Korean Horror Shows We Want To See Come To The U.S. Next

Korea has never been a stranger to the horror genre, but it seems that in recent decades the country has been producing some high-quality horror movies and TV shows that deserve far larger audiences. While many audiences associate horror with visceral thrills that emphasize graphic violence and explicit supernatural elements, Korean horror is often typified by more character-driven stories, explorations of deeper themes, and pointed social commentary. There also tends to be a Korean horror film or TV show for any pop culture fan as there's quite a bit of genre mixing, from "intense crime horror" to "lighthearted romantic comedy horror" to "whimsical fantasy horror" and everything in between.

Unfortunately, there aren't very many Korean horror shows that are easily available in the U.S. yet, but the massive success of the Netflix Korean series "Squid Game" could hopefully spark international interest in Korean shows that dive into darker and more suspenseful subjects. Let's take a look at the Korean horror shows that we want to see come to the U.S. next.

The Master's Sun (2013)

"The Master's Sun" has a wonderfully unique premise: Joo Joong-won, the seemingly heartless CEO of a conglomerate called Kingdom, is only focused on business and has little interest in relationships. However, his world gets turned upside down when the melancholic Tae Gong-shil enters his life. After a life-changing accident, Gong-shil developed the ability to see ghosts that plague her constantly, but there's a fascinating little loophole in her gift, which is that she no longer sees the ghosts when she touches Joong-won. After learning this detail, she begs him to let her stay close to him at all times so that she can be free from the ghosts that surround her, much to Gong-shil's chagrin. He's reluctant to help her, but agrees to give her what she wants as long she helps him track down a fortune of his that was taken from him sometime earlier, and the two become one of the most unusual duos ever put on the screen.

"Master's Sun" is a little light on the straight-up horror side of things, making it a perfect introduction for audiences who aren't into extreme genres and are interested in something more lighthearted. However, the series doesn't shy away from dark topics and perfectly balances the wacky comedy with suspenseful horror. It's that fascinating premise that seamlessly blends a range of moods and genres, and is carried by the charming performances of its leads Kong Hyo-Jin (as Tae Gong-shil) and So Ji-seob (as Joo Joong-won).

Strangers From Hell (2019)

"Strangers From Hell" (also known as "Hell is Other People") tells the story of a young man named Yoon Jong Woo who has just moved out of a small town in the country to Seoul. His buddy from college Jae Ho managed to get Jong Woo a job at his company, which prompted his move to the big city. However, Jong Woo doesn't have much money at the moment, so he decides to stay in a shabby yet affordable apartment building called Eden Goshiwon for a while until he can save up enough money to move into a better place. Yet there's more troubling Jong Woo at Eden Goshiwon than just the shared kitchen and bathroom, as the apartment building is populated by a lot of unusual characters whose increasingly odd behaviors are starting to make Jong Woo believe something else going on.

"Strangers From Hell" is one of the most intense shows on this list. The setting of the apartment creates an unending sense of dread that hangs over every scene, even when nothing out of the ordinary is occurring. This series does a spectacular job of mining the depths of everyday social interactions, resulting in a truly unsettling watch that will have you questioning the motives of those around you. It's a horror that haunts you long after you've turned off the TV.

Priest (2018)

When he was young, Oh Soo Min's mother was possessed by a demonic entity and because she couldn't get a priest to exorcize her, she ultimately died. This traumatic experience pushed Oh Soo Min to become a Catholic priest and to join 634 Regia, which performs exorcisms without the sanction of the Church under the guidance of Priest Moon Ki Sun. Similarly haunted by a tragic experience from her past, Ham Eun Ho has decided to become a doctor to save lives and now works in the emergency room. While Ham Eun Ho has no faith in God, a bizarre and unexplainable occurrence at her hospital challenges her lack of belief and brings her together with Priest Oh Soo Min, and the two team up to save the lives and souls of the patients in the hospital.

For those who enjoyed the similarly themed show "Evil," "Priest" is a perfect companion piece as it covers many of the same concepts (and also came out before "Evil"). "Priest" does a terrific job exploring the conflict between science and faith by having each character's understanding of the world challenged, giving them clear arcs throughout the show. Suspenseful scares, character-driven drama, and thoughtful commentary on the human condition are all on tap here.

Tale of the Nine-Tailed (2020)

Set in modern times, "Tale of the Nine-Tailed" follows a centuries-old Gumiho (a creature from Korean folklore) named Lee Yeon who was once the protector of Baekdudaegan. Now Lee Yeon lives in a big city and works with the Afterlife Immigration Office, an organization dedicated to protecting the physical world from magical threats. Joining him on his adventures is Goo Shin-joo, his closest friend who's also a Gumiho. Lee Yeon is soon tasked with the assignment of apprehending a mystical fox that's been killing people and eating their livers. This fox has taken the form of a human female and is about to marry a man until Lee Yeon interrupts it. However, his secret identity is exposed when a clever and tenacious TV producer named Ji-ah catches him in the act, and their lives become complicated and intertwined.

