Essential K-Dramas 101

K-Dramas are beloved by people all around the world—regardless of whether they can speak Korean.

With such a global-following, K-Dramas have become a universal form of entertainment—much like American and British TV series—but since there are so many dramas available, it can be somewhat daunting to figure out which ones you should add to your “Must-Watch List”.

That’s why we’ve gathered some of our favourite K-Dramas and high-grossing Korean films that are essential for any K-Drama-lover.





Coffee Prince: The 1st Cup

©Coffee Prince, Muwaks; An Asian Drama Blog, 22.07.2019,

When Coffee Prince (커피프린스 1호점) was released back in 2007, it immediately became a hit—with the nation falling for the characters played by Gong Yoo, Yoon Eun-Hye, Lee Sun-Kyun, Chae Jung-An and Kim Jae-Wook.

The drama—based on the novel by Lee Sunmi—follows Go Eun-Chan (Yoon), a poor, boyish-looking woman who is mistaken for a man by wealthy bachelor Choi Han-Gyul (Yoo) and is hired by him to work in an all-male-run café.

Hilarity ensues as Eun-Chan tries to pursue a romance with her crush Choi Hansung (Lee), who happens to be Han-Gyul’s cousin. Meanwhile, she simultaneously attempts to hide her identity from her nosy co-workers and arrogant but charming boss; a man who finds himself falling in love with Eun-Chan, causing him to question his sexuality throughout most of the drama.


The Heirs

©Heirs, virnaaryanita, 23.07.2019,

Another infamous “rich boy falls for the poor girl” K-Drama is The Heirs (상속자들). Also known as The Inheritors, this 2013 drama focuses on the lives of a group of exorbitantly wealthy children studying abroad in America, and the sweet but penniless Cha Eun-Sang—played by Park Shin-Hye—who finds herself caught between the chaos of their world.

After trying (and failing) to start a new life in California with her sister, Eun-Sang meets Kim Tan (Lee Minho) and the two become friends. Their relationship, however, quickly becomes more complicated as Eun-Sang meets Tan’s “fiancee” Rachel (Kim Ji-Won), charming “bad boy” Choi Young-do (Kim Woo-bin) and the other enigmatic characters that surround Kim Tan.

After parting ways, Eun-Sang and Tan are eventually reunited back in Korea and try to pursue a more romantic relationship, despite many trying to stop them.


Descendants of the Sun

©Descendants of the Sun, 22.07.2019,

Airing in 2016, Descendents of the Sun (태양의 후예) was made famous by the chemistry between lead actors Song Joong-Ki and Song Hye-Kyo.

The drama follows soldier Shi-Jin (Song) and Dr Mo-Yeon as they begin to fall in love, but eventually part ways due to their philosophical differences—where Mo-Yeon aims to save lives, Shi-Jin destroys them. But fate reunites these two star-crossed lovers when both are sent to the war-torn, fictional country of Uruk where the doctor and soldier battle against their feelings for one another.

Upon its release, Descendents of the Sun was a hit and lead to a rise in Korean tourism.


Goblin: The Lonely and Great God

©Goblin, 23.07.2019,

Back in 2017, Goblin: The Lonely and Great God (쓸쓸하고 찬란하神 – 도깨비) was the third highest-rated drama in Korean television history—after Reply 1988 (2015) and Sky Castle (2018).

This magical drama follows the unusual lives—and reincarnations—of the mighty goblin Kim Shin (Gong Yoo), the ghost-seeing Ji Eun-Tak (Kim Go-Eun), Eun-Tak’s boss Sunny (Yoo In-Na), a snarky grim reaper (Lee Dong-Wook) and Kim Shin’s money-reliant nephew Yoo Duk-Hwa (BTOB‘s Sungjae).

Goblin takes place in both ancient Joseon and modern-day South Korea, making it perfect for drama-lovers who can’t choose between historical or contemporary series.


My Love From The Star

©My Love From The Star, 23.07.2019,

My Love From The Star (별에서 온 그대), also known as You Who Came From The Stars, is another acclaimed fantasy drama.

The series follows an alien, who goes by the name of Do Min-Joon (Kim Soo-Hyun), who landed on Earth during the Joseon Era and has spent the past four hundred years waiting to go back to his home planet.

With only three months left until he can return home, Min-Joon finds himself getting caught up in situations with his neighbour Cheon Song-Yi (Gianna Jun), a famous Hallyu actress who tries to win his heart.



©Voice 1, 23.07.2019,

Less magical and more sinister, Voice (보이스) follows a group of characters who work in an emergency response centre as they struggle to track down a serial killer who’s terrorising the streets of Seoul.

This group is lead by the tortured Moo Jin-Hyuk (Jang Hyuk), an officer whose wife was brutally murdered by the serial killer, and Kang Kwon-Joo (Lee Hana), an expert voice profiler who suspects her father was also murdered by the same killer; together, they combine their skills to track down and stop the spree of murders.

