Top 10 Addictive Korean Dramas to Watch for New K-Drama Fans
Korean dramas have become incredibly popular around the world in recent years. Known for their addictive plotlines, high production values, and beautiful actors and actresses, Korean dramas have gained a massive global following.
Top 10 Must-Watch Korean Dramas
If you’re new to the world of Korean television, it can be hard to know where to begin with so many excellent shows to choose from. That’s why I’ve put together this list of the top 10 must-watch Korean dramas for new fans.
I’ve included a mix of newer shows and classic hits, focusing on dramas that represent the best of what the Korean entertainment industry has to offer.
1. Crash Landing on You (2019-2020)
A perfect blend of romance, comedy, and melodrama, Crash Landing on You has become one of the most popular Korean dramas ever.
The show follows Yoon Se-ri, a wealthy South Korean heiress who accidentally crashes in North Korea while paragliding. She meets Ri Jeong-hyeok, a North Korean army officer, who secretly helps hide and protect her.
As the two spend time together, they develop feelings for each other despite the divide between their countries. Crash Landing on You has compelling characters, high production values, and a unique storyline that blends humor and heartache seamlessly.
It provides an intimate look at life in North Korea while delivering all the sweep and romance of a top-notch Korean drama.
2. Descendants of the Sun (2016)
A massive hit across Asia, Descendants of the Sun is a sweeping romance that follows a special forces captain and a surgeon who fall in love while working together in a war-torn country. Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo star as the main couple, with their off-the-charts chemistry helping drive the show’s popularity.
With its blockbuster production values and thrilling medical action sequences, Descendants of the Sun makes for an extremely binge-worthy watch.
Though the drama has its share of typical rom-com tropes, it succeeds with great pacing, effective melodrama, and two incredibly charming leads. For a rollicking romance adventure, Descendants of the Sun is hard to beat.
3. My Love from the Star (2013)
For a supernatural Korean drama with a twist, My Love from the Star is a must-see. The romantic sci-fi series stars Jun Ji-hyun as a top actress who falls for her mysterious neighbor played by Kim Soo-hyun. However, he harbors a secret – he’s actually an alien who has been stranded on Earth for 400 years.
My Love from the Star was one of the dramas that really launched the Korean Wave internationally thanks to its fresh genre-bending premise.
It’s an imaginative love story that combines comedy, melodrama, romance, and sci-fi for a truly unique viewing experience. With gorgeous visuals and a memorable soundtrack, it’s not hard to see why this drama has become so beloved.
4. Reply 1988 (2015)
For those looking for a heartwarming slice-of-life Korean drama, look no further than Reply 1988. Set in the year 1988, this series follows five friends and families living on the same street in a lower middle-class neighborhood of Seoul.
Though it centers around teenage characters, Reply 1988 transcends its high school backdrop to deliver a thoughtful drama about family, friendship, love, and growing up.
Despite its retro setting, Reply 1988 captures many relatable aspects of daily life. With realistic characters and nostalgic touches throughout, the immersive neighborhood community setting has struck a chord with viewers around the world. Reply 1988 manages to be both simple and complex, blending big laughs and quiet melodrama for one of the most engrossing Korean dramas in recent memory.
5. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020)
A recent hit, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay mixes romance, comedy, and emotional healing into one unique drama. It follows an antisocial children’s book author Ko Moon-young and a caregiver at a psychiatric ward Moon Gang-tae who meet and begin to help heal each other’s emotional wounds.
While this isn’t your standard lighthearted rom-com, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay tells an impactful story about accepting yourself and confronting trauma.
Fantastic performances from its leads plus a whimsical fairy tale-inspired visual style come together to create a one-of-a-kind drama unafraid to tackle mental health issues. Its message of self-acceptance resonates universally.
6. Kingdom (2019-2020)
For Korean drama fans looking for thrills and chills, Kingdom is the first TV series you need to watch. The big-budget period zombie thriller is set during Korea’s Joseon period, following a crown prince investigating a mysterious plague. Little does he know the disease is actually resurrecting the dead into ravenous zombies.
Kingdom blends historical drama with horror, action, and political intrigue flawlessly. With its top-notch production values and unique zombie concept, this electrifying series has captivated viewers globally.
The walking dead in a Joseon setting puts a fresh spin on the standard zombie apocalypse story, making Kingdom a standout addition to the Korean drama landscape.
7. Signal (2016)
Signal combines crime drama with a sci-fi twist for one of the most riveting Korean dramas of 2016. The series follows criminal profiler Park Hae-young who can communicate with a detective in the past via a mysterious walkie-talkie. Together they solve cold cases, with the present affecting the future and vice versa.
With its gripping criminal cases and thoughtful sci-fi elements, Signal delivers an addictive storyline that requires your full attention. Subtle details and nuanced characters create an immersive world that draws you in. And with numerous plot twists throughout its 16 tense episodes, Signal will leave you on the edge of your seat.
8. Misaeng (2014)
For a refreshing change of pace, Misaeng is a low-key Korean drama set in a corporate office environment. The series follows Jang Geu-rae, a young man with no college degree who struggles after landing a job as an intern at a trading company.
Despite the office setting, Misaeng delivers surprisingly compelling characters and storylines as it navigates Geu-rae finding his place among his new colleagues.
What helps set Misaeng apart is its naturalistic approach with minimal melodrama. The relationships between the everyday characters are realistically portrayed, from office bromances to cutthroat competition. Even if you’ve never worked in an office setting before, Misaeng does a phenomenal job of transporting the viewer into this world.
9. Hotel Del Luna (2019)
For a ghostly Korean drama, Hotel Del Luna provides an intriguing blend of fantasy, comedy, and romance. The lavish series stars IU as Jang Man-wol, the beautiful but ill-tempered CEO of the titular Hotel Del Luna. Her hotel caters to ghosts, with the manager played by Yeo Jin-gu the only human employee.
With its original concept, stunning visuals, and splashy production values, Hotel Del Luna was one of the most buzzworthy Korean dramas of 2019. IU turns in a career-defining performance, effortlessly switching between comedy, tragedy, and menace. For viewers who enjoy glossy supernatural tales, Hotel Del Luna is a mesmerizing treat.
10. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo (2016)
Rounding out the list is Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo, a sweet coming-of-age sports drama perfect for new Korean drama viewers. Bok-joo is a naturally gifted weightlifter who attends a sports college and becomes involved in a love triangle with two male swimmers.
Weightlifting Fairy stands out for its endearing characters brought vividly to life by charming young cast. With plenty of laughs and relatively low melodrama, the series makes for a breezy, uplifting watch. It captures the highs and lows of first love and achieving your dreams with honesty and heart.
If you want a feel-good Korean drama with likable characters, you can’t go wrong with Weightlifting Fairy.
And there you have it – a roundup of the top 10 must-watch Korean dramas for newcomers to this addictive television genre. From sweeping period epics to quirky romantic comedies, this list covers a range of the very best K-dramas out there.
No matter which show you decide to check out first, get ready to fall head over heels for the Korean drama experience. The only hard part will be deciding what to watch next after you’ve binged your way through these fantastic series!