I am a k-drama fan. Don’t know what that is? Wikipedia says, “Korean drama (Hangul: 한국드라마), k-drama for short, refers to televised dramas, in a miniseries format, produced in South Korea. Many of these dramas have become popular throughout Asia, with growing interest in other parts of the world. K-dramas have contributed to the general phenomenon of the Korean wave, known as Hallyu (Hangul: 한류), and also “DramaFever” in some countries.” And Wikipedia could not be more right. I and many others that I know have been swept away by Hallyu.
It all began when we had a satellite installed in our backyard so we could watch Bangladeshi and Indian channels. Among them was a channel called Arirang. Wiki says, “Arirang TV is an international, English-language network based in Seoul operated by the Korea International Broadcasting Foundation. The channel presents a diverse lineup of programs ranging from cultural features, documentaries, language programs and dramas.” Fun fact: The network’s name, “Arirang”, is derived from the traditional Korean folk song of the same name.
Anyway, during the copious hours of procrastination and free time afforded to an Arts student, I watched this channel alot. The dramas shown on Arirang TV were funny, relatable, touching and what endeared me to them the most was they were shortlived. The maximum number of episodes is about 25. Compare this to some of the decade long crap Indian and American channels sprout and I was hooked. Unfortunately the very first few dramas I ever watched – I do not remember the names of. But the humour, the empathy and the enlightenment they afforded me, I will never forget. I used to watch one about a family of students that lived together and it was as funny as saved by the bell but with a different more Asian centric humour that I could identify with. Another one was about the lives of two sisters, one famous and pretty and the other a country girl. My own sister and I used to watch this show and we both cried on the last episode. It was beautiful. This was my first experience of Korean dramas. Soon enough though, life overtook my free time and Arirang no longer aired dramas with English subtitles at times convenient for me. So I stopped watching them.
Fast forward several years and a random conversation with a friend of mine brings up Korean dramas and she tells me I HAVE to watch a drama called ‘Boys over Flowers’ and gives me the DVD. That was my point of no return. Since then I have watched countless Korean dramas and loved every one of them. I have since ‘converted’ my best friend who now voraciously watches them. They are funny, sentimental, so very very romantic and teach me so much about life and living it. So for all of you interested in watching Korean dramas and especially you – my friend S who has just begun, here is the list of dramas I have watched so far in order of preference.
Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that this list is a list of absolutely soppy romantic chick flick type dramas. Don’t use it to judge the breadth of k-drama which ranges from fantasy to horror to action and romance. I watch k-drama purely for the romance and it is reflected in this list. Don’t judge me.
1. Boys over Flowers
Aired in 2009. 25 episodes. Genre: Romance, Comedy
Koo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di
Lee Min Ho as Gu Jun Pyo
Kim Hyun Joong as Yoon Ji Hoo
Kim Bum as So Yi Jeong
Kim Joon as Song Woo Bin
Kim So Eun as Chu Ga Eul (Jan Di’s best friend)
Geum Jan Di is an ordinary girl whose family owns a dry cleaning store and a fateful turn of events grants her a full swimming scholarship to the prestigious Shin Hwa High where she is terrorised by the leader of F4 (the four richest and most popular boys at the school) Gu Jun Pyo. Although Jun Pyo persists on bullying her, he begins to find himself attracted to Jan Di. However, Jan Di has a crush on Yoon Ji Hoo, Jun Pyo’s best friend. When she realises that Ji Hoo is merely a close friend and that she really loves Jun Pyo the couple are thrown into a dilemma as Jun Pyo’s mother sets out to break them up and find a more suitable match for her son.
The plot is simple turned crazy. The events are out of this world unbelievable and unrealistic and the chemistry between the main leads (in hindsight) is not so great. Having said that, this is my favourite k-drama of all time purely because of its romance and its fun. The characters are great, well rounded and relatable, the sets are amazing and the drama itself teaches a lot about life and social class and conformity without being a boring commentary. This is also the drama that introduced me to Lee Min Ho and made me fall so insupportably in love with one of Korea’s newest and hottest talents. Needless to say – all his other dramas (4 in all) feature in this list. You will not regret it.
