Here’s a super list of shows we recommend to new fans of K-dramas.
‘Crash Landing On You’
This K-drama is so well-loved that those who wanted to ride the Hallyu train used it for clout. This deserves the top spot on every list, because it turned a lot of people into K-drama addicts. It’s easy to understand why many people loved the story of Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) and Captain Ri (Hyun Bin).
Captain Ri is the Prince Charming everybody wants. He beats up the bad guys and makes noodles by hand. Yoon Se-ri is the princess little girls want to be when they grow up. She is smart, successful and can rescue a group of grown men lost on the streets of Gangnam.
‘Flower of Evil’
The problem with dramas that have lead characters as handsome as Lee Joon-gi is that they can get away with anything, even murder. Perhaps, this is exactly why he was chosen for the role. As more details about the identity of the serial killer’s accomplice are revealed, the more you ask yourself if you can stand by your principles. What if the evil person turns out to be someone you love? Moon Chae-won plays the detective married to Lee.
‘Dr. Romantic’ 1 and 2
When music becomes intense and the mood lights turn on, you know there’s going to be a fiery kissing scene in “Dr. Romantic.” Those moments are few and far between, but thankfully, you don’t watch the two seasons of this drama only for that. You watch it for the idealism of Dr. Kim and the way it affects the people working in his dilapidated hospital. Most of the action happens in the operating room as doctors and nurses played by Yoo Yeon-seok, Seo Hyun-jin, Kim Min-jae, Ahn Hyo-seop and Lee Sung-kyung do their best to save lives.
‘Moonlight Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo’
Do not read comments and blogs about this drama before watching it. Just enjoy the time travel. It’s about a woman (Lee Ji-eun/IU) who drowns and wakes up during the Goryeo Dynasty. She meets handsome princes and falls for two of them. The princes include Lee Joon-gi, Kang Ha-neul, EXO’s Baekhyun, Nam Joo-hyuk and Jisoo.
‘Record of Youth’
A young model follows his own set of rules and struggles to break out into the entertainment industry. To explain it in a simpler sentence, it’s a K-drama about K-dramas. It stars Park Bo-gum and Park So-dam. It couldn’t even get more meta as Bo-gum did things in real life before his military enlistment that his character in the drama also did.
‘Hotel Del Luna’
Lee Ji-eun runs a hotel for the dead. Yeo Jin-goo plays her human manager. Together, they must serve the weary souls who check in the hotel to wait and rest until they are ready to cross over to the next life.
Park Seo-joon has truly established himself as an actor who can go beyond romantic comedy. In this drama, he plays a businessman who establishes a bar in Itaewon to take revenge on the man who caused his father’s death. His idea of revenge is to become more successful than his nemesis. This drama is a must-watch for budding entrepreneurs.
‘It’s Okay to Not Be Okay’
The title has offered comfort for people who are dealing with mental illness. This is exactly the goal of the drama that stars Kim Soo-hyun and Seo Ye-ji. In the press conference, Seo said that she hopes the audience will laugh, cry and heal with them through the drama.
Yes, Koreans are obsessed with time traveling and ghosts. This drama has both. Yoo Ah-in plays a famous writer who owns a typewriter possessed by a ghost.
As a viewer, you know you are in it for the heartbreak when you choose the second lead over the main one from the start. This is a breakout drama for Kim Seon-ho. His character, as the real first love of Bae Suzy, makes people fall in love with him, too. Nam Joo-hyuk plays the math genius who wants to do his best to make his dream of winning Bae over a reality.
‘Something in the Rain’
There are so many reasons to hate this drama—the toxic workplace, the silly taboos, the repetitive theme songs. But there’s one reason to love this drama: the intense chemistry of Jung Hae-in and Son Ye-jin. It’s about a young man falling for his older sister’s best friend.
‘Romance is Bonus Book’
Book lovers will enjoy the drama, as the lead characters both work in a publishing company. It’s about a man who nurtured an unrequited love for a friend for years. It stars Lee Jong-suk and Lee Na-young.
‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo’
Before “CLOY” came along, this writer recommended “Bok-joo” to the uninitiated. Lee Sung-kyung is gorgeous, but the character she plays is not. This is what made the drama so lovable. It’s a story where the heroine is a plus-sized athlete and she is wooed by the hottest jock in her school. There are no tricks and pranks involved. He wants to be with her. If that’s not enough to convince you, then perhaps the knowledge that some of the kisses onscreen were real. Lee and Nam Joo-hyuk were secretly dating when they filmed this series.
‘W: Two Worlds Apart’
When we read something that we love, we dream of entering the story and being with our favorite characters. “W” is exactly that. It imagines a world where the characters of a webtoon are alive and you can touch and kiss them. It stars Lee Jong-suk and Han Hyo-joo.
