From romantic comedies to crime thrillers, and everything in between, Korean dramas have something for everyone. The list we've compiled includes some of the most popular and highly acclaimed Kdramas from recent years, such as "My Love from the Star," "Crash Landing on You," and "It's Okay to Not Be Okay." One of the standout dramas on our list is "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" (2017), a romantic comedy that tells the story of a young woman with superhuman strength who becomes a bodyguard for a wealthy CEO. The drama was a huge hit in Korea and gained a large following internationally.
Another must-watch drama is "Goblin" (2016-2017), a fantasy romance that follows the story of a goblin who is seeking to end his immortal life and a young woman who has the ability to see ghosts. "Goblin" was praised for its unique storyline and stunning cinematography, and it quickly became one of the highest-rated dramas in Korean television history. If you're a fan of legal dramas, "Doctor Prisoner" (2019) and "One the Woman" (2021) are both excellent choices. "Doctor Prisoner" follows the story of a talented doctor who is wrongfully accused of a crime and ends up in prison, while "One the Woman" tells the story of a corrupt prosecutor who wakes up one day to find herself in the body of a chaebol heiress.
No matter what genre you prefer, there's sure to be a Kdrama on this list that will capture your heart and keep you entertained for hours. So why not give one (or several) of these dramas a try? You never know, you might just become a Kdrama addict like the rest of us.
"It's Okay to Not Be Okay" (2020)
Genre: Romantic comedy, drama
Logline: A selfless psychiatric ward caregiver, who has never known love, falls in love with a children's book author with an antisocial personality disorder, as they both confront their past traumas and emotional wounds.
Main Cast: Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Ye-ji, Oh Jung-se, Park Gyu-young Production
Company: Studio Dragon
Director: Park Shin-woo
Social & Political Issues: The drama highlights mental health issues, including personality disorders, autism, and trauma, and challenges the stigma and discrimination associated with these conditions. It also explores the impact of parental abuse and neglect on the psychological well-being of children.
Social Impact: The drama received widespread critical acclaim and positive audience feedback for its unconventional and thought-provoking storyline, realistic portrayal of mental health issues, and the strong chemistry between the lead actors. It also raised public awareness of the importance of seeking help for mental health issues and promoting mental health literacy.
Audience Review: "It's Okay to Not Be Okay" is a masterpiece that perfectly balances romance, comedy, and drama. The chemistry between the lead actors is electrifying, and the writing and direction are top-notch. The show tackles important social and mental health issues in a sensitive and respectful way while still being entertaining and heartwarming.
"What's Wrong with Secretary Kim?" (2018)
Genre: Romantic comedy
Logline: After serving as his secretary for nine years, a skilled assistant decides to quit her job and enjoy life, but her boss, a handsome and narcissistic CEO, realizes that he has feelings for her and tries to win her back.
Main Cast: Park Seo-joon, Park Min-young, Lee Tae-hwan
Production Company: Bon Factory Worldwide
Director: Park Joon-hwa
Social & Political Issues: The drama touches on issues related to work-life balance, gender roles, and family expectations. It also depicts the challenges and pressures of working in a highly competitive and hierarchical corporate environment.
Social Impact: The drama received high ratings and positive reviews for its lighthearted and charming story, witty dialogue, and strong performances by the lead actors. It also sparked discussions about the representation of women in the workplace and the need for a better work-life balance.
Audience Review: "What's Wrong with Secretary Kim?" is a delightful romantic comedy that will make you laugh and swoon. The chemistry between the two leads is palpable, and the supporting cast adds depth and humor to the story. The drama also has a good balance of serious and comedic moments, making it a perfect stress-reliever after a long day.
"Crash Landing on You" (2019-2020)
Genre: Romance, Drama, Comedy
Logline: A South Korean heiress crash-lands in North Korea while paragliding and falls in love with a North Korean officer as she attempts to return home.
Main Cast: Hyun Bin, Son Ye-jin, Kim Jung-hyun, Seo Ji-hye
Production Company: Studio Dragon
Director: Lee Jeong-hyo
Social & Political Issue and Social Impact: The drama addresses the political tensions and cultural differences between North and South Korea, as well as the impact of separation on families and individuals. The show has been praised for its humanizing portrayal of North Koreans and for its message of hope and reconciliation. It has also sparked interest in North Korean culture and society among international audiences.
