- Goblin: The Lonely and Great God – Best Korean Dramas – Fantasy
- Strong Woman Bong Soon – Best Korean Dramas – Romantic Comedy
- Crash Landing on You – Best Korean Dramas – Drama
- Descendants of the Sun – Best Korean Dramas – Action
- Boys Over Flowers
- Itaewon Class
- Prison Playbook
- The Heirs
- What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
- My Love from Another Star
- W: Two Worlds
- Secret Garden
- SKY Castle
- It’s Okay to Not be Okay
- Mr. Sunshine
- Hotel Del Luna
- While You Were Sleeping
- Kill Me, Heal Me
Many of the best Korean dramas are gaining in popularity all around the world. Streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu have some of the best Korean dramas of all time. These Korean dramas are key in shaping the Hally (Korean wave) trend in fashion, culture, and travel destinations. Korean culture has been spreading worldwide thanks to Korean webtoons, K-pop and K-dramas. The content is great for all audiences as most are G-rated, while at the same time having a very attractive cast. While I have seen a wide range of K-dramas, I have taken it into overdrive in 2020 due to COVID-19. I’ve watched older Korean dramas that I have missed but overall I would say I have seen the major ones. This is why I decided to create this list.
While my taste in content might differ from others I would you a sample of my taste in the US shows so you can see what kind of style I prefer. Some of my favorite US comedy series include Seinfeld, Friends, the Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Curb Your Enthusiasm, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, How I Met Your Mother, and Master of None. While for dramas, my favorites include Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Ozark, Fleabag, and The Wire. Now that you know my taste, I’ve listed below my top 20 favorite Korean dramas of all time. If you have any recommendations please let me know and I will watch it. If it doesn’t hook me in within the first 3 episodes I will move on.
Goblin: The Lonely and Great God – Best Korean Dramas – Fantasy
Goblin is about a modern-day goblin who no longer wants to live as an immortal. In order to stop being immortal, he needs to marry a human. He soon encounters a grim reaper who is unable to remember his past. After the goblin meeds his bride, he realizes he wants to live and be with her. The stories span centuries and do a great job of creating complete mythologies around each character. It also has the best Korean drama soundtrack of all time.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Strong Woman Bong Soon – Best Korean Dramas – Romantic Comedy
The story is about Bong Soon who was born with superhuman strength. Her strength has been passed down to only the women in her family. She is able to beat up bullies on the street using her powers. One day Min-Hyuk a CEO of a video game company offers Bong Boon a high-paying job as his bodyguard. He even offers her an opportunity to work with the gaming department at his company.
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Drama
Crash Landing on You – Best Korean Dramas – Drama
This is a modern spin on Romeo and Juliet. It is about a South Korean billionaire and CEO who meets a North Korean Special Forces Unit Captain when she “crash” lands in North Korea after getting stuck in a hurricane as she was paragliding. There are many twists and turns throughout the drama as they start to fall in love while running away from an evil North Korean officer.
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Drama
Descendants of the Sun – Best Korean Dramas – Action
Descendants of the Sun is about a special forces captain and a female doctor who fall in love while providing aid in a country that is dealing with a natural disaster and civil unrest.
Boys Over Flowers
This story is about a working-class girl who gets involved in the lives of a group of wealthy young boys at her high school. The boys are called F4. It is based on the comic series of the same name by Yoko Kamio.
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
This is a revenge story revolving around Park Saeroyi, a young man who wants to have the biggest food company in Korea to get revenge for his father. After spending time in prison for beating up his father’s killer (car accident), he opens a restaurant in Itaewon. This drama was adapted from a Korean webtoon.
The story is about a professional baseball player named Kim Jehyuk who is in jail for beating up someone who attempted to rape his younger sister. He has to adapt to prison life surrounded by criminals. The drama shows the lives of the prisoners as they share their life problems and newfound friendships.
