Doesn’t matter if they’re old or new, a good series will always hit home. Here’s a list of Korean dramas that will tug at your heartstrings and make you swoon.
Sweet Home (2020)
If you’re bored of the same ol’ romantic K-dramas, this new series might just excite you if you’re a true thriller junkie. Unlike any zombie horror series out there, Sweet Home paints the kind of world where violence and gore echo the banality of survival.
Here, you’ll witness that the scariest monsters are human beings themselves — where survival becomes the essence of existence.
The show starts off with Cha Hyun-soo, a loner, who moves to a new apartment following the death of his family. His life is soon disturbed by strange incidents that begin to occur in his building.
The series follows Hyun-soo and other residents on their quest of survival while facing the trials and tribulations of their insatiable desires that cause them to transform into monsters.
Start Up tells the tale of the razor-thin margins between ultimate success and abject failure. Taking place in the fictional Sandbox Company, the story tells the journey of young entrepreneurs aspiring to launch their virtual dreams into reality.
One of the notable characters is Seo Dal-mi, played by Suzy Bae, who takes on the role of a part-time worker who is not society’s idea of a successful woman.
She is also obsessed with finding her “pen pal” who helped her through a difficult time in her elementary school, not realising that her pen pal was made up by her grandmother who wanted her to have a friend to talk to.
The drama then reveals the success and love in the cutthroat world of Korea’s high-tech industry — of which anyone who’s going through a tough time might find solace and inspiration from.
Created by Kim Soon-ok, the screenwriter behind Temptation Of Wife, this just might be one of the most dramatic K-drama series of 2020.
Set in a luxury penthouse apartment with over 100 floors, the Hera Palace houses residents that are said to have dark secrets and hidden ambitions. Here, Shim Su-ryeon is known as the queen of the Penthouse, while Seo Jin, is known as the famous and ruthless opera singer, and Oh Yoon-hee is Seo-jin’s rival.
Basically, it’s a show that witnesses the battle for wealth, power, and prestige at Seoul’s most coveted penthouse that will make you want to fight for injustice.
Itaewon Class (2020)
You know you can’t go wrong with a Park Seo-joon drama. This highly-raved series was well-loved by many for good reason.
Following the life of an ex-convict, whose father was killed in an accident, Park Sae-ro-yi tries to put his life back together by working hard to turn his bar into a franchise and overtake a food company, whose CEO is linked to his father’s death.
At its core, Itaewon Class is all about revenge, finding family amongst the people around you, and about fighting against greed, power, discrimination, and inequality in social class. A truly inspiring show that will have you hooked in no time.
Birthcare Center (2020)
The intitiation to motherhood can be pretty to daunting for some. Here, the latest Birthcare Center series highlights the travails and triumphs of motherhood including conceiving a child, going through labour, and everything else that you can think of about a woman’s experience entering motherhood.
With a narrative that celebrates a woman’s efforts in caring and rearing a child, the drama stars Uhm Ji-won, who plays Hyun-jin, as she adapts to life as a new mom.
Despite her being the youngest executive at her company, she’s also the oldest mom at the postpartum centre where she is staying.
While staying there, her journey into motherhood unfolds as she meets other women, including Park Ha-sun who plays Jo Eun-jung a mother of three who has everything, including beauty, childcare skills, and the love of her husband.
Record of Youth (2020)
If there’s one thing we’re certain of, this series is a coming-of-age kind of drama, but more for people who are at the crossroads of their career. Even if you’re not, you’d probably start recalling the difficulties you went through early on in your career.
The drama starts off with Sa Hye-joon — a smart and handsome model who decides that he really wants to become an actor. Despite having auditioned for many roles, he hasn’t had much success and doesn’t have much presence as an actor.
The show also features Ahn Jung-ha, a makeup artist who’s bright and cheery on the outside but lonely on the inside. She’s known to fan-girl over her idols as an outlet for her to vent out her frustrations.
