Hometown: Is the Korean Series Based on a True Story?

Netflix’s Korean show, ‘Hometown,’ an intriguing blend of horror, crime, and cult, follows a thrilling mystery that unfolds in a town during 1999, on the edge of a new millennium. Years after her brother, Jo Kyung-ho, was arrested for a terrorist attack, Jo Jung-hyun returned to her old town with her mother and niece, Jae-young. While Jung-hyun tries to stay away from her old life, it pulls her back in when Jae-young mysteriously disappears around the same time that numerous inexplicable deaths start overtaking the small town.

With Detective Choi Hyung-In, who lost his wife in Kyung-ho’s terrorist attack, on the case, Jung-hyung throws herself into solving the town’s mysteries— past and present— that all seem to have one eerie videotape at their center. Despite the patent horror elements within this show, much of the plot revolves around crime-based storylines with a master criminal, hardened cop, and complex victims helming the narrative. For the same reason, many viewers may be compelled to wonder if the characters and events depicted in ‘Hometown’ are based on real life.

Hometown Provides an Entertaining Intersection of Genres

‘Hometown’ is not based on a true story. The show, directed by Park Hyun Suk with Joo Jin behind the screenplay writing, is a work of fiction credited solely to its creators’ imagination. While some parts of the show’s narrative undoubtedly draw from social stigmas and issues, they have no basis in reality outside of the storyline’s exploration of the human condition at large.

For instance, protagonist Jung-hyung and her family’s constant battle with a society that only sees them as the family of terrorists and the complicated dynamic it leads to between Choi and the Jo family provides an engaging study of intricate human emotions. Thus, their characters explore an authentically humane experience while remaining cemented within its fictional confines. Similarly, the depiction of cults, which forms a significant narrative tool for the show, attempts to parallel a darker but equally invigorating facet of reality.

Nevertheless, the Youngjingyo cult, headed in the name of antagonist Kyung-ho, doesn’t have any roots in a real-life cult either. It presents a compelling portrayal of how grief and pain can push people toward adverse situations and reflects the reality behind vulnerable individuals’ historical vulnerability to cults. Yet, the organization itself, underexplored as it remains, seems to have little to no connections to reality. For the most part, Youngjingyo presents as a blend of different religious practices, ideologies, and imageries, effectively departing from real life in that instance as well.

Alternatively, when examined through a cinematic lens, the show’s familiar themes and quirks become more obvious. On multiple occasions, the show harks back to tropes that audiences can easily connect to. In the storyline revolving around Jae-young’s disappearance and the subsequent search for her, her friend group’s amateur but helpful investigation calls back to films and shows like ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Stranger Things.’

Likewise, one can draw a comparison between Kyung-ho’s emotionally detached evil genius persona and the likes of pop-culture staples like the various iterations of Moriarty from ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and Hannibal Lecter. Furthermore, the looming presence of the show’s resident ghostly woman instantly connects it to numerous other horror media that have gained prevalence over the years. Thus, the show becomes familiar territory for viewers as an amalgamation of different recognizable elements craftily shaped together into one narrative.

Likewise, the show’s emphasis on the gravity of one’s roots, expressed through the significance of Saju, a fictional town in Gyeongsangnam-do, will evoke a simple sense of accessibility to viewers and help them connect to the central characters. Therefore, while ‘Hometown’ remains a work of fiction,’ viewers will find several strands of its storylines to be reflective of real life.

Ultimately, as a combination of the horror and crime genres, ‘Hometown’ walks the delicate line between reality and the supernatural. Moreover, the two genres seamlessly delve into juxtaposing aspects of reality. Through its horror storylines, the show needles human sentiments and connections, allowing emotional relatability. In contrast, the criminality within the story shapes a plausible landscape regardless of the show’s overarching impossibility.

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