Korean Drama Recommendations

This list is categorized sections of  Korean Drama recommendations. I will update as time goes on and I have something to add.   Not all are my favorite dramas, but have something to offer. There are duplicate entries: a show might be listed under multiple categories. My favorite shows have (f) beside it. See my Favorites Page for more on these (f) dramas. There are other drama’s that I’ve watched that are worth watching that did not make the lists-feel free to ask if you would like any feedback on drama you are researching.  This page will be updated over time to reflect new additions.

Top Recommended Dramas:

-Coffee Prince(f)

-Reply 1997(f)

-Reply 1994(f)

-Reply 1998(f)

-Flower Boy Ramyun Shop (f)

-Flower Boy Next Door(f)

-City Hunter(f)

-Let’s Eat(f)

-It’s Okay, That’s Love(f)

-Secret Garden

-Misaeng

-Age of Youth

For Newbies and Why:

  • Sungkyunkwan Scandal-An introduction to sageuk without it being too heavy on politics.
  • Coffee Prince (f)-Because you might as well have something good to ruin you for other dramas
  • Delightful Girl-see comments below in next category.
  • My Name is Kim Sam Soon (f)-Good introduction to many tropes and a relatable heroine.
  • Dream High-An introduction to the importance of the k pop connection.
  • Dream High 2-I actually like this one better but I’m in the minority. I think the music is better.
  • Let’s Eat (f) -Harmless charming fun and introduction to Korean Food.

 

Dramas that are considered “top” or “Gold Standard”  Korean Dramas:

Sandglass-Note-This is an older drama and I have not watched it but I include it on the list because of it’s reputation.

Baker King Kim Tak Gu-Note-I also have not watched this is a melodrama and because it is 30 episodes and I’ve never been able to commit.  One of the most watched dramas in South Korea.

My Name is Kim Sam Soon-This drama is a standard because the heroine is quite relateable, has agency, and it has many of the basic k drama tropes.

Coffee Prince-This drama is a standard because while it stays within the basic tropes, the quality of the drama, story and the acting is consistently good throughout.

Delightful Girl-The first Hong Sisters Drama, a fusion of Korean music, and a modern re-imagining of a Korean folktale.

Romantic:

  • Queen Inhyun’s Man
  • Secret Garden
  • Personal Taste (f)
  • Lie to Me
  • City Hall
  • A Witches Romance
  • You From Another Star
  • Healer
  • Descendants of the Sun(f)
  • Another Oh Hae Young-This is an extremely well done drama.

Full of Delightful Moments:

  • Sungkyunkwan Scandal-Great ensemble cast of the pretty, and fun interaction.
  • Secret Garden-It’s supernatural element is weird and not explained well.  It’s however a lot of fun and emotionally worthwhile also.  Hyun Bin-He’s just awesome.  He really shines.
  • Flower Boy Raymun Shop(f)-covered under favorites.
  • Full House 2-Note: Go into this knowing this is a PARODY on k dramas and k pop. The bad hair, the clothes, the odd performance sequences are intentional. It’s pretty hysterical.
  • My Girlfriend is a Gumiho-Shin Min ah.  and No Min Woo before he got skinny and weird(er).  That is all.
  • Rooftop Prince-This is uneven and too long but oh, you will love some of the characters.  This drama created FEELS, be prepared.
  • You’re Beautiful-A lot of fun scattered between head shaking moments,  go in knowing it is just silly, and fabulous. Do not watch it for the female lead.  She (the character not the actress) is ridiculous, omg, so bad, but the rest, so fun.
  • Best Love-This is a show full of inside jokes on the Korean entertainment industry. I find the male lead way over the top and a bit offputting but it does have a lot of fun and a certain amount of charm.
  • Reply 1997(f)
  • Reply 1994
  • Reply 1988
  • Good Doctor
  • Secret Garden
  • Modern Farmer-This drama crazy but it snuck in family diversity and inclusion under the crazy.
  • Hogu’s Love-This is an awesome drama and has something to say.
  • Sassy Go Go
  • Come Back Ahjussi
  • Beautiful Gong Shim
  • Let’s Fight Ghost-This is a drama that I have little complaint about.  I enjoyed it tremendously.