The King: Eternal Monarch (2020)
Starring two fan favourite drama leads, this highly-anticipated series premiered on April 17, 2020 with high ratings.
The drama unfolds as a Korean emperor during the time of constituional monarchy meets a detective in modern-day Korea upon crossing his parallel world. Played by Lee Min-ho, the emperor aims to close the door between the two worlds, while the detective, played by Kim Go-eun, tries to save lives.
It’s also been said that the show was written by Kim Eun-sook, whose projects include hit series Secret Garden (2010), Descendants of the Sun (2016) and Mr Sunshine (2018).
Crash Landing On You (2019-2020)
If you love a good star-crossed romance story, this highly-rated romantic comedy drama is right up your alley. South Korean heiress Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) accidentally lands in North Korean territory after a paragliding mishap, and falls straight into the arms of North Korean caption Ri Jeong-hyuk (Hyun-bin).
Romance blossoms inevitably, but how will they survive this cross-border relationship?
Her Private Life (2019)
The much raved about drama features Sung Deok-mi, portrayed by Park Min-young (Kim Mi-so in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim), as an art gallery curator with a secret.
She is a dedicated fangirl of Shi-an, an idol group member – an obsession that has impacted several of her past relationships.
Things take a more complex turn when Ryan Gold (Kim Jae-wook) becomes the new Art Director at the gallery, and rumours spread about Deok-mi and Shi-an dating.
Search: WWW (2019)
A competitive and workaholic bachelorette ponders her direction in life meets a gifted composer for video games at an arcade.
Characterised by successful women and the web portal business, this is an unconventional one that has surprised many with its inspirational qualities (on top of its romance).
When The Camellia Blooms (2019)
A one-of-a-kind drama, When The Camellia Blooms combines the unlikely genres of thriller and rom-com. It follows Oh Dong-baek, a single mother in Ongsan, who runs a bar-restaurant.
Locals may gossip about Dong-baek, but a local policeman by the name of Hwang Yong-sik still falls in love with her, unreciprocated but also undeterred – all while a serial killer sets his sights Ongsan, and maybe even Dong-baek.
My Absolute Boyfriend (2019)
The familiar plot of My Absolute Boyfriend was originally from a Japanese manga series, but brought to life by Yeo Jin-goo and Girl’s Day’s Minah. Starting off from a break up between a special effects make-up artist Um Da-da, and a rising actor Ma Wang-joon, a perfectly programmed humanoid boyfriend robot Young Goo pushes the boundaries of love as an AI in a complicated love triangle.
Angel’s Last Mission: Love (2019)
Take swoon-worthy with a fantastical spin. A tragic accident leaves a talented ballerina blind and broken, until she is met with a trouble-maker angel on his last mission.
If he finds true love for her, he regains entry to heaven – but in a divine twist of fate, he falls in love with her instead.
Something In The Rain (2018)
Loved Son Ye-jin in Crash Landing On You? Then you have to check out her previous series, Something In The Rain, where she plays a woman in her mid-30s who’s clueless at dating, who begins developing feelings for her younger brother’s best friend.
As the title suggests, expect lots of melodramatic, sweet scenes under pouring rain.
My Secret, Terrius (2018)
Known to be one of the most handsome men in Korea, So Ji-sub really takes it to another level in My Secret, Terrius.
Kim-bon used to be a legendary NIS agent. But after a failed secret operation that led to his wife’s death, he lives a quiet life on his own.
All this changes when he helps his neighbour Go Ae-rin uncover the truth about her the loss of her husband. Discovering that her husband was involved in a huge conspiracy, Kim-bon can no longer live the quiet life he’s become accustomed to.
Mix in non-stop action, plot twists like no other and tender moments between the main leads – what more could you want in a drama?
Oh, and I forgot to mention that you get to see So Ji-sub fight like a pro and he takes care of Go Ae-rin’s kids as well. *cries*
Don’t try to fight all the swooning you’ll do over So Ji-sub because you’ll lose.
My Secret, Terrius is available on Netflix for streaming.
