The Most Famous

FILM DIRECTORS from South Korea

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This page contains a list of the greatest South Korean Film Directors. The pantheon dataset contains 1,580 Film Directors, 10 of which were born in South Korea. This makes South Korea the birth place of the 24th most number of Film Directors behind Netherlands and Georgia.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary South Korean Film Directors of all time. This list of famous South Korean Film Directors is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of South Korean Film Directors.

Photo of Kim Ki-duk

1. Kim Ki-duk (1960 - 2020)

With an HPI of 69.67, Kim Ki-duk is the most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 48 different languages on wikipedia.

Kim Ki-duk (Korean: 김기덕 [kimɡidʌk]; 20 December 1960 – 11 December 2020) was a South Korean film director and screenwriter, noted for his idiosyncratic art-house cinematic works. His major festival awards include the Golden Lion at 69th Venice International Film Festival for Pietà, a Silver Lion for Best Director at 61st Venice International Film Festival for 3-Iron, a Silver bear for Best Director at 54th Berlin International Film Festival for Samaritan Girl, and the Un Certain Regard prize at 2011 Cannes Film Festival for Arirang. His most widely known feature is Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (2003), included in film critic Roger Ebert's Great Movies. Two of his films served as official submissions for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film as South Korean entries. He gave scripts to several of his former assistant directors including Juhn Jai-hong (Beautiful and Poongsan) and Jang Hoon (Rough Cut).

Photo of Bong Joon-ho

2. Bong Joon-ho (1969 - )

With an HPI of 68.23, Bong Joon-ho is the 2nd most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 45 different languages.

Bong Joon-ho (Korean: 봉준호, Korean pronunciation: [poːŋ tɕuːnho → poːŋdʑunɦo]; Hanja: 奉俊昊; born September 14, 1969) is a South Korean film director, producer and screenwriter. His films are characterised by emphasis on social themes, genre-mixing, black humor, and sudden tone shifts.He first became known to audiences and achieved a cult following with his directorial debut film, the black comedy Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), before achieving both critical and commercial success with his subsequent films: the crime thriller Memories of Murder (2003), the monster film The Host (2006), the science fiction action film Snowpiercer (2013), and the Academy Award-winning black comedy social thriller Parasite (2019), all of which are among the highest-grossing films in South Korea, with Parasite also being the highest-grossing South Korean film in history.All of Bong's films have been South Korean productions, although both Snowpiercer and Okja (2017) are mostly in the English language. Two of his films have screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival—Okja in 2017 and Parasite in 2019; the latter earned the Palme d'Or, which was a first for a South Korean film. Parasite also became the first South Korean film to receive Academy Award nominations, with Bong winning Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, making Parasite the first film not in English to win Best Picture. In 2017, Bong was included on Metacritic's list of the 25 best film directors of the 21st century. In 2020, Bong was included in Time's annual list of 100 Most Influential People and Bloomberg 50.

Photo of Park Chan-wook

3. Park Chan-wook (1963 - )

With an HPI of 65.78, Park Chan-wook is the 3rd most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Park Chan-wook (Korean: 박찬욱 Korean pronunciation: [pak̚t͡ɕʰanuk̚ ]; born August 23, 1963) is a South Korean film director, screenwriter, producer, and former film critic. One of the most acclaimed and popular filmmakers in the world, Park is best known for his films Joint Security Area (2000), Thirst (2009), The Handmaiden (2016) and what has become known as The Vengeance Trilogy, consisting of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003) and Lady Vengeance (2005). He is also known for his English-language works Stoker (2013) and The Little Drummer Girl (2018), a television miniseries based on the novel of the same name by John le Carré. His films have gained notoriety for their immaculate framing, black humor and often brutal subject matters.

Photo of Im Kwon-taek

4. Im Kwon-taek (1936 - )

With an HPI of 63.71, Im Kwon-taek is the 4th most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Im Kwon-taek (born May 2, 1936) is one of South Korea's most renowned film directors. In an active and prolific career, his films have won many domestic and international film festival awards as well as considerable box-office success, and helped bring international attention to the Korean film industry. As of spring 2015, he has directed 102 films.