Visually Stunning:

  • Arang and the Magistrate
  • That Winter, the Wind Blows
  • Sungkyunkwan Scandal
  • Scarlet Heart Goryeo

Music Dramas:

  • Dream High
  • Dream High 2
  • Monstar
  • Shut Up Flower Boy Band
  • Trot Lovers
  • What’s Up

Crack:

  • City Hunter(f)
  • Boys Over Flowers(f)

Best Female Lead CHARACTERS:

  • Protect The Boss(f)-This is probably one of the best female leads out there. She’s just totally on point, goofy but strong, loyal, loving, caring, and she doesn’t back down from the mean girls.
  • Haeundae Lovers-This woman is just as awesome.
  • My Name is Kim Sam Soon (f)-This character is all of us in our worst and best moments.
  • Flower Boy Raymun Shop(f)-Eun Bi is going through sexual awakening at a pretty late age (mid 20’s), so that was pretty interesting. Another goofy character that is so much more. By biggest peeve is that she puts up with The Pillars’ wifey weirdo crap.
  • I Do I Do-This show was flawed and I absolutely could not stand the male lead actor, but oh, we all need to take a cue from Ji-ahn and be all we want to be on our own terms.
  • I Hear Your Voice-Hye-sung does something no other drama female lead has ever done.  She admits her feelings, no holds barred.  Add she’s self sufficient and capable, gasp.
  • Flower Boy Next Door(f)-Dok-mi has anxiety and ptsd.  She’s capable and self sufficient, and she learns to love herself and understand it’s okay to have issues.
  • Me Too Flower(f)-The lead female character is a cop with anger issues, a dysfunctional family, she’s grouchy, and she talks to her imaginary idol friend for comfort.  She rocks.
  • Can We Love? -Jung Wan.  This is a strong character.  She seems passive and tentative, but really she just weighs everything before acting.
  • Let’s Eat-Soo Kyung. She’s smart, grumpy, funny, and independent.
  • Good Doctor-Dr. Cha is smart, independent, competent, and a good person.  I think a quietly empowered character.
  • Healer–Chae Young-shin-Well, look at this, we have almost have a full blown alpha female character, relationship wise.
  • Hogu’s Love-Do Do-hee.  You go girl.

Best Male Lead CHARACTERS:

  • Queen Inhyun’s Man-If you don’t fall in love with this guy, you are dead. Smart is sexy.
  • Coffee Prince(f)- If you don’t fall in love with this guy, you are dead. Falling in love with the person, not who what or why, is sexy.
  • Scent of A Woman(f)-Gotta love a peekaboo shirt, loyalty, and the tango.
  • Faith-Great Big Choi Young, you break my heart. Faith is the word.
  • Flower Boy Raymun Shop (f) -He’s a total dick, that Cha Chi Soo, but so much damn fun to watch.
  • The Woman That Still Wants To Marry(f)-Forever in love with Min-jae.
  • I Hear Your Voice-Not sure there is any other character quite like Su-ha.
  • Can We Love?-Oh Kyung-soo, a really awesome modern guy with a big heart and a lot of snark.

If you can take a dose of melodrama:

  • Padam Padam(f)
  • Scent of a Woman(f)
  • Worlds Within(f)
  • 49 Days
  • Mask

Recommendations from other people that I haven’t watched just to throw some objectivity (maybe?) out there:

  • Return of Iljimae
  • Gakistal
  • Ojakgyo Brothers
  • King of Dramas- I finally watched this.  I found this drama highly over-hyped/rated by viewer comments on various blogs.  With All the what would Anthony do blog I expected the character to be smart.  He was kind of an idiot to me.  Mostly he just threw balls in the air and got friggin lucky.  Siwon’s turn as the self absorbed actor was totally hysterical however.
  • History of a Salary Man
  • Ten  and Ten 2 (Update:  Add this to your watch list, very good show)
  • Cruel City

