There is something very comforting about historical Korean dramas. Whether it is the beautiful Korean hanboks or the rich history and culture, watching these historical Korean dramas is a great way to escape into. Best of all you can learn a lot about history through these dramas while at the same time being entertained by royal conspiracies, sinister villains, and passionate love stories. Historical dramas are not for everyone and some might find them a bit too slow. However, what many might not know is that historical dramas can be quite unique and bring elements of modern times into their storylines. For our list, we selected the best historical Korean dramas of all time and each brings something new for everyone to enjoy. In addition, most of these Korean dramas are available on Netflix.
Mr. Sunshine is a more recent historical Korean drama compared to the others on this list. It centers on a young boy born into a house servant’s family and travels to the United States during the 1871 Shinmiyangyo (U.S. expedition to Korea). He returns back to South Korea as a U.S. marine officer. Once in Korea, he meets and falls for an aristocrat’s daughter. Meanwhile, he ends up discovering a plot by foreign forces to colonize his homeland.
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Ok, so this is technically a Korean film but it does deal with Korean history. The film is about a woman who gets transported back in time to the Goryeo Dynasty. It is during King Taejo’s rule and the woman wakes up in the body of a 16-year-old girl. However, she is soon able to adapt to his new world and ends up making friends with several princes with some of them falling in love with her. Then she ends up getting involved over the succession to the throne.
This historical drama occurs during the time of Genghis Khan who built an empire that spanned vast regions in East Asia and East Europe. During this time there was one woman who held immense power in the Yuan Dynasty, which Genghis Khan founded, for 37 years. However, she was neither of Mongol descent nor from the Han Chinese. Rather, she came from Goryeo, a small kingdom in the Far East. She was taken to Mongols against her will as a Gungnyeo (palace woman) but eventually overcame her lowly status to become an empress in another land. Her name was Empress Ki.
Kingdom is set in the Joseon period. The drama starts with the King having fallen seriously ill and rumors start to spread that he has actually died. Meanwhile, a Crown Prince is labeled a traitor by the clan of the current pregnant Queen and her father. While the Crown Price tries to uncover the mystery of what happened to his father, he goes with his guard to Dongnae to look for a physician to treat his father. However, he ends up only finding an assistant physician and a mysterious man in a village plagued with a zombie-like disease.
Six Flying Dragons
A great fictional Korean historical drama set in the Joseon Dynasty. It tells the story of the rise and fall of the characters based around the third king of the Joseon Dynasty and the father of King Sejong the Great.
The Bridal Mask
A more recent historical Korean drama adapted from a Korean webtoon of the same name centers around a Korean officer employed by the Japanese colonists. Despite his mother’s disapproval of his work and his own brother’s uneasy history with the Japanese, he continues to play by the colonist’s rules in hopes of becoming successful and bringing his family out of poverty. However, a mysterious figure wearing a traditional Bridal Mask always seems to get in his way.
This drama is set in the fictional land of Arthdal during ancient times(the bronze age). It is about a boy who grows up in a new land only to be outcasted by the village for being different. A girl who grows up in a similar situation as the boy. There is also a war hero from Arthdal who dreams of becoming the first king of Arthdal.
Jewel in the Palace
This historical Korean drama takes place during the Chosun Dynasty. During this time Korea had a rigid hierarchy and male-dominated social structures. The drama is based on a true story about a legendary girl who became the first woman to be the supreme royal physician of her time. She overcame a series of social discrimination and ends up becoming a royal cook. Then she becomes the royal physician. Finally, she ends up being the physician to the King.
Queen Seon Deok
The drama is about a beautiful queen. She has to give up her love in order to save her own people. The queen is Queen Seon Deok, who was born a princess and ended up becoming the ruler of Silla. Many of her brilliant achievements are showcased in this drama.
Moon Embracing the Sun
This drama is about a 13-year-old girl who is the daughter of a high-ranking official. She ends up coming across the Crown Prince and they fall in love. She is chosen as the Crown Princess of Joseon. However, before they marry, the Queen secretly plots her death. She orders a shaman to cast a spell on her and make her ill. She ends up dying but is soon resurrected from her grave but without any memory of her past.