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?! (2018)
Fluffy and light-hearted, this romantic comedy begins as Kim Mi So, a dependable secretary, decides to leave her job after working for Lee Young-joon, her self-proclaimed perfect boss of nine years.
The drama balances between sweet and steamy scenes, coupled with flashbacks that will keep you invested.
Beauty Inside (2018)
Imagine having to transform into someone else every week, A-list actress Han Se-gye can. In the drama, she’s one of the biggest celebrities living the high life but she suffers from this unusual phenomenon.
Enter Seo Do-jae, an executive director of an airline company, perfect on all accounts. Except, he has prosopagnosia – a disorder that makes it hard for him to recognise faces (including his own).
Love knows no boundaries, and this drama just shows that the beauty inside is what matters most. Yes, even if you can’t remember faces or if you appear different on the outside.
Fight For My Way (2017)
If you can’t get enough of Park Seo-joon after Itaewon Class, this show should be right at the top of your next ‘must-watch’ list if you’re a fan of his.
Everyone loves an underdog and it doesn’t get any better than this. Ko Dong-man, played by Park Seo-joon, is a former taekwondo champ who missed his chance at fame.
Choi Ae-ra, his childhood best friend dreams to be an announcer but settles for a job at a department store. These two are willing to do anything to get what they want and soon come to realise that everything they needed to be happy, may have been in each other all along.
Baek Seol-hee, the innocent and sweet one of the group of childhood friend is hopelessly in love with her boyfriend of six years, Kim Joo-man. The brain of the group, his love for Seol-hee is pit against his own ambitions and dreams.
This ragtag group of four have big dreams that seem impossible to achieve, especially with their predicaments. But you’ll get drawn into this K-drama that you’ll root for them as they navigate hardships and overcome hurdles to achieve their dreams.
Fight For My Way is available on Netflix for streaming.
Also known as Guardian: The Great And Lonely God, this fantasy-romantic-comedy was one of the most highest rated drama series in TVN’s history until Crash Landing On You broke its record.
Starring a bevy of talented stars such as Train To Busan‘s Gong-yoo and Kim Go-eun, this fan favourite series sees modern-day goblin (Gong Yoo) seeking a human bride (Kim Go-eun) to end his cursed immortal life, has everything from comedy to melodrama and supernatural elements.
One thing we can say is, Koreans definitely know how to make goblins really attractive.
Descendants of the Sun (2016)
The drama that sparked off a real-life romance, Descendants of the Sun is a Korean military romance featuring Shi-jin as the captain of the special forces.
He was injured and meets Dr. Mo-yeon and the two fall desperately in love in spite of their difficult circumstances.
The K2 (2016)
A former mercenary soldier, Kim Je-ha, is now a fugitive in South Korea after being framed for the murder of his fiance in Iraq.
He plots for revenge against presidential candidate Park Kwan-soo, who ordered the vicious killing. By chance, he gets offered a job as a bodyguard for the wife of another candidate in the running, Jang Se-joon.
In exchange for information, he accepts the job. Je-ha gets assigned to guard Go An-na, the hidden daughter of Jang Se-joon, whose life is constantly in danger.
Nail-biting plot twists that’ll have you glued to the screen, the wrestle between political ambition and love creates drama like no other.
The K2 will have you wondering just how far an individual will go to gain power and how someone like Kim Je-ha (played by Ji Chang-wook), with his sculpted features and piercing gaze, can exist in real life.
The K2 is available on Netflix for streaming.
She Was Pretty (2015)
Think K-dramas never happen in real life? Well, the famous She Was Pretty was based on a true story.
Kim Hye-jin grew up as a beautiful child from a rich family. She wasn’t spoiled though, standing up for Ji Sung-Joon, a fellow classmate with low self-esteem. That’s how the two become childhood best friends and practically inseparable.
They lost contact a few years later when Hye-jin’s family went bankrupt, although Sung-joon never knew the reason why. The years brought about much change as the two went through a reversal of fortunes and looks.
