Header image courtesy of Netflix
Originally published by Grace Chong. Last updated by Kelly Eng.
We all need a little Netflix time to ourselves, no matter the occasion. Maybe it’s the pandemic and 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, with the list split between K-dramas that are running now, pandemic favourites, and a few throwback shows that we love re-visiting.
These are shows that either recently finished their run or are currently in the middle of their season. If you burn through these quick, be sure to check out some of the other shows, like Run On and A Love So Beautiful.
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!
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.
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.
Nothing has intrigued the artistic mind more than the feelings of love and what ensues after, and Netflix takes you on an in-depth dive into the relationships of three couples in Lovestruck in the City. A sharp departure from the scripted and idealistic views of romance that Korean dramas are traditionally known for, this unusual mockumentary follows 20- to 30-year-olds as they navigate love and life in the city.
Released in 2020, the first season was a hit. With so many shows highlighting friendships in high school and university students, Hospital Playlist puts the spotlight on the dynamics of friends in the working world.
A story of five medical school best friends, now all under the roof of Yulje Medical Centre, Hospital Playlist showcases the best and worst of adulthood: secret romances, career changes, finances, family, and medical scares, but all with the warm reassurance that having friends along make the journey easier. Now that the second season is out, don’t hesitate to pick up this gem again!
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.
Park Jae-eon is like the pleasant smell of caramel popcorn when you pass by a cinema, or the buttery aroma that lingers outside an aesthetic bakery that immediately draws you in. In other words, he holds an alluring yet charming presence and naturally catches people’s attention without even trying. However, he finds no meaning in dating and only enjoys the flings and flirts—until he meets Yoo Na-bi.
Like the soft snowflake flurrying through the quiet night, or the dandelion swaying near a crystal clear creek, Yoo Na-bi is subtle and delicate. She no longer believes in fate after her previous relationship. Yet, despite knowing Park Jae-eon’s character, she fails to keep her distance from him. The magical but mysterious pull between Park Jae-eon and Yoo Na-bi would leave you pondering what’s next after each episode.
2020 may have kept us all at home, but Netflix had us covered by rolling out an amazing selection of Korean dramas and shows. From cult-favourites like Crash Landing on You to scarily relevant shows like Kingdom, there’s no doubt that these dramas have made social distancing a lot more bearable. Aside from the obvious, here are some of our favourites.
All is fair in love and war, especially if you’re the king. Acting as the stage for Lee Min-ho’s return to the screen after serving his mandatory military service, King: The Eternal Monarch intertwines elements of time travel and the multi-verse with a story of love, murder, and political turmoil across the parallel universes of Korea and Corea.
Lee Gon traverses the border between his kingdom of Corea and modern-day Korea, seeking to unravel the mystery of his father’s murder and protect both universes. With the perfect mixture of action-packed fight scenes, a twist on the “evil twin” theory, and swoon-worthy moments, you’ll be left at the edge of your seat till the end.
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.
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, hi 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 class divide that makes up a reality for most high schoolers.
There’s comfort to be found in re-discovering old favourite shows or watching re-runs of shows we grew up with. Here are a few throwback suggestions for the new and old K-drama fan alike! You might even catch a glimpse of actors and actresses who are huge now, but just starting out when these Korean dramas were filmed.
Come one, come all for a dose of all of your classic K-drama ingredients: a wealthy male lead with a hard exterior but a soft, vulnerable side; a poor but hard-working girl who is thrown into the world of the wealthy; a jealous second male lead who falls in love with the girl; and, of course, all set in the battlefield of high school. With a star-studded cast including Lee Min-ho and Park Shin-hye, this is an oldie but goldie for the well-seasoned fan.
Kim Shin, a former military general, is cursed by the Almighty to atone for his sins of killing on the battlefield, becoming an immortal goblin and forced to outlive his loved ones throughout the years. The curse can only end with the appearance of the goblin’s bride, the one who can pull out the sword to spell the end of his life.
Ji Eun-tak, a high school student whose bubbliness and charm directly contradicts her terrible home life, crosses paths with Kim Shin, and thus, seals their fate together as the goblin and his bride. A mix of light-hearted humour and utter heartbreak, it’s no wonder this show has garnered a cult following in Korea, ranking as the fifth-highest-rated Korean drama in 2020, nearly four years after its initial run.
If you’re looking for a light-hearted show with more laughter than tears, look no further than Weightlifting Fairy. Kim Bok-joo is a college student pursuing her dream of becoming a professional weightlifter. Her life becomes complicated with the introduction of romances, insecurities, and financial and medical issues. This Korean show is a heartwarming coming-of-age story that does not just focus on young romance, but also highlights the beauty and innocence of friendships and that unwavering and driven pursuit of dreams that we’ve all felt as children.
Fans of South Korean-Chinese boy band Exo are in for a treat with this one, as main vocalist D.O. takes on the role of an amnesiac prince. After a political coup thrusts a young and emotionally scarred Lee Yul into the royal family, the world sees him grow up to be an idealistic but cold, aloof, and blunt crown prince.
After an attempted assassination, he is left with memory loss and accidentally crosses paths with a childhood friend, Hong-shim. Due to a decree given when he was still prince but now has no memory of, he is given the new name of Won-deuk, and is forced to marry Hong-shim and take on the life of a peasant. But don’t let the menial life of fishing and chopping wood distract you from the political turmoil that awaits Won-deuk in the capital.