Viewers are constantly on the search for the best Korean dramas since K-dramas have grown more popular globally. Whether you’re after genres like tragedy, heartbreak, romantic comedy, or all of the above, we have them all on this list!
Perhaps you’re here to check if your favorite South Korean series is on the list, or you’re looking for recommendations of Korean dramas to watch. If you’re into Korean pop culture, these K-dramas on the list have great theme songs too that you might enjoy too! Read on as you may find the best Korean drama for you and learn Korean on the side!
Do you want a downloadable list of these dramas? We have a free PDF resource for you here:
Many people around the world are fond of anything South Korean such as K-pop, Korean food, and also Korean movies and dramas. This makes them more interested to learn the Korean language too, so if you’re in the process of learning Korean, you’re probably aware that there are seemingly infinite methods of learning. You can work through Korean textbooks, listen to audio clips of conversation, or work through challenges like our own 90 Minute Challenge to learn Hangul, the Korean alphabet.
We wouldn’t want to hold you up for too long; let’s take a look at this list of the best Korean dramas!
- 1 Best South Korean Dramas
- 1.1 Romance Drama
- 1.2 Action Drama
- 1.3 Drama
- 1.4 Melodrama
- 1.5 Fantasy Drama
- 1.6 Family Drama
- 1.7 Legal Drama
- 1.8 Historical Drama
- 1.9 Medical Drama
Best South Korean Dramas
South Korean dramas or commonly known as K-drama, have been known globally because of the quality of content that they provide their viewers. Although these Korean series are of a foreign language to most of its viewers outside Korea, they’re still sought-after. They also come in multiple languages for the subtitles. Let’s take a look at the list below for the best K-dramas to watch!
Romantic K-dramas tend to be the most popular ones as they appeal easily to the viewers. This genre is also often paired with other genres like comedy, having romantic comedy series as a result, or drama which gives more depth to the series.
Korean: 혼술남녀 | honsullamnyeo
Korea is known for having hardworking, diligent, and busy people. This is due to having too many examinations required of its students that cause pressure and stress. This series focuses on the life of teachers and students aspiring to become public servants.
The South Korean civil service examination is known to be one of the most challenging exams of all. This story depicts the struggles of students who are spending their youth preparing for the exam. It takes place in a famous area filled with academies for the civil service examination preparation called Noryangjin.
The teachers’ lives are also shown as they struggle to make a living because they don’t come from a prestigious university. The female lead in the story is a teacher who graduated from an unknown university in the suburbs.
She is struggling to get a decent and stable job at an academy due to her educational background. On the other hand, a teacher who graduated from the top university in Korea doesn’t share the same predicaments as hers. He even has the choice to choose which academy he’d work for.
If you want to learn the Korean language while immersed in the realities of life, Drinking Solo is a must-watch for you. You may be able to acquire a substantial breadth of Korean words, phrases, and expressions in this series. You’d also learn the recent popular expressions used by young people in Korea.
Something in the Rain
Korean: 밥 잘 사주는 예쁜 누나 bap jal sajuneun yeppeun nuna
Love is a common theme in any drama, especially in Asia. There will usually be some love dynamic even in an action-packed story. However, there is a growing theme in stories and even in real life nowadays where people begin a relationship that used to be socially unacceptable.
This series is about a couple, (Son Ye Jin and Jung Hae In), who fell in love with each other despite the differences in their age and the relationships between their family. The woman in this story is the best friend of the man’s older sister, and the man is the best friend of the woman’s younger brother. The complication? The man and the woman in this story have known each other since they were young.
Years passed, the man went abroad to gain some work experience, and when he came back to Korea, he looked for the best friend of his sister. As they continue to meet each other, the woman found herself falling in love with the man, even though he happens to be six years younger than her and the same age as her younger brother. They begin a challenging relationship, mainly because the woman’s mother has aspirations for her to marry a man of high social status.
If you are up for something sweet and romantic, this series is for you. If you want to learn words and phrases used in dating and relationships, you will find them in this series.
Korean: 식객 | sikgaek
If you’re already a fan of Korean food (and really, who isn’t? Korea has tons of delicious dishes!), you are going to love Gourmet, a Korean series that follows sibling rivalry between two sons fighting to inherit their father’s restaurant.
Of course, this drama has all of the elements that make it one of the best Korean dramas — there’s rivalry, there’s heartbreak, and there are moments that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. However, what this series has that others don’t have is a focus on traditional Korean cooking.
Not only will you get to learn the meaning and history of a variety of Korean dishes as you’re watching this series(as well as how to make the dishes), but you’ll also pick up useful vocabulary words that you’ll use in future conversations at restaurants and about Korean food.
Get your Korean food fix and your Korean entertainment fix at the same time — check out Gourmet today!