Other actors include Baek Sung-Hyun (While You Were Sleeping and Big), Yesung (Super Junior), Son Eun-Seo (Reply 1988 and My Love From the Star) and Kim Jae-Wook (Coffee Prince, Mary Stayed Out All Night and Antique Bakery).

Mr. Sunshine

©Lee Byung-hun and Kim Tae-ri in Mr. Sunshine. (Photo Courtesy of Netflix, Photo by Jinsun Park),

Recorded as the fourth highest-rated TV show—just after Goblin—Mr. Sunshine (미스터 션샤인) is a historical drama set in Seoul during the 1900s and follows activists fighting for Korean independence.

When his parents are killed by a nobleman, a young slave-boy named Choi Yoo-Jin/Eugene (Lee Byung-Hyun) escapes to America and grows up abroad. Eventually, he returns to Korea as a captain of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Go Ae-Shin (Kim Tae-Ri) is a woman of noble birth who became an orphan at a young age. After training as a sniper, Ae-shin joins the Righteous Army—an informal civilian battalion that stepped in when the national army needed assistance.

Amongst the chaos of war and social prejudices, Ae-Shin and Yoo-Jin fall in love and attempt to fight alongside one another for their cause.







Train to Busan

Yeon Sang-Ho’s infamous zombie-flick Train to Busan (부산행), or Busanhaeng, follows businessman Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) as he journeys to return his daughter Soo-An (Kim Soo-Ahn) to his ex-wife in Busan.

©Busanhaeng, 27.07.2019,

But due to a chemical spill, a virus begins to spread amongst the frenzied citizens of Seoul—making them rabid and hungry for flesh.

As the main characters leave the city on a train to Busan, they soon realise that most of the other passengers have been infected—meaning the remaining few will have to survive on a train full of zombies.


The Beauty Inside

The Beauty Inside (뷰티 인사이드) is a heartwarming story that focuses on the romance between a man named Woo-Jin and a woman named Yi-Soo (Han Hyo-Joo). But this isn’t an average love story.

Ever since he turned eighteen, Woo-Jin has woken up in a completely different body—one morning he might be an old man, another day a young woman, a foreigner and even a child—making his romance with Yi-soo especially difficult.

©The Beauty Inside, 27.07.2019,

Overall, this film is a touching story that sends an important message about how outward appearances aren’t nearly as important as the beauty inside oneself.

The character of Woo-Jin is played by many talented actors and actresses, including Lee Dong-Wook (Goblin), Park Seo-Joon (She Was Pretty), Park Shin-Hye (Memories of the Alhambra), Seo Kang-Joon (Cheese in the Trap), Lee Beom-Soo (Moorim School), Do Ji-Han (Hwarang) and Kim Sang-Ho (Docter Stranger).



Classic (클래식) follows two love stories in two different times. The first is set in 2003 and follows two university students names Ji-Hye (Son Ye-Jin) and Soo Kyung (Lee Tae-Kyung), who both fall in love with fellow classmate Sang-Min (Zo In-Sung).

The second love-story, told mainly through flashbacks, takes place decades ago and explores the romance between Ji-Hye’s parents—Joo-Hee (also played by Son Ye-Jin) and Joon-Ha (Cho Seung-Woo).

©Classic, 27.07.2019,

Although these stories are separated by time, they both show different types of love, loss and the lengths to which friends will go for each other.

Fun Fact: The Classic’s most infamous track, Me to You, You to Me (너에게 난 나에게 넌) by Jatanpung, plays during the film’s two umbrella scenes—both in the past and present—and is considered one of the Golden K-Drama OSTs.


If you’ve already seen all of these dramas and films, or simply want more to add to your list, then check out the following titles:

Full House (2004) starring Rain and Song Hye-Kyo.

“Endless Love” Series, which includes four separate dramas entitled Autumn in My Heart (2000), Winter Sonata (2002), Summe Scent (2003) and Spring Waltz (2006).

That Winter, the Wind Blows (2013), a melodrama involving a con-artist and a blind heiress.

My Mister (2018) starring IU and Lee Sung-Kyung.

Scandal Makers (2008), a box-office hit starring Park Bo-Young and Cha Tae-Hyun.

The Handmaiden (2016), a film by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook, is set in 1930s Korea/Japan and follows the unexpected romance between a noblewoman and her maid. [Graphic]


Feature Image Source: ©Classic, 27.07.2019,

Claudia Deborah 이보라

Book-dealer by day, writer and illustrator by night—Instagram: @kikitsa.draws. Instant coffee and trot music get me through the day. My life is simple but I’m greatful for it. 나의 인생은 조금 심심하고 단순하지만, 이런 내 삶도 나에게 주어진 삶이 기 때문에 감사함을 느끼고 있습니다.



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