‘Fight for My Way’
Park Seo-joon, Kim Ji-won, Ahn Jae-hong and Song Ha-yoon are the stars of this drama. Yes, even the second leads need to be credited because their story is as interesting as the main characters. What’s refreshing about this drama is that there are no chaebols or ultrarich characters that will change someone’s life after falling in love. They are regular working-class people who fall in love.
‘My Love from the Star’
There are so many taboos in romance; falling for an alien is not one of them. This fantasy drama immortalized the pairing of Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun.
‘A Korean Odyssey’
The naughty monkey god tricks a child into releasing him from his punishment. It is the moment that ties their destinies together. This was the first drama of triple-threat entertainer Lee Seung-gi after his discharge from the military. Oh Yeon-seo costars.
‘When the Camellia Blooms’
Wagging tongues had nothing on a desperate single mother who wants to properly raise her child. Gong Hyo-jin’s character opens a bar that becomes a haven for married men. Kang Ha-neul won the Best Actor in the Baeksang Arts Award for this drama.
On the surface, it’s a love story between Ji Chang-wook and Park Min-young’s characters. But it is also about fighting for freedom and all the rights that come with it. It romanticizes press freedom and the responsibilities of a journalist to their readers.
No list is complete without including this classic story that stars Gong Yoo, Lee Dong-wook, Kim Go-eun, Yoo In-na and Yook Sung-jae. It’s about an immortal who walks among humans as he waits for his bride who can finally end his life and suffering.
Ironically, the series in the “Reply” franchise that promised to be family-centric has the most memorable love story. It still follows the “Reply” format of not revealing who ended up with the girl. But it also features the dynamics of Korean families in the ’80s. It stars Lee Hye-ri, Park Bo-gum and Ryu Jun-yeol.
‘She was Pretty’
Hwang Jung-eum and Park Seo-joon did not end up together in the drama “Kill Me, Heal Me.” That’s why they starred together in this one. Seo-joon’s character failed to recognize his pretty childhood friend, thus beginning the deceit that kept the drama rolling. This drama launched the romantic comedy career of Park.
Gong Hyo-jin’s character can see ghosts, and she is deathly scared of them. She discovers that they only go away when she touches So Ji-sub’s character. That’s how she starts chasing after him. The ghosts in the drama series will make you wish you watched this with the lights on.
‘The World of the Married’
There is one consistent thing about Korean dramas: they always punish the bad guys. The certainty of comeuppance helps you get through the parts when you feel the urge to slap and pull the hair of the husband and his mistress for being so shameless. It stars Kim Hee-ae, Park Hae-joon and Han So-hee.
This drama shows how ruthlessly competitive the Korean educational system is. It is the second highest-rated cable television show in Korea, just below “The World of Married” and above “Crash Landing on You.”
The most beautiful and talented men from the yangban (aristocracy) were gathered under one roof to be educated in Confucianism, arts and sword fighting to form a new class: ”Hwarang.” We recommend this show because of the cast that includes Park Seo-jun, Park Hyung-sik, Kim Tae-hyung and Choi Min-ho.
‘I am Not a Robot’
There was a period in K-drama when the theme revolved around robots with physical attributes of humans. Chae Soo-bin accepts a temp job that will have her act like a robot modeled after her likeness. She only has one person to convince: billionaire Yoo Seung-ho, who can pull the funds from the project.
Ju Ji-hoon is one of the most talented actors in Korea. He can play the crown prince that chases zombies, and he can also play a ruthless lawyer who is pathetically in love. Yoon Hee-jae plays his rival.
No list is complete without our favorite zombie hunters from the Joseon period. There are currently two seasons on Netflix, but Season 1 director Kim Seung-hun said that writer Kim Eun-hee has enough material for up to 10 seasons.
‘My ID is Gangnam Beauty’
People go under the knife for different reasons. Some do it to be prettier, others do it to be accepted. This drama launched the acting career of “face genius” Cha Eun-woo.
Producers have turned to webtoon series for drama materials. “Love Alarm” is about an app that rings an alarm when someone who likes you is nearby. It stars Song Kang, Kim So-hyun and Jung Ga-ram.
‘Legend of the Blue Sea’
A naive mermaid falls in love with a conman and follows him to dry land. It stars Lee Min-ho and Jun Ji-hyun.
‘Strong Girl Bong-soon’
The drama that celebrates women’s empowerment. Bong-soon has superhuman strength that only women in their family line can inherit. Thus, she becomes the superhero rescuing men around her without them ever knowing. It stars Park Bo-young, Park Hyung-sik and Jisoo.
‘While You Were Sleeping’
Lee Jong-suk, Bae Suzy and Jung Hae-in and his abs are the stars of this drama. It’s about a woman who gets premonitions in her dreams. It’s very exciting to watch from beginning to end.
‘100 Days My Prince’
Do Kyung-soo or EXO’s D.O. has shown that idols can be great actors, too. We’ve seen his talent in films such as By Ruth L. Navarra