Netflix offers a wide assortment of Korean dramas, which can have your mind reeling at all these titles. So where do you start? Which are the good ones? Should you base it on witty titles or creative posters?
This is why we do what we do because we want to contribute to your viewing pleasure. With a plethora of material all waiting for you to binge on, here are 12 that have earned a lot of good reviews!
1. My Mister
As a recent addition to Netflix’s roster of Korean dramas in 2020, this 16-episode series which debuted in 2018 is now available on-demand in the popular streaming app. It touches on universal themes of brotherhood, friendship, perseverance, selflessness, forgiveness, acceptance, and letting go.
It tells the story of Park Dong Hoon (Lee Sun Kyun), a middle-aged engineer who is married to a lawyer, Kang Yoon Hee (Lee Ji Ah). Dong Hoon is unhappy having to carry the weight of the responsibilities of having two unemployed brothers, Sang Hoon (Park Ho San) and Ki Hoon (Song Sae Byeok), who rely on him. Adding to that, his wife is secretly having an affair with CEO Doo Joon Yeong (Kim Young Min), Dong Hoon’s college junior and his current boss and is actually his wife’s paramour. Joon Yeong uses Ji An (Lee Ji Eun/IU), a young part-time worker in his company to spy on Dong Hoon. However, Ji An and Dong Hoon strike an unlikely friendship where they connected on a deep, emotional level which defied the need for physical contact and assurance.
This story gives us the realization that sometimes, loving someone unequivocally can transcend physical boundaries and still be love in its own right.
2. Guardian: The Lonely and Great God
Widely known as Goblin, this fantasy romance is one of the highly-rated series even to this day. While it is much known for its love story, it is filled also with different genres that keeps the story interesting, captivating, and memorable.
The story is centred around Goblin (Gong Yoo), who seeks an end to his cursed immortal life, but needs a human bride (Kim Go Eun) to make it happen. His life becomes intertwined with a grim reaper (Lee Dong Wook) who has no recollection of his past. When the goblin finally finds his bride, he suddenly realizes that he wants to live and be with her. But how can he reconcile these two contradicting conditions and get what he wants?
You can’t go wrong subscribing to this gripping tale of a love that is fated to fail, a cute second lead couple, and a funny bromance. It has a rich storyline delivered by a well-curated cast who complement each other to create a compelling story that will have you hooked from episode 1.
3. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
If you want lighthearted fun as you Netflix-and-chill, this should be right up your alley. It’s a well-received rom-com which stars Korea’s Little Sister (국민 여동생), Park Bo Young, along with Park Hyung Sik.
The titular character Do Bong Soon (Park Bo Young) was born with superhuman strength, which was a comical contradiction to her charming personality and pint-sized frame. Bong Soon often found herself in situations where she had to use her powers to help others, but she also had to reign it in to protect it. Her strength helped her land a job as a bodyguard for CEO Ahn Min Hyuk (Park Hyung Sik) who was hounded by threats. She also used it to help her long-time crush, Guk Doo (Ji Soo), in solving the serial kidnapping in their neighborhood. In the middle of all the different challenges that tested Bong Soon’s strength, she also found herself in a love triangle between CEO Min Hyuk and Guk Doo.
Even if you’re new to the world of K-drama, or if you’re just looking for another one to binge, this should fill you up with episodes of hilarity and heart-fluttering moments. It also comes with comic-esque action scenes and a hint of suspense with our unlikely hero at the helm.
4. The World of the Married
In a story that opens in betrayal from every direction, this drama has all the makings of a “binge-able” series that keeps you on your toes not really knowing who’s truly friend or foe. The World of the Married is based on BBC One’s drama series, Doctor Foster. It takes you on a downhill ride of a crumbling marriage as a consequence of cheating.
Dr Ji Soon Woo (Kim Hee Ae) seems to have everything going for her as she balances a successful career as a family physician and the director of the Family Love Hospital. Outside of work, she’s also a dedicated wife and mom, to a teenage son and a husband who is an aspiring director. However, when her husband, Lee Tae Oh (Park Hae Joon) falls into an illicit affair with a much younger woman, everything falls apart.
