Like 2021’s fan-favorite Squid Game and All of Us Are Dead, which has attracted Korean series a good amount of attention, many other incredible Korean shows have also provided audiences with some interesting survival stories, offering audiences memorable and relatable characters and keeping them stirred with their enthralling narratives.
While the Western media has supplied audiences with some of the most iconic survival TV shows and movies, including The Walking Dead and the successful videogame adaptation The Last of Us, South Korea also counts on an incredible number of intriguing survival and post-apocalyptic stories. From The Tower to Train to Busan, these are the best South Korean survival movies and TV shows like All of Us Are Dead that are guaranteed to have audiences’ hearts pounding.
- Release Date
- January 28, 2022
- Park Ji-hu , Chan-Young Yoon , Yi-Hyun Cho , Park Solomon
15 ‘#Alive’ (2020)
Director: Il Cho
#Alive is another Korean film based on a zombie outbreak currently streaming on Netflix. Oh Joo-Woo (Yoo Ah-in) is a gamer who lives alone in his apartment. As he goes about his daily life, sudden news breaks out and zombies swarm the city. All seems hopeless for Joo-Woo until he meets a young woman who is in the same position. They make plans to meet up and survive this deadly catastrophe together.
Like All of Us Are Dead, #Alive keeps the story confined to one location — in this case, an apartment building — and explores what it takes for one to survive on their own. More than anything else, the zombie film streaming on Netflix depicts a different story of a zombie apocalypse with a different perspective on survival, shedding light on what it really is.
14 ‘Pandora’ (2016)
Director: Park Jung-woo
Pandora is a great K-Drama like All of Us Are Dead in the sense that it perfectly captures what it is like to feel hopeless while fighting for survival. The 2016 film centers around an explosion at a nuclear power plant caused by an earthquake, which ultimately creates a disaster that only the workers can contain from spreading further.
Inspired by the devastating Fukushima nuclear incident in 2011, this tragic Park Jung-woo movie should be mandatory on the watchlists of everyone who enjoys intense survival dramas. While far from a masterpiece in the genre, it is still an intriguing disaster film throughout; its screenplay is humane and truly heartbreaking, making it linger on viewers’ minds after the credits roll.
13 ‘The Tower’ (2012)
Director: Kim Ji-hoon
The Tower is an underrated disaster film that focuses on the collapse of a popular residential tower called Sky Tower. This Korean film centers on a multitude of characters, which include — but are not limited to — a workaholic father, his daughter, and girlfriend, a firefighter who is devoted entirely to his job, a newcomer, a pregnant woman, and her partner, among others.
As these characters celebrate Christmas, a helicopter crashes into one of the two towers, which causes an ever-expanding fire and ultimately the tower’s collapse. This film does well at mimicking All of Us Are Dead’s isolating and hopeless atmosphere. All the characters are struggling to survive a large-scale disaster while falling to their potential demise.Watch on BritBox
12 ‘Zombie Detective’ (2020)
Creator: KBS Drama Division
Centering on Kim Moo-Young (Choi Jin-Hyuk), who has been a zombie for the past 2 years and does not remember anything prior to that date, the comedy fantasy Zombie Detective follows the character as he mimics the mannerisms of humans. Meanwhile, he also meets Kong Sun-Ji (Park Joo-Hyun), who used to be a writer for a current affairs complaint program and now takes a part-time position at his detective office.
Although the series isn’t to everyone’s taste (especially those who are looking for a series or film of the genre that takes itself more seriously), Zombie Detective still manages to offer audiences a very entertaining storyline that seamlessly blends mystery and comedy with the zombie genre to hilarious results, making for a great zombie comedy movie.
11 ‘The Tunnel’ (2016)
Director: Kim Seong-hun
Combining the thriller and drama genres, The Tunnel focuses on a man (Ha Jung-woo) who is driving home only to find that the poorly constructed tunnel he is driving through collapses, leaving him trapped and ultimately fighting for survival. In the meantime, rescue workers attempt to save him in a race against time.
The Tunnel‘s stressful premise alone is terrifying enough, and its excellent execution elevated it to higher grounds, making it a proper top-notch disaster film. At times, Kim Seong-hun‘s movie plays like horror, especially for audiences who aren’t okay with depictions of claustrophobic spaces. Featuring a well-written script, this K-drama provides a believably scary life-or-death scenario that will frighten any survival film enthusiast. On top of its nightmarish narrative, the 2016 movie also features great acting performances.
