2020 may not be the best year to look back on, but one thing that somehow made staying indoors bearable is the deluge of K-dramas that can have us entertained for hours. If you’re still not up to speed, we curated 15 of the best ones you can binge on!
1. World of the Married
Dubbed as one of the highest-rating K-drama as of this writing, World of the Married is a riveting story of infidelity, betrayal, and revenge. It follows the seemingly perfect life of Ji Sun Woo (Kim Hee-ae), who is a successful family doctor, a mother to a happy young boy, and wife to a caring husband. Everything was going well for her, until the day she caught wind of her husband’s indiscretions. Soon enough, everything went tumbling down like a house of cards, when she learned that he was having an affair, and her friends seemed to be in it too. When the downfall of their relationship imploded, one cannot help but get drawn to how far the lies destroyed her and how she is going to get the well-deserved justice.
2. Kingdom 2
The second season of this thrilling and high-speed zombie drama carried on its predecessor’s success. You have to watch the first season to get a better appreciation of its story. Unlike other zombie apocalypse, Netflix’s Kingdom is more unique than most because of its historical setting. It also comes with a different type of infection which is explained in detail in this season thanks to Nurse Seo Bi (Bae Doo-na). However, the carnage continues and it’s spreading fast. In a desperate attempt to save the rest of the country, Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) decided to go on a suicide mission that should help get rid of the infestation. It all came to a bloody climax in the final episode, but the final scene also left fans with the promise that story doesn’t end here. If anything, this series keeps you hooked and on the edge. It also has the right elements of mystery to keep you intrigued if the protagonists will ever save themselves from the hyped up zombies and also find a cure.
3. Itaewon Class
The central narrative of this drama is a revenge plot that revolves around Park Saeroyi (Park Seo-joon), a proud and almost irritatingly dignified young man who is determined to make it big. His singular goal is to open a pocha (a sit-down bar with food) called DanBam and turn it into the biggest food company in Korea so he could trample down the enemy who killed his father and put him in behind bars. He opens the restaurant in Itaewon with a group of characters that are not often rounded up on Korean television — including a fellow ex-convict who spent time in prison with Saeroyi, a trans woman cook, and a black Korean looking for his father. The impressive writing, the inspiring story of struggle and success., and a good cast are all the right factors that make up this masterpiece.
4. Dr Romantic 2
If you have a penchant for medical dramas, SBS premiered the second season of their 2016 hit, Dr Romantic. Based on viewership performance and review, this drama is just as popular as its predecessor. The drama takes current news stories as motifs and even conducts various surveys to tell realistic stories that audiences can naturally relate to. This drama unfolds three years after the first season. Yong Joo, also known as Master Kim (Han Suk-kyu) is trying to deal with a manpower shortage problem at Doldam Hospital. He seeks help from a friend at Geosan University Medical Center and that is where he met two young doctors, Cha Eun Jae (Lee Sung-kyung) and Woo Jin (Ahn Hyo-seop). While they may not be the best candidates around, having learned about their skills and struggles through other doctors, Master Kim decides to recruit them. This show is sure worth binging as it reels you in with its tense storylines and dramatic cliffhangers that drum up interest for the episode to come.
5. It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
This show is unique even from the first episode with its unique cinematic animation to incorporate a fairytale to explain the emotions that the character’s were feeling. The series tells the story of Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun), a health worker at a psychiatric ward who has no time for love, and Ko Moon-young (Seo Ye-ji), a successful children’s book author who suffers from an antisocial personality disorder and has never known love. After meeting each other, the two slowly begin to heal each other’s emotional wounds. Throughout the series, the story also starts to reveal the truth of their pasts that have caused their emotional scars. This drama was one of the most anticipated shows of the year since it is Kim Soo Hyun’s small screen comeback after his compulsory military enlistment. But it proved to be worth the hype as it is now the second most-watched K-drama on Netflix for 2020.
6. Crash Landing On You
Even though this drama started in December 2019, the popularity of Crash Landing On You exploded as it progressed well into the early part of 2020, and it just snowballed into an epic success during quarantine. It is the story of star-crossed lovers who are separated by the 38th parallel. It all started when a paragliding mishap drops a South Korean heiress in North Korea and into the life of an elite military officer Ri Jeong Hyeok (Hyun Bin), who decides to help her. One of the highlights of the series is that it portrays the lifestyles of North Korean—from their diet, to their shopping at markets—based on real-life information including interviews with North Korean defectors. Although there were dramas and movies in the past that have the same theme, this is likely the first South Korean drama that describes the realities of their northern neighbors in such detail.
7. Tale of the Nine-Tailed
Gumihos are one of the most popular creatures from Korean mythology. It is a mythical nine-tailed fox, normally a very beautiful woman who seduces men in order to eat their liver or heart. Interestingly, in the Tale of the Nine Tailed, the story offers a unique take because it has Lee Dong-wook bringing the character of Yi Yeon to life—which he played with striking visuals to match. He is a modern day nine-tailed fox who hails from Baekdu Mountain and is also a legendary judge of good and evil as he lived among humans for thousands of years. This means that he can spot evil spirits and creatures who terrorize humankind. One day, a fearless, young tv producer named Nam Ji-A (Jo Bo-Ah) sets her sights on him for a story. As their lives become entangled, they find themselves in a thrilling romance.