This is definitely a heavy drama about love, lust, betrayal, obsession, and revenge. Each episode is replete with shocking twists and revelations, as it is riveting without losing momentum. But, at the very end, one can question if things will ever go back to normal for a marriage ravaged by selfish pursuits.
5. Mr Sunshine
This series is written by certified drama hitmaker, Kim Eun Sook (Lovers in Paris, Secret Garden Goblin, Heirs, Descendants of the Sun). It’s no wonder Mr Sunshine followed suit, having achieved sky-high ratings. It also earned a lot of critical praise for its good storytelling, astounding performances, and cinematography which encouraged the audiences to get interested in South Korean history.
This drama revolves around Eugene Choi (Lee Byung Hun) who was taken to the US as a child and returns home as an American Marine Corps officer at a time when foreign forces were threatening to colonize the land. In his return, he meets a noblewoman (Kim Tae Ri) whom he falls in love with. Along with the rest of the characters in this story, what’s so compelling to watch is how they all navigate life during this turbulent period where love and allegiance to one’s country are put to the test.
Mr Sunshine was a crowd-pleaser that came head to head with Sky Castle as one of its biggest rivals in the 55th Baeksang Arts Awards. With Kim Eun Sook’s magic in storytelling, the story is woven in a way that it pays off wonderfully in the end.
6. SKY Castle
Everyone in SKY Castle (a luxurious residential area) is after one thing – to get their children into the best universities in Seoul. It doesn’t matter who they have to pay, hire, beg from, suck up to, or manipulate. But in reality, it all has very little to do with the kids. They are all just trying to keep up appearances, either to prove their own worth or overcome their own insecurities through their children. When it finally becomes clear, they learned that this ruthless ambition may actually cost them their children – a price too steep to afford.
Han Seo Jin (Yung Jum Ah), Lee Soo Im (Lee Tae Ran), Yoon Se Ah (Noh Seung Hye), and Jin Jin Hee (Oh Na Ra) all try their best to set up their children in prestigious universities. At the outset, they all appear to be good friends, but all with hidden jealousy and competitiveness against each other. When Hwa Chi Yeon’s family moves into the SKY Castle, his family tends to clash with others in the neighborhood due to varying opinions. After a tragic incident, the fates of the families are tangled as new revelations surface.
If you’re fond of the Real Housewives franchise, the Korean satirical drama gives enough intrigue to suit your guilty pleasure. As the pinnacle of their parenting achievement is getting a child into any of Korea’s prestigious universities, it somehow piques one’s curiosity when you follow how each family scheme to get ahead of the other.
7. My Love from the Star
If you can ship a love story between an alien and an actress who has fallen from grace, then this 21-episode drama should tickle your fancy. It gained a massive following in its run especially with Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun taking the lead.
It starts when an alien named Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun) landed on earth in the 1600s. He took on a human form, but he never ages. So, he has to take on a new identity every ten years. But, when it was finally time for him to leave earth for good, he crossed paths with Cheong Song Yi (Jun Ji Hyun), his new neighbor who is also a famous Hallyu actress struggling with her career. With his hyped-up senses, Min Joon was able to know when Song Yi was sad or in trouble. While this made his life a tad bit complicated, it also made it more meaningful. He soon caught feelings for Song Yi having realized that behind her bratty exterior is actually a wounded soul. Will it be a happy ending for the two even if the other will be lightyears away?
8. Itaewon Class
This drama doesn’t offer you a typical revenge plot, even though it would have been easily satisfying if it was so. But, this story gives us a beautiful realization, that unfair treatment doesn’t have to be met with animosity.
Itaewon Class is the story of an ex-convict Park Sae Ro Yi (Park Seo Joon), who got expelled from school for punching a bully. He found himself behind bars when he beat that same bully to a pulp upon learning that he is the same guy who accidentally killed his father. After serving time, Sae Ro Yi aimed to continue his father’s dreams of opening a bar-restaurant despite the obvious limitations set before him. With the help of his manager, Jo Yi Seo (Kim Da Mi) and his staff, he climbed his way up the ladder of success. His achievement caught the attention of a business tycoon who will do everything in his power to squash the underdog simply to rub his ego.
