K-drama (Korean TV series) has become a popular genre that has taken its roots in many homes, with many streaming services such as Netflix now having a wide selection of Korean TV shows to pick from their menu.
It has become even more interesting that a lot of money and huge budgets have been thrown at the Korean scene and other foreign TV shows since many viewers are now interested in all kinds of shows and entertainment coming from the Asian side, which is not surprising since people have slowly grown tired of the Hollywood formula.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of K-drama too and sometimes I find myself so engaged in the shows that I forget there are other forms of cinema to watch from different parts of the world. But, the K-scene has perfected its formula though considered too generic and repetitive by some, it has kept the ball rolling.
Today, we get to share with you some of the coolest Korean TV series you should be watching right now, and not just the mainstream or over-popularized ones at that. Prepare yourself for a binge-watching marathon. (Article updated – 4 May 2023)
30 Korean Drama Series You Should Definitely Watch
1. Squid Game (2021)
Yap, you have definitely already heard about Netflix’s Squid Game and how popular the hit show has gathered a lot of fans and it is with good reason. The show follows a story of a group of people who compete for a large prize by playing kids’ games. It sounds like fun but things turn dark pretty quickly once it gets going.
2. All of Us Are Dead (2022)
A high school is overrun by zombies, and students must fight for their lives. This definitely a must-watch if love zombie-themed shows and movies.
3. Vincenzo (2021)
An Italian mafia that is Korean, can it get any better than that? Vincenzo is one of my favourite TV shows this year. It blends comedy, drama and action in one. It is a bit slow in some episodes but it is worth it. Song Joong-ki stars as a Korean man named Vincenzo who was adopted by an Italian mafia family and raised in mob life in Italy. When his adoptive father dies, his adoptive brother sets out to kill him, forcing Vincenzo to flee back to Seoul.
4. My Name (2021)
This amazing show is about a young woman who joins a drug cartel to avenge her father’s death but soon finds herself caught up in a dangerous world of violence and corruption.
5. Alchemy of Souls (2022)
This show has captured the hearts of many viewers and we are not surprised it has. The TV show’s story is about a young woman from the Joseon era who is cursed to have the soul of an old woman, and she meets a mysterious man who can help her break the curse.
6. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020)
This show is fun and at the same time very deep. Exploring the aspect of mental health while adding a thriller twist to it, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay is a great show one shouldn’t ignore. The show is like a fairy tale, and the story follows an empathetic healthcare worker with a tragic past that meets a children’s book author with a personality disorder.
7. Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021)
A big-city dentist moves to a small seaside town and meets a kind-hearted jack-of-all-trades. The story from there on evolves into something interesting.
8. Twenty-Five Twenty-One (2022)
For those that love drama, Twenty-Five Twenty-One is the right choice for you right now. The show follows two people who met in 1998 and 2022 fall in love and grow up together.
9. Itaewon Class (2020)
This show is about a young man with a criminal record who opens a bar in Itaewon and fights against the established social order. It sounds cheesy but it’s actually a good show.
10. Business Proposal (2022)
Well, my dear comedy K-drama fanatics, here’s another show that will get you a bit hooked. Business Proposal is about a secretary who is forced to go on a blind date in place of her boss and ends up falling in love with her blind date’s company’s CEO.
11. Vagabond (2019)
This is an addictive and action-packed show stars leading actor Lee Seung-gi as a stuntman who finds himself engulfed in a dangerous web of corruption and terror as he tries to get to the bottom of what happened in the plane crash that killed his nephew.
12. Kingdom (2019)
Kingdom was the first Netflix original K-drama to stream on the platform, and it has garnered positive reviews since its release. It brings an array of views ranging from politics and supernatural themes that make it a thrilling zombie drama.
Featuring an A-list cast and incredible visual effects, the show follows the journey of Crown Prince Chang as he embarks on a mission to discover and put an end to a rapidly spreading plague that causes people to turn into flesh-eating zombies.
13. Crash Landing on You (2020)
A South Korean heiress, Yoon Se-ri, gets caught in a storm while paragliding and finds herself blown off course into North Korea. Se-ri then runs into Ri Jeong-hyeok, Captain of the North Korean Special Forces and a member of the North Korean elite family who eventually comes up with a plan to get Se-ri back to South Korea with the help of his squad. The show blends comedy and romance together and is worth the watch.
14. Law School (2021)
If you liked How To Get Away With Murder, Law School will be fitting for you. The show focuses on the students and professors at the prestigious Hankuk University Law School and how a law professor is found dead and another is arrested for the crime, forcing the students to team up to prove Yang’s innocence.