Lots of Heart:

  • Faith
  • Stars Falling From the Sky
  • Last Scandal of My Life
  • 9 Ends 2 Outs
  • What Up Fox
  • I Hear Your Voice
  • Dal-ja”s Spring
  • Good Doctor
  • Misaeng
  • Hogu’s Love
  • Heart to Heart-if you hate it at first, stick with it out to the 5th episode and the drama gets it together,  it’s totally worth it.
  • Reply 1988

Important Dramas:  This list includes dramas where k drama tropes are subverted or broken, and/or the female lead is empowered.

Dal-ja’s Spring- It has something to say about the modern working woman trying to own her own life yet still fit into her cultures mores and family and societal expectations.

Coffee Prince-Love is about the person as much as the sex or gender.

Queen Inhyun’s Man-The female lead owns her sexuality.

I Hear Your Voice- It throws out some k drama tropes and “rules.”

I Do I Do-The lead female character owns her life.

The Good Doctor-Dr. Cha is a capable and respected doctor, is a good person, a good friend, lives on her own, and is second in command of a children’s unit, has authority, and has male subordinates.  The show is quite chaste,  she does not really own her sexuality, but the show does have several strong female characters, including a strong female child character.

It’s Okay That’s Love-People that are treated for psychological problems have lives too.

Hogu’s Love

Angry Mom

Healer-I have major issues with the drama but the female lead has agency-Young Shin love.

Age of Youth-Young college age women, and what’s on the surface is usually superficial.

My Dear Friends-This is a lovely drama about generations and aging.  It’s terrific.

Shows that have something just a little different in the mix:

  • Coffee Prince (f)
  • 9 Ends 2 Outs
  • Full House 2
  • Queen Inhyun’s Man
  • Reply 1997(f)
  • Reply 1994
  • What’s Up Fox
  • Padam Padam (f)
  • Worlds Within (f)
  • Personal Taste (f)
  • Me Too Flower (f)
  • Flower Boy Next Door (f)
  • Vampire Prosecutor
  • Birdy Buddy
  • I Hear Your Voice
  • Good Doctor
  • Mary Stayed Out All Night-this drama gets a bad rap.  I think it’s got something going on.  I like the slightly outside of the lines ending.
  • Shut Up Flower Boy Band-it’s more gritty than we normally see in k drama. But this is about all about male friendship.  The female lead is basically a plot device unfortunately.
  • Let’s Eat (f)-Foodies, with a side of murder mystery.  It’s awesome.
  • Nail Shop Paris-Weird, quirky, starts out looking a bit like a You’re Beautiful wanna be, but certainly gets wtf real quick.  I finally figured it out, the drama is a parody of fan fiction.  That made it go from wtf to dang that’s kind of awesome.  I wish the female character was more interesting with more agency rather than just kind of being a reactionary character.
  • -It’s Okay, That’s Love(f)
  • Modern Farmer-This drama snuck in blended and biracial and single parent and age gap families under the guise of a slapsticky drama. -High fives showmakers-
  • Grandpa Detectives
  • Angry Mom
  • Heart to Heart
  • Hogu’s Love
  • Cheese In The Trap=Despite the drama drama, the uneven 2nd half due to the drama drama,  and the god awful 2nd fem lead character and over the top treatment by the actress *which I also blame the director, this is a decent little show.

