Top Korean Series to watch: As South Korean television continues to gain international acclaim, it's a golden age for K-Dramas. These shows offer a diverse range of stories, from science fiction and fantasy to the complexities of everyday life, always with a touch of stirring romance at their core. K-Dramas are captivating emotional journeys that expertly portray the best and worst of human nature in a compact format. Whether you're in the mood for gripping drama or a lighter tone, there's a K-Drama for everyone. So, whether you're a long-time devotee or a newcomer to the genre, here's a curated list of 15 K-Dramas that deserve a spot on your watchlist.
"SKY Castle" may start slow, but it quickly escalates into a tense narrative of ambition and high-stakes competition among college applicants. This drama delves into the lives of families vying for coveted spots in South Korea's most prestigious schools (known as SKYschools). Even if you can't relate to the cutthroat world of college applications, the cunning and drama in this show will keep you hooked.
"Scarlet Heart Ryeo" offers a unique twist as a modern woman unexpectedly time-travels to the heart of political intrigue in a royal family. This K-Drama masterfully weaves a love triangle into a web of political battles. The visual splendor of the Joseon dynasty, combined with the talent of K-Pop star IU, makes this a must-watch for fans of historical romance.
"While You Were Sleeping" takes a classic romantic comedy premise and adds a unique twist. The story follows a young woman with premonitory dreams that predict the future and the prosecutor and police officer with similar abilities who join forces to prevent disasters. This show balances suspenseful legal drama with a touch of the supernatural and heartwarming chemistry between the lead characters.
"What's Wrong with Secretary Kim" sheds light on the often-underappreciated role of a secretary. Secretary Kim, known for her unwavering dedication to her job, decides to quit when she realizes she sacrificed her social life for her career. However, her boss has different plans for her future. This K-Drama shines with witty dialogue, situational comedy, and a peek into the life of a secretary, adding depth to this character within a cultural context.
"Boys Over Flowers" offers a compelling look into the challenges of young love, social class divides, and a heart-stirring romance. The series stands out for its commentary on social classes and the obstacles faced by Geum Jan-di, a courageous young woman from a modest background, when she enters a prestigious school.
"Crash Landing on You" provides a rare glimpse into North Korea, diverging from the typical South Korea setting in K-Dramas. A paragliding adventure gone wrong leads to a South Korean businesswoman landing in North Korea. She seeks refuge with a charismatic captain as they navigate the complexities of North and South Korean culture and a forbidden love. The star-crossed lovers' romance and cultural insights make this a standout K-Drama.
"Descendants of the Sun" became a sensation in South Korea for its portrayal of the country's military life, particularly the special forces. This drama follows a special forces captain and a surgeon assigned to the same base as they face danger and disaster together, forming a unique and intense bond. The backdrop of war and the remarkable chemistry between the leads set this K-Drama apart.
Based on a New York Times Bestselling novel, "Pachinko" explores the lives of American immigrants over four generations. The series delves into ancestral ties and family history, offering stunning cinematography and powerful performances. With its historical accuracy and deeply resonant storytelling, "Pachinko" is a must-watch drama that immerses viewers in a rich tapestry of history.
"It's Okay to Not Be Okay" is a profoundly moving drama that delves into the lives of two brothers and their experiences with mental health, including Autism Spectrum Disorder. This series shines a light on emotions often hidden in the shadows, exploring themes of love, understanding, and vulnerability, particularly between the brothers Gang-tae and Sang-tae. It also navigates the complex emotions between Gang-tae and his love interest, Ko Mun-yeong. "It's Okay to Not Be Okay" is a beautiful rollercoaster of emotions, with secrets gradually unveiled at every turn. This series invites viewers to walk the same path as its characters, providing healing and a deeper understanding of the human experience.
"20th Century Girl" starts as an investigation into a teenager's crush but quickly transforms into an unexpected journey through the love lives of four young individuals. With mixed-up name tags and misunderstood feelings, the story unfolds in 1999, evoking nostalgia for viewers' own school days. The vibrant colors and a dream-like atmosphere create a fitting backdrop. Lead actress Kim Yoo-jung skillfully carries the storyline, invoking joy, despair, and a strong emotional connection. "20th Century Girl" will keep you up at night, rooting for your favorite couple and falling in love with its endearing characters.
"Squid Game" took the world by storm with its dark and suspenseful story of individuals competing in deadly challenges for a life-changing prize. This thought-provoking series delves into the limits of human desperation and raises questions about human nature and character. It was widely considered one of the best TV shows of 2021.
"Goblin" showcases the creativity of Korean television, centering around a mythical creature who protects humans using magical powers. The catch: the Goblin can only find peace in death when he meets his human bride. While the initial mythology might seem complex, the intricate plot and soul-searching characters make it a rewarding watch, full of surprises and suspense.
"Mr. Sunshine" is a lavishly produced series set in the early 1900s, focusing on the political struggle for Korea's independence. This drama is packed with political intrigue, action sequences, love triangles, and exceptional production design. While some historical references may be unfamiliar to Western audiences, a quick search can provide context. "Mr. Sunshine" is an example of K-Dramas at their finest, offering a deep dive into Korea's history with all its complexities.
"Hotel del Luna" combines bittersweet romance with supernatural elements, set in the captivating Hotel Del Luna, owned by the enigmatic Jang Man-wol, played by K-pop star IU. For over a millennium, Man-wol has hosted lost souls, and when a human newbie, Koo Chan-sung, becomes the hotel's manager, their lives take unexpected turns. This series explores deep emotions, daunting secrets, and the evolution of relationships in a supernatural setting.
"Bloodhounds" is a thrilling K-Drama that pits the underprivileged against the wealthy, delivering gritty, dark, and intense action sequences. The story follows two friends and boxers, Kim Gun-woo and Hong Woo-jin, as they take on the corrupt elite to protect innocent people. With its high-octane excitement and powerful underdog story, "Bloodhounds" will have you on the edge of your seat.