10 ‘D-Day’ (2015)
This 2015 miniseries tells the story of a devastating natural disaster that strikes the city of Seoul, leaving it paralyzed. The lives of many are put in the hands of doctors and emergency personnel. However, as expected, this is far from being an easy task.
Intense and nervewracking, this entertaining series will have audiences invested from the beginning, D-Day is among the best survival series in South Korea. A plot-driven drama, the 2015 show plays like a compelling and stressful movie that will certainly have viewers hooked. Furthermore, it also makes for a great medical drama that will easily appeal to anyone who likes the genre.
9 ‘Hellbound’ (2021 – )
Creator: Yeon Sang-ho
Set between 2022 and 2027 in South Korea, Hellbound is a dark fantasy survival series that centers on an otherworldly creature who delivers prophecies that condemn certain people to Hell. In the meantime, three supernatural monsters incinerate a person’s body in a show known as a demonstration. In the meantime, the supernatural events evoke great mayhem, enabling the religious group The New Truth to become more influential.
A fun fact about Hellbound it is how it became the first Korean drama to make it to the Toronto International Film Festival when it premiered on the “Primetime program of TV series.” With a confirmed return for a second season, Yeon Sang-ho’s K-Drama is undoubtedly a great television show for those who are keen on survival stories that also involve fantasy. Furthermore, it deals with themes of extremism and radicalism as well.
- Release Date
- November 19, 2021
- Yoo Ah-in , Kim Hyun-joo , Jeong Min Park , Jin-ah Won
8 ‘Flu’ (2013)
Director: Sung-Su Kim
Flu is a Korean film based on an epidemic. When immigrants are trafficked into Korea, the avian-type flu adapts and evolves, spreading from person to person in Korea. Those who come into contact with an infected person typically end up catching the virus themselves and end up dying horrific deaths, and the virus — which is immediately contagious — spreads quickly as Bundang is the heart of the outbreak. Eventually, Bundang is abandoned and closed off to protect the rest of Korea. It’s only a matter of time before the Korean government decides to neutralize the situation.
All of Us Are Dead and Flu carry many similarities; both feature a dialogue about the Korean government which fails to take these disasters seriously initially and fails to help their people until it’s too late, and focus on familial stories and the sacrifices made to save one another. Furthermore, those who enjoy the stories of an infectious outbreak threatening the lives of others would enjoy Flu.
7 ‘Seoul Station’ (2016)
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
As the title suggests, Seoul Station takes place in and around the area of Seoul Station, where a homeless man shows signs of being the source of a zombie apocalypse. In the meantime, a man attempts to find his runaway daughter as the government struggles to shut down the area.
If one is looking for series like All of Us Are Dead, Yeon Sang-ho’s animated zombie TV series may be a great pick for obvious reasons: in addition to providing audiences with a thrilling plot and action-packed scenes, it also shines a light on the characters’ personal struggles. Simultaneously, the intriguing series also highlights the ways humanity can easily turn on itself, as it depicts a very thought-provoking portrait of society’s cruelty.
6 ‘Happiness’ (2021)
Creator: Yang Ji-eul, Lee Myung-han
Starring Han Hyo-joo and Park Hyung-sik, this apocalyptic thriller is set in the near future and centers around the aftermath of the break out of a mysterious infectious disease in a newly-built high-rise apartment building in the big city. As a result, the high-rise apartment is sealed off.
Much like the fantasy drama All of Us Are Dead, this engaging 2021 series counts on well-written, at times flawed characters and depicts the desperate struggles for survival. Featuring a beautiful soundtrack, the suspense drama Happiness is more cerebral than violent, which makes it a perfect pick for those who prefer the mystery rather than the action that comes with the post-apocalyptic genre.
5 ‘Sweet Home’ (2020)
Creator: Kim Seol-jin
Enjoy the idea of monsters attacking and hunting humanity? Sweet Home is that kind of show. Based on a popular webcomic by Kim Kan-bi and Hwang Young-chan, the series tells the story of the socially awkward Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang) who had just lost his family. Alone, he moves into an inexpensive apartment complex. Not too long after moving in, monsters start appearing both inside and outside of the apartment, killing people left and right.
