- 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
- 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 of all time are now gaining popularity worldwide. Streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu have some of the best Korean dramas. These Korean dramas are vital in shaping the Hally (Korean wave) trend in fashion, culture, and travel destinations. Korean culture has spread 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 lovely cast. While I have seen a wide range of K-dramas, I also 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. 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 my top 20 favorite Korean dramas below. Please let me know if you have any recommendations, and I will watch them. If it doesn’t hook me in within the first three 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. The story follows the life of Goblin, or Kim Shin, a nine-hundred-year-old goblin who is cursed to live forever. He meets Ji Eun Tak, a high school student who has the ability to see ghosts, and the two of them form an unlikely bond. 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 meets 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. The drama is touching and humorous, with plenty of fantasy elements thrown in for good measure. It also has the best Korean drama soundtrack of all time.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Strong Woman Bong Soon – Best Korean Dramas – Romantic Comedy
Starring Park Bo Young as the title character, Bong Soon is a woman with superhuman strength inherited from her mother. When Ahn Min Hyuk (played by Park Hyung Sik), the CEO of a gaming company, witnesses Bong Soon’s strength, he immediately hires her as his bodyguard. He even offers her an opportunity to work with the gaming department at his company. Of course, hijinks ensue as the two slowly fall in love.
What I enjoyed about this drama was the sweet and light-hearted romance between Bong Soon and Min Hyuk. It was refreshing to see a romance where the man wasn’t constantly trying to control or possess the woman, and I loved watching their relationship blossom. The comedy was also on point.
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. It’s a really sweet and romantic story, but it also has its fair share of action and suspense. The acting is great, and the chemistry between the two main characters is really believable. 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 a Korean drama that aired in 2016. The drama tells the story of a special forces captain named Shi-Jin and a doctor named Mo-Yeon. The two meet when Mo-Yeon is working in Uruk, and they immediately fall in love. However, their relationship is tested when Shi-Jin is deployed to Afghanistan. Despite the distance, the two continue to support and care for each other through letters and phone calls. Descendants of the Sun is a heartwarming story of love and sacrifice, and it’s clear why it became such a huge hit both in Korea and internationally.
The chemistry between the two leads is undeniable, and the beautiful cinematography makes it easy to get lost in the drama. If you’re looking for a romance that will make you laugh, cry, and everything in between. Without discussing Descendants of the Sun, you can’t discuss the best Korean dramas of all time.
Boys Over Flowers
Boys Over Flowers is a Korean school drama about a young girl named Jan Di who attends an elite high school. The school is ruled by wealthy and powerful students known as the F4. When Jan Di stands up to the F4’s bullying, she finds herself at the center of their attention. As the two groups clash, they learn more about each other and discover that they have more in common than they thought.
Boys Over Flowers is a heartwarming story of friendship, love, and self-discovery. The characters are well-developed, and the plot is engaging. The drama is also visually stunning, with beautiful cinematography and costumes. Overall, Boys Over Flowers is an enjoyable and entertaining drama worth watching.
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Itaewon Class is a 2020 South Korean television series based on the webtoon of the same name by writer Jang Geun-taek. The drama tells the story of Park Sae-ro-yi, a rebel student who opens a restaurant in Itaewon, Seoul, in order to take revenge on the people who have wronged him. The series was a huge hit when it aired in Korea and quickly became one of the most popular shows on Netflix.
The storyline is gripping, and the characters are incredibly well-developed. I also loved the setting of Itaewon – it’s such a unique and vibrant place, and the show does an excellent job of capturing its energy.
Itaewon Class provided that great Korean dramas can be adapted from a Korean webtoon.
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 realize they have feelings for each other. Later, the son returns 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.
The Heirs is a heart-wrenching drama that explores the themes of love, family, and betrayal. The cast includes some of Korea’s top actors and actresses, and the production values are top-notch.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim is a Korean drama aired on tvN from June to August 2018. The drama is based on the popular webtoon of the same name and tells the story of a narcissistic boss who falls in love with his humble secretary. What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim was a huge success, and fans have been clamoring for a second season.
The drama did a great job translating the webtoon’s story and characters to the screen. The acting was top-notch, and the chemistry between the two leads was undeniable. If you’re looking for a light-hearted rom-com with plenty of laughs and some steamy scenes.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
My Love from Another Star
My Love from Another Star is a Korean drama that aired in 2014. The story centers on an alien named Kim Chaek who crash-lands on Earth in the Joseon era. 400 years later, he meets a girl named Cheon Song Yi, who resembles his long-lost love. The two develop a special bond, but as their relationship deepens, they begin to realize that they come from different worlds.
My Love from Another Star is a fun and light-hearted drama that’s perfect for fans of romantic comedies. The chemistry between the two leads is undeniable, and the story is sweet and heartwarming. It also stars one of the highest-paid Korean female actresses of all time Jun Ji-yeon.
Vincenzo is a Korean drama about a Korean-Italian mafia lawyer who tries to take down a powerful corporation. The main character is named Vincenzo, a consigliere for the Italian mafia, which means he will be involved in many hand-to-hand and even gun combat. However, his true skill is his mind and wit, which will come in handy when dealing with some high-net-worth individuals.
The drama is full of twists and turns, and the characters are all incredibly well-developed. The acting is excellent, and the story is very engaging. I also loved the setting of the drama in Korea and Italy. Those that like Korean gangster storylines with a hint of comedy will love Vincenzo.
Genre: Dark Comedy
W: Two Worlds
The story is about a girl named Oh Yeon Joo, a doctor who gets transported into a webtoon (online cartoon) that her father created. In the webtoon, she meets the story’s hero, Kang Cheol, and they set off on an adventure together to try to find a way back to the real world.
A bloody hand grabs her, and the next thing she knows, she is on the building rooftop next to a man with stab wounds. She then returns 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!
The Korean drama Healer was one of the most popular televised dramas of 2014. The story follows the life of a young man named Seo Jung-hoo, who works as a “night messenger” or illegal courier. Despite the dangers of his job, he can deliver sensitive material while evading the police. When he is hired to deliver a package to a famous journalist, he becomes caught up in a web of conspiracy and intrigue.
The Healer is a thrilling drama that kept viewers on the edge of their seats week after week. With its fast-paced plot and engaging characters, it’s no wonder that the show was such a hit.
Pinocchio is a story about a man who becomes a reporter to expose the industry as corrupt and a girl with Pinocchio Syndrome. Her Pinocchio Syndrome condition 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 engaging, and the characters are likable. I also love the setting – it’s so different from anything else I’ve seen on TV. Overall,
Secret Garden is about a spoiled rich girl, Gil Ra Im (played by Ha Ji Won), who is mistaken for a famous stuntwoman. To add to the confusion, she meets an arrogant CEO, Kim Joo Won (played by Hyun Bin), who is determined to win her heart.
The CEO is 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 get lost in a forest where they stumble upon a restaurant called Secret Garden, where they end up drinking magical alcohol, making 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 with an antisocial personality disorder. They must accept their past and help each other heal emotionally and mentally.
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Fantasy
Mr. Sunshine is about a slave during the Joseon dynasty who escaped 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 fans 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 joins 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 had strange dreams about future events from a young age. Soon she meets the lawyer and police offers and realizes 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
One of the best Korean dramas of all time that not many people know about is Kill Me, Heal Me. This is a story about a rich businessman who suffers from multiple personality disorders after going through some traumatic events. He goes to a psychiatric resident and asks for her help 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 not to let his secret come out. The personality 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