When things feel a little overwhelming, some of us turn to exercise or music to destress, while others escape into the fantastical world of Korean dramas to drown out the noise. K-dramas keep us going back for their unique plotlines, stellar acting and ethereal-looking cast. And the romance, of course.
So if you’re looking to binge-watch to your heart’s content, here’s a list of the latest and most popular K-dramas to stream now. Whether you prefer something lighthearted or more intense, we’re sure you’ll find something in this list to suit your fancy!
What it’s about: Set in a fictional Silicon Valley-like district called Sandbox, the 16-episode drama revolves around four young protagonists who pursue their dreams and goals in the world of startups. It stars Bae Suzy as Seo Dal-mi, a go-getter who’s unfortunately unable to land a full-time job, and dreams of being Korea’s next Steve Jobs. Nam Joo Hyuk takes on the role of Nam Do San, founder of Samsan Tech, and a Math genius when he was a child.
Kim Seon-ho’s character, Han Ji-pyeong, is a prickly yet soft-hearted senior investment manager with remarkable investment skills, while Kang han-na plays Won In-jae, a second generation chaebol CEO with everything going for her, but wants to be acknowledged for her skills and talent.
Why you should watch it: Not only does it delve into the world of start-ups, it also follows the characters’ ups and downs, struggles and life lessons, including a sort of ongoing rivalry between Dal-mi and In-Jae, who are actually sisters but grew up under very difference circumstances. Plus, there’s the on-screen chemistry between Bae Suzy and Nam Noo-hyuk, which according to director Oh Choong Hwan, is beautiful to watch. And who knows, you might get inspired to turn your vision into the next big thing, too.
Start-Up is available on Netflix. New episodes out every Saturday and Sunday.
What it’s about: The ongoing 16-episode series revolves around Park Bo-gum, Park So-dam and Byeon Woo-seok, who play 20-something hopefuls from various societal backgrounds as they seek fame in the cutthroat entertainment industry. Male lead Sa Hye-jun (Park Bo-gum) and his childhood friend Won Hae-hyo (Byeon Woo-seok) are models who aspire to be actors, while Park So-dam’s character An Jung Ha is a makeup artist who’s also a long-time fangirl of Hye Jun. The two later develop a special friendship.
Why you should watch it: There’s of course, the cast, which features Parasite star Park So-dam, as well as charismatic heartthrob Park Bo-gum. Other than offering a realistic look into the seemingly glitzy world of showbiz, the drama also tells the relatable story of youths wanting to find success, while being unsupported and feeling defeated. It’ll be sure to tug at your heartstrings.
Record of Youth is available on Netflix. New episodes out every Monday and Tuesday.
What it’s about: Set in a society with little “real” privacy, the plot follows a group of con artists who uncover a sinister surveillance scheme headed by the government and a malicious corporation. And the characters must interfere in order to keep their lives from turning upside down. The main cast sees former Girls Generation singer Seohyun as Cha Joo-eun as Cha Joo-eun, while actor Go Kyung-pyo plays Lee Jung-hwan, a clever con artist who belongs to the elite.
Why you should watch it: For one, it’s actor Go Kyung-pyo first role after military service. Plus, if shows portraying crime and mystery are at the top your list, then this is for you. Judging from its trailer, it looks like there’ll be a slew of unexpected twists and turns that’ll get you hooked.
Private Lives is available on Netflix. New episodes out every Wednesday and Thursday.
What it’s about: Surreal and whimsical, The School Nurse Files chronicles the adventures of lead character Ahn Eun-young (played by actress Jung Yu-mi), a school nurse who has a supernatural ability to see “jellies” or monster-like creatures that others can’t see.
She comes across these jellies in the high school she’s just started work in and fends them off with, of all things, a rainbow-coloured toy sword and a BB gun. She also meets Hong In Pyo (Nam Joo-hyuk), a teacher (and her love interest) who possesses a unique and protective aura. He later joins her to fight the monsters that terrorise the school and its students.
Why you should watch it: The live-action adaptation of award-winning novel School Nurse Ahn Eun-young by author Chung Serang, it’s an absurd yet refreshing departure from your usual Korean drama. While the first episode could leave you scratching your head at her outlandish, toy sword-wielding antics, the part-comedic and part-sinister show also leaves you wanting to find out what’s in store for the two quirky characters.
The School Nurse Files is available on Netflix.
What it’s about: A caregiver in a psychiatric ward (played by Kim Soo Hyun of The Producers and My Love From The Star fame), who has tossed all notions of love and romance aside, meets a successful children’s book writer (played by Seo Ye Ji) who suffers from antisocial personality disorder. An unusual romance blooms between them, as they begin to “heal” each other’s emotional and psychological hurts.