2. You’re Beautiful
Aired in 2009. 16 episodes. Genre: Romance,Comedy
Jang Geun Suk as Hwang Tae Kyung
Kang Soo Han as Young Tae Kyung
Park Shin Hye as Go Mi Nam (Male) / Go Mi Nyu (Female)
Lee Hong Ki (Ft.Island) as Kang On Yu / Jeremy
Jung Yong Hwa (Cn.Blue) as Kang Shin Woo
With smattering reminiscent of ‘She’s the man’ this is about a girl who pretends to be her twin brother so he doesn’t lose his gig as a singer in a famous pop group. But it’s not so easy pretending to be your brother when you start to develop feelings for the lead singer of the band… and what happens when her secret is out? Will he love her despite her lies? If you don’t believe in the power of love then this drama will make you believe and if you do … well then this drama will make you cry. There are so many beautiful romantic moments, so many cute scenes and so many cliffhangers that this drama truly is one of the best I have ever watched. It is also the only drama where I loved the songs so much that I downloaded the OST. The cute guys don’t hurt this drama’s ratings either. They, like the men from BOF are very easy on the eye!
3. Personal Preference
Jeon Jin Ho is a straight guy who pretends to be gay in order to become Park Kae In’s roommate. His hobbies include organization and ironing, and he’s known for his stoic poker face. He’s a stickler for cleanliness, but he also has a talent for figuring out a women’s feelings. Kae In is very trusting even though she has a habit of being betrayed. However that doesn’t stop her from giving people the benefit of doubt and Jin Ho is no different. How will Kae In react when she finds out that her gay roommate is not actually gay at all and that he has fallen for her?
Another Lee Min Ho drama, this one is outstanding in his performance and his character development. His chemistry with his co-star is a bit better only because of the awkwardness and funny moments. I loved this drama for its everyday moments and for the absolute devotion it shows to family, friends and to one’s soulmate. And yes. This one also made me cry.
4. Secret Garden
Aired in 2010. 20 episodes. Genre: Romance,Comedy,Fantasy,Melodrama
Hyun Bin as Kim Joo Won
Ha Ji Won as Gil Ra Im
Yoon Sang Hyun as Choi Woo Young / Oska (Joo Won’s cousin)
Kim Sa Rang as Yoon Seul
The drama tells the story of Kim Joo Won, an arrogant and eccentric CEO who maintains the image of seeming perfection, and Gil Ra Im, a struggling stuntwoman. Their accidental meeting, when Joo Won mistakes Ra Im for actress Park Chae Rin, marks the beginning of a tense, bickering relationship, through which Joo Won tries to hide a growing attraction to Ra Im that both confuses and disturbs him. To complicate matters further, a strange sequence of events results in them swapping bodies.
There is nothing to hate and absolutely everything to love in this drama, from the awesome cast, to the crazy chemistry and the great humour and plot – this drama is a win win win. I did feel it dragged on a bit in some places but it was necessary for the plot. A great watch.
Yoo Eun Soo is a 33-year old plastic surgeon in the year 2012 and her dream is to someday open her own practice. But one day, Choi Young kidnaps her and takes her back to the Goryeo era because needing her medical skills. Their love story spans centuries but also warring beliefs. He gave up on love to be an unflinching warrior. This drama shows the romance between a warrior from the ancient times and a female doctor from the modern times, their love transcending time and space. It will also tell the story about the process of making a true king.
I loved this drama, not only because it has Lee Min Ho in it (although that is reason enough), but also because for the first time I watched a k-drama that taught me so much about Korean history. I love how this drama interweaves the romantic, historical and fantastical elements of the plot seamless to give a great cast some meaty lines and scenes to deliver. This drama was amazing. From the dialogues, to the sword fights. From the costumes to the chemistry. Absolutely loved it! Watch it especially for Lee Min Ho’s sword wielding and fighting skills!
6. City Hunter
The story takes place in Seoul, 2011. Lee Yoon Sung is a talented MIT-graduate who works on the international communications team in the Blue House. He plans revenge on five politicians who caused his father’s death with his surrogate father Lee Jin Pyo and eventually becomes a “City Hunter.” A weird mix of arrow and dark angel, this drama has Lee Min Ho playing a renegade which opens up his action figure side. Lots of quick action scenes, lots of drama and intrigue and most of all, FINALLY a co-star with whom he has palpable chemistry. 20 episodes fly by!