Korean: 커피 프린스 1호점 | keopi peurinseu 1hojeom
Coffee Prince was one of the biggest and best Korean dramas that were so well-known that it raised awareness for how wonderful K-dramas are to viewers outside of Korea. Once you start watching, you’ll see why it helped spread the word about K-dramas — it’s addicting, and it’s tough to stop once you get started!
This romantic comedy Korean series follows the off-beat romance between a clumsy tomboy, Go Eun-Chan, played by Yoon Eun Hye, and a well-off gentleman played by actor Gong Yoo, who isn’t interested in the women, he has been set up with by his family.
These two hit it off and form an unlikely friendship, and viewers are left wondering when it will progress to be more and what that could even look like, considering Choi Han-Gyul, the male protagonist, thinks that Go Eun-Chan is a boy. Will he ever learn her true identity? Will his trust be shattered, or will they fall in love? Watch now to find out!
Part of what makes Coffee Prince so great to follow when you’re learning Korean is how easy it is to get invested in each character and the story. Even if you miss some of the more difficult conversational elements the first time watching, you’ll be hooked, and you’ll feel as if you need to keep watching to find out what happens next.
Turn on Coffee Prince, and you’ll quickly see why we consider it one of the best Korean series!
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
Korean: 김비서가 왜 그럴까 | Kimbiseoga Wae Geureolkka
Lee Young Joon can’t just accept her resignation as she was basically good at everything she does and is just irreplaceable. As he realizes this, he began doing everything that he could in his power to make her stay. This series will also show how an office set up in Korea looks since some of their scenes are in the office, given the relationship between the lead roles.
This series was aired in 2018, but it was initially based in a webtoon comic published in 2015 under the same title before Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young took on the lead roles. If you’re curious about what happens next, you can watch episodes of this Korean drama on Netflix.
Record of Youth
Korean: 청춘기록 | Cheongchun-girok
This K-drama tells the story of a model who is also an aspiring actor, played by Park Bo Gum. His journey towards this goal hasn’t been easy as he auditioned multiple times but never made it. In one of his fashion shows, he met the makeup artist, played by actress Park So Dam, who’s a huge fan of his.
This romantic drama shows the struggles and wins of each character in their respective fields. There’s also an excellent cast for this series. You may recognize the lead actors from the infamous Korean film, Parasite where So Dam played the role of Jessica. On the other hand, Park Bo Gum starred in K-dramas Reply 1988 and Encounter.
Boys Over Flowers
Korean: 꽃보다 남자 | Kkotboda Namja
Boys Over Flowers is a romantic comedy K-drama about Geum Jan Di a girl from a poor family who coincidentally got admitted to the high school for the rich, Shinhwa High School. Jan Di eventually came across the group of four rich and good-looking boys who are known as Flower Four or F4. This group is led by Gu Jun Pyo, played by Lee Min Ho, who is the heir of the Shinhwa conglomerate. This made her school life anything but peaceful.
It has been more than 10 years since this K-drama aired but it remains to be loved by many. The leading actor and actress, Lee Min Ho and Gu Hye Sun have definitely risen to fame since they starred in this series. Boys Over Flowers is based on the Japanese manga Hana Yori Dango which translates to the same English title.
Other Romance Dramas:
- It’s Okay Not To Be Okay – Kim Soo Hyun, Seo Hye Ji
- Romance is a Bonus Book – Lee Jong Suk, Lee Na Young
The popular Korean series in this list may appear to be romantic K-dramas but most parts of the drama also involve action and fighting scenes.
Descendants of the Sun
Korean: 태양의 후예 | Taeyang-ui Huye
This story is between Yoo Shi Jin, a captain from South Korean Special Forces, played by Song Joong Ki, and Kang Mo Yeon, a doctor who works in Seoul, played by Song Hye Kyo. This features their individual struggles in their mission as a soldier and a doctor and how together, they have survived great dangers in between.
The 2016 Korean series was definitely a major hit in Korea as it received several awards. This includes the 52nd Baeksang Arts Awards Grand Prize in television and was named by the Korea Broadcasting Advertising Corporation as the Most Popular Show of the year. This series is famous not only in Korea but in many parts of the world as it also has local adaptations in countries like the Philippines and China.
If you’re looking for a sign to start binge-watching this series, go ahead and start streaming this drama! This is also available on Netflix.
Before we move on, here’s a quick trivia! Descendants of the Sun lead stars Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo, in reality, ended up getting married in 2017 but sadly ended up in divorce last 2019.
Other Action Dramas:
- Sweet Home – Song Kang, Lee Do Hyun
Crash Landing On You
Korean: (사랑의 불시착 | Sarang-ui Bulsichak)
This romantic story started when a South Korean heiress, Yoon Se Ri, played by Korean actress Son Ye Jin, went paragliding in Seoul. However, an unexpected storm causes her to be flown far from Seoul and ends up crash-landing in the North Korean part of the DMZ. Here, the captain in the Korean People’s Army, Ri Jeong Hyeok, played by Hyun Bin was able to find her hanging on a tree. From here, their romance began to develop as Jeong Hyuk did all that he could to bring Se Ri back to the South unharmed.