Genre: Dark Comedy/Drama
This is a story about a boy and a girl who meet for the first time by accident in America. The boy is the heir to a large company while the girl is the daughter of a helper. The two start living together and begin to realize that they have feelings for each other. Later the son has to go back to South Korea and soon realizes that the girl’s mom is the helper in his family’s house. While the boy does not hide his feelings for the girl, his family is completely against it.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
This is the story of Secretary Kim who works very hard for her corporate Vice President. One day she announces she will be quitting. The Vice President is confused by this and the two must come to terms with their unspoken feelings for each other.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
My Love from Another Star
This story starts off with an alien ship landing on earth during the Joseon Dynasty. 400 years later, an alien who looks like a human has not aged a day since living on earth. He is now a handsome professor in Korea and has only one friend who knows he is an alien. He soon meets his next-door neighbor who is a struggling actress who he falls for. It also stars one of the highest-paid Korean female actresses of all time in Jun Ji-yeon.
This is an adaptation of a webcomic by the same name.
W: Two Worlds
The story is about an author of a very popular webtoon called W who goes missing. No one knows where he has gone. His daughter tries to find him from clues in his room. A bloody hand grabs her and the next thing she knows she is on the rooftop of a building next to a man with stab wounds. She then goes back to the real world with a new episode of W released showing what happened with her on the rooftop. This is when she realizes she was in the webtoon!
This is a story about a man named Joong Ho also known as Healer. Healer is the best night courier in town. He is very skilled at avoiding CCTV cameras and sneaking around buildings. Joong Ho is hired to steal and deliver items ordered by rich clients. He soon meets a woman that is connected to the death of his father.
This is a story about a man who becomes a reporter to expose the industry as being corrupt and a girl who has Pinocchio Syndrome. Pinocchio Syndrome makes it impossible for her to lie without having the hiccups. She is also a reporter and the two end up becoming friends and more.
The story is about a rich boy (CEO) that falls in love with a poor girl (Stunt woman). The CEO is very arrogant and lives the perfect life but has short term memory loss. The Stunt woman has no surviving family as both her parents have died. They meet accidentally and the CEO ends up falling for her. They later end up getting lost in a forest where they stumble upon a restaurant called Secret Garden where they end up drinking magical alcohol which makes them switch bodies.
If you like Black comedy-dramas you will like SKY Castle. It is about four wealthy families with strong educational backgrounds. The mothers are focused on getting their children into the top universities in South Korea. The ultimate goal is to get them into Seoul National University (The Harvard of Korea).
It’s Okay to Not be Okay
This is a story about a caregiver of a psychiatric hospital who does not want to pursue love. He has to take care of his older brother who has autism. There is also a famous fairy tale writer who has an antisocial personality disorder. They must accept their own past and help each other heal emotionally and mentally.
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Fantasy
Mr. Sunshine is about a slave during the Joseon dynasty who escapes to the United States in 1871. He becomes a U.S. marine officer and returns to Joseon for a mission. There he ends up falling in love with an aristocrat’s granddaughter. Their love is challenged due to their different classes and other characters interested in the granddaughter.
Hotel Del Luna
Those that are a fan of K-pop idol IU will love Hotel Del Luna. The story is about IU’s character who is the owner of Hotel Del Luna. It is a hotel for ghosts who have recently died. She has to run it for eternity due to her past sins during her warrior years. Her hotel manager is a human who runs the hotel with other ghosts. They all have to make sure their guests feel comfortable. The hotel manager wants to quit so IU needs to find another manager quickly. This is when she meets Goo Chan Sung who ends up joining the staff.
While You Were Sleeping
Those that like legal dramas will like While You Were Sleeping. It is a story about the lives of three characters. A restaurant worker, a rookie lawyer, and a police officer. The restaurant worker has been having strange dreams from a young age about future events. Soon she meets the lawyer and police offers and realizes that they all have similar dreams of future events. How are they connected? They must work together to find out the reason for their abilities.
Kill Me, Heal Me
This is a story about a rich businessman who suffers from multiple personality disorder after going through some traumatic events. He goes to a psychiatric resident and asks for her help in treating his mental illness. Think of the movie Split but less dark. Since he has a huge company to run, he needs to be careful to not let his secret come out. The personalities might get a bit distracting but there are plenty of funny moments (one of his personalities is a 17-year old female K-pop fanatic).
Genre: Romantic Comedy