The world of politics has always been equated to corruption and violence kept under wraps. This makes it an interesting genre especially within Korean dramas. There is so much to learn and glean from these political-themed dramas as they are issues that are all too familiar because it has its roots in reality. Here are 12 K-dramas that just might provide inspirational value.
The K2 (2016)
Lifelong secrets. Family betrayal. Psychological trauma. All these are prevalent themes in The K2, a political action drama centering around a presidential candidate’s illegitimate daughter, Go An-na (Im Yoon-ah), and her bodyguard, Kim Je-ha (Ji Chang-wook). Je Ha is a former soldier known as K2. He works in Korea as the right hand man of Choi Yoo Jin (Song Yoon Ah), the owner of JSS Security and the wife of a politician. When he was tasked to look after Go An-na, their romantic intrigue is wrapped in a must-watch political atmosphere.
The President (2010)
“President” follows Jang Il-Joon (Choi Soo-Jong) as he runs for the 18th presidential office in 2012 to actually win the election. Born from an ordinary family of educators, he worked hard and got into a prestigious university as a law student. When the country was under military leadership, Jang Il-Joon was a student activist and became involved in a once-in-a-lifetime case. This sparked a dream for him to become the next president of South Korea. Since then, he has worked as a three term lawmaker and a human rights lawyer. When the time came, Jang Il-Joon threw his hat into the 2012 presidential election, with the goal to overcome conflicts between ideology, class, and regions with his leadership.
In this thriller, an inexplicable plane crash kills 211 people, including Cha Dal-gun’s (Lee Seung-gi) nephew. Devastated, Cha Dal-gun travels to Morocco along with other bereaved families.Determined to learn the truth, he teams up with National Intelligence Service operative, Go Hae-ri (Bae Suzy). Together, they discover a web of corruption and inadvertently discovers evidence that the crash may not have been an accident. Besides its entertainment value, it also hints at Korea’s geopolitical status. It has various scenes set in the Blue House (Korea’s presidential office), hinting at how high the conspiracy might reach.
Lawless Lawyer (2018)
In Lawless Lawyer, Lee Joon Gi plays lawyer Bong Sang Pil, who has now returned to his (fictional) hometown of Kiseong, after eighteen years, equipped with the knowledge of law (and some badass fighting skills) to bring to light the corruption that plagues the city and to prosecute the perpetrators of his mother’s murder. The twist here is that his opponent in this battle is the Judge — Judge Cha Moon Sook (Lee Hye Young). As a judge presiding over all the major trials in the city, Moon Sook has the power to veer the judgment towards what she deems fit, by rejecting or accepting pieces of evidence, witnesses, and possessing the right people at the top positions to do her bidding.
The Fiery Priest (2019)
If you’re looking for a political drama with a hint of comedy? The Fiery Priest could be right up your alley. This drama tells the story of Kim Hae-il (Kim Nam-gil), a Catholic priest who is a force to be reckoned with. He is rude to others and has anger management issues. He meets Detective Koo Dae Young (Kim Sung-kyun), and Park Kyung-sun (Honey Lee), a prosecutor who is good at his job. The three of them come together to solve the murder of a Catholic priest.The plot of this drama is excellent material. It combines church, politics, community, and the ups and down of evil and good. We don’t expect our characters to be winning all the time, but it will have you rooting for them which would entice you to continue watching.
Stranger/Secret Forest (2017)
It would not be complete if you didn’t mention the first season of Stranger on this list. This first part can be an introduction as well as a guide for those of you who want to watch Stranger season 2. It tells the story of prosecutor Hwang Shi Mok (Cho Seung Woo) who can’t show his emotions because he underwent surgery as a child. Among other prosecutors, he was one of the few who was not involved in corruption. When he was tasked to handle a murder case he meets Han Yeo Jin (Bae Doona), a policeman who also handled the case. Even though the prosecutor and the police are competing, they decide to join forces to solve the case together. Together, they uncover deeply rooted political corruption.
Mr Sunshine (2018)
As a young boy, Eugene Choi (Lee Byung-hun) was born to a family of slaves and witnessed his parents murdered at the hands of their landlord. He escapes slavery in Korea and flees to the United States with the aid of a missionary. Years later, he returns to his motherland as a US Marine Corps officer. He returns to Korea during a historical turning point marked by political turmoil. He takes this as an opportunity to take revenge on the people who killed his parents. Unexpectedly, he falls in love with the daughter of a nobleman.
Designated Survivor: 60 Days (2019)
A terrorist bomb kills the South Korean President and his entire cabinet. Park Mu-Jin (Ji Jin-Hi), the Minister of Environment and a man with no political experience or ambition, is thrust into the highest office in the country. He is the “Designated Survivor”, or the only member of the cabinet left in the line of succession. Park had been fired by the President earlier and he was already looking forward to going back to teaching and research. However, he certainly didn’t expect to have to stop the military, the US, and Japan from bombing North Korea and starting World War III—and that’s just for starters. He only has 60 days in office to stabilise the country before a General Election is called to install a new government, while the Machiavellian leader of the opposition party is laying traps to impeach him. On top of that, social media and a venal press are waiting to destroy him at the first mistake or hint of scandal.
Set during the Joseon era, this drama shows a nation gripped by political chaos and finds itself afflicted by a plague so new that no one understands its properties yet. Adding more complication to this dire situation, the king is a demented senior whose underlings use his decline as camouflage for their own agendas as a zombie plague gripped the nation. The main focus of their treachery is Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon), the king’s son and anointed successor. The Queen Consort (Kim Hye-jun) is pregnant with the king’s child; if the prince gets whacked or imprisoned, her baby will assume the throne and allow her and the traitorous Chief State Councilor (Ryu Seung-ryong) to run things on the infant’s behalf.
The Lies Within (2019)
After the sudden death of her father and her husband’s disappearance, a woman (Lee Min-ki) teams up with a detective to search for the truth. The story maintains this tone of uncomfortable surprise throughout each episode which reels you in with a gasp-inducing suicide and another shocking accident which is revealed to be a murder, finally ending with a horrible murder surprise. Our heroes become reluctantly embroiled in a tale of political trickery, kidnapping and murder. However, as the story progresses it will give you the impression that our two leads will be circling each other for a long time—one trying to evade, and one chasing after answers.
Six Flying Dragons (2015)
The series is set during the end of the Goryeo era and it talks about the founding of the Joseon dynasty through immense political struggle. Six people become prominent figures in the movement that centers around the future king Lee Bang-won (Yoo Ah-in) and political strategist Jung Do-jeon (Kim Myung-min). Historically, Lee Bang Won is known to engage in bloody battles with his rivals in order to claim the throne as the third Joseon king (posthumously known as King Taejong). In the drama, however, we are introduced to a young Lee Bang Won, who is crushed to learn the truth behind his beloved father, Lee Seong Gye (later known as King Taejo).
Chief of Staff (2019)
The series is about an ambitious young man (Lee Jung-jae) who works at the National Assembly as a strategy aide for a cunning politician. His goal is to work in politics himself in order to tackle corruption. In the meantime, he cleans up his employer’s mess as he was involved knee-deep into corruption. But to get to the top of the game, he cannot always play fair. This drama plunges deep into the corrupt world of politics and a guy who was ambitious enough to take the twisted road so that he can reform the system when he’s already in a place of authority.