With the rise of K-Pop, more and more people are interested in watching Korean Dramas. However, limited episodes, single seasons, and a high production rate can make them quite overwhelming to start watching. Because of the large number of options available, there are many lists of K-Drama recommendations that include ‘iconic classics’ that are over a decade old. This can be off-putting to potential new fans. Especially due to the fact that before 2014, the quality of K-Drama wasn’t exactly what most westerners might consider good. With overacting, two-dimensional characters, poorly written plot twists, and even worse female characters older K-Drama can make for some really uncomfortable viewing.
However, there’s been a shift in K-Drama in recent years. Acting, writing, cinematography, even special effects have improved immensely over the past five years. Despite this, the recommendation lists have remained mostly unchanged. Alienating a large number of those with no interest in a TV history lesson or the pain of second hand embarrassment that comes from watching overacting. Therefore here’s an updated list of K-Drama recommendations for anyone wanting to dip their toe into the wonderful world of Korean television.
Goblin (2016) – Fantasy/Romance
Goblin Kim Shin (Gong Yoo) is looking for his prophesied wife, the only person able to end his immortal life. He becomes roommates with a Grim Reaper (Lee Dong-Wook) and they become entwined in the lives of Ji Eun-Tak (Kim Go-Eun) a high school student who shouldn’t even be alive, and her beautiful boss, Sunny (Yoo Ah-In). Goblin remains one of the most viewed dramas in Korea, even three years later.
Further K-Drama Recommendations if you like Goblin: Hotel del Luna, My Love From the Stars, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, Bride of Habaek, Oh My Ghostess
Descendants of the Sun (2016) – Melodrama/Romance/Action
Capt. Yoo Si-Jin (Song Joon-Ki) meets the beautiful Dr. Kang Mo-Yeon (Song Hye-Kyo) after bringing a thief to her emergency room. The two decide to date but realize that they both have highly demanding, always on call jobs in constant conflict with each other. They go their separate ways. Then Mo-Yeon is Voluntold to lead a medical team to work with a Special Forces Unit led by a certain handsome Captain. You can imagine where this leads. What really sells this show is the high stakes and the chemistry between the lead actors.
Further K-Drama Recommendations if you like Descendants of the Sun: Mr. Sunshine, Iris, Pinocchio, Doctor Stranger, Chicago Typewriter
School 2017 (2017) – Coming-of-Age/Romance/Comedy
In the last few months of senior year Ra Eun-Ho (Kim Se-Jeong) is falsely accused of delinquency. This leads her to the son of the director of the school, Hyun Tae-Woon (Kim Jung-Hyun) a known rebel that no one dares cross. With his help, and that of other classmates facing their own difficulties, Eun-Ho tries to change her corrupt high school. Though it has weaknesses in its writing, the slew of new actors are what truly shine in School 2017. Most of whom consider this their debut.
Further K-Drama Recommendations if you like School 2017: My Strange Hero, Sky Castle, The Heirs, School 2013, Age of Youth
Healer (2014) – Action/Thriller/Romance
A night courier, Seo Jung-Hoo (Ji Chang-Wook) is hired by Kim Moon-Ho (Yoo Ji-Tae) to find out if Chae Young-Shin (Park min-Young) is his long lost niece. Jung-Hoo and Young-Shin soon uncover a secret that runs to the heart of crime and corruption in Seoul. Including the deaths and false imprisonment of their parents. With heart, humor, and a host of disguises, Healer tells a gripping thriller that any action fan will thoroughly enjoy.
Further K-Drama Recommendations if you like Healer: While You Were Sleeping, City Hunter, Man to Man, The Innocent Man, Suspicious Partner
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim (2018) – Romantic Comedy
When Kim Mi-So (Park Min-Young), personal assistant to demanding Vice Chairman Lee Young-Joon (Park Seo-Joon), gives her resignation after nine years Vice Chairman Lee is flabbergasted. Trying to change her mind, he begins to better understand the woman who’s been by his side for the better part of a decade. One of the most light-hearted, successful dramas to come out of the last decade, What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim is the RomCom that every RomCom wishes it could be.
Further K-Drama Recommendations if you like What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim: Strong Woman Do Bong-Soon, Touch Your Heart, Jugglers, Her Private Life, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo, Fight for My Way
Ghost Detective (2018) – Crime/Horror/Mystery
Jung Yeo-Wool (Park Eun-Bin), a young woman trying to convince someone that her sister’s bizarre suicide was actually a murder. She enlists the help of Private Detective Lee Da-Il (Choi Daniel) who is investigating a slew of strange murders/suicides. Together, they connect it all to a mysterious woman in red (Lee Ji-Ah). A woman only he can see. It’s equal parts humor, mystery, and angst and it fills every part of a horror/thriller’s soul.
Further K-Drama Recommendations if you like Ghost Detective: Kingdom, Save Me, Nightmare High, The Guest, Tunnel