"Tale of the Nine-Tailed" is packed with twists and turns, never giving the audience too much information upfront. It may seem like a whimsical premise, but the series never skimps on the supernatural horror as it packs in plenty of references to actual legends and folktales. However, the spooky side of the show is balanced out by the fantastical nature of the plot and even manages to incorporate a touching romance between the outlandish set pieces.

Search (2020)

Just one month before he retires from the South Korean military, conscript sergeant and sniffer dog handler Yong Dong Jin is called in for a bizarre and disturbing case. Taking place in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Yong Dong Jin and his dogs are assigned to a special team that includes Son Ye Rim (played by popular singer and actress Krystal Jung), a young soldier with American military experience, and together they are sent to the demilitarized zone to investigate the strange murders occurring there. What starts off as a routine search for clues turns into a fight for survival as the team begins to understand that the culprit is more monster than human.

"Search" begins in a somewhat predictable fashion, but it's not long before things take a turn for the weird as the truth behind the creepy goings-on is slowly revealed. While there are some parts that lag due to the occasional exposition dump, there's more than enough fast-paced action to compensate, and the gradual uncovering of the mystery keeps you engaged throughout the entire series. Kudos to the strong cast as well, particularly Krystal Jung who fits the role of Son Ye Rim perfectly.

Save Me (2017)

A young girl named Im Sang-mi and her family are hit by hard financial times, forcing them to move from the big city to a small town whose inhabitants belong to a seemingly normal church. Goseonwon, the religious order that operates out of the church, harbors dark secrets that even its most devoted followers are unaware of. Im Sang-mi's brother Sang-jin kills himself after being constantly bullied at school because of his disability, and this decimates their mother's mental stability. Having her family torn apart by the disturbing presence in the town, Im Sang-mi believes that the cult is responsible and sets out to find out what's really going on. However, Im Sang-mi's parents are soon seduced into Goseonwon and she is forced into becoming an official member of its "flock."

A tragic and disturbing series, "Save Me" is a fascinating exploration of how those in a fragile state can be manipulated into not only believing terrible things but committing them. The primary villains of the series are terrifying yet believable, making the cults depicted in the show far more realistic than most in the horror genre.

Hometown (2021)

"Hometown" takes place in a small town in 1999 where Detective Choi Hyung has been assigned to investigate a case involving a serial killer. Ten years earlier, a local named Jo Kyung Ho returned to the town after studying abroad and killed a large group of people at the train station with sarin gas. Jo Kyung Ho turned himself into the authorities and ultimately received a life sentence in prison, while his sister Jo Jung Hyun is given custody of his daughter Jo Jae Young. Detective Choi Hyung's wife was killed in the train station attack and, driven by what he believes was a failure to save her, thinks that the two cases are linked. He teams up with Jo Jung Hyun, who must confront the past tragedy of her family to bring another killer to justice. This is no ordinary case, though, as it involves a bizarre tape recording of the killer along with another unidentifiable sound that may have otherworldly abilities. 

Korean horror shows are great at pairing unlikely duos to take on a supernatural menace, aren't they? On its surface, "Hometown" may seem like a straightforward crime drama, but it's carried by stellar performances from its leads who convey just the right amount of pathos without dipping into melodrama. The mystery is filled with twists and turns and has plenty of morbid surprises in store for viewers.

Monstrous (2022)

Jung Ki-Hoon is a former archaeologist who specialized in investigating supposed otherworldly occurrences. After a mysterious case effectively ended his career, Jung Ki-Hoon has now cultivated a career publishing a magazine and managing a YouTube channel, both of which deal with the occult. Soon he ends up in Jinyang County to look into the case of a massive Buddha statue that was discovered there. While the mayor of the town believes that the statue will become a tourist attraction and bring in more business, it's soon revealed that this isn't just a harmless relic. The Buddha statue actually possesses an ancient curse that consumes the souls of people, transforming them into frightening unholy creatures.

One of the things that sets "Monstrous" apart from other shows on this list is the beautifully executed cinematography that elevates it to a more filmic look. The haunting shadows and limited use of light perfectly accentuate the gothic nature of the plot and characters. While the show wanders into morbid territory, it's bolstered by the strong cast and palpable sense of dread that builds with every twist and turn.

Cheo Yong (2014)

Yoon Cheo-yong was once a top detective but has now been relegated to handling smaller district crimes. Since Cheo-yong lost his family and partner years earlier, he's largely cut himself off from reality because of the sorrow that has consumed him. However, he has the unique ability to communicate with ghosts, and after he begins interacting with the spirit of a young girl, Cheo-yong has a renewed sense of purpose in life. It's not long before he starts to take on cases that involve the unexplained, as his gift allows him to pick up on supernatural signs. Joining him on his quest to help the dead find closure is fellow detective Ha Sun-woo, who's developed a negative reputation in the force for her endless dedication to close every case she works on.

"Cheo Yong" takes the standard police procedural format and thoughtfully incorporates elements of otherworldly horror. While the series overall is quite heavy given its subject matter, it still manages to add some levity to balance out the darkness. Most of the episodes are in the "mystery of the week" style common in many crime shows, but "Cheo Yong" does have an overarching story that builds to a devastating conclusion.