13 addictive Korean dramas to binge right now (2024)

13 addictive Korean dramas to binge right now (1)

Credit: Squid Game

"Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films," Parasite director Bong Joon-ho said when accepting the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. This isn't just true of films, though. It also applies to highly bingeable K-dramas. Fortunately, some of the best Korean dramas are also easy to stream.

There's a rich, wide world of captivating stories told in languages other than English, which many people are only just beginning to explore. South Korean dramas in particular have gained increasing global popularity over the past decade, even before Parasite threw Korean stories into the spotlight.

Tropes in K-dramas are typically less familiar to Western audiences, which can make the stories feel more unpredictable and exciting. They're also usually produced with a limited, set run of episodes rather than in endlessly renewable seasons. This means the best Korean dramas are more likely to give you a complete, satisfying story, and less likely to leave you hanging after it's cancelled before your OTP moves beyond meaningful glances.

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The nostalgic power of Korean dramas — and why you should start binging right now

In no particular order, here are some of the best Korean dramas to kickstart — or continue — your education. Several are on Netflix while others are available on Viki or KOCOWA, streaming services dedicated to Asian shows and movies.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo

Legal drama Extraordinary Attorney Woo gained a huge following upon its release in 2022, spending 21 weeks among Netflix's non-English Global Top 10 television shows. This heartfelt South Korean drama follows titular attorney Woo Young-woo, a young lawyer with autism who has just started her legal career at the Hanbada law firm. Though others consider her awkward and are sceptical of her abilities, she soon proves herself to be a brilliant lawyer who is more than a match for her neurotypical peers.

While Extraordinary Attorney Woo's positive and sensitive portrayal of people with autism sparked discussion, its lovable cast of characters kept viewers coming back. This included "Spring Sunshine" Choi Su-yeon, green flag personified Lee Jun-ho, and Young-woo's best friend Dong Geu-ra-mi, whose special handshake with her became a viral meme.

A second season of Extraordinary Attorney Woo is currently planned to air in 2024.

How to watch: Netflix

The Glory

The Glory is a revenge drama about Moon Dong-eun, a woman who was viciously and violently bullied by a group of wealthy students in high school — so much so that she eventually dropped out, derailing her entire future. Years later she returns to take her revenge, having dedicated her life to making those who wronged her pay.

Dong-eun's single-minded focus on her mission does make her life fairly joyless, but after seeing what the bullies did you'd be hard pressed to blame her. The Glory includes frequent flashbacks showing the incredible abuse Dong-eun endured, which permanently scarred her both physically and mentally. None of the bullies saw any consequences at the time, as they were all protected by powerful adults.

This series will have you dying to see Dong-eun finally get her revenge, especially as none of the bullies seem to have changed at all. Split into two parts, Part 2 of The Glory will arrive Mar. 10.

How to watch: Netflix

Taxi Driver

Based on a webtoon, Taxi Driver is an episodic series about an unusual company that offers to take revenge on behalf of its clients. Though the Rainbow Taxi Company masquerades as a taxi service, desperate people can call upon them for help in a wide range of circ*mstances that don't primarily pertain to transportation. These range from taking on employers exploiting workers with disabilities to teaching high school bullies a lesson, with each case lasting several episodes.

Though the Rainbow Taxi Company's small handful of employees all work together, Taxi Driver primarily follows Kim Do-ki, a former military captain who tends to take their undercover work — as well as physical fights. Fortunately, he is more than capable of holding his own. Others on the team include CEO Jang Sung-chul and hacker Ahn Go-eun, while season 2 will add a new driver to the crew.

How to watch: Viki, KOCOWA, Roku

All of Us Are Dead

Brace yourself for this one, because it's definitely going to hurt. All of Us Are Dead follows an ensemble cast of young students who are trapped in their high school when it's overrun by zombies. Left to fend for themselves, they have to work together and use whatever resources they can find in order to survive.

Seeing a bunch of terrified children fighting for their lives is harrowing enough, but zombies aren't the only evils the teenagers are forced to face in All of Us Are Dead. It's still high school, after all. Not everybody is inclined to help others out, with the violence starting before any zombies even show up. Throw them into the mix, and it's safe to say not everyone will make it out.*

How to watch: Netflix

Extraordinary You

Wealthy schoolgirl Eun Dan-oh's world is turned upside down when she discovers she is a character in a romance comic book — and she does not care for the plot at all. Determined to define her own fate, Dan-oh recruits an unnamed background character to help change the story, discovering some unexpected truths about their world along the way.

Extraordinary You's already intriguing premise is further buoyed by a charming cast, including Rowoon of K-pop group SF9, and has an adorable secondary couple who are just as captivating to watch as the main pair. It's a ton of fun seeing the self-aware characters disparage romance cliches while still unapologetically reveling in them.

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How to watch: Viki, KOCOWA

Kingdom

Leading a country is hard enough, but doing so during an epidemic is even more so — especially when the disease transforms your subjects into violent, raging cannibals. Set several centuries ago during the Joseon dynasty, Kingdom follows Crown Prince Lee Chang as he faces not only the zombie threat, but a political coup threatening to depose him from the throne.

Netflix's first original Korean series, Kingdom offers an uncommon yet gripping mix of historical drama, political intrigue, and zombie horror. It's also visually stunning to boot, a feast for the eyes as well as the infected. The series has two seasons, followed by the feature-length special Kingdom: Ashin of the North.

How to watch: Netflix

Goblin, aka Guardian: The Lonely and Great God

Kim Shin is almost 1,000 years old, inflicted with an unwanted and lonely immortality. A Goryeo-era general who was betrayed by his king, the only way Shin can pass on is if a prophesied goblin's bride removes the sword embedded in his chest. Enter Ji Eun-tak, a cheerful high school student with the supernatural ability to see ghosts.