Other

  • Medical Top Team-The acting is solid but the medical stuff is horrible and no one seems to understand antisepsis.  But what it is, (if you don’t mind surgery scenes) is a drama you can watch and enjoy without sinking into who gets the girl. All the characters are likable enough, save for a dragon or two.
  • Master’s Sun-This was a popular drama.  I do not like the male lead but there are a lot of fun elements in the drama.
  • Can We Love-looks at three 39 year old women and the clash between culturally defined gender roles and living in 2013
  • Heirs-I hesitate to recommend this drama, because it really goes no where.  Watch it for the huge cast of awesome, the budget in making it was huge, and the COATS.  They has to have had thousands of coats just for this drama.  it has some interesting Native American mythology that they do absolutely nothing with in the end, it’s just dropped, and that was a shame. There is a major dreams and hopes theme as well as eyes as windows of the soul thing but it’s never given enough treatment.   There is a LOT of twinning in the lead males, watch what they wear.  Also the male leads are completely subverted.  Kim Tan is a second lead character in the lead role.  Young-do is a male lead character  in the second lead role.  The interesting underpinning of writing and such however do not make for a good drama.
  • Age of Feeling-Again, can’t recommend.  But Song Jae Rim as Mo Il Hwa was AWESOME.  I have never watched a show just for an actor, let alone one character.  Okay, so I did not do it for this one either.  I just watched Mo Il Hwa scenes lol.
  • High School King of Savvy-Seo In Guk is absolutely ALIVE in this drama.  Lee Soo Hyuk is smoking hot.  A charming little drama but the lead female takes some getting used to.
  • Grandpas Over Flowers Investigation Team-Fun little drama.  Just enjoy and go with it.
  • You’re All Surrounded-A solid drama, fairly consistent, and an enjoyable watch, but in a way, forgettable, which is said because it has some pretty disturbing stuff to wade through.
  • Kill Me Heal Me-Crazy Sexy Cool, and just so entertaining.
  • Doctor Stranger-The plot is terrible.  I mean  this drama did not get the nickname WTFDoc for nothing.  Lee Jong Suk as Hoon and Kang Sora as Quack are wonderful.  I can’t tell anyone to watch it, but if you fall in love with Lee Jong Suk in another drama, just watch it for him because Hoon is off the charts entertaining.
  • Marriage Not Dating-I do not know where to put this drama.  It’s very good.  It’s almost the perfect rom com blend with drama. It’s more modern singles life.  The problem is that many of the characters are just not likable and you just do not care about them.
  • My Love From Another Star-I do not know what to do with this drama either. It’s entertaining and is a really odd mix of fiercely modern woman and misogyny that made me cringe.  It’s also romantic and hysterically funny.
  • Descendants of the Sun-There is major wtf in the medical and military components of this drama but it really really resonates internationally on the world we live in today.  It also really does illustrate the hearts and minds of those men and women that serve our nations  in both the military and medical fields and do tough and often seemingly thankless jobs.
  • Lucky Romance-I hesitate to recommend because there is one moment in the end run that ruins the fem lead character for me forever.  That said up until that point I enjoyed the drama immensely.
  • I Remember You-In Guk and Bo Gum.  Love.
  • Bad Guys
  • Squad 38
  • Thumping Spike-It’s just a fun little drama
  • Splish Splash Love-Utterly charming.

Movies

Covertly Greatly
Going by the Book
Perfect Couple
Heavens Postman
The Man From Nowhere
Sunny

Psychometry

Taiwanese Dramas

Bromance
My Queen
Autumn’s Concerto
Mars
Meteor Garden
Office Girls
Down With Love
Devil Beside You

Aaron Yan Dramas because it’s friggin Aaron Yan.

Thai Lakorns-

Full House Thai-a Thai version of a Korean drama Full House which is a oft beloved classic but not by me.  Full House Thai, however, is absolutely charming. it pays homage to the original yet absolutely takes it to another level.  it however was too long and/or they just resolved too early, and the last 3-4 episodes were basically filler.

Cubic-This drama is terrible, it horrible.  It was screaming funny and it was not supposed to be.

 

Dramas that I really did not like:

Prosecutor Princess

My Princess

Avoid:

Dr. Jin

A drama that made me angry and a gadzillion other people think is awesome:  Masters Sun-it has some great elements (the ice cream scene is off the charts) and ton of layers, wow they do some interesting things with religion, but I really wanted to stab the male lead just to watch him bleed and I could not stand the kissing scenes.  These are adults, mature adults, let them friggin kiss. Ugh.

