Ready to Dive Into the World of Korean Dramas? Here's Where to Start (2024)

Table of Contents
Action/Thriller Korean Dramas 'Squid Game' (2021- ) 'Sweet Home' (2020- ) Stay In The Know 'Happiness' (2021) 'All of Us Are Dead' (2022- ) 'My Name' (2021) 'D.P' (2021-2023) 'Weak Hero Class 1' (2022- ) 'Bloodhounds' (2023- ) 'Moving' (2023- ) 'Parasyte: The Grey' (2024- ) 'Signal' (2016) 'Pyramid Game' (2024) Romance Korean Dramas 'Crash Landing on You' (2019-2020) 'Business Proposal' (2022) 'Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha' (2021) 'Coffee Prince' (2007) 'Boys Over Flowers' (2009) 'True Beauty' (2020-2021) 'Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo' (2016-2017) 'What's Wrong With Secretary Kim' (2018) 'Our Beloved Summer' (2021-2022) 'Semantic Error' (2022) 'Crash Course in Romance' (2023) 'Doona!' (2023) 'Lovely Runner' (2024) Fantasy Korean Dramas 'Goblin (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God)' (2016-2017) 'Hotel de Luna' (2019) 'The Uncanny Counter' (2020-2023) 'Tale of the Nine-Tailed' (2020) 'Legend of the Blue Sea' (2016-2017) 'My Love from the Star' (2013-2014) 'Alchemy of Souls' (2022-2023) 'Strong Woman Do Bong Soon' (2017) 'Twinkling Watermelon' (2023) Melodrama Korean Dramas 'The Glory' (2022-2023) 'Marry My Husband' (2024) 'Queen of Tears' (2024) 'It's Okay, That's Love' (2014) 'The Penthouse: War in Life' (2020-2021) 'SKY Castle'(2018-2019) 'The Heirs' (2013) 'Move to Heaven' (2021) 'My Mister' (2018) 'Reborn Rich' (2022) Historical Korean Dramas 'Kingdom' (2019-2021) 'Mr. Queen' (2020-2021) 'Pachinko' (2022- ) 'Mr. Sunshine' (2018) 'The Red Sleeve' (2021-2022) 'Under the Queen's Umbrella' (2022) 'Youth of May' (2021) 'My Dearest' (2023) 'Uncle Samsik' (2024) Professional Korean Dramas 'Hospital Playlist' (2020-2021) 'Doctor Cha' (2023) 'Extraordinary Attorney Woo' (2022) 'Queenmaker' (2023) 'Law School' (2021) 'Search: WWW' (2019) 'Misaeng: Incomplete Life' (2014) Slice of Life Korean Dramas 'Reply 1988' (2015-2016) 'Itaewon Class' (2020) 'Something in the Rain' (2018) 'Because This Is My First Life' (2017) 'Fight For My Way' (2017) 'When the Camellia Blooms' (2019) 'Our Blues' (2022) 'Yumi's Cells' (2021-2022) 'Hello, My Twenties!' (2016-2017) 'My Liberation Notes' (2022) References

If you're not watching Korean dramas, better known as K-dramas, then you're missing out in several ways. First, there's the big-picture, cultural impact to consider: K-dramas and K-movies have become a worldwide phenomenon, and if you're going to be a pop culture connoisseur/productive denizen of the entertainment-loving internet—and you're here, so you obviously are both of those things—then you need to be versed in all things K-drama. And then there's the more important reason to watch Korean dramas: They are addictive and amazing, and you'll thank yourself for adding them to your pop culture diet.

Known for their interesting storylines and intense (if sometimes predictable) plot twists, Korean dramas can go from super sappy rom-coms to incredibly heartbreaking stories that'll make you cry to "WTF, what was that?" in a heartbeat. That variety is exactly what keeps viewers coming back for more. Here, we've listed the 70 best-ever K-dramas to watch, grouped by the most popular genres—and if you're well versed in the more established K-dramas, consult our list of the best new Korean shows on Netflix in 2023. (And if you're looking specifically for the all-time best K-dramas on Netflix, best K-dramas on Viki, best Korean dramas on Hulu, best Korean dramas on Prime Video, best K-dramas on Tubi, or best Korean reality shows? We've got you covered there too.)

Action/Thriller Korean Dramas

If your Korean entertainment knowledge doesn't expand beyond Squid Game and Train to Busan, here's where to start. These thrilling K-dramas are filled with action and intrigue, with some selections touching on societal issues, similar to Parasite. (Also, so many zombies!) Your next stops: the best Korean action flicks, thrillers, and horror movies.

'Squid Game' (2021- )

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(Image credit: Noh Juhan/Netflix)

If you haven't yet checked out Squid Game, then here's one more recommendation: This edge-of-your-seat Korean thriller on Netflix is worth a look. In the viral hit, a group of characters in serious debt sign up to play a series of children's games for a chance at 45.6 billion won (about $38 million). The catch? If the players lose at Tug of War or Red Light, Green Light, they die. (For fans eagerly awaiting season 2, here's everything we know so far.)

watch it on netflix

'Sweet Home' (2020- )

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(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

If you enjoyed Korean movies like The Call and #Alive, you'll be able to stomach the gruesome monsters at the center of Sweet Home. The multi-season drama follows a depressed loner (Song Kang) who moves into a new apartment complex after the death of his family. After he begins to witness frightening things in the building from some of his odd neighbors, the building's survivors have to band together to survive a monster apocalypse. If you're a peek-over-the-blanket-type person when watching horror shows, we'd advise you to tune into this during the daytime.

watch it on netflix

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'Happiness' (2021)

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(Image credit: Studio Dragon)

