The 6 Best All-Time Korean Dramas to Watch

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Let me start off this post by saying I’m not the biggest fan of Korean dramas, a.k.a. K-dramas. Shocking, I know, but I’ll tell you why I don’t like them.

Growing up, my mom would stay up all night watching dramas and it was a sort of mother-daughter bonding time for us. After several series, I realized that many of the plots were the same: love, cancer, death OR cancer, love, death. They became pretty predictable.

Years later, I’ve found a few that don’t fall into that plotline and I actually like them. Granted, I’m not your hardcore K-drama fan, but I do watch some now and again and still come back to the cheesy ones.

Today I have a handful of K-dramas that I turn to often and would recommend to you! Stick around for some tips on watching the best Korean dramas!

My Recommendations for Best Korean Dramas to Watch

1. Crash Landing on You (2020)

Quick facts: 16 episodes | Watch on Netflix

Plot: Yoon Se-ri, a South Korean heiress to a huge company, has her parachute caught in a tornado that sends her straight to North Korea. While there Ri Jeong-hyeok, a North Korean officer finds her and has to make the hard decision of turning her into the government or hiding her until they are able to plan a way for Yoon Se-ri to return home.

Why I love it: First off, the plot is amazing. It gives viewers a glimpse into North Korean life and the divide between North and South Korea. The humor in this show is off the charts laugh out loud! The drama is filled with romance, mystery, and thrills!

Of course, the 2 main characters look amazing together, which just strengthens your emotional connection to this drama.

Besides the 2 main characters, the supporting characters (i.e. the band of soldiers and women villagers) are so endearing and truly worm their way into your heart.

Check out my favorite OST here: Photo of My Mind by Song Ga In

2. Descendants of the Sun (2016)

Quick facts: 16 episodes | Watch on Netflix, Dramacool, Viki

Plot: Captain Yoo Si Jin is a South Korean soldier stationed in the war-torn country of Urk and Dr. Kang Mo Yeon is a surgeon in Seoul. Both of them find themselves in the war-torn country of Urk trying to provide medical help to people and keep them safe.

Why I love it: This film was voted most popular show of the year in South Korea and for good reason. The drama is heavy with devastation and the reality of serving in a war-torn country. However, there is more than just romance; there is action and danger too.

The 2 main characters have chemistry on screen, no surprise as they tied the knot after the premiere of the drama. And the OST really tugs at your heartstrings as you go through the episodes.

Check out my favorite OST here: Always by Yoonmirae

Read Next: 14 All-Time Best Thai Dramas to Watch

3. Pinocchio (2014)

Quick Facts: 20 episodes | Watch on Viki

Plot: Ki Ha-myung was living happily with his father and older brother when a fire broke out in a warehouse and the media used his father as a scapegoat. Events happen where Ha-myung’s older brother was assumed as the only living Ki family member and he became an outcast.

Enter our heroine Choi In-ha who is a relentless reporter trying to find out the truth behind this story.

Why I love it: The plot sounds a little confusing, but it’ll all make sense once you watch it. This drama is filled with romance, rage, and action. What drew me in was the heroine’s drive to find the truth especially when the media can twist the truth to something unrecognizable.

This K-drama is definitely on the heavier side, so be prepared when you watch it.

Check out my favorite OST here: Passionate To Me by Youhna

4. Personal Taste, Personal Preference (2010)

Quick facts: 16 episodes | Watch on Viki, Youtube

Plot: Park Gae-in’s father is a famous architect. He built the family home for his wife and left it to his daughter. As finances become strained, Park Gae-in is in search of a roommate. Jeon Jin-ho, our hero, is an aspiring architect looking for architectural inspiration from this modern traditional Korean home.

Park Gae-in allows him to become her new roommate because she thinks he’s gay and they develop a friendship.

Why I love it: The main reason why I love this drama is because of Park Gae-in’s quirky personality. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is very open and trusting. Though there is a bit of jealousy from exes involved, this is a light-hearted romantic comedy.

Check out my favorite OST here: Creating Love by 4Minute

5. Playful Kiss, Mischievous Kiss (2010)

Quick Facts: 16 episodes | Watch on Viki

Plot: Ditzy Oh Ha-ni is in love with the smartest and most popular boy in school, but Baek Seung-jo barely notices her as she’s last in her class.

Fate brings them together when Oh Ha-ni’s house burns down and they move in with her father’s old friend, who just happens to be Baek Seung-jo’s dad. Chaos ensues as Ha-ni tries to get Seung-jo’s indifferent attention.

Why I love it: Cheesy as it is, this high school romance brings laughter and lightness. I do enjoy Oh Ha-ni’s enthusiasm and stubbornness in trying to get her crush to like her back. It’s also enjoyable watching Baek Seung jo trying to curb her moves and act indifferent to her.