Sung-joon grew to become an accomplished and handsome (of course, he’s played by Park Seo-joon) magazine editor. In true K-drama fashion, when Hye-jin gets a job as an intern there, so does he as deputy editor.
Embarrassed to face him with how she looks like now complete with frizzy hair and freckles, she gets her attractive best friend to pretend to be her.
Also, did I mention hottie Choi Si-won from Super Junior is the second male lead? Need I say more?
She Was Pretty is available on Netflix for streaming.
Good Doctor (2013)
An emotional drama about an autistic man with amazing capabilities, this drama is definitely a must watch if you’re into stories about overcoming the odds. You’ll definitely need to bring out the tissues for this one too!
My Love From Another Star (2013-2014)
Min-joon is an alien who landed on Earth 400 years ago during the Joseon Dynasty period. He possesses a near perfect appearance and enhanced physical abilities involving his vision, hearing and speed.
But even he’s nearly perfect, he can’t help falling in love to a clumsy actress, Cheon Song-yi.
The Heirs (2013)
A romantic story which involved hardships, friendships, and rivalries of young, rich heirs led by Kim Tan and a girl named Cha Eun-sang whose attraction to each other sparks off more drama than any young person should be accustomed to!
Rooftop Prince (2012)
This is a time-travel, historical, romantic-comedy drama featuring the unique story of Crown Prince Lee-gak, who is transported 300 years into the future to present day Seoul along with his three retainers.
The Moon That Embraces The Sun (2012)
The Moon That Embraces the Sun tells the story of a secret love between Lee-hwon, a fictional king of Joseon, and Wol, a female shaman.
With plenty of twists and turns and jealousy thrown into this period mix, you’ll never be left bored.
The Princess' Man (2011)
Like the story of Romeo and Juliet? Then you’re going to love the Korean version even more.
One of the most romantic period K-Dramas, The Princess’ Man is a tragic love story between the daughter of Prince Su-yang and son of Kim Jong-seo.
Dream High (2011)
Watch your high-school memories come flooding back. Romantic-comedy Dream High tells the story of six students at Kirin Art High School who work to achieve their dreams of becoming music stars in the Korean music industry.
City Hunter (2011)
An action-packed drama with romance and plenty of thrills, City Hunter is one of Lee Min-ho’s most popular TV dramas where he stars as a special agent who is ordered not to fall in love.
So what inevitably happens? He falls in love, of course, with a fellow agent.
Secret Garden (2010-2011)
This drama tells the story of an accidental meeting between Kim Joo-won (played by Crash Landing On You‘s Hyun-bin), an arrogant CEO who maintains the image of seeming perfection, and Gil Ra-im (Ha Ji-won), a poor and humble stunt woman whose beauty and body are the object of envy among all top actresses.
My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox (2010)
Perhaps the cutest love story on this list is of a legendary creature called Gumiho (a nine-tailed fox).
One day after Cha Dae-woong runs away from his grandfather, he accidentally frees a gumiho who was trapped in a painting for about 500 years who takes on the form of a beautiful woman.
Playful Kiss (2010)
Based off a Japanese manga, this is a romantic-comedy covering the romance between Baek Seung-jo, an arrogant young man with a genius IQ, and Oh Ha-ni, a ditzy young woman who gets poor grades, but whose heart is as powerful as Seung-jo’s mind.
Queen Seon Deok (2009)
A historical drama about Queen Seon-deok, the first female ruler of Silla Kingdom.
This is about a beautiful and excellent queen who had to face struggles in order to obtain brilliant achievements.
Coffee Prince (2007)
The delicious taste of story and aromatic blend of characters in this drama is what makes Coffee Prince popular.
Fun fact: This cross-dressing drama kick started the whole boy or girl mystery trend in the K-drama world.
Full House (2004)
Full House is one of the most popular K-Dramas from the early 2000s.
This drama attempts to answer the question of whether two people – a famous actor and an ordinary woman – can learn to love each other despite being polar opposites at first glance.
This article was first published in Her World Online.