There are quite a few laughs here as well, several stemming from Shin's affectionately antagonistic friendship with his grim reaper roommate Wang Yeo. Many Korean drama aficionados consider Goblin a must-watch series, expertly blending fantasy, historical, and modern elements in a unique and captivating story.

How to watch: Viki

My Love from the Star

Do Min-joon is an alien who missed his ride off-planet after landing on Earth during the Joseon dynasty, leaving him stranded amongst humans for 400 years. Integrating himself into society, the jaded Min-joon works as a college professor as he waits the last few months more before he can finally go home. So, of course, he meets Cheon Song-yi — a famous actress, his new next-door neighbour, and the spitting image of a girl he loved centuries ago.

If you mention My Love from the Star to any Korean drama fan, chances are they'll know it. The series enjoyed massive success in both Korea and China upon its initial release in 2013, and is now considered a classic of the genre. It even got remade in both Thailand and the Philippines, while a Japanese remake was released in 2022.

How to watch: Viki, KOCOWA

SKY Castle

SKY Castle is like if a richer, grimmer Desperate Housewives met the Asian fixation on academic excellence. Set in a wealthy area of Seoul, the darkly satirical drama follows a group of upper-class women fighting to secure their family's success, largely defined by their children's acceptance to top universities. And they don't mind who they have to pay — or destroy — to get what they want.

This show is one of the most highly rated dramas in Korean cable television history. It's no accident that viewers in both South Korea and China found its depiction of a highly competitive education system relatable, either. SKY is an acronym for South Korea's three most prestigious universities — Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University — which have produced some of the country's most influential people.

How to watch: Viki

Crash Landing On You

Crash Landing On You follows South Korean heiress Yoon Se-ri, who mistakenly crosses the border into North Korea and crash lands in a paragliding accident. She's then discovered by Ri Jeong-hyeok, an officer in the North Korean army. However, rather than turn her in, Jeong-hyeok decides to secretly help her return home — and falls in love during the process.

The concept for this hugely popular star-crossed romance admittedly sounds bizarre, particularly as the relationship between North and South Korea is a fairly serious subject. However, several defectors have praised the touching drama for its accuracy and attention to detail in depicting everyday North Korean life, and the series even had a defector on its writing team.

How to watch: Netflix

Signal

If you're more into crime than romance, Signal offers an intriguing twist to your standard police procedural. Set both in 2015 and 1989, cold case workers Park Hae-young and Cha Soo-hyun use a mysterious walkie talkie to communicate across time with detective Lee Jae-han to solve crimes in both times — and even prevent some from happening. However, they soon discover that messing with time is never without consequence.

Signal garnered both audience and critical acclaim, particularly for its plot. The gritty series drew inspiration from actual crimes that took place in Korea, such as the Hwaseong serial murders and Miryang gang rape. Suffice to say it is not lighthearted popcorn fare, and much darker and more sombre in tone than many other K-dramas.

How to watch: Netflix, Prime Video, Tubi

Designated Survivor: 60 Days

Designated Survivor started with an intriguing premise: An explosion kills the U.S. President and most of Congress, leaving a relatively low ranking politician to step up as the new commander-in-chief. In South Korean adaptation Designated Survivor: 60 Days, that role falls to reluctant new Minister of Environment Park Mu-jin, a quiet scientist who is more comfortable teaching chemistry than arguing policy.

60 Days feels much tenser and more desperate than the U.S. original, with the meek, inexperienced President Park even less suited to his new role than President Kirkman was. South Korea's new president also has to deal with the immediate threat of North Korea and the powerful U.S. pushing its own agenda, making the entire situation feel extraordinarily fraught. Fortunately 60 Days is complete with a set run of 16 episodes, so viewers can expect a solid conclusion and don't have to struggle through a flagging third season.

How to watch: Netflix

Squid Game

Netflix's bloody survival show Squid Game is not only visually striking, agonisingly tense, and emotionally devastating, it also has a lot to say on the cruelty of wealth inequality. Chased by vicious debt-collectors and desperate for a way out, problem gambler and deadbeat dad Seong Gi-hun accepts a mysterious invitation for the chance to win a ridiculous amount of cash. Unfortunately, he soon discovers that while winning the schoolyard games will net him an enormous ₩45.6 billion ($39 million) prize, losing will cost him his life.

Squid Game became a massive global phenomenon upon release, inspiring an enormous spike in sales of white slip-on Vans in the lead up to Halloween. Though writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk had no initial plans for more episodes, it's hard to imagine Netflix will let the deadly game end after just one season.

How to watch: Netflix

There are a ton of other great Korean dramas to explore well. If you like ABC's The Good Doctor, you might want to check out Good Doctor, the South Korean medical series it was based on. For romance with a bit of sci-fi, My Holo Love has a woman falling in love with a hologram. Modern fantasy lovers may enjoy Hotel Del Luna's tale about the owner and manager of a hotel catering to ghosts. Meanwhile, He Is Psychometric features GOT7's Jinyong as a young man who can read the past of people and objects he touches, using this to fight crime.

Whether you're in the mood for love, war, or anything in between, chances are there's a Korean drama that can satisfy you.

Asterisks (*) denote the writeup was included in another Mashable list.

13 addictive Korean dramas to binge right now (2)

Amanda Yeo

Assistant Editor

Amanda Yeo is an Assistant Editor at Mashable, covering entertainment, culture, tech, science, and social good. Based in Australia, she writes about everything from video games and K-pop to movies and gadgets.

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13 addictive Korean dramas to binge right now (2024)

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