This modern zombie drama is full of surprises at every turn, starting with being one of the only dramas to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic. Officer Yoon Sae-bom (Han Hyo-joo) has been dreaming of having her own apartment when she gets the chance to move into a high-rise with her high-school friend, Detective Jung Yi-hyun (Park Hyung-sik). Soon after they move in, an infectious disease sweeps the country, with those infected getting a craving for human blood. The apartment building ends up quarantined, with Sae-bom and Yi-hyun trying to keep the peace among the eccentric tenants.

watch it on viki

'All of Us Are Dead' (2022- )

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(Image credit: Yang Hae-sung/Netflix)

This heart-racing zombie thriller offers another unique spin on the genre, following a group of high school students as the zombie apocalypse comes to their school. The kids are left on their own as their classmates quickly return, and we see how they handle the survival challenge while also getting storylines of parents and politicians handling the virus outside the school. The most interesting part is how classic high school tropes (crushes, bullies, etc.) are twisted into thrilling plots.

watch it on netflix

'My Name' (2021)

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(Image credit: Min Jeehee/Netflix)

In this intense thriller, a young woman named Ji-woo (Han So-hee) sets out to avenge the death of her father, who was involved in the criminal underworld. She takes up a new identity as a member of the police force working with her father's old partner, Choi Mu-jin (Park Hee-soon).

watch it on netflix

'D.P' (2021-2023)

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(Image credit: Netflix)

This brutally realistic drama stars Jung Hae-in as An Jun-ho, following the young man as he enlists in the South Korean army as part of his mandatory military service. After his basic service, during which he struggles with the ritualistic hazing and "survival of the fittest" culture of bullying, he lands a spot in the Deserter Pursuit unit, where he's sent to catch soldiers who've gone AWOL. The stories of the deserters are intense, with the drama shining a light on mistreatment in the armed forces.

watch it on netflix

'Weak Hero Class 1' (2022- )

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(Image credit: Wavve)

This brutal webcomic-based drama tackles school violence through a realistic lens, taking place at a boy's high school where the richest students are the most powerful. Bullied student Yeon Si-eun (former Wanna One member Park Ji-hoon) sees his tormentors as an obstacle towards reaching academic success and getting a scholarship to Seoul National University. Though he doesn't see much need for friends, he eventually finds allies in fellow class outcast Oh Beom-seok (Hong Kyung), and the school's best fighter An Soo-ho (Twenty Five Twenty One's Choi Hyun-wook). Fair warning, the eight-episode drama has major twists and a devastating ending that left fans clamoring for news on season 2.

watch it on viki

'Bloodhounds' (2023- )

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(Image credit: Soyun Jeon, Seowoo Jung/Netflix)

This action-packed crime drama takes place in fall 2020, as families and small businesses struggle to recover in the wake of pandemic lockdowns. Gun-woo (Woo Do-hwan), a talented emerging boxer, works part-time at various jobs to help support his mom's coffee shop. One day the shop is targeted by Smile Capital, a company run by loan sharks who convince Gun-woo's mom to sign a predatory loan. Gun-woo and his new friend, fellow boxer Woo-jin (Lee Sang-yi), team up with a benevolent lender to bring down Smile Capital's boss, Myeong-gil (Park Sung-woong).

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'Moving' (2023- )

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(Image credit: Disney+)

This innovative, decades-spanning drama is the best superhero series that Disney has released in years. (Sorry, MCU.) It follows a group of super-powered parents with ordinary jobs (played by Zo In-sung, Han Hyo-joo, Ryu Seung-ryong and Kim Sung-kyun), who have passed their abilities down to their high-school aged children (Go Youn-jung, Lee Jeong-ha and Kim Do-hoon). The intricate plot jumps between the parents' backstories, including their involvement with the shady government operatives who may have had a hand in creating them, and the present-day storyline where Frank (Ryu Seung-bum), a vicious Korean-born American spy operative, begins hunting down both generations of heroes.

watch it on hulu

'Parasyte: The Grey' (2024- )

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(Image credit: Netflix)

In this horror invasion drama, based on the popular Japanese manga Parasyte, a species of larva-like aliens arrive on Earth and begin taking over human bodies. Supermarket clerk Jeong Su-in (Jeon So-nee) encounters one of the parasites when she's attacked on the way home from work, but instead of being killed, the alien invader heals her wounds and takes up residence in her head, taking control only when Su-in is threatened. As Su-in becomes a target of Team Grey, an elite squad tasked with eliminating the alien threat, she has to figure out how to survive by co-existing with the monster in her head.

watch it on netflix

'Signal' (2016)

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(Image credit: Courtesy)

This acclaimed crime drama is set across time, with detectives from the past and the present solving mysteries based on well-known criminal cases in Korea. In 2000, elementary student Park Hae-young (Kim Hyun-bin) witnessed the kidnapping of a young girl, whose body was later discovered. 15 years later, Hae-young (Lee Je-hoon), now a criminal profiler, discovers a walkie-talkie that lets him communicate with Detective Lee Jae-han (Cho Jin-woong), who is working on the kidnapping case in 2000. The two cops, along with 2015 detective Cha Soo-hyun (Kim Hye-soo ), team up to solve cold cases over time, including how they ended up as unlikely partners in the first place.

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'Pyramid Game' (2024)

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(Image credit: TVING)

Another thriller centered on brutal school bullying, Pyramid Game (based on a webtoon of the same name) depicts a fictional hierarchy within an all-girls high school. When transfer student Seong Soo-ji (Kim Ji-yeon) arrives in class 2–5 of Baekyeon Girls' High School, she discovers that her classmates take part in a popularity poll that determines who's at the top of the social structure and who's at the bottom. The poor soul dubbed an outcast becomes the class's punching bag until the next poll. When Soo-ji finds herself at the bottom, she becomes determined to abolish the game and goes toe-to-toe with queen bee Baek Ha-rin (Jang Da-ah).

watch it on paramount+

Romance Korean Dramas

These romantic K-dramas are for the fans of intense, sweeping romances that can span from heart-fluttering to heart-wrenching in one episode. (Think Bridgerton, but even more swoon-worthy.) If you want to spend 16-20 hours invested in a serious slow burn, look here.

