A Beginners Guide To K-Dramas: The 10 Best To Binge This Weekend
In recent years, Korean culture has made an undeniable mark on the West, with K-pop sensations like BTS and BlackPink dominating the music charts. Korean Dramas, or K-dramas, are no exception to this cultural wave either. While 2021 saw the nation-sweeping success of Squid Games, the world of K-dramas goes deeper than oversized talking dolls and life-or-death trials. From enchanting fantasy tales to butterfly inducing romantic comedies, Korean dramas offer a rich tapestry of storytelling that goes beyond the surface.
As you can imagine, K-drama fandom culture runs deep, especially considering that many main characters in these dramas are K-pop idols. Given that, another standout element is the music — while American TV series often feature chart-topping hits or stock music, K-drama producers craft original soundtracks tailored to each show. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming the same catchy tune repeatedly after a dramatic sequence.
Setting aside any cliche tropes, K-dramas are celebrated for their often twisting plot lines that will keep you glued to the screen, instinctively hitting that “Play Next” button without a second thought. With that being said, be warned! K-dramas are highly addictive. It’s not uncommon to lose track of time and find yourself wide awake at 2 a.m., wondering how you’ve already reached episode 7. Here are the top 10 K-dramas to binge next!
Crash Landing On You! (2019)
Available on Netflix, Crash Landing On You! is a 16-episode saga that follows the misadventures of Se-Ri, a South Korean heiress who stumbles across the North Korean border after a paragliding accident. There, she meets Ri Jeong-Hyeok, a North Korean army officer who helps her hide. If forbidden love stories are your preferred brand of romance, then Crash Landing On You! is definitely worth a binge-watch.
Boys Over Flowers (2009)
Taking its rightful place as the campiest entry on this list, Boys Over Flowers is the OG K-drama! Embracing classic tropes, this 2009 classic features a working-class girl who unexpectedly finds herself attending a prestigious private high school. There, she clashes with F4 – a clique of the school's four wealthiest boys. Amidst their ruthless hazing, a nail-biting love triangle unfolds involving Geum Jan-di, the leader, and his best friend.
Business Proposal (2022)
As a favor to her best friend, Shin Ha-ri goes on a blind date in her place. What's the worst that could happen? Well, the mystery man turns out to be Ha-ri's boss (not much of a spoiler!) and he has a surprising proposal. If you're in the mood for a light-hearted rom-com, then the popular Netflix original series "Business Proposal," based on the webtoon novel The Office Blind Date, is the perfect watch for you.
King The Land (2023)
Airing in the summer of 2023, King The Land follows the life of Cheon Sa-Rang, a hardworking employee who always gives her best effort as she starts working at the King Hotel. Tensions arise when she crosses paths with Gu-Won, the heir to King Enterprise. Amidst a series of misadventures, the two grow closer amidst a power struggle for leadership at the King Hotel.
The Heirs (2013)
What's a romance-filled drama without a love triangle (or two)? The Heirs, also known as The Inheritors, is a series akin to Gossip Girl that revolves around the life of a working-class student who unexpectedly finds herself attending an exclusive high school for the uber-rich. While the poor girl, rich boy trope may sound familiar, the compelling characters and social class commentary make this 16-episode drama well worth your time.
Reply 1988 (2015)
Set in the late 80’s (hence the name), Reply 1988 centers around the transformational essence of impactful childhood friendships, growing pains, and community – all universal experiences that tie us together. Whether you’re familiar with Korean culture or a fresh-faced newbie, this nostalgic slice-of-life story is a must-watch for all rookie and veteran K-drama fans.
Twenty Five Twenty One (2022)
This drama will absolutely wreck you – in a good way. Twenty-Five Twenty-One journeys us hand in hand through the relationship of a passionate fencer and the son of a bankrupt billionaire searching to forge their own path. While we can’t promise an ideal ending, there’s no question that Twenty-Five Twenty-One is worth the watch and inevitable re-watch.
Hospital Playlist (2020)
Grey's Anatomy fans, rise! Hospital Playlist follows the day-to-day of five doctors, remaining close friends since undergrad, who share a love of music. Unlike most of the shows on this list, this one boasts *two* full seasons instead of one.
Goblin (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God) (2016)
Goblin takes the cake as one of the best fantasy dramas for new K-drama fans on the scene. With sudden twists and extensive lore, you’re bound to get hooked.
Calling all BookTok girlies! This one is for you. After tensions rise between mafia families, a lawyer working for the Italian mafia as a consigliere flees the country, jetsetting to Korea. In pursuit of a place to hide the mob's assets, Vincenzo finds himself discovering new laundering opportunities.
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Header image via lim hyo seon / Netflix