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17 best Korean dramas to watch on Netflix Hong Kong right now

By Localiiz 10 February 2021 | Last Updated 9 September 2022

Header image courtesy of Netflix

Originally published by Grace Chong. Last updated by Kelly Eng and Jianne Soriano.

We all need a little Netflix time to ourselves, no matter the occasion. Maybe you’re social distancing. Maybe it’s too hot outside and you want to stay in. Maybe you’re hiding in the spare room from all the aunties and uncles, looking to ask you why you’re still single. We’ve all been there and have you covered with over a dozen Korean drama suggestions!

The Uncanny Counter

If you combined the Scooby-Doo gang with Ghostbusters and threw in a bit of “evil spirits from the afterlife” and “possessing humans for immortality,” you would arrive at The Uncanny Counter, which follows the story of four demon hunters tasked with the job of tracking and hunting down evil spirits whilst keeping up the guise of running a noodle shop. If you end up falling in love with the show, no worries—it’s been picked up for a second season!

Navillera

Wholly unlike any other taboo romance webtoon adaptation, Navillera portrays the high aspirations of seventy-year-old Shim Deok-chul, who fights against all odds to become a ballerina. During the journey, he meets Lee Chae-rok, a talented 23-year-old struggling to pursue his passion after his mother’s death. 

Lifting each other out of grating realities, they go through a journey of family love, friendship, despair, hope, and more. No character in this heartfelt drama is black or white, and while there are no climactic battles or fervent romances to speak of, be sure to have a tissue box ready by your side if you decide to hop into this drama.

Vincenzo

Whether you like Korean dramas or not, you have probably heard of Vincenzo Cassano if you frequent Netflix on the regular. Partnering up with a group of quirky tenants and attorney Hong Cha-young, the Italian mafia consigliere Vincenzo Cassano battles against a corrupt real estate company.

Full of plot twists, comedic dialogues, and thrilling action, this series fast became one of the highest-rated dramas in Korean cable television history—not to mention the superb acting skill of the cast. One of the best parts about Vincenzo is not only the creative and gripping story it tells, but also the character growth of each member during the 20-episode journey. While the first few episodes are slower-paced, don’t let that discourage you—before you know it, you will already be immersed in the chaotic, anti-hero vibes of this top-notch production.

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Sweet Home

Cha Hyun-soo is a high school student who moves into a new flat after his family dies in a car accident. Shortly after, the outside world breaks down into apocalyptic horror, leaving the residents of his condo building to fend for themselves. As people in the outside world become monsters by succumbing to their strongest desires, Cha Hyun-soo and his fellow residents slowly come to realise that they are living in—and must survive—hell on earth.

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

In a country where mental health issues are still difficult to discuss, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay is a big step forward in starting the conversation on topics like PTSD, autism, intergenerational trauma, and depression. 

In the chaotic clash between soft-spoken but well-guarded Moon Gang-tae, a caretaker of a psychiatric ward, and Ko Moon-young, a beautiful and popular children’s book author with a rumoured anti-social personality disorder, comes a story of emotional healing and vulnerability that helps viewers find the language to vocalise their own internal troubles and hear the words not often said in this competitive and harsh world: It’s okay to not be okay.

Extracurricular

Well, the easiest way to describe this Korean drama is to jump straight in: High school student Oh Ji-soo runs an illegal protection service for prostitutes in order to save up for his university tuition. When Bae Gyu-ri, his classmate and the daughter of a wealthy media company, discovers his “side job,” she threatens to reveal his work unless he promises to make her a business partner. Extracurricular makes no attempt to paint a rosy-coloured picture of high school, revealing the gross underbelly of bullying, sex scandals, toxic relationships, and the class divide that makes up a reality for most high schoolers.

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Squid Game

Are you really up to speed with Korean dramas if you haven’t seen Squid Game? The survival television series premiered to critical acclaim, garnering international attention and becoming a global phenomenon. It’s Netflix’s most-watched series and made history in overseas award shows as the first Korean series to receive Emmy Award nominations. 

The series follows 465 players who are all struggling financially and compete in a deadly survival game for the chance to win ₩45.6 billion. Get ready for a lot of twists, turns, betrayals, blood, and gore and find out yourself why Squid Game became such a huge hit!

Extraordinary Attorney Woo

While webtoon-to-series adaptations are all the rage right now, Extraordinary Attorney Woo turned the tables around. Thanks to its popularity and rare portrayal of autism in Korean television, the series is set to be adapted into a webtoon, as well as a US and musical remake. Plus, a second season is also currently in the works. 

The story revolves around Woo Young-woo (wonderfully played by actress Park Eun-bin), a trainee lawyer who has autism spectrum disorder. While working at a law firm, she faces prejudice and discrimination but is determined to solve cases and grow as a lawyer, and also make friends and unexpectedly find love.

My Name

Who doesn’t love to see a femme fatale beating out her male rivals in a male-dominated world? Follow the story of Yoon Ji-woo as she seeks to avenge her father’s murder by joining a gang and eventually becoming a mole inside the police force. 

This neo-noir drama sees the transformation of actress Han So-hee from a darling leading lady to an action star—a role which saw her training for three months to do the action scenes without a stunt double. If you’re a fan of South Korea’s numerous action movies, this one is a refreshing watch because we see a woman making it through a dog-eat-dog world. Expect a lot of action but hold your breath for the stunning visuals as well.