'Crash Landing on You' (2019-2020)

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(Image credit: tvN)

A South Korean heiress, Yoon Se-ri, gets caught in a storm while paragliding and finds herself blown off course into North Korea. Se-ri then runs into Ri Jeong-hyeok, Captain of the North Korean Special Forces and a member of the North Korean elite family. Captain Ri eventually hatches a plan to get Se-ri back to South Korea with the help of his squad, but not before they all tackle the obstacles that come their way—and then some. This drama mixes romance with comedy and ultimately tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers. It's currently the highest rated tvN drama and the second-highest Korean drama in cable television history. (Also, stars Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin have since gotten married and welcomed a baby!)

watch it on netflix

'Business Proposal' (2022)

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(Image credit: SBS)

This 2022 rom-com drama has become the year's biggest hit so far thanks to its hilarious romances (and a super-popular kissing clip). Shin Ha-ri (I.O.I. and The Uncanny Counter's Kim Se-jeong) is a food researcher at a company that just welcomed a new president, Kang Tae-moo (Ahn Hyo-seop). When her wealthy BFF (played by Seol In-ah) asks her to go on a blind date for her and ruin it, the date turns out to be Tae-moo. The morning after the disastrous date, Ha-ri receives a call—Tae-moo wants to marry her!?! Their hilarious courtship, as well as the second lead romance, will definitely steal your heart.

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'Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha' (2021)

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(Image credit: tvN)

This country-boy meets city-girl romance starts when Seoul dentist Yoon Hye-jin (Shin Min-ah) loses her shoe during a visit to the seaside village of Gonjin. It's found by Hong Doo-shik (Kim Seon-ho), a jack-of-all-trades who does odd jobs around town. Hye-jin ends up moving to Gonjin, where Doo-shik helps her adapt to the new environment, and the couple slowly (and sweetly) grows feelings for each other.

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'Coffee Prince' (2007)

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(Image credit: MBC)

This classic K-drama follows Choi Han-gyul (Goblin's Gong Yoo), the irresponsible heir to a conglomerate with a popular chain of coffee shops. One day he meets Ko Eun-chan (Yoon Eun-hye), a tomboy who's often mistaken for a man and has been the breadwinner of her family since she was 16. Not knowing Eun-chan is a girl, Han-gyul hires her to be his gay lover to get out of the blind dates his grandmother sets up. Han-gyul also takes over a derelict coffee shop, renamed Coffee Prince, to prove to his grandmother and ex-girlfriend that he is capable. As he's only hiring good-looking male employees, Eun-chan decides to keep up her gender charade to get a job at his cafe.

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'Boys Over Flowers' (2009)

(Image credit: KBS2)

Boys Over Flowers is an old-school teen drama, focused on a group of popular/privileged/not-so-nice boys at the prestigious Shinhwa High School. The group, known as F4, bullies others to get their way—until a working-class girl named Geum Jan-di arrives at the school on scholarship and stands up to the boys.

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'True Beauty' (2020-2021)

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(Image credit: tvN)

If you want to follow a high-school love triangle, then this hilarious coming-of-age drama is for you. High schooler Im Ju-yeong (Moon Ga-young) has an inferiority complex after being bullied for years by students and family members for her looks. After learning makeup artistry from YouTube, she is considered a "goddess" and becomes more popular at school. Soon she falls into a triangle between mysterious Lee Su-ho (Cha Eun-woo), who recognizes her through her makeup, and his former best friend Han Seo-jun (Hwang In-youp).

watch it on viki

'Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo' (2016-2017)

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(Image credit: MBC)

This drama has one of the most likable protagonists and the cutest friends-to-lovers story. Kim Bok-joo (Lee Sung-kyung), a collegiate weightlifter training for the Olympics, meets Jung Joon-hyung (Nam Joo-hyuk) a swimmer at the same school recovering from a psychological problem. The two athletes start out as reluctant friends, but watching them fall in love makes for some hilarious, heart-warming moments.

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'What's Wrong With Secretary Kim' (2018)

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(Image credit: tvN)

This beloved rom-com stars Park Min-young as Kim Mi-so, the skilled secretary to chaebol businessman Lee Young-joon (Park Seo-joon). The job is demanding and Young-joon is narcissistic and self-absorbed, and after nine years at her job, Mi-so has finally decided to quit and start living her life for herself. However, Young-joon refuses to let her go, and eventually, he realizes that his feelings for Mi-so go beyond professional admiration. On Mi-so's side, she begins to see her slowly softening boss in a new life, leading to a genuinely sweet love story (and some top-tier kissing scenes).

watch it on hulu

'Our Beloved Summer' (2021-2022)

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(Image credit: Studio N/SBS)

Ten years have passed since high schoolers Choi Ung (Parasite's Choi Woo-sik) and Kook Yeon-su (Kim Da-mi) starred in a documentary together. Though they started out hating each other, the pair later began dating and stayed together for five years. Now, five years after the rough breakup, the two adults find each other back in their lives at the same time the documentary goes viral, with fans clamoring for an update. Will Ung and Da-mi fall in love again while filming the sequel? Check out this enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers(?) drama to find out.

