Korean dramas have been steadily gaining popularity in the United States, and with popular streaming services like Viki, Netflix, Hulu, KOCOWA and Amazon Prime, it’s never been easier to watch your favorite dramas. We’ve put together a list of our top five to get you started. Keep in mind, while some of these streaming services offer free content with ads, a few require a paid subscription.
Adriana’s Top Five
I became aware of Korean dramas back in the early 2000s from my younger sister, who used to watch them, though I did not watch my first Korean drama until much later. Now Korean dramas are my main source of entertainment, and I definitely have my favorites that I go back to again and again. It’s easy to get caught up in the stories and fall in love or laugh along with the characters as they overcome the many myriads of obstacles placed before them. What I fell in love with most was the ability to get glimpses into a culture very different from my own, as well as a new language to explore. I put together this list of my absolute favorite dramas. I tend to like shows that make me laugh or showcase creative special effects.
My Love from the Star
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Fantasy Episodes: 20 Streaming on: Viki Synopsis: When self-obsessed and ditzy actress Chun Song-yi, meets 400-year-old alien neighbor Do Min-jun, what could possibly go right? Comedy ensues as these two opposing personalities clash, then find common ground. As accidents continue to threaten Chun Song-yi, Do Min-jun discovers that he may want to keep her around.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Office Episodes: 16 Streaming on: Viki, Hulu Synopsis: The dynamic between Lee Yeong Joon (Park Seo Joon) and Kim Mi So (Park Min Young) is so fun to watch. Lee Yeong Joon is a narcissistic, perfectionist boss who seems to have it all together. That is until his secretary decides to resign. Uncovering their dark past will not be easy, but letting her go is out of the question for Lee Yeong Joon.
The Legend of the Blue Sea
Genre: Fantasy, Romantic Comedy Episodes: 20 Streaming on: Viki, Hulu Synopsis: Mermaid meets con-man in this fun, fantasy drama. Shim Cheong (Jun Ji Hyun), a mermaid from the Mediterranean Sea, follows con-man Heo Joon Jae (Lee Min Ho) to Seol, South Korea. This drama is a modern-day fairytale where mermaids can only live on land if their true love returns their affection. Will Shim Cheong be able to win Heo Joon Jae’s heart? Only time and adventures will tell!
Bride of the Water God (The Bride of Habaek)
Genre: Fantasy, Romantic Comedy Episodes: 16 Streaming on: Viki, Netflix Synopsis: Ha-baek (Nam Joo-hyuk) is the god of the water realm and the next ruler of the gods, but before he can take the throne, he must come to earth to retrieve three stones. Ha-baek has had a complicated past with humans and wants nothing to do with them, but now he must enlist the aid of So-ah (Shin Se-kyung), a human servant of the gods. The problem: So-ah is a modern-day woman who doesn’t believe in gods or quests!
Romance is a Bonus Book
Genre: Romance, Comedy Episodes: 16 Streaming on: Netflix Synopsis: Cha Eun-ho (Lee Jong Suk) is a successful editor. Kang Dan-i (Lee Na Young) is a single mother struggling to survive after her divorce. Both have been friends since Kang Dan-i saved Cha Eun-ho during a car crash. Cha Eun-ho may have missed his chance with Kang Dan-i once, but fate is giving him a second chance to win her heart. This drama can be fun—who doesn’t feel their heart flutter when Lee Jong Suk winks—but there are also moments of heart-wrenching reality that will have you reaching for the tissue box.
Randi’s Top Five
I am a huge K-drama fan. In a previous post, I mentioned that I have been watching Korean dramas, variety shows and movies since 2010. I stumbled upon dramas while searching for something to screen at our anime club. Now I pretty much only watch Korean content, whether that be variety shows like How Do You Play? or I Live Alone, movies like Miss Granny or Along with the Gods, or all the dramas mentioned below. My favorite dramas usually have elements of fantasy or science fiction, romance and humor. I also appreciate the format. Unlike most western television, the story is completed in a set number of episodes, whether that be 16, 20 or 50. Netflix is sort of changing that model, but there is still a lot of great content out there.
Genre: Family, Romance, Comedy Episodes: 20 Streaming on: Netflix, Viki Synopsis:Reply 1988 is the third installment of the Reply (or Answer Me) series. Each drama in the Reply series focuses on a new group of friends, as the timeline shifts back and forth between the past and present. 1988 revolves around five families living in the same neighborhood. I love all three dramas in the series, but this particular one stands out because of its characters, neighborhood camaraderie, humor and the excellent music.
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
Genre: Fantasy, Romantic Comedy Episodes: 20 Streaming on: Netflix, Viki Synopsis: Do Bong Soon, a young woman born with superhuman strength, fights injustice and battles evil in this hilarious drama. She is hired as the bodyguard of Ahn Min Hyuk, CEO of a successful gaming company. Oh, this drama! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. It is a wacky comedy with an over the top cast of characters, features a strong female lead and the fabulous Park Hyung Shik as the wonderful but weird CEO.
Genre: Historical, Horror Episodes: 12 (Two Seasons) Streaming on: Netflix Synopsis: One word. Zombies. Okay, I’ll elaborate. This is a historical drama with zombies. Zombies! In Kingdom, the Crown Prince of Joseon starts investigating a mysterious epidemic. And as the disease spreads, the dead begin to rise. Political machinations, social injustice, medical mysteries and a great cast of characters make for an exciting drama. Be warned… a third season is in the works.
W: Two Worlds Apart
Genre: Romance, Suspense, Melodrama Episodes: 16 Streaming on: Viki Synopsis: Two worlds—the real world and an alternate parallel universe—collide as comic book characters come to life. Oh Yun Joo is a surgical resident in the real world. Kang Chul is the main character in the graphic novel W. One night, Oh Yun Joo is pulled from the real world into the comic, and everything changes. This drama is unique, really unlike any other K-drama I have watched. Oh Yun Joo keeps getting pulled into the comic book world with the stakes getting higher every time, and when Kang Chul enters the real world, all bets are off. Filled with action, romance and murder, W is one of my all-time favorite shows that I watch again and again and again.
The Tale of Nokdu
Genre: Historical, Romance Episodes: 32 Streaming on: Viki, KOCOWA Synopsis: This drama is pretty. So, so pretty: the actors, the costumes, the sets, the actors. All so pretty! The story is slightly less pretty. Nokdu is a young man who disguises himself as a woman to enter a mysterious women-only village to catch an assassin who has attacked his family. There he meets Dong Joo, a woman bent on revenge. Birth secrets, political assassinations, psychotic villains and true love make this one of my favorite dramas from 2019.