A drama where I do not know what to do with it because I have a like/hate relationship with it:  School 2013

And, finally, Do Not Say You Have Not Been Warned  That This Drama Will Make You Angry:

Big-this drama has some fabulous moments, but it just derails on the supernatural element, which would have been forgiven by many viewers if “they” did not completely blow it the ending.  I’m not saying do not watch it, because it has some fun, but be prepared.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kooriyuki
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 07:39:51

    I love your description for Big. It’s going to air on Singapore’s free-to-air TV! THE HORROR! And do add I Miss You to the same category as Big.
    That said, I’d like to recommend Miracle of Room 7, The Princess’ Man (if you like period dramas), Incarnation of Money (should you enjoy History of Salaryman), You Who Rolled in Unexpectedly.

    Reply

    • randomsoju
      Aug 19, 2013 @ 22:33:17

      Well that pretty much IS the majority reaction to Big. Retrospect, it had a lot of good to it and I think people could have forgiven how the supernatural element went off rail mid way and it was kind of weak or unresolved IF “they” had not totally copped out on the ending. I did not watch I Miss You despite my fascination with Yoochun’s collarbone and shoulders and my big like of Yoon Eun Hye. When I first heard about YEH starring with Yoochun and Yoo Seung-ho, I was like hello, those two noona killers are going to get schooled by YEH, ha! But when I saw the plot, I knew it was going to be a totally frigging dysfunctional cry fest melo, and then when YEH’s character was going to be nothing but a total victim and pawn, yeah, no.

      Thanks, for the recommendations. I will scope out MoR7, haven’t heard of that.
      As for the others, I think we are on way different drama vibes lol

      The Princess Man-Sageuk AND Park Shi Hoo = you’d have to pay me big bucks to watch it. Mostly because of Park Shi-hoo. I have never liked him, i just do not get his appeal and never will. It feels good to say that. It’s good being queen of my own blog.

      Incarnation of Money-The fat stuff pissed me off, even Jan di’s brother and Kang Ji-hwan couldn’t keep me watching.

      I tried History of a Salaryman, and made it through a couple of episodes…nothing…never went back to it.

      You Who Rolled In…58 episodes. Not happening.

      Thanks for the feedback and happy viewing!

      Reply

      • kooriyuki
        Aug 19, 2013 @ 23:16:05

        I fast forwarded 80% of IMY coz I couldn’t take the absurdity of the plot, yet I love Yoo Seung Ho too much.

        I agree with you, HoS and IoM are acquired taste. The quirkiness is not something everyone can accept.
        And I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t get the appeal of Park Shi Hoo! I didn’t watch TPM coz of him; I’m a sageuk fan and TPM was a great romeo and juliet story with lotsa political intrigue thrown in.
        MoR7 is a movie with lots of heart, though also lots of suspension of disbelief is required. I actually teared towards the end and I hardly cry while watching movies.

        Reply

  2. Trisha Ray (@TrishaRay94)
    Jun 28, 2015 @ 14:11:58

    I loathed Boys Over Flowers, and I seem to be the only one in the world who hates it. Master’s Sun got annoying too, even though premise was so interesting.
    On the flip side, I loved Doctor Stranger despite that annoying doctor-spy lady who ended up with Hoon at the end.
    Have you watched Empress Ki? I’m a bit of a sucker for Ha Ji Won.

    Reply

    • randomsoju
      Jul 07, 2015 @ 16:29:18

      I find it more that I’m the rare one that likes BOF. I didn’t love MS but it had some fun parts. I loved Hoon in DS and his interaction with Quack but the rest, well I just skipped through. No, EK had 3 strikes 1)Sageuk, 2)a Too Long, Didn’t Watch, it seemed to go on forever, and 3)I don’t love any of the main cast. I definitely think favorite, best, recommendable, and memorable dramas , and even characters, are very different categories and things to consider.