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'Semantic Error' (2022)

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(Image credit: Rakuten Viki)

BL (a.k.a. "Boys Love") dramas have grown in popularity over the years, and this acclaimed, college-based web series is a great intro to the genre. Strict computer science major Choo Sang-woo (Park Jae-chan) is placed into a group project with Jang Jae-young's (Park Seo-ham), the popular campus star. When Sang-woo removes Jae-young's name from the project because he didn't contribute, it ruins the design student's plans to study abroad. As Jae-young plots his revenge to torment the analytical brainiac, their feud blossoms into something more, as Sang-woo learns to follow his heart over his head.

watch it on viki

'Crash Course in Romance' (2023)

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(Image credit: Netflix)

This multi-generational romance has a little bit of everything, from a slow-burn love between mature protagonists, a sweet high school friends-to-lovers story, and a murder-mystery subplot (for some reason). Former national handball player Nam Haeng-seon (Kill Boksoon's Jeon Do-yeon) is now a devoted mother to her adopted niece Hae-yi (Roh Yoon-seo). When Yoon-seo shows promise in her studies, Haeng-seon becomes determined to enroll her in the elite hagwon (a.k.a. a private tutoring program) led by legendary math teacher Choi Chi-yeol (played by Jung Kyung-ho). In addition to Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol's eventual love story, the show also offers another thoughtful look at the excessive competition within South Korea’s education system.

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'Doona!' (2023)

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(Image credit: Kim Seung-wan/Netflix)

This heart-fluttering college romance is based on the WEBTOON webcomic The Girl Downstairs. Doo-na (Bae Suzy) was a member of the popular K-pop girl group Dream Sweet before she went into hiding due to mysterious circ*mstances. Won-jun (Yang Se-jong) is an ordinary college student who moves into a group home to discover his downstairs neighbor is a former idol. The two housemates from entirely different worlds slowly become curious about each other and let their respective guards down as the school year goes on.

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'Lovely Runner' (2024)

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(Image credit: Courtesy of Viki)

This popular romance-fantasy drama mixes time travel with every K-pop fangirl's wildest dreams. In 2023, Im Sol (Kim Hye-yoon), is a 34-year-old who uses a wheelchair and a dedicated fan of K-pop superstar Ryu Sun-jae (Byeon Woo-seok), who gave her the strength to live on during the most difficult time of her life. When Sun-jae unexpectedly dies, seemingly by suicide, a devastated Sol has Sun-jae's old digital watch. As she presses one of its buttons, Sol's transported 15 years back to 2008, when she was a 19-year-old student at a high school near Sun-jae's. Sol becomes determined to stop Sun-jae's future death by any means necessary, which is just the start of the pair's twist-filled, fated romance.

watch it on viki

Fantasy Korean Dramas

These sci-fi/fantasy shows range from modern to historical, and the magical elements can either be hidden in day-to-day life or blown out to encompass tons of lore Game of Thrones-style (though minus the gore, most of the time). K-dramas also love a good fated romance, so expect some mystical love connections.

'Goblin (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God)' (2016-2017)

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(Image credit: Studio Dragon/tvN)

This series, written by Kim Eun-sook, is the fourth highest-rated Korean drama of all time. The fantasy romance is about a modern day goblin, Gong Yoo, who needs a human bride (Kim Go Eun) to end his cursed immortal life. His life then becomes intertwined with a grim reaper, Lee Dong-wook, who is unable to remember his past. The story evolves as all these strangers' lives intertwine.

watch it on viki

'Hotel de Luna' (2019)

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(Image credit: Studio Dragon/tvN)

The Hotel Del Luna is a refuge for the dead, a middle ground that helps souls pass into the afterlife. All souls pass on after dealing with their unfinished business in life, except Man-wol (IU), the owner who has been cursed to run the hotel for over a millennium, as penance for her sins. The hotel also needs a human manager to help it run; the next fated human is Koo Chan-sung (Yeo Jin-goo), a Harvard grad who discovers that he can see ghosts. As they work together, Chan-sung begins to unravel the secrets of Man-wol's past.

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'The Uncanny Counter' (2020-2023)

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(Image credit: Netflix/OCN)

This show loosely feels like a Ghostbusters callback but with an eclectic group of characters who each possess special abilities. The five-person group, called "Counter," works at a noodle restaurant during the day, but come nighttime, they hunt down evil spirits who have escaped from the afterlife to go after humans.

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'Tale of the Nine-Tailed' (2020)

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(Image credit: tvN)

You might want to keep the lights on for Lee Dong-wook's new show because it's a little scary (think scenes with ghosts and water well à la The Ring). Aside from some minor scenes that make you shudder, the story largely revolves around his character Lee-yeon, a mythical fox known as gumiho, and documentary filmmaker Nam Ji-a (played by Jo Bo-ah) who were once lovers in the past. (The foxes adopt human appearances, but have special powers.) Circ*mstances in the present bring the two on a treacherous journey that involves solving Ji-a's parents' mysterious deaths and rediscovering their love for each other. (This mythical drama also received a sequel series, Tale of the Nine-Tailed 1938.)

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'Legend of the Blue Sea' (2016-2017)

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(Image credit: SBS)

This fantasy-romance show explores the relationship between a con artist and a mermaid who meet and fall in love. The mermaid, Shim Cheong, (played by the talented and beautiful Jun Ji-hyun) follows her lover Heo Joon-jae (Lee Min-ho) to land unbeknownst to him that she is a mer person. Juxtaposed against the present day, the storyline also focuses on the two's Joseon-era incarnations, town head Kim Dam-ryeong and the mermaid Se-hwa. That pair met a tragic fate, so what does this mean for their current counterparts? Will Shim Cheong and Joon-jae meet the same bad fate?

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'My Love from the Star' (2013-2014)

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(Image credit: SBS)

In this rom-com, Do Min-joon (Kim Soo-hyun) is a handsome alien who landed on Earth 400 years ago during Korea's Joseon era. He's been waiting for a chance to return to his home planet for centuries. When he has three months left on Earth, he gets a new neighbor, Hallyu star Cheon Song-yi (Jun Ji-hyun), who resembles a young woman from his past. Their romance will have you watching the skies hoping for an alien invasion (as long as they look like Min-joon).

watch it on viki

'Alchemy of Souls' (2022-2023)

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(Image credit: tvN)

Set in the fictional country of Daeho, this period fantasy takes place in the world of mages, who live as nobles and warriors among other mortals. Elite warrior Nak-su has evaded authorities by using a forbidden spell called "alchemy of souls," which allows her to switch bodies. When she jumps into the weak body of Mu-deok (Jung So-min), she has to re-build enough strength to wield her powerful sword. So she takes a position as a servant for Jang-uk (Lee Jae-wook), a noble who needs a teacher to help him unbind his magic.

