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Korean dramas are some of the most entertaining shows on television — whether you’re after tragedy, heartbreak, comedy, or all of the above, the Korean dramas on this list will deliver.
However, not all Korean dramas are created equal if you’re in the beginning stages of learning Korean. Some are ideal for learning Korean conversational skills, and some use more complicated dialogue that can be tricky to parse for beginners.
Read on for a list of the best Korean dramas to get you started with learning the Korean language.
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.
You can mix and match these different activities to come up with a learning method that works best for you, but the most important thing is that you’re consistent and motivated to stay engaged with the learning process.
What better way is there to keep your motivation for learning Korean high than to have fun while you’re learning? Grab your popcorn, because Korean dramas are about to make learning way more entertaining!
DRINKING SOLO (혼술남녀)
South Korea is known for having hardworking, diligent and busy people. This is due to having too many examinations required of its students that causes pressure and stress for them. This drama focuses on the life of teachers and students aspiring to become a public servant. The civil service examination in South Korea is known to be one of the most difficult exams of all. This story depicts the struggles of students who are spending their youth in preparing for the exam. It takes place in a popular area filled with academies for the civil service examination preparation called Noryangjin. The life of the teachers is 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 Korean language while you are immersed with the realities of life, Drinking Solo is a must watch for you. You’d be able to acquire a substantial breadth of Korean words, phrases and expressions in this drama. You’d also learn the recent popular expressions used by young people in Korea.
Judge vs. Judge (이판, 사판)
The justice system in any country is dominated by men. South 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 drama that depicts women sharing the same position and rights as men.
This drama is a must watch as it focuses on the life of a female judge who is struggling in disclosing the truth behind her brother’s criminal case. She worked her way through studying the law and becoming a judge so she can 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 very interesting because of the mysetery aspect of who the real culprit is. If you are a person who is fond of law and everything that goes on with the Korean justice system, you will enjoy this drama. Aside from the fun, you’d be able to learn Korean words and phrases that are related to law and to 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, then this drama is the one for you.
My Golden Life (황금빛 내 인생)
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 to not related to each other at all. One of the twins was actually born from a rich family but 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 family as a twin of their daughter. The ill-fortune between the two families began when the mother of the poor family 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 characters. You might find scenes or situations in this drama that might be close to the realities of your family. You may learn and put into use the words, phrases and expressions used in this drama in daily life with family.
Something in the Rain / Pretty older sister who buys me food (밥 잘 사주는 예쁜 누나)
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 which used to be socially unacceptable.
This drama is about a couple who fell in love with each other despite the differences in their age and the relationships in 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 6 years younger than her and the same age as her younger brother. They begin a challenging relationship especially 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 drama is for you. If you want to be learn words and phrases used in dating and relationships, you’d find them in this drama.
Alone in Love (연애시대)
Alone in Love is a great Korean drama to dive into if you’re just getting started with learning Korean. It’s very approachable as far as Korean 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, which makes it great for learning Korean. The conversations can be a little harder to follow when emotions run high between the main characters and they begin speaking quickly, but the majority of the conversations are realistic day-to-day Korean conversations and are full of vocabulary words that will serve you well.
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 drama 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 Korean dramas so great — there’s rivalry, there’s heartbreak, and there are definitely moments that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. What this drama has that others don’t have, however, 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 drama (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!
Coffee Prince (커피 프린스 1호점)
Coffee Prince was one of the Korean dramas that was so popular that it raised awareness for how wonderful Korean dramas are to viewers outside of Korea. Once you start watching, you’ll see why it helped spread the word about Korean dramas — it’s addicting, and it’s very hard to stop once you get started!
This drama follows the off-beat romance between a clumsy tomboy, Go Eun-Chan, (who is actually mistaken for a boy!) and a well-off gentleman 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? Start watching 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 the characters 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 to the main characters.
Turn on Coffee Prince the next time you sit down to study Korean and you’ll quickly see why we consider it one of the best Korean dramas!
My Love from Another Star (별에서 온 그대)
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 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, 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 as a result of all of the hatred and malice he picks up on through listening and paying attention. Imagine his surprise when he falls in love with human woman!
This drama really does have something for every viewer — whether you’re a fan of alien story lines, true love, or period pieces, you’ll enjoy watching My Love From Another Star.
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, but the script writers do a great job of having him transition slowly to more casual dialogue as he becomes comfortable around other characters.
If you liked this list, you may also want to check out our useful Korean drama phrases to help with your studies.
Do you have a favorite Korean drama that has helped you learn the language? Let us know in the comments below so we can add it to our list!