Much like All of Us Are Dead (and Squid Game), the binge-watchable Sweet Home focuses on the survival of a group of strangers as they grow to trust each other. It also isolates the cast from the outside world, which makes Sweet Home tense, similar to how All of Us Are Dead replicates that same feeling in high school.
- Release Date
- November 18, 2022
- Kim Young-kwang , Kang Hae-Lim , Su-yeon Kim , Yuuki Luna
4 ‘Squid Game’ (2021)
Creator: Hwang Dong-hyuk
While not a post-apocalyptic series like many here listed, Squid Game is a true survival show at its core. With an original twist that reflects on greed, modern-day capitalism, and oppression, the Hwang Dong-hyuk series follows several people who accept a strange invitation to compete in children’s games where a tempting, million-dollar prize awaits them.
It is no wonder that this series has captured the attention of many – Squid Game features a well-executed original premise that is equal parts gripping and intense, in addition to the memorable characters like Lee Jung-jae‘s Seong Gi-hun that audiences may find easy to sympathize with. While, according to many, the series’ translation is not top-tier, it makes for an engaging Netflix production, all aspects considered.
- Release Date
- September 17, 2021
- Jung-Jae Lee , Park Hae-soo , Oh Yeong-su , Wi Ha-joon
3 ‘The Wailing’ (2016)
Director: Na Hong-jin
One of South Korea’s most popular features, Na Hong-jin‘s film illustrates the spreading of a peculiar disease soon after a stranger arrives in a little village. In order to save his daughter, a policeman (Kwak Do-won) is forced to solve the mystery and the unsolved murderers that came with it.
A highly disturbing film at times, the suspenseful The Wailing will likely have viewers on the edge of their seats. In addition to its simplistic yet memorable premise, the intense slow-burn 2016 feature also excels in building an unsettling atmosphere, which makes it rank high among the best South Korean horrors.
2 ‘Kingdom’ (2019)
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Kingdom is a two-season Korean drama series taking place in a kingdom during the Joseon period. It follows the fall of the kin rumored to have had smallpox. However, the reality, as the main character, crown prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) discovers — is that the king has become a “monster,” or in modern terms, a zombie. After discovering this, Lee Chang searches for answers and looks for a physician. However, along the journey, the outbreak spreads, and soon, outcast Lee Chang must fight for survival from both the zombies and his family, who want him dead.
Different from All of Us Are Dead, Kingdom spans several locations as the crown prince flees from the kingdom and moves onward to potentially find a cure. On the other hand, like All of Us Are Dead, Netflix’s zombie series Kingdom focuses a good amount of storytelling on the government’s mistakes and the distrust the citizens have. Also, unlike the other films and TV shows mentioned, Kingdom makes sure to show that the main character is completely isolated, internalizing to viewers that he has no family left and that it is up to him to protect his country.
- Release Date
- January 25, 2019
- Bae Doona , Ju Ji-Hoon , Kim Hye-jun , Kim Sungkyu
1 ‘Train to Busan’ (2016)
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Train to Busan is a renowned Korean film that follows father Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) as he boards a train with his daughter Soo-An (Kim Soo Ahn) to make sure she gets to her mother. However, not too long after boarding the immediate spread of a virus occurs. Now Seok-Woo has to protect his daughter from zombies. Along the way, Seok-Woo teams up with other survivors as they fight for survival on the train.
Train to Busan is such a popular South Korean feature that it is getting a U.S. remake; if one is hunting movies like All of Us Are Dead, it is an excellent choice, especially given that it is, funnily enough, referenced in the TV series by one of the characters. Its popularity is partly due to Gong Yoo’s (Squid Game) performance as a distant father who grows to be the hero. Like the series, Yeon Sang-ho‘s gripping and widely acclaimed zombie film takes place in one primary location, isolated from the rest of the world, and the characters’ survival is dependent on trusting and relying on those around them.
Train to Busan
- Release Date
- July 20, 2016
- Sang-ho Yeon
- Yoo Gong , Yu-mi Jeong , Dong-seok Ma , Su-an Kim , Eui-sung Kim , Woo-sik Choi