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'Strong Woman Do Bong Soon' (2017)

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(Image credit: JTBC)

This genre-bending action rom-com stars Park Bo-young as Bong-soon, a petite woman with superhuman strength. All the women in her family inherit this gift, but they can only keep it if they use it for the greater good. After witnessing Bong-soon as she single-handedly fights off a group of gang members, handsome gaming CEO Ahn Min-hyuk (Park Hyung-sik) hires her to be his bodyguard, as he's being threatened by an unknown enemy. While Bong-soon and Min-hyuk slowly begin to care for one another, the heroine is also put in increasing danger as a serial killer pops up in her neighborhood. (A Netflix sequel series, Strong Girl Nam-soon, aired in 2023.)

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'Twinkling Watermelon' (2023)

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(Image credit: tvN)

This time-travel melodrama follows Ha Eun-gyeol (Ryeoun), a high-school aged CODA (child of deaf adults) who also has a deaf sister. Though he has spent his life helping his family navigate the hearing world, he begins to feel conflicted as his father doesn't support his dream to pursue music. One night, Eun-gyeol is magically transported back in time to 1995, when his parents Ha Yi-chan (Choi Hyun-wook) and Yoon Cheong-ah (Shin Eun-soo) were his age. When Eun-gyeol) learns that Yi-chan is not in love with his mom, but instead another girl named Choi Se-kyung (Seol In-ah), the time-traveler becomes determined to make sure that his parents fall for each other.

watch it on viki

Melodrama Korean Dramas

While many see "melodrama" and think of women in beautiful gowns slapping each other (an,d yes, that does show up), we consider the genre as anything involving heightened emotions of the non-romantic variety. Think intense jealousy, blood feuds, lifelong revenge plots, deep misery, and life-or-death situations. If you're not lunging for the "Keep Watching" button, it's not enough.

'The Glory' (2022-2023)

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When Moon Dong-eun (played as a teen by Jung Ji-so) was in high school, she was severely bullied and assaulted by a group of classmates, led by the unrepentant Park Yeon-jin (Im Ji-yeon). The bullies run the aspiring architect out of school and leave her with deep emotional scars, so much so that she dedicates her life to getting revenge. Decades later, and having become a teacher, Dong-eun (Song Hye-ko) begins her elaborate scheme when she becomes the homeroom teacher of Yeon-jin's young daughter.

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'Marry My Husband' (2024)

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This revenge melodrama starts with a sequence straight out of a soap opera: Cancer-stricken wife Kang Ji-won (Park Min-young) arrives home from treatment to find her deadbeat husband Min-hwan (Lee Yi-kyung) in bed with her lifelong bestie (and only friend) Jeong Su-min (Song Ha-yoon). A fight ensues, Min-hwan pushes Ji-won, and she dies. Except, she instantly wakes up 10 years in the past, when her then-boyfriend and BFF were her co-workers. Once the shock wears off, Ji-won realizes that to get her second chance at a better life, she'll have to ensure that Min-hwan and Su-min end up together and assume her fate. Helping her along with this revenge plot is Yu Ji-hyuk (Na In-woo), her rich boss and secret admirer who has also been transported back in time.

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'Queen of Tears' (2024)

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This 2024 series recently dethroned megahits like Goblin and Crash Landing on You as one of the most-watched K-dramas in South Korea's history. It centers on the shifting love story of a married couple: Hong Hae-in (Kim Ji-won), the ice-queen heiress of the Queens Group conglomerate, and Baek Hyun-woo (Kim Soo-hyun), a model employee who comes from humble country beginnings. Though their courtship and early marriage were like a fairytale, after three years their relationship has unraveled to the brink of divorce. Can the couple reconcile, or will dramatic circ*mstances, including surprise health diagnosis, corporate drama, and the re-emergence of Hae-in's ex David Yoon (Park Sung-hoon), keep them apart?

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'It's Okay, That's Love' (2014)

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This complex drama follows the building relationship between Jang Jae-yeol (Zo In-sung), a famous mystery novelist who lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Ji Hae-soo (Gong Hyo-jin), an ambitious psychiatrist with negative feelings about relationships. Though they don't get along when they meet on a talk show panel, they eventually get thrown together as housemates, and as they get to know each other, the duo helps each other heal from deep emotional scars.

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'The Penthouse: War in Life' (2020-2021)

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If you thought shows like Big Little Lies and Revenge laid the melodrama on thick, wait until you take a bite out of this rollercoaster of a series. Penthouse follows three wealthy families vying for power in the exclusive Hera Palace community–a luxurious 100-floor high-rise that juts out of the Seoul skyline. Like its forebears, the series centers on three women who hide behind their various secrets and traumas with piles of money and their boundless ambitions for their children. Their world begins to crumble after a mysterious girl falls to her death and the trio attempt to cover up the location of her death to protect the reputation of Hera Palace. It’s messy, and I am living for it.

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'SKY Castle'(2018-2019)

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This series follows the journeys of four women and their families as they try to maintain the status quo among the upper crust of South Korean society. The drama revolves around one mother's obsession with getting her daughter into an elite university by any means necessary...sound familiar? This one is a nice mix of romance, soapy drama, and comedy, so if you enjoy human-interest stories, SKY Castle is definitely the K-drama for you.

