Every international fan of Korean content has had to face it at some point, South Korea is a very conservative country and holds onto quite a few ideals that many international fans would deem “old-fashioned”. Even so, the LGBTQ+ community has existed just as long as the rest of the world and Korea is very achingly slowly attempting to finally incorporate it into its market.

While there is usually always something left to be desired, these (typically) arthouse films do not deserve to go unnoticed as they trailblaze their way to Korea’s mainstream media.

1. Jane

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| HanCinema

So Hyun (Lee Min Ji) is a runaway who is alone after her boyfriend, Jung Ho (Lee Hak Joo), disappears. She gets to know a transgender woman named Jane (Koo Kyo Hwan) and joins her and her group of misfit runaways, who are as comforting and loving as a real family.

Tags: Transgender

2. The Handmaiden

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| HanCinema

In 1930’s Korea, during the period of Japanese occupation, Sook Hee (Kim Tae Ri) is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, Hideko (Kim Min Hee), who lives a secluded life on a countryside estate with her Uncle Kouzuki (Jo Jin Woong). However, the maid has a secret, she is a pickpocket hired by a swindler (Ha Jung Woo) posing as a Japanese Count to help him seduce Hideko to elope with him, rob her, and lock her up. The plan goes according to plan until Sook Hee and Hideko discover some unexpected feelings.

Tags: Lesbian, R/18+ (for nudity, sexual content, and violence)

3. Antique

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| HanCinema

Jin Hyuk (Joo Ji Hoon) has money, looks, charm, everything except the love of his life. He establishes a cake shop in which women are sure to come. He hires Sun Woo (Kim Jae Wook), a pâtissier who had a crush on Jin Hyuk in high school, an ex-boxing champion Gi Beom (Yoo Ah In), and a clueless bodyguard Soo Young (Choi Ji Ho). Each of the four men have unforgettable pasts that they are afraid to face, but their secrets slowly begin to unravel.

Tags: Gay, Domestic Abuse

4. A Girl at My Door

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| HanCinema

Young Nam (Bae Doo Na)was a promising graduate of the police academy before she transferred to a small seaside village for misconduct. On her first day, she finds Do Hee (Kim Sae Ron), who has a gloomy-looking face. Do Hee’s grandma gets killed by falling off a cliff and to protect her from her stepfather’s abuse, Young Nam lets Do Hee stay at her place. Things turn out to be even more mysterious as she gets to know her.

Tags: Lesbian, Child Abuse, 18+ (for violence/profanity)

5. High Heel

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| HanCinema

Ji Wook (Cha Seung Won) is a cold-blooded detective who would stop at nothing to catch criminals. However, despite his perfectly masculine appearance, Ji Wook struggles with a secret desire to be a woman. However, a gang Ji Wook had previously arrested plots revenge against him. Although he resigns and works on his dreams of changing into a woman, people close to him get caught up in the conspiracy and killed. When the one person he must protect, Jang Mi (Esom), also falls in danger, Ji Wook faces difficulty in making his choice.

Tags: Transgender, Gay, 18+ (for violence/profanity)

6. In Between Seasons

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| HanCinema

Mi Kyung (Bae Jong Ok) lives away from her husband and raises Soo Hyun (Ji Yoon Ho), her high-school-aged son, alone. A few years later, after completing his military service, Soo Hyun gets into an accident while on a trip with his friend Yong Joon (Lee Won Keun) and is hospitalized in critical condition. Soon after, Mi Kyung discovers a secret her son and Yong Joon have been keeping from her.

Tags: Gay

7. Lost to Shame

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| HanCinema

Song Joon (Nam Yeon Woo) is an unknown actor who often has to borrow money from his brother to get by. Finally, Song Joon is cast as the lead in a successful play about a transgender woman. By taking the role and making efforts to understand the gay community, Song Joon believes he has overcome his prejudices. However, when his character’s struggles begin to be too relatable, his tolerance and acceptance are tested.

Tags: Transgender, Gay, Homophobia

8. Two Weddings and a Funeral

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| HanCinema

A gay man, Min Soo (Kim Dong Yoon), and a lesbian, Hyo Jin (Ryu Hyun Kyung), agree to marry so Hyo Jin can legally adopt a child with her lover Seo Yeong (Jung Ae Yun) and Min Soo can remain closeted to his parents. They enjoy all the benefits of heterosexual couples and can ward off public scrutiny and parental disapproval. However, Min Soo’s intrusive parents begin to get a bit too involved with the couple’s life, threatening their scheme.

Tags: Gay, Lesbian, Fake Marriage, Homophobia, Cross-Dressing

9. Where Your Eyes Linger

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| HanCinema

Friendship evolves into something more between a playful chaebol heir (Han Gi Chan) and the diligent bodyguard (Jang Eui Soo) who’s always by his side.

Tags: Gay

10. Method

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| HanCinema

A veteran actor (Park Sung Woong) and an idol (Oh Seung Hoon) are starring together in a play called “Unchain”. In the play, their characters become involved in a relationship and as they rehearse, reality and fiction begin to get blurry.

Tags: Gay, Age Gap, Bisexual, Unhealthy

11. Night Flight

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Three teenage boys, Yong Joo (Kwak Shi Yang), Ki Woong (Lee Jae Joon), and Ki Taek (Choi Joon Ha), were best friends in middle school until Ki Woong becomes part of a gang. Yong Joo becomes concerned when he finds out that Sung Jin (Kim Chang Hwan)’s gang is bullying Ki Taek. But, when Ki Taek learns that Yong Joo is gay, he betrays his friend and joins Sung Jin’s gang, telling them that Yong Joo has loved Ki Woong for years.

Tags: Gay, Homophobia, 18+ (for violence and profanity)

12. Jazzy Misfits

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Soon Duk (Cheetah) is earning money as a singer in Itaewon until her mother (Jo Min Soo) finds her. Apparently, Yoo Ri (Choi Ji Su), ran away with their money. The mother and daughter become a team to find Yoo Ri and face secrets they never thought they’d share.

Tags: Lesbian, Drag