There really isn’t a lot to think about with this drama, but you get to laugh along with her antics and applaud when she gets her kiss.

Check out my favorite OST here: Kiss Me by various artists

6. Summer Scent (2003)

Quick Facts: 20 episodes, watch on KissAsian (I had such a hard time finding this K-drama with English subs since it’s so old, but that link to KissAsian brings you directly to all 20 episodes!)

**Note how old the drama is – there isn’t even an official trailer I could find!

Plot: Yoo Min-woo is about to marry the love of his life when on the way to their wedding, his fiancee is involved in a car accident and passes away. Three years later he is still mourning the death of his love when he meets Shim Hye-won.

Hye-won notices an unusual beat in her heart when she first meets Yoo Min-woo. As their work brings them closer together, they find themselves falling for each other.

Why I love it: Remember how I said I’m not the biggest fan of K-dramas? Well, this particular drama was the turning point for me. Spoiler alert: this is the first drama in a long while (remember, I was thirteen and have been watching for years) that didn’t have the “love, cancer, die” plot.

With that said, I’m a big fan of the actress Son Ye-jin. She plays her character very well in this movie with big dewy tears and heartfelt decisions. There’s a lot of drama in this show with jealous fiancees, twisted love stories, and moral ponderings.

And most of all, I do love this K-drama because of nostalgia. It brings back fond memories of watching this show with my mom.

Check out my favorite OST here: Secret by Jeong In-Ho

Skip These Korean Dramas

Judging by my list below, I may need to update my Korean drama viewing to more recent dramas. However, I do stand by my opinion as “skip these dramas.”

An Asian woman laying in bed with headphones on, watching a movie on her iPad

1. Fated to Love You: I really wanted to like this one, but I couldn’t even get through the drama. The main reason I believe is that I just liked the Taiwanese version so much better. Of course, the Korean version adds its cultural flair, which is very nice, but it just didn’t catch on for me.

2. Winter Sonata: This drama along with the next two dramas is part of a 4-part series including Summer Scent from the “do watch” list above. I believe this was my least favorite one – there was a lot of emotional torture, and I don’t think it ended very well. Can you tell I haven’t touched this one since it first came out in 2002?

3. Autumn in my Heart: A switched at birth story where the heroine falls for her brother. This drama truly brings emotional turmoil to the viewer… and spoiler, cancer is involved. I was hooked on this show when it first came out and when it came to the ending, I was devastated. (This was the start of my controversial habit of reading book endings before starting a book.) Though this drama had high viewings and sparked the Korean drama fever, skip it. You’ll save a few tears.

4. Spring Waltz: As with Winter Sonata, I can’t remember the plot because I couldn’t get into the drama. The actors weren’t well known and the storyline wasn’t enticing. Out of these 4 dramas, go for Summer Scent – it’s the best of this first wave of K-drama fever.

Two girls dressed in traditional Korean Hanboks looking out to a Korean Palace

6 Tips for Watching Korean Dramas

1. You may yell very loudly or find yourself giving unsolicited advice to the characters in the film. This is normal. It’s even better if you watch a K-drama with a friend so you can both yell and advise together. It’s an experience.

2. Have plenty of time to binge-watch, which is a real thing when it comes to K-dramas. They have a way of ending one episode on a crazy cliffhanger, then they hook you into staying up into odd hours of the night just to “finish the next one.” There is always a “next one” until the last one. Also, there may be many episodes involved, which can be up to 30+ episodes and they usually are an hour long.

A woman and man yelling at the TV

3. Speaking of crazy cliffhangers, I would strongly recommend watching a show after it’s completely aired and subtitled (unless you are fluent in Korean of course). This way, you’re not wrecked when the ending of one episode is on the brink of something big.

4. The Korean culture is pretty conservative and it shows through their media. So if you come across an intimate scene, like a kiss, it might feel awkward. Embrace it.

5. A small note on Korean culture: full names are said “Last name First name” and you may hear full names in casual conversation, not just introductions.

6. All Korean dramas have an original soundtrack (OST) that is only known to have played in that specific drama. It’s a pretty neat deal because you can only associate that song with that drama. So if you fall in love with a Korean drama, find its OST and you’ll fall even deeper.

Wrapping Up This List of the 6 Best Korean Dramas to Watch

If you’ve been looking for a new show to watch, but can never seem to find one that captures your interest, you can start with one of these best Korean dramas to watch. From romance and comedy to thrillers with twists at every corner, there is something here for everyone.

What tops your list of favorite K-dramas? Are any of these series in your list of favorites already?

Other Asia-related content you might enjoy:

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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources

Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.

  • Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
  • Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
  • Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
  • Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
  • Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
  • Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
  • What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.