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'The Heirs' (2013)

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This drama (also known as Inheritors) tells the story of a group of rich, privileged high school students who will one day take over their families businesses. The coming-of-age themes explored in the drama include identity, wealth, and relationships. One of the main characters is Kim Tan, a chaebol heir to Jeguk Group, who hasn't had the easiest relationship with his older half-brother Kim Won because he thinks Tan is trying to steal their father's company from him. To make Tan's life even more difficult, he ends up falling in love with his housekeeper's daughter, Cha Eun-sang, much to his father's disapproval and he has to compete with classmate Choi Young Do's sudden interest in Eun-sang too when she transfers into their elite school. Tan seeks to overcome all the obstacles to be with Eun-sang no matter what his family or friends at school say.

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'Move to Heaven' (2021)

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You'll need to gather some tissues before you watch this gorgeous story about life, death, and love. Geu-ru (Tang Joon-sang), a young man with Asperger syndrome, works with his father as a trauma cleaner, arranging the items left by the deceased and delivering them to their families. When his father dies in an accident, his uncle Sang-gu (Lee Je-Hoon) reappears and becomes his guardian. The ex-convict and martial arts fighter needs to learn to work with Geu-ru on the business, named Move to Heaven, for three months before he can receive the inheritance. The beloved show is best known for changing viewers' perspectives about grief and family.

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'My Mister' (2018)

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Another series known for eliciting tears, this melancholy, immersive drama tackles heavy subjects including depression and poverty, through its depiction of an unlikely and comforting friendship. (It's also a rare drama that has a platonic, rather than romantic, relationship between male and female leads.) Lee Ji-ahn (singer and actor IU) is a debt-ridden young woman who works several jobs while supporting her ill grandmother. While working as a temp at a construction company, she encounters Park Dong-hoon (Parasite's Lee Sun-kyun), an unhappy middle manager who supports his two unemployed younger brothers, and whose wife is having an affair with an executive at his company. The pair slowly recognize that they both have deep pain and strife within their lives and are able to help each other in very unexpected ways.

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'Reborn Rich' (2022)

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One of the most-watched dramas in South Korean cable TV history, this revenge drama stars Song Joong-ki as Yoon Hyun-woo, devoted secretary to the chaebol family behind the conglomerate Soonyang Group. When Hyun-woo is betrayed and murdered by one of founder Jin Yang-cheol's (Lee Sung-min) children during a succession battle, he wakes up in the body of the youngest member of the family, Jin Do-jun. With his new position, Hyun-woo forms a plot to take over the company and punish the unknown family member who killed him.

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Historical Korean Dramas

Korea's historical dramas, also known as sageuk, take place throughout the country's history, including the well-known Goryeo (10th-14th century) and Joseon (14th-late 19th century) periods. They can range from rom-com to political saga to even zombie thriller, with the customs of each time heavily affecting the story. Perfect watches when you want remember a simpler time (and yes, there are handsome princes and brave princesses).

'Kingdom' (2019-2021)

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Two subjects K-dramas do extremely well: historical epics and zombie horror. Put them together and you get the first Netflix original drama to become an international hit. As a mysterious plague moves through the country, a crown prince sets out to find the source. Luckily, this drama doesn't end at two seasons; a prequel film premiered in 2021, answering several questions about the source of the zombie scourge.

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'Mr. Queen' (2020-2021)

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This hilarious genre-bending drama is a must-watch for anyone interested in a time-traveling, body-swapping comedy with a hint of romance. In the present day, Jang Bong-hwan (Choi Jin-hyuk) is the virtuoso, womanizing head chef at the Blue House (the presidential residence, so literally South Korea's White House). After he gets in an accident and nearly drowns in his apartment swimming pool, he wakes up in the body of the queen of Joseon, Kim So-yong (the stellar Shin Hye-sun). As the time traveler gets used to 19th century palace politics, they also need to contend with their irritating husband King Cheoljong (Crash Landing on You's Kim Jung-hyun), who's hiding secrets of his own.

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'Pachinko' (2022- )

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If there isn't already a label for the international, prestige K-drama, we're creating it for Pachinko. Created by Soo Hugh based on a novel by Korean-American writer Min Jin Lee, this gorgeous drama tells the tale of four generations of a Korean family living in permanent residents in Japan, spanning from Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1910s to 1980s Tokyo. With a cast including Oscar winner Yuh-jung Youn, Hallyu star Lee Minho, and newcomer Kim Min-ha, the saga of love, family duty, and perseverance is a must-watch tearjerker. The long-awaited second season arrives on Apple TV+ this summer.

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'Mr. Sunshine' (2018)

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This historical saga is based on real historical events that affected Korea (then Joseon) in the early 1900s. Born in Joseon as the child of slaves, Marine Corps officer Eugene Choi (Squid Game's Lee Byung-hun) returns to his native country, years after smuggling his way to the U.S. There he meets Ae-shin (Twenty Five, Twenty One's Kim Tae-ri), a noblewoman who's part of efforts to secure the country's independence against the threat of colonization. The two fall in love, despite their class differences and Ae-shin's impending marriage, against the backdrop of a changing nation.

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'The Red Sleeve' (2021-2022)

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This historical romance, based on a fictional novel about real historical figures, is a slow burn that warms your heart and leaves you in tears. Crown Prince Yi San (2PM's Junho) falls in love with one of his court ladies, Sung Deok-im (Lee Se-young), and wants her to be his concubine. However, strong-willed Deok-im wants to live her life freely and rejects his advances. Eventually, she realizes that his love for her is true and that together, they can create a better future for their country.

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'Under the Queen's Umbrella' (2022)

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This period drama has drawn comparisons to SKY Castle, though these ambitious mothers and children aren't competing for a place at a top university. Instead, they're princes and concubines of the king of Joseon, striving to become an heir in a system based on talent and merit. When the current Crown Prince and Queen Hwa-ryeong's (Kim Hye-Soo) eldest son falls gravely ill, the queen has to whip her four younger sons into shape, or their lives, as well as their positions, will be in danger.