Audience Review: "Crash Landing on You" is a charming and heartwarming drama that combines romance, comedy, and political intrigue in a way that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. The chemistry between the two leads is electric, and their love story is both epic and relatable. The show's strong message of hope and unity has resonated with audiences around the world, making it one of the most popular K-dramas of all time.
Logline: A young man without a college degree joins a large corporation and struggles to adapt to the corporate culture and power struggles.
Main Cast: Siwan, Lee Sung-min, Kang So-ra, Kang Ha-neul
Production Company: CJ E&M Corporation
Director: Kim Won-seok
Social & Political Issue: "Misaeng" addresses the difficulties faced by young people in South Korea's highly competitive job market and the harsh realities of the country's corporate culture.
Social Impact: "Misaeng" was praised for its realistic portrayal of corporate life in South Korea and its emphasis on the importance of teamwork and perseverance. The drama sparked a national conversation about work culture and helped to bring attention to the struggles faced by young people in the job market.
Audience Review: "Misaeng" is a must-watch for anyone looking for a realistic portrayal of corporate life. The show's strong performances, engaging storylines, and thoughtful exploration of social issues make it one of the best Korean dramas of all time.
"Goblin - The Lonley and Great God" (2016-2017)
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Logline: A goblin seeks to end his immortal life by finding a human bride who can pull out the sword in his chest, but complications arise when he falls in love with her.
Main Cast: Gong Yoo, Kim Go-eun, Lee Dong-wook, Yoo In-na
Production Company: Hwa&Dam Pictures, Studio Dragon
Director: Lee Eung-bok
Social & Political Issue: "Goblin" touches on themes of life and death, immortality, and the afterlife, but does not delve deeply into social or political issues.
Social Impact: "Goblin" was a massive commercial success and is considered one of the most popular Korean dramas of all time. It sparked a wave of interest in Korean dramas among international audiences and helped to establish Gong Yoo and Kim Go-eun as two of the most sought-after actors in Korea.
Audience Review: "Goblin" is a classic Korean drama that combines fantasy, romance, and comedy in a unique and captivating way. The show's stunning visuals, strong performances, and emotional storytelling make it a must-watch for fans of the genre.
"Itaewon Class" (2020)
Logline: An ex-convict and his friends start a small restaurant in Itaewon, a vibrant neighborhood in Seoul, and face numerous challenges as they strive to achieve success.
Main Cast: Park Seo-joon, Kim Da-mi, Yoo Jae-myung, Kwon Nara
Production Company: Showbox Director: Kim Sung-yoon
Social & Political Issue: "Itaewon Class" touches on themes of classism, discrimination, and prejudice in Korean society, particularly against those who are considered "outsiders" or do not fit into traditional societal norms.
Social Impact: "Itaewon Class" was a massive success both domestically and internationally and helped to bring attention to important social issues in Korea. The show's portrayal of diverse characters and its exploration of the challenges faced by those on the fringes of society were praised by audiences and critics alike.
Audience Review: "Itaewon Class" is a thought-provoking and emotionally engaging drama that explores important social issues while delivering compelling characters and storytelling. The show's strong performances and relatable themes make it a must-watch for fans of Korean dramas
"Mr. Sunshine" (2018)
Genre: Historical Drama, Romance
Logline: A young boy from the Joseon era travels to the United States and returns as an American soldier to his homeland, where he falls in love with an aristocrat's daughter and becomes embroiled in political and social upheaval.
Main Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-ri, Yoo Yeon-seok, Byun Yo-han, Kim Min-jung
Production Company: Hwa&Dam Pictures, Studio Dragon
Director: Lee Eung-bok
Social & Political Issue: Mr. Sunshine explores the themes of imperialism, colonialism, and patriotism, shedding light on the complex and often violent history between Korea and Japan.
Social Impact: Mr. Sunshine received critical acclaim for its impressive production design, cinematography, and performances, particularly from lead actor Lee Byung-hun. The show's depiction of Korea's struggle for independence resonated with many viewers, and it was praised for its honest portrayal of the country's history.