Photo of Lee Chang-dong

5. Lee Chang-dong (1954 - )

With an HPI of 63.06, Lee Chang-dong is the 5th most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Lee Chang-dong (Korean: 이창동; Hanja: 李滄東; born July 4, 1954) is a South Korean film director, screenwriter, and novelist. He has directed six feature films: Green Fish (1997), Peppermint Candy (2000), Oasis (2002), Secret Sunshine (2007), Poetry (2010), and Burning (2018). Burning became the first Korean film to make it to the 91st Academy Awards' final nine-film shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film. Burning also won the Fipresci International Critics' Prize at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, Best Foreign Language Film in Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and Best Foreign Language Film in Toronto Film Critics Association. Lee has won Silver Lion for Best Director and Fipresci International Critics' Prize at the 2002 Venice Film Festival and the Best Screenplay Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. He also won the award for Achievement in Directing at the 4th Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2017, Jury Grand Prize at the 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Best Director and Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th Asian Film Awards in 2019, and he has been nominated for the Golden Lion and the Palme d'Or. Lee served as South Korea's Minister of Culture and Tourism from 2003 to 2004.

Photo of Hong Sang-soo

6. Hong Sang-soo (1960 - )

With an HPI of 61.26, Hong Sang-soo is the 6th most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Hong Sang Soo (홍상수, born 25 October 1960) is a South Korean film director and screenwriter.

Photo of Kim Jee-woon

7. Kim Jee-woon (1964 - )

With an HPI of 58.52, Kim Jee-woon is the 7th most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Kim Jee-woon (Korean: 김지운; born July 6, 1964) is a South Korean film director and screenwriter.

Photo of Kwak Jae-yong

8. Kwak Jae-yong (1959 - )

With an HPI of 56.39, Kwak Jae-yong is the 8th most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Kwak Jae-yong (born 22 May 1959) is a South Korean film director and screenwriter. He studied physics at Kyung Hee University. He achieved success with his debut film Watercolor Painting in a Rainy Day in 1989, but the failure of his next two movies led to eight years of unemployment before a comeback with the smash-hit film My Sassy Girl in 2001. He is known for his limitless fondness of love stories set in a mix of different genres.

Photo of Na Hong-jin

9. Na Hong-jin (1974 - )

With an HPI of 53.71, Na Hong-jin is the 9th most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Na Hong-jin (born 1974) is a South Korean film director and screenwriter. For his feature film debut The Chaser (2008), Na won Best Director at the Grand Bell Awards and Korean Film Awards. His follow-up film, The Yellow Sea (2010), screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. The Wailing (2016), Na's third film, also screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Photo of Lee Cheol-ha

10. Lee Cheol-ha (1970 - )

With an HPI of 52.54, Lee Cheol-ha is the 10th most famous South Korean Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Lee Cheol-ha is a South Korean film director known for his stylish portraits of the human experience. Born in South Korea, Lee was raised in Seoul. He eschewed the film school route, doing other hands-on work for commercial film productions. He next got a job at Sidus FNH in 1999 with his first screen credit being for Il Mare as an assistant director. He left Korea to study a film at Academy of Art University in California. One of his short film won 1st place at the College Emmy Awards. After he graduated at Academy of Art University, he came back to Korea and direct commercials and music videos. This quickly brought Lee to the attention of producers in Korea and he got the chance to direct a feature film. Though he would continue to direct spots for companies like GM Daewoo Motors, Pantech Curitel, CIGNA, Global Gillette, Innostream and Orion Confectionery, Lee Cheol-ha soon discovered that the slightly expanded format of music videos was an even better place to try things out. With his sights set on a directing career, he made a video-production company H Films and started off directing music videos and commercials. Lee directed music videos for artists such as BoA, TVXQ, Kangta, Shinhwa, S.E.S., Jaurim, Fly to the Sky, S and g.o.d, as well as commercials. Like a number of other music video directors, he then moved into film. Lee Cheol-ha's feature debut was Love Me Not (2006), which was then the most expensive picture ever made by a first time director. Unfortunately the film was not a pleasant experience for him, having had a bad critic with the people at Korea film industry. While it received Grand Bell Awards nominations for Art Direction, Costume Design and Best Leading Actress, the film was not well received by critics or movie goers.

Pantheon has 10 people classified as film directors born between 1936 and 1974. Of these 10, 9 (90.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living film directors include Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-wook, and Im Kwon-taek. The most famous deceased film directors include Kim Ki-duk. As of October 2020, 2 new film directors have been added to Pantheon including Im Kwon-taek and Na Hong-jin.

Living Film Directors

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Deceased Film Directors

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Newly Added Film Directors (2020)

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