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'Youth of May' (2021)

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This romance takes place amid the Gwangju uprising, as local citizens took up arms against the martial law government. Rather than focusing on the tumultuous time, it shows the love story between medical student Hwang Hee-Tae (Lee Do-hyun) and nurse Kim Myung-Hee (Go Min-si). As the couple goes through hardships that are both personal and related to the era's politics, they begin to depend on each other and find themselves in a twist of fate.

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'My Dearest' (2023)

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This historical melodrama follows an epic love story amid the Qing Dynasty invasion of Joseon in the 1630s. Yoo Gil-chae (Ahn Eun-Jin) is a cunning noblewoman who spends her days manipulating the men of her village and pining for her best friend's Eun-ae (Lee Da-in) fianceé, Nam Yeon-jun (Lee Hak-joo). Her schemes take a turn once she has an unlikely connection with new arrival Lee Jang-hyun (Namkoong Min), a mysterious nobleman hiding a dark secret. Once their budding love is interrupted by war, Jang-hyun and Gil-chae must navigate harsh trials to find their way back to each other.

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'Uncle Samsik' (2024)

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Fans of shows like House of Cards or The Diplomat should check out this series set in the years following the Korean War when South Korea faced a tumultuous economic and political period throughout the late '50s/early '60s. It follows Park Doo-chil (Parasite's Song Kang-ho in his first-ever TV role), a mysterious power broker called "Uncle Samsik" because he ensured people had three meals daily, even during the war. Through political maneuvering (and some shady deals with local gangs), Samsik is determined to shape Korea's future in his image. He soon approaches Kim San (Byun Yo-han), a U.S.-educated bureaucrat who wants to help Korea transform from an agricultural economy to an industrial one.

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Professional Korean Dramas

Including the subcategories medical and legal, these dramas show workplaces or schools within a certain professional industry, with many covering cases or projects of the week. As with Grey's Anatomy and The Good Wife, the characters' relationships are just as important as their jobs.

'Hospital Playlist' (2020-2021)

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Grey's Anatomy and other medical drama fans will want to dive right into this drama that depicts the stories of people working at a hospital. The five doctors have been friends for 20 years (they all went to the same medical school) and now they're colleagues navigating a career centered around life and death.

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'Doctor Cha' (2023)

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Cha Jung-sook (Uhm Jung-hwa) has been full time housewife for the past 20 years, after dropping out of her medical residency to raise her family. She's spent the past two decades devoted to her family, while her husband Seo In-ho (Kim Byung-chul) has become a chief surgeon and professor at the hospital where they both studied. After a health scare, Jung-sook decides to restart her medical resident course at the hospital, unknowingly raising big problems for In-ho, who has been keeping several huge secrets.

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'Extraordinary Attorney Woo' (2022)

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Woo Young-woo (played by Park Eun-bin) is a young law prodigy, who graduated from the best school at the top of her class and is on the autism spectrum, in Extraordinary Doctor Woo. When she starts her first job at Hanbada Law Firm, she has to adapt both in the office and at court, as her social skills are very different from her colleagues, clients, and opponents. But with the help of her kind co-workers and her love of whales, Young-woo can find success and maybe even love at her work.

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'Queenmaker' (2023)

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This gripping political drama centers on Hwang Do-hee (The World of the Married's Kim Hee-ae) as a cutthroat fixer (think Olivia Pope in Scandal) who has spent the past decade covering up the crimes of the corrupt family who owns the conglomerate Eunsung Group. Oh Kyung-sook (Moon So-ri) is a stubbornly moral civil rights lawyer, whose determination has earned her the moniker "Rhino of Justice." When Do-hee unceremoniously fired, right before the Eunsung Group heir Baek Jae-min (Ryu Soo-young) announces his mayoral campaign, she teams up with Kyung-sook to make the "Rhino" the next mayor of Seoul.

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'Law School' (2021)

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How to Get Away With Murder fans are sure to love Law School, which focuses on students and professors at the prestigious Hankuk University Law School. The show's plot kicks off when one law professor at the school is found dead and another, Professor Yang (played by Kim Myung-min) is arrested for the crime, forcing the students to team up to prove Yang's innocence.

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'Search: WWW' (2019)

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This workplace drama follows the relationships between three women running two competing web portal companies. Bae Ta-mi (Im Soo-jung) is the director of the search department of Unicon until she becomes the scapegoat for company corruption and gets fired. She's then scouted by Barro, a rival company that wants to overtake Unicon and become Korea’s top web portal. She teams up with Barro director Cha-hyun (Lee Da-hee) to beat their mutual frenemy, Unicon director Song Ga-kyeong (Jeon Hye-jin). While the show focuses on the three strong female characters, there's also a sweet side romance between 38-year-old Ta-mi and 28-year-old Park Morgan (Jang Ki-yong).

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'Misaeng: Incomplete Life' (2014)

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This heart-wrenching drama explores existential questions through the journeys of everyday office workers. Jang Geu-rae (Im Si-wan) dedicated his life to the game of Go, but fate ultimately kept him from building a career as a professional player. Equipped with only a GED and his Go skills, he takes an internship with a large conglomerate, where he perseveres through the new environment and eventually lands a two-year contract position. As he and his fellow newbies are assigned to their respective departments, they set out to find their niche and build a career.

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Slice of Life Korean Dramas

This is another genre that's best described by a vibe. Rather than the heightened emotions of melodrama, these shows depict characters experiencing and working through the everyday emotions that make up a life. They're the perfect comfort watches, for when you want to see characters that you'd consider friends, and cheer for them as they go through familiar situations. (This is also where you'll find some great coming-of-age stories.)

'Reply 1988' (2015-2016)

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The Reply series are different kinds of period dramas; instead of taking us back to the Goryeo or Joseon eras, these comedies show recent cultural events through the eyes of young people coming of age at the time. The slice-of-life series is beloved for its storylines of young love and its portrayals of pop cultural phenomenons. Though Reply 1988 was the last series made (they came out in reverse chronological order by year), it's the most popular, following both the kids and parents of the Ssangmun-dong neighborhood in Seoul.