Audiences are drawn to stories they can empathize with, and Startup is one that can hook you right in with its relatable storyline. The series follows the struggles of Seo Dal-mi (Bae Suzy), a young woman who is determined to become the next Steve Jobs despite facing several setbacks in her life. She drops out of university and takes part-time work to raise money and start her own business. Her dream led her to a Sand Box, a Silicon Valley-esque incubator for start-up companies where she also met math whiz, Nam Do-san (Nam Joo-hyuk), a founder of a struggling company. After getting to know each other, they work towards their goals and cheer each other on. This drama captures attention because it shows that even though things don’t always go our way, hardwork and determination can help us achieve our dreams, even if it takes years to get there.
9. Hospital Playlist
From the title, you would probably be wondering what a playlist has to do with a medical drama? This Netflix original revolves about five doctors who have been friends since medical school. Now in their forties, they found a new way to beat the stress of hospital duties and surgeries, they find a new way to unwind and relax. They hold band sessions on nights when they are not so busy. It’s like your Korean version of Grey’s Anatomy but with a side of Glee. The characters all have their own medical cases to deal with throughout the week, but they have a mishmash of songs to match. The story strikes a balance between high drama and light comedy. The pacing, the medical jargons that are nicely explained, and characters that easily grow on you–this drama offers a feel-good heartwarming experience.
While this series may be a teen drama, it doesn’t really fit in with the other typical drama tropes in its genre. Extracurricular, also known as ‘human class’, is a psychological teen crime thriller series. It is about a high school student named Oh Ji-soo (Kim Dong-hee) who lives alone because he was abandoned by his parents. For him to be able to afford a living, studying and achieving his dream, he lives a double life. He happens to take on some extra-curricular activities, only they are not the one to impress professors or universities. Along with other main characters who joined in with his clandestine dubious business, it’s only a matter of time before their criminal enterprise endangers them.
11. Mystic Pop-Up Bar
Mystic Pop-Up Bar is a drama that is reminiscent of 2019’s Hotel Del Luna. With more subdued visuals, this series follows a grudge-solving trio going through matters of life and death, with a dash of silliness in between. This story is actually based on a hit webcomic of the same title. As punishment for her past actions, Weol Joo (Hwang Jung-eum) is on a mission to help people with problems and help them resolve it. With her magical drink, which she serves in her pojangmacha (an outdoor drinking establishment), one falls asleep and Weol Joo enters their dream and settles their “grudges” . In every encounter, she makes flashback memories of her ill-fated past life. Through Weol Joo’s mystic power, people will have the courage to take action in real life. This drama is entertaining as it provides you different stories with each episode, each with their own lessons.
12. The Penthouse: War In Life
The Penthouse is a coveted place that everyone dreams to live in. It is located in the wealthiest area of Seoul that is riddled with affluence. However, amidst all that, there is still the best of the best as everyone desires to move higher up the building—which seems to signal the pinnacle of success. Among these people who look at status as one of the great motivators in life are three moms with their secret ambitions to elevate their lives further. They are fuelled by their greed and desires which sends them pedalling into a downward spiral. If you are into a well-written exaggeration of the lives of the upper one percent, this drama is the guilty pleasure you can binge on.
13. Hi! Bye Mama
Hi! Bye Mama is an addition to Kim Tae Hee’s successful TV projects, replete with heavy drama. She plays Cha Yu-ri, a woman who gains the chance to go back to her husband and little girl after she passed away due to a tragic accident. However, she only has 49 days, but she can make it permanent only if she can reclaim her place in their lives. But things are not that simple five years after her death because her husband has remarried. Her 5-year-old daughter has known this other lady to be her mom. Most of all, how can she explain her reincarnation? The story shows the devastation of a death in the family and even among friends, but it also highlights a mother’s love.
14. Record of Youth
This drama follows the life of Sa Hye-jun (Park Bo-gum), a principled young man who has been struggling to make it into the modeling industry for a long time. He is close friends with Won Hae-hyo (Byeon Woo-seok). The pair have an interesting friendship with Hae-hyo hailing from an extremely wealthy family and success coming to him much easier, while Hye-jun has to hustle his way with very little progress. Finding it hard to climb up the top, Hye-jun’s self esteem is on the verge of breaking, and it didn’t help that he is being pressured by his dad and brother to stop modelling and serve in the military. Somewhere along the way, he meets Ahn Jeong-ha (Park Seo Dam), a person who seems to give him the silver lining amidst the hardship and darkness in his life. This drama is worth watching because it’s relaxing and relatable. Bogummy’s fans are also in for a last treat before the actor signed up for the military.
15. Private Lives
This show follows a group of swindlers who got caught up in the biggest scandal of their lives. They had to go up against a large corporation in which they must apply all their skills in deceit and manipulation. At the helm is Seohyun who plays Cha Joo-eun, a woman who is out for revenge. Go Kyung-pyo plays the mysterious con artist Lee Jeong-hwan also joins the team along with Kim Hyo-jin and Kim Young-min as the professional and cunning swindler duo Jeong Bok-gi and Kim Jae-wook, who are out to target other swindlers. This drama plays out with a lot of captivating schemes as the characters move their way up from small gigs to bigger and more dangerous schemes. While romance may not be the main theme, it inject just the right moments in between all the high tension.