Korea, it is a man’s prerogative whether to offer his seat to a standing old lady in the subway or in the bus. You can totally ignore the vulnerable ones and go on with your business without being judged. You can see this in the movie in a lot of instances, but I think the most literal one is when the kid offered the seat to an ahjumma and the father reminded her that she may not do that as she doesn’t need to be good to other people all the time.

The ideology of the father is what I called the evolution of chivalry. He, at some point may still think about the welfare of the ahjummas, but these women don’t want to project that they are weak, that they are vulnerable, that they are least than the guys. Notice how they adamantly refused to take the seat. Notice also how the pregnant woman bullied her husband and yet remain cute. The writer of the movie shows the effort of women in this country to prove their worth and their strength.
Chivalry still exists, but it comes in a different form. You will only notice that if you expose yourself into Korean society. That means, you have to live with them, ride with them in the subway and talk to them.

2. It reminds me of “Me First” attitude of Koreans

In struggling to survive from the hungry zombies, some of them are willing to let other people die just to stay alive. I guess part of this movie is a reference to what happened during the Sewol Ferry Tragedy.  Let’s recall what happened during the Sewol Tragedy. Instead of saving the clueless students on board the ferry, those who were in charged to disseminate information and rescue operation saved themselves first. Who helped the troubled passengers? The fellow students who risked their lives just to save their classmates from the drowning ferry.

As a working Filipino in Korea, you cannot escape some Koreans who are being to nosy about your finances. They would like to find out where our earnings go. When they found out that Filipinos are sending money to support families in the Philippines, and by families I meant not only parents, children and partner but also sisters, brothers, aunts, nephews, nieces, etc., they be like “whaaaattt?”. Just like chivalry, helping family members financially is not mandatory for them, it’s a prerogative. What you earn from your work is completely yours. That money is yours to spend. For them, whatever money you earn, you must spend it for yourself first. I don’t want to call it greediness, but I guess the “Me First” attitude is a part of their culture. As much as we Filipinos despise that, in Korea, you can always think for your own welfare first without being judged.

3. It reminds me of the fact that Koreans define somebody with his job

If you will just listen to the society, you will really feel tired. For Koreans, your job defines who you are, that is why for them, finding a job is a pressure. Notice how one character in the movie judged a Fund Manager. Without him knowing the person personally, he automatically judged the person as somebody who will leave the weak and the useless just because he is a fund manager.

In Korea, in order to secure that their kids would land in good high paying jobs, they usually enroll them in different kinds of trainings. So for kids, after school doesn’t mean free time, it means time to learn another skill, language and whatnot. It is essential for them because they want to develop the skills and abilities of their kids so they could land a good job in the future. What you are doing defines who you are. That’s at least how they generalize people in Korea.

4. It reminds me that Korean Government  has everything in control

That portion when a spokesperson speaks on TV reminding everyone to be calm because the good Government is doing their best to stop the problem and that there’s no really problem reminds me of what happened during the MERS breakout in the country. It looks like the government is in control of the media.  During the MERS breakout, news outlets released information that there are only few cases of MERS in the country and that there are only few people died from the virus. But, there are rumors that a lot of people have been infected and a lot of people had died too. They just don’t want to reveal the true numbers because the Government doesn’t want people to panic. I am not sure if it’s just a conspiracy theory or not, but people kept talking about how the government manipulated the data of the numbers of victims just not to cause panic.

5. It reminds me that Koreans’ last resort is to commit suicide

One of the ugly things about Koreans is that, some of them, or most of them, they take their own lives if worse comes to worst. This can’t be denied because you can read it in the news every now and then. If they think there’s no more solution, they commit suicide and end everything once and for all.

Nevertheless, regardless of how this movie revealed the ugly reality of Korean society, the ugly faces of the zombies are so shout-worthy. So I am going to rate this movie 9.5/10. Train to Busan or 부산행(Busanhaeng) in Korean is directed by Yeon Sang Ho and starring Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi and Ma Dong-seo.


  1. Hi, I read your article about zombie train and Korean people. I strongly agree with you on almost everything. Can I use your articles on youtube video? I will indicate your page address on the videos.

    1. Hi carlos. Sure. You can use it. Please let me know the youtube link when you're done. Thank yoy

    2. Hi carlos. Sure. You can use it.let me know when you're downe with it and share the link to youtube video

  2. Hi, thanks a lot. Here is the link. Please let me know what you think.


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