Audience Review: "Mr. Sunshine is a masterpiece of storytelling and production. The acting is superb, the cinematography is breathtaking, and the historical accuracy is impressive. It's a must-watch for anyone interested in Korean history or just a great drama in general."
"Save Me" (2017)
Genre: Thriller, Mystery Logline: A young girl is rescued from a religious cult by a group of four friends, but their troubles are far from over as they find themselves entangled in a web of danger and deception.
Main Cast: Seo Ye-ji, Ok Taec-yeon, Jo Sung-ha, Woo Do-hwan
Production Company: Hidden Sequence
Director: Kim Sung-su
Social & Political Issue: "Save Me" deals with the dangerous power dynamics and manipulation within religious cults, as well as the corrupting influence of religious leaders on vulnerable individuals.
Social Impact: "Save Me" received critical acclaim for its intense storyline, excellent performances, and nuanced exploration of the themes of cults and religion. It also sparked conversations about the dangers of blind faith and the importance of critical thinking and skepticism.
Audience Review: "Save Me" is a thrilling and thought-provoking drama that delves into the dark world of religious cults. The cast delivers powerful performances, and the storyline keeps you on the edge of your seat with its twists and turns. The show also tackles important social issues in a way that is both engaging and informative.
"Stranger (Secret Forest)" (2017)
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Logline: A prosecutor teams up with a detective to uncover corruption and solve a series of murders, but they find themselves entangled in a web of political intrigue and personal demons.
Main Cast: Cho Seung-woo, Bae Doona, Lee Joon-hyuk
Production Company: Signal Entertainment Group
Director: Ahn Gil-ho
Social & Political Issue: "Stranger" tackles issues of corruption within government institutions and the difficulties faced by those who try to expose it.
Social Impact: "Stranger" received widespread critical acclaim and was praised for its realistic portrayal of the legal and political system. It was particularly noted for its complex characters, sharp writing, and excellent performances. The show also sparked discussions about the importance of accountability and transparency in government institutions.
Audience Review: "Stranger" is a gripping and intense crime drama that explores the dark side of the justice system. The cast delivers outstanding performances, and the intricate plot keeps you hooked from start to finish. The show's commentary on corruption and power dynamics is thought-provoking and relevant, and it has become a must-watch for fans of the crime thriller genre.
Genre: Crime, Comedy
Logline: A Korean-Italian mafia lawyer returns to his home country and joins forces with a savvy law firm intern to take down a corrupt conglomerate.
Main Cast: Song Joong-ki, Jeon Yeo-bin, Ok Taec-yeon, Kwak Dong-yeon
Production Company: Studio Dragon, Ace Factory
Director: Kim Hee-won
Social & Political Issue: "Vincenzo" critiques the corrupt practices of large corporations and the close ties between business and politics in South Korea.
Social Impact: "Vincenzo" was a massive commercial and critical success, breaking viewership records and becoming one of the most popular dramas of 2021. The show was praised for its unique blend of crime and comedy, as well as its engaging storyline and charismatic performances. It also sparked conversations about the need for corporate reform and transparency in South Korea.
Audience Review: "Vincenzo" is a thrilling and hilarious ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The cast delivers excellent performances, and the writing is sharp and witty. The show's critique of corporate corruption adds a layer of depth and relevance to the storyline, making it a must-watch for fans of the crime comedy genre.
"The Fiery Priest" (2019)
Genre: Crime, Comedy
Logline: A hot-headed detective, a fiery priest, and a determined prosecutor team up to take down corrupt politicians and solve a murder case.
Main Cast: Kim Nam-gil, Kim Sung-kyun, Lee Hanee
Production Company: SBS Studios
Director: Lee Myung-woo
Social & Political Issue: The drama touches upon corruption within the Catholic Church and government, as well as the struggles faced by those in lower socio-economic classes.
Social Impact: "The Fiery Priest" was well-received for its clever writing, fast-paced action, and ensemble cast performances. It received high ratings and won numerous awards, including Best Drama and Best Actor for Kim Nam-gil at the 55th Baeksang Arts Awards.