15. Sky Castle (2019)
For the families living at Sky Castle, an exclusive residential community that’s home to Korea’s elite, their children’s success means everything. And getting them into the top university is the ultimate prize. The series follows the journeys of four women and their families who are hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to maintain the status quo among the upper crust of South Korean society.
Leading the K-Drama’s ensemble cast are five veteran actresses: Yum Jung Ah, Lee Tae Ran, Yoon Se Ah, Oh Na Ra and Kim Seo Hyung.
16. Goblin (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God) (2016)
Ranked as one of the fourth highest-rated Korean dramas of all time, Goblin is a fantasy romance about a modern-day goblin, Gong Yoo, who needs a human bride (Kim Go Eun) to end his cursed immortal life.
17. Chief Of Staff (2019)
If political dramas are your thing, then the Chief of Staff is a great fit for you. If you enjoyed TV shows like The West Wing or House of Cards, then you will love this show.
Chief of Staff sees Jang Tae-jun (Lee Jung-jae) rise from the bottom to become Chief of Staff in the National Assembly; however, his ambitions don’t stop there. He uses his sharp intuition and brutal tactics to influence power behind the scenes to rise to the top.
18. When The Camellia Blooms (2019)
This show stars Gong Hyo Jin, the queen of romantic comedies which makes it a must-watch if you want drama and fun. The show is about Dong-baek (Gong Hyo Jin), who is a single mother that finds new love in her life while trying to defy the social stigmas surrounding her.
19. Strangers From Hell
This is one hell of a creepy show that bounds thriller and murder mystery together. It follows a young man in his 20s, Yoon Jong-woo, who moves to the countryside to Seoul but starts noticing strange happenings in the apartment building months later. I don’t want to spoil it any further.
20. Sweet Home (2020)
If you love zombie horrors, Sweet Home is perfect for you. Having topped No.3 on Netflix’s Top 10 list shortly after its release in December 2020, the show gets you hooked right away.
You get thrown into the life of Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang) who moves into a rundown apartment complex after his family is killed in a car accident. As people in the city start to turn into terrifying monsters of various forms, Cha and his fellow band of misfit survivors have to fight to protect humanity.
21. Mr Sunshine (2018)
Praised for having strong female characters, don’t let the title of the show fool one bit as Mr Sunshine is more than just smiles. The Netflix original series tells the story of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty-era which follows a group of activists fighting for Korea’s independence.
22. Stranger (2017)
Rumoured to be gearing up for another season this year, Stranger is an awesome series that stars one of Korea’s leading actresses Bae Doona as a passionate and fearless detective tracking down a killer. The show was listed as one of the best TV shows of 2017 by the New York Times.
23. The Devil Judge (2021)
Ji Sung puts on an amazing performance in this series where he plays the role of a devil judge. This series is set in a dystopian version of South Korea, where people harbour hatred towards their leaders and live in chaos. Trials are held through a courtroom live show aired on television, where three judges come together to bring justice and peace.
24. Sisyphus (2021)
Time travel and action are this TV series’ main subjects not forgetting a little bit of some drama and romance. The show starts with an unfathomable incident that introduces a genius engineer to dangerous secrets of the world — and to a woman from the future who’s come looking for him.
25. Signal (2016)
Signal is one of those good crime detective dramas that I highly recommend for anyone who loves crime drama. Based in part on a real-life serial killer in Korea, the series revolves around a mysterious walkie-talkie that allows a detective from 1986 to communicate with a modern-day criminal profiler to solve cold cases.
26. Nevertheless (2021)
Starring Han So-hee, Song Kang and Chae Jong-hyeop, Nevertheless is based on a popular webtoon of the same name. It tells the story of two people who are attracted to each other but are sceptical about love, owing to their past relationships.
The show explores an uncertain romance that begins between a heartbroken woman who no longer believes in love and a flirtatious man who does not want to commit to a relationship.
27. Because This Is My First Life (2017)
This television series starring Lee Min-ki and Jung So-min is a relatively predictable drama plot about two people having different points of view on careers, relationships and marriage. This romantic comedy follows two roommates in their thirties who become housemates for financial reasons and eventually enter into a marriage out of convenience to appease their families.
28. Prison Playbook (2017)
Being at no. 21 shouldn’t deter you from watching this interesting K-drama that explores the story of a baseball pitcher Kim Je-hyeok, who becomes a convict overnight after being sent to prison for defending his sister from a sexual assault.
29. Hospital Playlist 2 (2021)
Hospital Playlist is a South Korean television series written by Lee Woo-jung and directed by Shin Won-ho. It is the second instalment of the Wise Life series, following Prison Playbook (2017–18).
30. Start-Up (2020)
This rather good show takes us into the world of young entrepreneurs aspiring to launch virtual dreams into reality and compete for success and love in the cutthroat world of Korea’s high-tech industry.