7. Rooftop prince
Aired in 2012. 20 episodes. Genre:Fantasy, Comedy, Romance
Micky Yoochun as Lee Gak / Yong Tae Yong
Choi Won Hong as young Lee Gak
Han Ji Min as Park Ha / Bu Yong
Jun Min Seo as young Park Ha / young Bu Yong
Lee Tae Sung as Yong Tae Moo
Jung Yoo Mi as Hong Se Na / Hwa Yong
Kim So Hyun as young Se Na / Young Hwa Yong
When Crown Prince Lee Gak is transported 300 years into the future to present day Seoul along with his three retainers, they believe that it is their duty to solve the murder case of the Crown Princess in order to return to Joseon. They land in the rooftop apartment of Park Ha, a cheerful woman in her mid-20s, who eventually believes the odd quartet’s predicament and becomes their guardian. As Park Ha educates the four on life in the 21st century, Lee Gak comes across Hong Se Na, who seems to be the reincarnation of his wife. Taking on the identity of Yong Tae Yong, Lee Gak slowly begins to unravel the murder of Yong Tae Yong and in turn moves closer to solving the murder case of the Crown Princess. As he finds himself in love with Park Ha, he figures that maybe the Crown Princess was not so perfect after all…
After City hunter this is my second k-drama which was more of a thriller than a romance but it also included the historical and fantastic element to it. It was at times confusing as it leapt back and forth between different times and plot lines but on the whole very funny and very well executed. Some really sweet romantic moments to watch out for.
Aired in 2011. 15 episodes Genre: Romance,Music
Jung Yong Hwa (Cn.Blue) as Lee Shin
Park Shin Hye as Lee Kyu Won
Song Chang Ui as Kim Suk Hyun
So Yi Hyun as Jung Yoon Soo
Woo Ri as Han Hee Joo
Kang Min Hyuk (Cn.Blue) as Yeo Joon Hee
Lee Hyun Jin as Hyun Ki Young
Im Se Mi as Cha Bo Woon
Lee Shin is a university student and the vocalist and guitarist of the band “The Stupid.” Shin is known for his good looks and strong passion for music, but he is cold, lacks interest in anything unrelated to music and has neither dreams nor plans for the future. Lee Kyu Won is a bright and outgoing student who was born into a prestigious family and is majoring in traditional Korean instruments, especially the gayageum. Trying to live up to her grandfather’s expectations, Kyu Won immerses herself in training and becomes a university student who knows nothing outside of her studies. As her friends are fans of “The Stupid”, she was forced to go to the band’s concert with them. There she saw Lee Shin performing live, and is immediately captivated by him. Their story is one of complications, conflicting emotions and confusing chemistry.
Yes. This is a very corny, kiddy drama and it should make me blush to admit that I watched it. But it doesn’t. I watched this because Lee Shin is played by the cute third wheel dude in You’re beautiful and I’m glad he gets to be the hero of his own drama, he certainly has the skills to pull it off. This drama is funny, cute and at times childish. You don’t need your brain to watch this one. Just a heart and a huge smile because this drama will constantly make you say awwwwww!
9. Playful Kiss
Aired in 2010. 16 +7 special episodes. Genre:Romance, School
Jung So Min as Oh Ha Ni
Kim Hyun Joong as Baek Seung Jo
Lee Tae Sung as Bong Joon Gu
Lee Si Young as Yoon He Ra
Playful Kiss is based on the Japanese shōjo manga, Itazura Na Kiss. Oh Ha Ni is a sweet but silly girl who has a crush on Baek Seung Jo, the smartest boy in school despite being chased loyally by Bong Joon Gu herself. When she confesses to Seung Jo through a letter, he brings it back to her, after grading it harshly and commenting that he hates stupid girls. A twist of fate means they are forced to live under the same roof where she does her best to love him and he does his best to ignore her.
Childish, silly and a bit pathetic, this drama is for die hard romantics. If you aren’t one you will be constantly criticising the main characters and getting annoyed at their stupidity. I liked it for its funny and silly moments and because it had the cute third wheel guy from BOF who probably didn’t deserve his own drama. His acting isn’t as good as his looks.
Aired in 2010. 20 episodes. Genre: Romance, Drama
Gong Hyo-jin as Seo Yoo-kyung
Lee Sun-kyun as Choi Hyun-wook
Lee Ha-nui as Oh Sae-young
Alex Chu as Kim San
A workplace romantic comedy about the dreams and struggles of a young woman who aspires to become an elite chef and ends up falling in love with her mean and bossy head chef and boss. Matters get more complicated when her own secret admirer comes out of the woodwork. This drama is the classic story repeated in all k-dramas. Girl likes Guy 1 but Guy 1 likes someone else. Guy 2 comes along and woos the girl and suddenly Guy 1 likes her too and ends up sweeping her away. It’s a highly unrealistic plot line that is used over and over again in most dramas. But with this one, with the way the characters are thrown together and the way their stories unfold, it is actually realistic. I love this drama because most of the scenes take place around food and I love food.
And there you have it! My Top Ten favourite Korean dramas that I can guarantee you will love. Lots of crazy outfits, very well groomed, to the point of feminine, looking men and loads of romance! One word of advice to end with – ALL korean dramas have LOADS of food and eating scenes, so make sure you have snacks with you as you watch because you will get really hungry!