Why you should watch it: Set in a psychiatric facility and touching on mental health topics like autism and personality disorders, this is certainly not your typical romance drama. This highly-anticipated drama is also Kim Soo Hyun’s first TV series in five years, having completed military service in July 2019 – so you won’t want to miss it!
It’s Okay To Not Be Okay is available on Netflix.
What it’s about: A owner of a mysterious food-cart bar that opens only at night and her naive part-timer, helps to solve their customers’ problems by visiting their dreams.
Why you should watch it: Based on a popular web comic, Hwang Jung Eum is perfect as the hot-tempered and cursed immortal owner of the food-cart who needs to help 100,000 troubled souls. Joining her is boy group BtoB’s Yook Sung Jae, who stars as a clumsy but kind-hearted supermarket employee who is clairvoyant. There’s colourful characters, interesting stories, comedy, touching moments, and a heartwarming message. What’s not to love?
Mystic Pop-up Bar is available on Netflix.
What it’s about: A model high school student is trying to raise money for university by anonymously running an illegal prostitution ring. However, things start going wrong when he gets caught by his classmate who starts to blackmail him.
Why you should watch it: If you are in the mood for something dark, this is the drama for you. The story takes place in a school setting, but nothing about the show is light-hearted. Instead, you are taken into a world of crime and dark secrets hidden by students who are struggling with their own demons. It may sound intense, but it’s a good look into another side of Korean society that don’t always appear in the K-drama world.
Extracurricular is available on Netflix.
What’s it about: A Korean emperor during the time of constituional monarchy meets a detective in modern-day Korea upon crossing his parallel world. Played by Lee Min Ho, the emperor aims to close the door between the two worlds, while the detective, played by Kim Go Eun, tries to save lives.
Why you should watch it: Starring two fan favourite drama leads, this highly-anticipated series premiered on April 17 to high ratings. Written by Kim Eun Sook, whose projects include hit series Secret Garden (2010), Descendants of the Sun (2016) and Mr Sunshine (2018), it’s also a breath of fresh air as a fantasy romance drama that gels two unlikely worlds together, intertwined in a love story.
The King: Eternal Monarch is available on Netflix.
What’s it about: Five doctors who attended the same medical university in 1999 are long-time friends working in the same hospital. It follows the day-to-day happenings inside the hospital while exploring the dynamics between the doctors, patients, medical students and life and death itself.
Why you should watch it: Because of its star-studded ensemble cast. Also because this medical drama doesn’t focus solely on its cases, but also the chemistry and relationship between the doctors – which are just as compelling. It might also pique your interest to know that they started a band together.
Hospital Playlist is available on Netflix.
What’s it about: A successful business man and a struggling single mother who were each other’s first love meet again in their 40s. You get glimpses of their past against their present, showcasing how things have changed for the two lovers.
Why you should watch it: This melodrama with a simple but captivating premise is a feels trip full of wistful, bittersweet moments complemented by beautiful cinematography.
When My Love Blooms is available on Viu.
What’s it about: After experiencing a series of unfortunate events, a cello teacher (played by K-drama sweetheart Park Min Young) quits her job in Seoul and moves back to her hometown in the countryside. There, she bumps into an old high-school classmate (played by Seo Kang Joon) who runs a bookshop, and romance inevitably blossoms.
Why you should watch it: It’s a touching tale about healing, forgiveness and being able to work up the courage to open up and say things that couldn’t be uttered before.
When The Weather Is Fine is available on Viu.
What’s it about: A family medicine doctor (played by veteran actress Kim Hee Ae) who seems to have it all – a successful career, blissful wedded life and caring friends – finds her world turned upside down when her husband (played by Park Hae Joon) and friends betray her, driving her to plot revenge.
Why you should watch it: This show surpassed Sky Castle to become the highest-rated Korean TV series in history. It first made headlines for its racy scenes (unconventional in Korean dramas), as it offers an intimate look into infidelity among married couples. It’s also a remake of the 2015 UK television series, Doctor Foster.
What’s it about: Still haunted by the traumatic murder of her friend 19 years ago, and weighed down by guilt, Detective Young Jin (played by Sky Castle‘s Kim Seo Hyung) is determined to catch the serial killer who is still at large. When the murders begin again, so does her drive to put him behind bars once and for all.
Why you should watch it: If you’re craving a slow-burning crime thriller with a strong female lead, this show is right up your alley.
Nobody Knows is available on Viu.
What’s it about: A woman who died while giving birth to her child gets a second chance at life (literally) when the powers above bring her back to life. But she has a mission to accomplish within 49 days if she wants to stay with her daughter.
Why you should watch it: It’s funny, touching and dramatic all at once. And it’ll remind you how important family is and how unpredictable life is. Please have your tissues ready because you really don’t know when a tearjerking moment might appear.
Hi Bye, Mama! is available on Netflix.