      Reply

    • Kaizer Atkinson
      Feb 06, 2016 @ 14:59:04

      And certainly you only see the negatives in people and life. Watch Kill Me Heal Me
      I doubt you’d be disappointed with that drama

      Reply

      • randomsoju
        Feb 06, 2016 @ 19:22:51

        I’ve only approved this post to address this situation as I’ve not had any commenter make an uncalled for comment to another commenter previously. There is absolutely no reason to make such a comment to Trisha Ray, or anyone on this comment thread. Trisha Ray is stating opinion of what drama she does and does not like. If you are addressing this comment to myself or anyone else on this comment thread, I still fail to find your comment “only sees negatives in people and life” as adding to the conversation, or in fact, having any merit or validity at all, being as your opinion is formed from a brief conversation on a k drama recommendations page. If your attempting to troll and start anything, don’t bother, I will not approve any further inflammatory comments. If you want to recommend Kill Me Heal Me, that’s great, please approach it in a more pleasant manner. If you are trolling blogs to start a conversation about Kill Me Heal Me, well, this isn’t my first rodeo, and this isn’t DB open thread where someone will jump on that and either start an avalanche squeefest OR argument.

        Reply

  3. amanahill
    Nov 08, 2015 @ 13:47:34

    I love you for this. I agree 100% with your summaries. Big was horrific and i love Gong Yoo. It was a beautiful movie but the script was awful.

    I agree with most of your faves and recommendations. However, can I recommend adding Pasta (with Lee Sun Kyun)? Or perhaps I want to hear your views on it. Seen it three times and I can now saw despite annoyances it is a favorite.

    Reply

  4. Aleira Hernandez
    Mar 18, 2016 @ 07:40:32

    School 2013 is one of the best

    Reply

  5. LoveAnimeTiger
    Sep 11, 2016 @ 16:41:29

    I haven’t watched that many kdramas as i am quite new to the korean….everything.. I did enjoy “Kill me, Heal me” it was so funny and i applaud the male lead actor on the job he did. “Oh my ghostess” was also hilarious and a drama i think everyone needs to watch. I didn’t finish “I miss you”, but i loved the beginning. I really enjoy watching the actress who played the young girl and i found the whole plot idea good. I just didn’t connect when they where grown up. I don’t know if it’s the actress who played the grown version of the girl or the character, but most of the time she just annoyed me to incredible proportions and i gave up. Shining inheritance was good, the girl looking for her brother pulled my heartstrings so tight i cried with her every time.
    I also have started watching this drama from Taiwan called “Price of wolf”, and let me just tell you; the male lead is the fu*king most adorable character i have ever witnessed in ANY show!! I’m generally not a squealing kind of person, but everything he does is cute (a grown man!) and i can’t handle it<3!! And this show is the reason i'm commenting here now.
    I was wondering if you knew of any other good shows where the character is looking for their family(or something similar)? I am guilty of loving the whole amnesia cliche, the mystery of not knowing who you are and/or being separated from your family is something i really like watching. Which is probably why "Who are you school 2015" is one of my favorites. (Also the same actress as "I miss you")
    Sorry if my comment was a mess but my point: If you know of any dramas where they're looking for their family or where amnesia is a big drive in the story i'd really appreciate if you would recommend them 🙂 ~thanks ❤

    Reply

  6. randomsoju
    Sep 18, 2016 @ 18:39:49

    Thanks for commenting! Try Haeundae Lovers for an amnesia plot. Possibly Golden Rainbow for long lost family. Chasing long lost family and amnesia plots fall in the realm of dailies, makjang, or at least a high melo, and I don’t generally watch those types of korean tv, sorry.

    Reply

  7. soniassees
    Nov 21, 2016 @ 01:13:07

    I watched Cruel City/Heartless City. I thought it was very different from the usual drama even though the writing was a little problematic in parts. It reminded me more of US crime/cop shows than a typical Korean drama. If you get a chance to watch it I’d love to hear your thoughts on it 🙂

    Reply

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