BTS is everywhere, even in this year’s Korean Film Festival

Settings that figure in the bands' albums and songs are also in this year's seven (that number again!) featured movies

The travel guide's back cover features BTS members, Suga and Jimin.

As a devoted fan of global superstars BTS, my heart skipped when I saw “I Purple You,” the BTS and ARMY motto, and an illustration of a bus stop that looked very much like the boys’ “You Never Walk Alone” bus stop, on the poster of the Korean Film Festival 2023.

The brochure of the Korean Film Festival 2023 includes the BTS and ARMY motto “I Purple You” and an illustration of a bus stop similar to the one of BTS in their Hyangho Beach photo for the cover of their album “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The recently concluded film festival had the theme “Ka-ja! Korea Through Films.”

Then I “oohh-ed” when I learned there were seven critically acclaimed movies featured in the festival. For ARMY, seven automatically means RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jung Kook.

The seven movies in the film festival were Life is Beautiful, The Book of Fish, Gyeongju, Director’s Intention, Everglow, Bori, and Jukdo Surfing Diary.

Aside from their storylines, the movies’ filming locations were highlighted in the film festival, hence the theme, “Ka-ja! Korea Through Films.” “Ka-ja,” one of the first Korean terms any K-drama fan learns, means “Let’s go!” or colloquially, “Tara!”

The film festival ran from September 21 to 26 at select SM Cinemas in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao. Although the film fest has wrapped up by the time this article comes out, the movies are still worth taking note of so that we could include them into our must-watch K-movie list, alongside our K-drama list.

The film fest had its opening ceremony on September 22 at the Director’s Club in SM Mall of Asia, and presented by the Korean Cultural Center (KCC). In his speech, South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Lee Sang-hwa said the film fest was the “grand finale” of the Korean Tourism promotion month, which was also part of the South Korean government’s overall “Visit Korea 2023-2024” program.

The Visit Korea 2023-2024 travel guide includes a recommended travel destination spread for ARMY, BTS’ global fandom. It lists 15 spots where BTS have filmed through the years.

If anyone saw me smiling as I scanned the Visit Korea program’s official travel guide, it was because my ARMY heart was filled with pride. On the first page of the 116-page travel guide was BTS’ Hyangho Beach bus stop photo for the cover of their You Never Walk Alone album.  I turned to Page 8 and 9 and saw a list of BTS filming locations that ARMY can visit. On the back cover was a splendid photo of Suga and Jimin, endorsing their home country with the slogan “I feel the rhythm of Korea.”

A wish that finally comes true for the author, having her picture taken at the Hyangho Beach bus stop where BTS shot the cover for their album, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It happened a few days after Jung Kook’s birthday, thus the birthday banners installed for BTS’ youngest member. The bus stop is a replica of the one used by BTS as it was only constructed for their photo shoot.

BTS have recently renewed their contracts with Big Hit Entertainment. It’s not only their legion of fans worldwide who are guaranteed to see the septet from 2025, the year they regroup after their military service, and beyond. South Korea itself will undoubtedly continue to benefit from BTS’ global superstardom with the boys’ popularity immensely contributing to their country’s economy and culture.

As ARMY, it was instinctive for me to associate the film fest movies’ filming locations to BTS.

Seoul and Busan, the latter being the hometown of Jimin and Jung Kook, are among the cities included in the impromptu road trip of a dying wife with her husband in Life is Beautiful, which had a special screening at the film festival’s opening ceremony.

The award-winning movie is South Korea’s first jukebox musical, and stars veteran actors Ryu Seung-ryong (who we can watch on the hit K-drama Moving) and Yum Jung-ah, who I had recently found out is also an ARMY. It’s been a while since I cried so much while watching a movie and laughed in between (See related article.)

I want to watch Director’s Intention with my Mom. I know she’ll like the plot about an ex-couple forced to work with each other on a movie project. The trailer showed a promising kilig film. Moreover, my mother fell in love with Busan when we went there in October 2022 for BTS’ “Yet to Come” concert and just last September, where we got to explore the city more with my sister and her family.

The mural of Jimin and Jung Kook, who were born and raised in Busan, is an additional sight to see for ARMYs at the Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

Bori is another movie I am interested to see. It’s about a young girl who’s the only one in her family who can hear. Her wish is to become deaf, so she jumps into the sea. She loses consciousness and pretends to be deaf after waking up in the hospital.

It was filmed in Gangneung in Gangwon province, which is why BTS’ Hyangho Beach bus stop was on the film festival poster.

Gangwon is seemingly a favorite BTS filming site. They shot their 2021 Winter Package in Neungpadae in Goseong, a county in Gangwon. Their Butter concept photos were in Maengbang Beach in Samcheok, another city in Gangwon. The BTS In the Soop 2 home is in Pyeongchang, which is also in Gangwon province.

My family and I joined a BTS location tour to Gangwon to see the replica of the BTS bus stop (the original was built just for the album cover) in Hyangho Beach and the In the Soop 2 home.

The “In The Soop 2” house, where BTS stayed for the second installment of their hugely popular reality show, is located in Pyeongchang in Gangwon province, a three-hour drive from Seoul. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

The movie Jukdo Surfing Diary was filmed in Yangyang-gun, also in Gangwon province.

The “I Purple You” in the film fest poster referenced to the Purple Island in Sinan, Jeollanamdo, the filming location of the black and white film The Book of Fish. While BTS have never filmed on Purple Island, the place has been inadvertently associated to the band and ARMY because of our chosen color and motto.

Another movie featured in the festival is Gyeongju, a 2014 drama that stars Shin Min-ah and Park Hae-il. Gyeongju is a stunning old city that showcases Korea’s rich history and culture. It’s also where Bomunjeong Pavilion is located, where BTS shot their album photobook for The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1.

Everglow, a drama about a May-December romance, is filmed in Jeju Island, a favorite holiday destination of BTS.

Even if you’re not ARMY, you should absolutely include these places showcased in the feature films in the festival in your itinerary when you go to Korea.

The city of Seoul is a breathtaking mix of Korea’s rich past and modern, technologically advanced present. Busan is a scenic and thriving coastal city.

I’ve never been to Gyeongju, a smaller, thousand-year-old city right by Busan. It was once the capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom. The KCC brochure points out that Gyeongju is called a “roofless museum due to its abundance of historic sites and ancient relics.” It is home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Gyeongju Yangdong Village, Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto, and Daerungwon’s royal tomb, considered Asia’s oldest observatory.

Of course, Jeju Island, named as one of the seven (this beloved number again!) Natural Wonders of the World, is on my bucket list. I’d love to go to Yangyang Beach, which was featured in the Ji Chang-wook- Kim Ji-won 2020 romance drama, Lovestruck in the City, and the hit 2021 rom-com Business Proposal starring Ahn Hyo-seop and Kim Se-jeong.

It’s time to plan next year’s trip to Korea. Ka-ja!

About author


Nikko Dizon worked as journalist specializing in security and political issues for nearly two decades. She is doing consultancy work during her time-off from journalism and remains immersed in the Korean Wave, in particular with BTS, actor Ji Chang Wook, and K-drama

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