Audience Review: "The Fiery Priest" is a must-watch for those who enjoy crime dramas with a comedic twist. The chemistry between the three main characters is amazing, and the storyline keeps you hooked until the very end. The show also does a great job of tackling serious social issues in a way that's both entertaining and thought-provoking.
"Doctor Prisoner" (2019)
Genre: Thriller, Medical Drama
Logline: A skilled surgeon seeks revenge on the hospital that fired him by using his medical expertise to manipulate the system and gain power.
Main Cast: Namgoong Min, Kwon Nara
Production Company: Studio Dragon
Director: Hwang In-hyuk
Social & Political Issue: The show highlights corruption and abuse of power in the healthcare system and explores the moral dilemmas faced by medical professionals.
Social Impact: Doctor Prisoner received high ratings and critical acclaim for its suspenseful plot and strong performances. The show's portrayal of the darker side of the medical profession sparked discussions about healthcare ethics and the need for reform.
Audience Review: Viewers praised the show's intense storyline, intricate plot twists, and captivating performances. The show's themes of justice and revenge resonated with audiences, and its exploration of ethical issues in healthcare was widely applauded.
"The Good Doctor" (2013)
Genre: Medical Drama
Logline: A young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome joins a prestigious hospital and navigates interpersonal relationships while using his exceptional medical skills to save lives
Main Cast: Joo Won, Moon Chae-won
Production Company: KBS Media
Director: Ki Min-soo
Social & Political Issue: The show sheds light on the challenges faced by people with autism and other developmental disabilities in the workplace and in society.
Social Impact: The Good Doctor received critical acclaim for its sensitive portrayal of autism and savant syndrome. The show's popularity led to a surge in public awareness of these conditions and helped to reduce stigma and misconceptions surrounding autism.
Audience Review: Viewers praised the show's gripping medical cases, heartwarming storylines, and exceptional performances by the cast. The show's representation of people with disabilities was also lauded as groundbreaking and inspiring.
"My Love from the Star" (2013-2014)
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Fantasy
Logline: A 400-year-old alien falls in love with a top Hallyu actress and navigates their relationship while trying to return to his home planet.
Main Cast: Kim Soo-hyun, Jun Ji-hyun
Production Company: HB Entertainment
Director: Jang Tae-yoo
Social & Political Issue: The show explores themes of cultural differences and prejudice, as the alien struggles to adapt to life on Earth and faces discrimination for his extraterrestrial origins.
Social Impact: My Love from the Star was a massive hit in South Korea and across Asia, popularizing the "hallyu" or Korean Wave phenomenon. The show's stars, Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun, became household names and received numerous awards for their performances.
Audience Review: Viewers praised the show's unique premise, witty humor, and romantic storyline. The chemistry between the lead actors was particularly notable, and the show's soundtrack also received critical acclaim.
"Mr. Queen" (2020-2021)
Genre: Historical, Romantic Comedy
Logline: Jang Bong-hwan, a modern-day chef, finds himself trapped in the body of Queen Cheorin of the Joseon dynasty and must navigate court politics and romance in order to find a way back to his own time.
Main Cast: Shin Hye-sun, Kim Jung-hyun
Production Company: Studio Dragon, Chorokbaem Media
Director: Yoon Sung-sik
Social & Political Issue: Mr. Queen garnered attention for its portrayal of gender and sexuality in historical settings. Some viewers praised the show's depiction of a male character embracing femininity and challenging traditional gender roles, while others criticized it for being disrespectful to Korean history and culture.
Social Impact: Mr. Queen received high ratings and critical acclaim during its run and was praised for its unique blend of genres and strong performances by the cast.
Audience Review: "Mr. Queen is a delightful mix of humor, romance, and historical drama. Shin Hye-sun's performance as Jang Bong-hwan in Queen Cheorin's body is both hilarious and heartwarming, and the chemistry between her and Kim Jung-hyun is fantastic. The show's historical accuracy may be questionable at times, but it's a fun and entertaining watch overall."