What’s it about: An ex-convict, whose father was killed in an accident, tries to put his life back together and follow in his father’s footsteps of opening a bar.
Why you should watch it: Honestly, you can’t go wrong with a Park Seo Joon drama. This drama will make you angry, but inspire you as you watch Park Sae-Ro-Ii working hard to turn his bar into a franchise and overtake a food company, whose CEO is linked to his father’s death.
Itaewon Class is available on Netflix.
What’s it about: A prince has to figure out why a zombie pandemic is happening in his country, and how to control it, all while making sure he’s not killed by the forces that orchestrated the disease.
Why you should watch it: If you missed Season 1 of this show, don’t worry, it’s still on Netflix. Each season is only six episodes long and every single episode will keep you on the edge of your seat. Think Game Of Thrones (the early seasons, at least…), but even more intense. If you’re into zombies, politics and royal treachery, this one will keep you well invested. If you’re wondering how addictive this is, we finished watching all the episodes of Season 2 on Saturday, a day after it launched on Netflix.
Plus, hallyu queen Gianna Jun makes a cameo appearance!
Kingdom Season 2 is available on Netflix.
What’s it about: A brilliant doctor who was imprisoned for allegedly euthanising a patient goes back to the medical world despite getting the cold shoulder from his colleagues.
Why you should watch it: If you like medical dramas, you’ll love this. The drama also touches on rare diseases and conditions, so you’ll feel smarter after watching it. And honestly, Ji Sung in a drama? You have to watch it.
Full episodes of Doctor John are available for free on Viu.
What’s it about: Despite its name, it’s not a love story. It follows the story of a top doctor who gives up everything to work in a small hospital following a traumatic incident. In this second season, he moves to another town and recruits doctors with troubled backgrounds.
Why you should watch it: If you still want to watch more medical dramas after Doctor John, catch the second season of Dr Romantic. Maybe start with season one if you haven’t watched that – you’ll see why it was renewed for a second season.
Dr Romantic 2 is available on Viu.
What’s it about: A female lawyer who would go to great lengths to win a case disarms the opposing lawyer (played by Kingdom‘s Ju Ji Hoon) – a proficient, elite one – by infiltrating his life and making him fall in love with her. Enraged but nonetheless impressed, this drama depicts the competitiveness between two rival lawyers as they tussle for victory and love.
Why you should watch it: Their chase for success and love will keep you hooked, and both leads are complex and intriguing in character. Them trying to outsmart each other also means a generous deal of plot twists; and if you think it’s your typical courtroom drama, it’s not, and is sprinkled with plenty of comic relief and entertaining bits.
Hyena is available on Netflix.
What’s it about: A rich heiress and business owner from South Korea who decided to try out her new product, a paraglide, ended up stranded in North Korea. She has to figure out how to get home while hiding from the authorities. Oh, she falls in love with a military captain so things get a lot more complicated.
Why you should watch it: This is not your typical love story. OK, to some extent, it is. But it also gives you a glimpse of what it’s like to live in North Korea (to be taken with a pinch of salt) and is basically proof that you can get away with anything if you have money… kinda.
Crash Landing On You is available on Netflix.
What’s it about: A hotelier (played by Yeo Jin Goo) suddenly finds himself recruited to work at a hotel for spirits who are on their way to the afterlife. There, he finds out how he is tied to the hotel.
Why you should watch it: The drama may be about ghosts, but save for a few scenes, it’s not scary at all. Rather, you might find yourself crying in every other episode as the spirits take you on their life journey, which make you treasure life all the more.
What’s it about: An art curator for a museum leads a double life: off-duty, she’s the manager of a fan site for a K-pop idol/actor. Can she keep her private life a secret from the museum owner who doesn’t like fangirls and her new boss who seems to suspect she has something to hide?
Why you should watch it: If you’ve always been curious about what fan site managers actually do, you might get an inkling by watching this (of course, this is the glamourised version of the truth). Also, watch it to witness the chemistry between Park Min Young and Kim Jae Wook.
Her Private Life is available on Viu.
What’s it about: A director of a company develops face blindness after an accident and mistakes his secretary for an heiress. He falls in love with her and she hides the truth from him.
Why you should watch it: Like a rom-com that can make your heart flutter and ache? You’d love this. It reminds us a bit of What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? and She Was Pretty so if you enjoyed those, you’d love this too.
Text: Hidayah Idris/Cleo, Additional reporting: Cherrie Lim, Elizabeth Liew & Michelle Lee
This post was updated on Oct 14, 2020.
- crash landing on you
- doctor john
- dr romantic
- Her Private Life
- hi bye mama
- hospital playlist
- Hotel Del Luna
- itaewon class
- korean dramas
- Private Lives Netflix
- record of youth
- star-up netflix
- the king eternal monarch
- The School Nurse Files
- the secret life of my secretary
- when my love blooms