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Hellbound

If the director of the acclaimed South Korean movie Train to Busan is helming a series, you know it’s in good hands. Yeon Sang-ho sits on the director’s chair for Hellbound, a dark fantasy series based on his webtoon of the same name. 

The six-episode drama tells the story of otherworldly figures that appear on earth to incinerate a condemned individual to hell who received decrees. Because of this mysterious phenomenon, a cult called New Truth Society starts to gain influence. But producer Bae Young-jae, lawyer Min Hey-jin, and detective Jin Kyung-hoon are all determined to dig out the truth behind the group’s connection with the individuals bound to hell.

Business Proposal

Romance reigns supreme when it comes to Korean dramas and sometimes, they can be cliche especially if you’ve seen a lot of them. But what Business Proposal does is use those cliches and romance tropes to their advantage in a fun and comical way. 

In yet another Cinderella story of sorts, Shin Ha-ri helps out her friend in exchange for money, to take her place on a blind date. Her date turns out to be her boss Kang Tae-moo, who’s forced by his grandfather to get married as soon as possible. Ha-ri is now in a pinch: she has to keep her identity a secret to keep her job but at the same time, Tae-moo gives her an offer she can’t resist.

Kingdom

Before the success story of Squid Game and subsequent Korean dramas that came after, there was Kingdom, Netflix’s first original Korean series. This political period horror series set the standard and paved the way. What sets Kingdom apart from other works that featured zombies is placing its zombie storyline in the past and sprinkling in some exciting political drama. The epidemic serves as a metaphor for the hunger for power and status. 

Taking place in the 16th century, Crown Prince Lee Chang is looking to investigate an illness that not only affected the King but is plaguing the people of Joseon. At the same time, his political opponents are attempting to stop him from seizing the throne.

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Crash Landing On You

For many, Crash Landing On You introduced them to the world of Korean dramas or restored their love for it. The romantic comedy-drama sees the reunion of stars Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin who previously played enemies in the movie, The Investigation. Their intense chemistry propelled the drama’s popularity further, ending in a reel-to-real romance. Despite being a fictional story, the drama served as an insight into North Korea, particularly the everyday lives of its citizens.

A polar opposite of sorts, successful businesswoman and heiress Yoon Se-ri quite literally crash lands on the North Korean side of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) while paragliding. There, she meets army captain Ri Jeong-hyeok, who helps her hide. And of course, the two fall in love despite complicated issues involving their respective countries. It’s really a bit of “me and you against the world” kind of love story.

Twenty-Five Twenty-One

Korean dramas really have it all: romance, action, drama, horror, thriller, and sports! One of the recent sports dramas to take the world by storm is Twenty-Five Twenty-One. This coming-of-age story is about fencer Na Hee-do and reporter Back Yi-jin as they encounter pain and love while following their dreams.

Hee-do is considered a fencing prodigy but has been in a bit of a slump since losing her father. Making things worse, the IMF crisis forced her school’s fencing team to disband. Determined to continue pursuing her passion, she transfers to the school that her idol, fencing gold medalist Ko Yu-rim, attends and joins the fencing team but starts from the bottom. Making her way up, Hee-do meets Baek Yi-jin, who goes from riches to rags due to the financial crisis.

The drama caused increased interest in fencing not only in South Korea but also overseas. Notably, actress Kim Tae-ri, who played Nee-do, received acclaim for her performance as a high schooler despite being in her thirties.

Alchemy of Souls

A lot of Korean dramas are one-off series despite their popularity. But you know that demand from viewers is high when the rare chance of getting a second season happens. Alchemy of Souls is one of those. This series is written by screenwriters Hong Jung-eun and Hong Mi-ran, collectively known as the Hong sisters who are well-loved for their fantasy romantic comedies. 

Alchemy of Souls is set in Daeho and follows a group of young mages who have to overcome their fates, bound by a forbidden magic spell known as the “alchemy of souls” that allow souls to switch bodies. The soul of Nak-su, an elite warrior, becomes trapped inside the weak body of Mu-deok. In order to restore her back to her original body, she becomes involved with Jang Uk, who comes from a noble family and harbours a secret of his own.

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Our Beloved Summer

Our Beloved Summer sees the reunion of actress Kim Da-mi and actor Choi Woo-shik, now starring in a romance story after playing enemies in The Witch Part 1: The Subversion. It also marks Choi’s return to the small screen after Parasite, the first South Korean movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars. 

This drama is about high school lovers Choi Ung and Kook Yeon-su. After a bad break-up, the two never meet or talk again. But fate has other plans: A documentary that they filmed during their high school days, which led to their romance, becomes popular thanks to the internet. Now, they’ve been asked to stand in front of the camera again to create a sequel showing where they are today. Will they give themselves a second chance at love?

My Liberation Notes

Korean dramas aren’t just feel-good watches. Once in a while, you have hidden gems like My Liberation Notes, which reflect the everyday reality despite how grim it may be. This under-the-radar series depicts the lives of three siblings who want to be liberated from their dead-end lives. The middle child, Yeom Chang-hee, wants to escape his family’s home because he’s often looked down upon for having no dream; the youngest child, Yeom Mi-jeong, feels lonely and unfilled; and the oldest, Yeom Gi-jeong, has a lot of complaints in life. Their lives are shaken up by the appearance of an alluring stranger Mr Gu.

The series examined the challenges and social pressure many South Korean young adults face. It also highlights their frustrations through dialogue and monologues. There are little intimate moments that many of us can definitely relate to.

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