"The King: Eternal Monarch" (2020)
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Drama
Logline: Lee Gon, a modern-day emperor of the Kingdom of Corea, crosses over into an alternate universe where he meets Jung Tae-eul, a detective from the Republic of Korea, and together they work to close the portal between their worlds.
Main Cast: Lee Min-ho, Kim Go-eun, Woo Do-hwan, Kim Kyung-nam
Production Company: Hwa&Dam Pictures, Studio Dragon
Director: Baek Sang-hoon, Jeong Jee-hyun
Social & Political Issue: The drama explores themes of power, loyalty, and the consequences of one's actions, as well as addressing the idea of fate and free will in a multiverse.
Social Impact: "The King: Eternal Monarch" was highly anticipated due to its star-studded cast and the buzz surrounding the writer Kim Eun-sook's previous works. The show received mixed reviews, but it was a commercial success, especially overseas, and increased the popularity of K-dramas globally.
Audience Review: Viewers appreciated the chemistry between the lead actors and the stunning visuals of the show, but some criticized the plot for being confusing and slow-paced at times.
"Bad and Crazy" (2021)
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Logline: Bad and Crazy is a gripping Korean drama that delves into political corruption, dual personalities, and drug abuse.
Main Cast: Lee Dong-wook, Han Ji-eun, Wi Ha-joon, Cha Rae-hyung
Production Company: Studio Dragon Director: Hyun Jong-hyun
Social & Political Issue: The show explores the psychological toll of chasing criminals and the limits of law enforcement, as well as the societal stigma surrounding mental illness and tackles a range of social and political issues, including corruption in government, police brutality, drug addiction, and mental health. Through its complex characters and engaging storyline, the drama sheds light on the impact of these issues on individuals and society at large.
Social Impact: The drama has been widely praised for its thought-provoking commentary on social issues and its nuanced portrayal of complex characters. It has sparked important conversations about corruption and mental health in South Korea and beyond, highlighting the need for systemic change.
Audience Review: Bad and Crazy has been a hit with audiences, who have praised its intense storyline, strong performances, and heartfelt bromance between Lee Dong Wook and Wi Ha Joon. The drama has been lauded for its ability to tackle sensitive topics with sensitivity and nuance.
"Squid Game" (2021)
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Logline: Hundreds of desperate individuals compete in a series of deadly children's games for a chance to win a massive cash prize.
Main Cast: Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Heo Sung-tae
Production Company: Siren Pictures, Studio Dragon
Director: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Social & Political Issue: The drama critiques the capitalist society, classism, and economic inequality through the lens of a deadly game show.
Social Impact: "Squid Game" was a global phenomenon, becoming one of the most-watched series on Netflix. It sparked conversations about wealth inequality, the exploitation of the working class, and the ethics of reality TV.
Audience Review: The show received widespread critical acclaim for its gripping plot, dynamic characters, and social commentary. Many viewers praised the show's unique premise and the twists and turns in the storyline.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Thriller
Logline: The worlds of a popular webtoon and reality collide when a comic book character comes to life and falls in love with the writer.
Main Cast: Lee Jong-suk, Han Hyo-joo
Production Company: MBC Director: Jung Dae-yoon
Social & Political Issue: The show explores the concept of alternate universes and the impact of one's choices in their lives.
Social Impact: "W" received positive reviews for its unique plot, captivating performances, and creative direction. It garnered a significant fan following both locally and internationally.
Audience Review: Viewers praised the series for its thrilling plot, well-developed characters, and engaging romance.
"Little Women" (2022)
Genre: Drama, Family Logline: Four sisters navigate the ups and downs of life and love while pursuing their dreams and ambitions.
Main Cast: Kim Go-eun, Nam Ji-hyun, Park Ji-hu
Production Company: tvN
Director: Kim Hee-won
Social & Political Issue: The show portrays the struggles of women in contemporary society, including issues of gender inequality and societal pressures.
Social Impact: "Little Women" has been praised for its strong female characters, realistic portrayal of modern-day women, and empowering message. It has also sparked conversations about women's rights and representation in South Korea.
Audience Review: The show received positive reviews for its heartfelt performances, compelling storyline, and relatable themes. Viewers appreciated its refreshing take on the classic novel and its emphasis on sisterhood and female empowerment.