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'Itaewon Class' (2020)

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Where to start with this one? This series tells the story of Park Sae-royi, who opens a restaurant in Itaewon after having spent a few years in prison for beating up chaebol heir Jang Geun-won. The two have a rough history and now, with a fresh start, Sae-royi wants to not only franchise his restaurant DanBam, but have it overtake Jangga Group as a household name. (His ultimate goal is to get revenge for his father's death, caused by the Jangga family.) The CEO of Jangga Group is a self-made man of success and will not let Sae-royi defeat him or his son. The two engage in a power struggle throughout the entire series filled with juicy plot twists and turns.

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'Something in the Rain' (2018)

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Although we love outrageously plotted K-dramas, Something in the Rain is a more straightforward and realistic look into an ill-fated romance and workplace discrimination. Yoon Jin-ah (Crash Landing on You's Son Ye-jin) is a single career woman who begins a romance with her friend’s little brother (played by your new crush Jung Hae-in) after he returns from a stint abroad. But their relationship draws immense scrutiny from their families. Jin-ah also faces a sexist workplace, where she and her female co-workers are demeaned by their male colleagues.

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'Because This Is My First Life' (2017)

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Does broke millennials working underpaid jobs and dealing with today’s high cost of living sound familiar? The characters in Because This Is My First Life are just like us–following their dreams, working in high-powered industries, all the while just barely reaping the benefits. Nam Sae-hee (Lee Min-ki) is a software developer working for a start-up who suffers from a mortgage that eats up all his disposable income. Yoon Ji-ho (Jung So-min) is a struggling screenwriter who dreams of developing her own K-dramas, but she’s relegated to being a writer’s assistant on mediocre shows. When the unlikely pair realize that a fake marriage would be mutually advantageous for both their financial situations and societal expectations, they decide to tie the knot. One thing leads to another and they’re unable to separate their contractual marriage from the real feelings that begin to develop.

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'Fight For My Way' (2017)

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This drama follows that transformative period of the quarter-life crisis, as a quartet of friends make big changes in their professional and romantic lives. Choi Ae-ra (Kim Ji-won) works at a department store until she decides to finally follow her dream of becoming a television anchor. Ko Dong-man (Park Seo-joon), a former teenage athlete, overcomes his past to become a rookie MMA fighter. Meanwhile, their best friends Kim Joo-man (Ahn Jae-hong) and Baek Seol-hee (Song Ha-yoon) have been dating for six years, and now face a new challenge in their relationship. You'll root for each character as they grow, and the friends-turned-lovers arc between Dong-man and Ae-ra will make your heart flutter.

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'When the Camellia Blooms' (2019)

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Single mother Dong-baek (Kong Hyo-jin) moves to the small town of Ongsan with her baby boy to open up her own bar, The Camellia. After five years where she's the subject of local gossip and the bar isn't doing that well, Dong-baek meets local police officer Hwang Yong-sik (Kang Ha-neul), who falls for her at first sight and does whatever he can to win her love. Several dilemmas pop up amid the couple's growing romance, including the arrival of Dong-baek's ex-boyfriend, and a mysterious serial killer who may be targeting her.

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'Our Blues' (2022)

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This melancholic anthology drama separates the interwoven lives of a community of Jeju Island locals into a series of novel-like chapters, letting each character become the main character for their own episodes. Led by a cast of all-star actors including Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-a, Kim Woo-bin, and Han Ji-min, the episodes balance humorous subplots with serious topics including teen pregnancy, bullying, depression, poverty, and prejudice against the disabled. Though the heavy topics may require watching along with a box of tissues, each character's storyline ultimately shows the power of love, forgiveness, and a community coming together to look out for each other.

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'Yumi's Cells' (2021-2022)

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This adorable rom-com, based on the webtoon of the same name, follows the life of ordinary office worker Kim Yu-mi with an extraordinary twist. Her everyday joys and dilemmas are seen through the point-of-view of her cells, animated avatars of the emotions and functions that power her body, including the Rational, Emotional, Hungry, Naughty, and Fashion Cells. Three years ago, her Love Cell went into a coma following a devastating breakup. When she accepts a blind date with game designer Goo Woong (Ahn Bo-hyun), her heart begins to thaw as Woong's own Cells go into overdrive to get her to fall for him.

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'Hello, My Twenties!' (2016-2017)

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This friendship drama centers on five very different young women who all live in a share house, called Belle Epoque, while attending a Seoul university. Each of them has their different concerns: Eun-jae (Park Hye-soo) is living away from home for the first time and extremely shy. Jin-myung (Han Ye-ri) is an older student working several jobs to afford tuition. Ye-eun (KARA's Seungyeon) is constantly dealing with drama from her horrible boyfriend (a college rite of passage.) Yi-na (Ryu Hwa-young) is hiding multiple secrets, including her regular dates with older, wealthy men. Come for Extraordinary Attorney Woo's Park Eun-bin in a standout early role as the fifth roommate, and stay for the nuanced stories of female friendship and necessary life lessons.

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'My Liberation Notes' (2022)

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This comforting slice-of-life drama revels in the endless small struggles and peaceful moments that make up a life, while following the Yeom siblings, a trio who all wish to escape from their lonely lives in the fictional Sanpo Village. Ki-jeong (Lee El) is a romantic who's looking for a husband, while Chang-hee (Lee Min-ki) seeks financial security, and Mi-jeong (Queen of Tears' Kim Ji-won), who feels suffocated at her job, is driven by her search for liberation. One day, the mysterious Mr. Gu (Son Suk-ku), moves into their neighborhood and becomes the subject of gossip, due to his alcoholism and preference for keeping to himself. Despite this, Mi-jung decides to approach him.

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