Overall Itaewon Class is a heartwarming story that touches on second chances, hard work, and forgiveness.
9. The Master’s Sun
Fond of ghosts? The Master’s Sun has earned massive popularity that its original 16-episode run was expanded into 17.
The story follows Tae Gong Sil (Gong Hyo Jin), a young woman cursed with the ability to see ghosts. Her ability made it impossible for her to live a normal life, causing her to lose jobs as she is constantly pestered by ghosts who sought her help for their unfinished business. However, things change when she meets Joo Joong Won (So Ji Sub) who is a successful president of a luxury shopping mall called Kingdom. As it turns out, the moment Gong Shil touches him, her ghosts vanish. This causes her to follow him around like a stalker. The strikes an unexpected romance, but will this be the end of Gong Sil’s torment?
Signal is one of 2016’s best dramas and is worth the watch. However, it almost didn’t find its way to the mainstream audience because its storyline didn’t lend itself well for product placement. When tvN took the chance on this rare gem, this 16-episode drama became one of the highest-rated series in Korean cable TV history during its run.
This is a crime thriller where a mysterious walkie talkie allowed detective Park Hae Yong (Lee Je Hon) to communicate with the past and present. It is based on real unsolved murder mysteries where three detectives from 1989 to 2015 transcend time to search for truth and justice. With the power of foresight and hindsight, the team were able to crack one cold case after another which helped change the past and present – but not without unintended consequences.
With a solid script that was brought to life by the right cast, the show offers a compelling story filled with unexpected twists and turns. Unlike American crime series, this one was far less gory, and yet still remained realistic. This should be on your list if you’re down for some mystery, thrill, and time travel.
This series is not your typical zombie invasion set in an apocalyptic present, rather it’s a period drama during Korea’s Joseon period. It’s a fast-paced story that is a mix of political conspiracies and horror that keeps on the edge. If the zombies in The Walking Dead give you the creeps, wait till you witness how aggressive the undead enemies are in Kingdom.
The story starts with a notice saying that the king of Joseon is dead and the crown prince (Ju Ji Hoon) should step up to the throne immediately. However, inside the palace, the king is known only to be severely sick and has been secretly treated for the past 10 days and no one was allowed to visit – not even the crown prince himself. However, when he snuck into the castle to visit the king, he did not find his father but encountered the silhouette of a beastly monster. With the help of the physician Seo Bi (Bae Doo Na), Yeong Sin (Kim Sung Kyu), and his personal guard Mu Yeong (Kim Sang Ho), Prince Lee Chang must prevent the plague from advancing towards his home capital of Hanyang.
Kingdom offers something new that is sure to surprise and entertain diehard zombie fans who’ve seen it all. And like most historical K-dramas, this series is also fraught with political intrigue. This is why it’s no surprise why fans have been begging for another season!
12. Boys Over Flowers
A cult classic, Boys Over Flowers is the Korean remake of the famous Taiwanese drama, Meteor Garden. Although it was a retelling that was dressed in Korean flair, it was very well-received and even earned a huge following.
The story follows the lives of the famous F4, which comprised four wealthy chaebols who dominated the halls in their exclusive school. Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho) was the leader of the group who was constantly ogled by the girls but also feared by many. However, his bad-boy antics were met with defiance by no other than the school’s poor scholar, Geum Jan Di (Ku Hye Sun). This bruised Jun Pyo’s ego which only made him torment her even more. However, Yoon Ji Hu, who was also part of the F4, became Jan Di’s friend and object of affection as he was calm and gentle. Things become complicated when Jun Pyo developed feelings for Jan Di and was determined to pursue it.
Even though some of the plotlines may have not aged well, it still makes for an enjoyable series to watch even to this day. The swag and allure that F4 has made this series even more interesting. It’s also satisfying to watch how the top guy became vulnerable simply because of his feelings for a girl. Relive the charm of this classic and find out why it remains to be one of the most well-loved k-dramas out there.
With a dozen titles all worth exploring, we hope that you enjoy your Netflix experience even more! Whether you take on these episodes alone or enjoy it with company, these sure offer different types of fun for every discerning taste.
PS. Be sure to check out this list! We’ll be updating it every other month or so to add a must watch kdrama in!