Crash Landing on You is one of the best Korean series to watch especially if you want to know about life in North Korea. This shows the viewers a glimpse of what you can find there, unlike the typical setup in South Korea. Crash Landing on You had also achieved a great feat when it became the third highest-rated South Korean television drama in cable television history. The lead actor, Hyun Bin has also starred in the South Korean series Memories of the Alhambra with Park Shin Hye.
If you like to binge-watch K-dramas, we have great news since you can find this one on Netflix too!
Other must-watch action dramas:
- Vagabond – Lee Seung Gi, Bae Suzy
- Sky Castle – Yum Jung Ah, Lee Tae Ran
- Flower of Evil – Lee Joon Gi, Moon Chae Won
Korean: 이태원 | Itaewon Keullasseu
The story of Itaewon Class began when Park Sae Royi punches his classmate who was bullying another classmate on his first day in high school. This bully was Jang Geun Won, the son of the CEO of a huge food group, Jangga Co. This started the unfortunate events in Sae Royi’s, including that of his father’s death caused by the Jang family.
Park Sae Royi’s pent-up anger eventually led to his imprisonment of three years. He vowed to seek revenge for his father and started by opening a street bar in Itaewon years later, as he slowly climbed his way up. Later on, Sae Royi alongside his colleagues in DanBam managed to build their own company named I.C., short for Itaewon Class.
This is also considered one of the best Korean dramas because viewers can pick up many lessons throughout the story. It doesn’t focus solely on the main character but it also showed the struggles of the other characters and how they have grown because of it. The storyline in this K-drama for these characters was made totally relatable for the viewers too! Itaewon Class aired in JTBC.
Alone in Love
Korean: 연애시대 | yeonaesidae
Alone in Love is a South Korean drama starring Son Ye Jin and Kam Woo Sung. It’s very approachable as far as K-dramas go — the story follows a married couple that splits up after the death of their baby and what their lives look like after they begin dating other people. It’s heart-wrenching, it’s (relatively) realistic, and you’ll get emotionally invested very quickly!
The dialogue in this drama is straightforward and easy to follow, making it great for learning Korean. The conversations can be a little harder to follow when emotions run high between the main cast and begin speaking quickly. Still, most of the conversations are realistic day-to-day South Korean conversations and are full of vocabulary words that will serve you well.
- World of the Married – Han So Hee, Kim Hee Ae
These dramas show their audiences the limitless possibilities in the fantasy world. It showcases supernatural characters and situations giving way to plenty of twists and turns in the storyline.
My Love from Another Star
Korean: 별에서 온 그대 | byeoreseo on geudae
If you’re a fan of television shows and movies that have fantastical elements, you’re in for a treat! My Love from Another Star is not your typical South Korean drama. This drama follows a superhuman alien that landed on planet Earth hundreds of years ago. Think of it as Doctor Who meets Twilight… kind of? You’ll understand when you check it out for yourself!
This alien, Do Min-Joon, played by South Korean actor Kim Soo Hyun, has had several superhuman gifts bestowed upon him. He has out-of-this-world good looks, he has super speed, and he can hear even the faintest of sounds, which makes spying on conversations very easy.
As you can imagine, he becomes disillusioned with humans very quickly due to all of the hatred and malice he picks up on through listening and paying attention. Imagine his surprise when he falls in love with a human woman, played by South Korean actress Jun Ji Hyun.
This drama does have something for every viewer — whether you’re a fan of alien storylines, true love, or period pieces, you’ll enjoy watching My Love From Another Star. Although they have already been quite famous, this K-drama has become a great success for Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun.
It’s also great for viewers who are just beginning to pick up Korean because the dialogue is all written in a very deliberate way. Being an alien, Do Min-Joon uses formal Korean dialogue for most of the show. Still, the scriptwriters do a great job of having him transition slowly to a more casual conversation as he becomes comfortable around the others.
Guardian: The Lonely and Great God
Korean: 쓸쓸하고 찬란하神 – 도깨비 | Sseulsseulhago Challanhasin – Dokkaebi
You might be a fan of fantasy, romance, and drama. If so, this South Korean series is for you!
This K-drama, most commonly referred to as The Lonely Shining God – Goblin or simply “Goblin,” is one of the highest-rated South Korean drama in cable television history. This is a story about a goblin (Gong Yoo) who has been living for so long as an immortal that he wishes to end his life but is unable to do it himself. To do that, he needs a human bride to pull out the sword pierced through his chest, definitely not the typical love story you watch.
Oh, and this goblin isn’t the one who is typically scary that you have in mind. Instead, he looks like an average human, just with supernatural abilities alongside his immortality. He was eventually able to find this bride (Kim Go Eun), who turns out to be a high school student, and the Grim Reaper (Lee Dong Wook), who doesn’t remember his past.
This drama also has a historical aspect as it features some characters’ past lives from many years ago. This was aired in the Korean television through tvN from late 2016 to early 2017.
Other Fantasy Dramas:
- Oh My Ghost – Park Bo Young, Jo Jung Suk
- Strong Woman Do Bong Soon – Park Bo Young, An Min Hyuk
- Love Alarm – Kim So Hyun, Jung Ga Ram
A genre that’s very relatable to many audiences and is often heartwarming.
My Golden Life
Korean: 황금빛 내 인생 | hwanggeumbit nae insaeng
South Korea’s culture is deeply rooted in the philosophy of Confucianism. Like any other country that follows Confucianism, filial piety is one of its core philosophical tenets. In South Korea, weekend programs, especially in mainstream networks, are usually conceptualized with families in mind.
This drama revolves around two families who are entangled in an unfortunate event. Two daughters who happened to be twins were found not to be related to each other at all. One of the twins was born into a wealthy household. However, she was separated from her biological parents because of her mother’s carelessness. Although her family searched for her, they ultimately failed. She grew in an ordinary household as a twin of their daughter. The ill-fortune between the two families began when the mother of the poor household sent her biological daughter to the rich family. She made them believe that she was their real daughter.
This story is categorized as a family drama, so it contains realistic conversations among the cast. You might find scenes or situations in this drama that might be close to the realities of your family.
Other Family Dramas:
- Reply 1988 – Hyeri, Ryu Jun Hyeol
- Father is Strange – Kim Yeong Cheol, Kim Hae Sook
Legal dramas are the type that you should watch with your full attention. This kind of series makes you want to think alongside the characters as they solve legal matters and work their way to claiming justice for the oppressed.
Judge vs. Judge
Korean: 이판, 사판 | ipan, sapan
Men dominate the justice system in any country. Korea is no exception. In general, women in South Korea are fighting for their position as equals to men. It’s unique then to have a series that depicts women sharing the same position and rights as men.
This series is a must-watch as it focuses on the life of a female judge who is struggling to disclose the truth behind her brother’s criminal case. She worked her way by studying the law and becoming a judge to give justice to her brother. It also shows the struggles of people who are victims of the justice system. It is indeed difficult to have the burden to prove someone’s innocence. This story is fascinating because of the mystery aspect of who the real culprit is.
If you are a person who is fond of the law and everything that goes on with the South Korean justice system, you will enjoy this series. Aside from the fun, you’d learn Korean words and phrases related to law and daily injustices, although the dialogue and conversation can be a bit challenging. If you are up for a challenge and want to develop your vocabulary to a higher level, this series is the one for you.
Other Legal dramas:
- Vincenzo – Song Joong Ki, Jeon Yeo Bin
It’s more than just the fancy “Hanbok” that some characters wear in historical K-dramas, but this opens an opportunity for the Korean culture to be shown to a wider audience. Most K-dramas in this genre take place in the Joseon Era or some shifts back to the present day.
Korean: 철인왕후 | Cheorinwanghu
Mr. Queen is a historical drama with a fantasy aspect as its storyline starts with a body swap between the two main roles. In the present time, Chef Jang Bong Hwan (Choi Jin Hyuk) works at the Blue House for high-level politicians. Series of events happened that led him way back to the Joseon period inside the body of Queen Cheorin (Shin Hye Sun).
In this era, King Cheoljong (Kim Jung Hyun) was reigning but he is king only in title. He is often dubbed as a puppet King who was oftentimes clueless. However, Queen Cheorin soon discovers that King Cheoljong is not what he portrays himself to be. This series first aired on Korean television through tvN until February of this year. Also, if you want to laugh, this is a perfect choice.
Other Historical Dramas:
- Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo – Lee Joon Gi, IU
- Mr. Sunshine – Lee Byung Hun, Kim Tae Ri
This genre provides a different level of suspense than other K-dramas as you’d want to know whether the patient survived or not. Along the way, you even get to learn terms you never knew about until you came across a medical series.
Korean: 슬기로운 의사생활 | Seulgiroun Uisasaenghal
This series tells the story of five doctors who have been long-time friends since they entered medical school in 1999. They are working together with other doctors and nurses in Yulje Medical Center.
The series was aired on Korean TV through tvN and is the second part of the Wise Life series, following Prison Playbook. This series is a must-watch as it has gained several awards and nominations on different award ceremonies from 2020 to 2021.
Other Medical Dramas:
- Doctors – Park Shin Hye, Kim Rae Won
Do you have a favorite South Korean drama too? Do you like romantic comedy, action, or historical drama series? Let us know in the comments below so we can add it to our list!