South Korea has a rich and vibrant history that dates back centuries, so it's no surprise that K-dramas are filled with colorful and interesting historical stories—also known as sageuk. They tend to be quite lengthy and detailed, but they're addicting just the same! From hard-core action to sweet romances, there are plenty of shows to binge-watch under the sageuk genre, but here's a quick list of eight period dramas that will get you started.
1. Mr. Sunshine (2018)
Starring: Kim Tae Ri, Lee Byeung Hun, Yoo Yeun Seok
Unlike many sageuk series that are often set in the Joseon Dynasty, this Netflix Original is set in Hanseong (the former name of Seoul) during the early 1900s. The story mainly centers on Choi Yoo Jin (Lee Byung Hun), who is forced to move to the U.S. as a young boy. Many years later, an older Yoo Jin returns to his homeland as a U.S. Marine officer, where he discovers a plot to colonize Korea. At the same time, he meets and falls in love with an aristocrat's daughter, Ae Shin (Kim Tae Ri).
If the plot hasn't already gotten you interested, the epic drama is written by Kim Eun Sook and directed by Lee Eung Bok—the same dynamic duo behind your other fave K-dramas like Goblin and Descendants of the Sun!
2. Jewel In The Palace (2003)
Starring: Lee Young Ae, Ji Jin Hee
Widely considered as the OG historical K-drama, this 2003 classic is a feminist tale about a young woman's rags-to-riches journey during the Chosun Dynasty. Jang Geum is a young and ambitious girl who works her way to becoming the King's physician at a time of a patriarchal Korean society that keeps women on the sidelines.
3. Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
Starring: Song Joong Ki, Park Yoo Chun, Yoo Ah In, Park Min Young
Set in a time when Korean society did not allow women employment nor education, Kim Yoon Hee (Park Min Young) disguises herself as her brother to make ends meet. She decides to become an illegal test-taker for the entrance exam in the prestigious Sungkyunkwan University, where she pretends to be her brother and befriends a group of mischievous boys.
4. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)
Starring: Lee Joon Gi, IU, Baekhyun, Kang Ha Neul
Part-historical drama and part-fantasy, this drama centers on Go Ha Jin (IU), a woman living in the 21st Century, who suddenly wakes up in the year 941. To make things even more complicated, she is now living in the body of a woman caught in the rivalry and politics of the many princes in the ruling Wang family.
5. My Sassy Girl (2017)
Starring: Joo Won, Oh Yeon Seo, Lee Jung Shin, Kim Yoon Hye
Loosely based on the famed 2001 rom-com of the same name, this fun and lighthearted drama is set in the Joseon Dynasty. It follows the sweet love story of a sassy troublemaking princess and a gifted yet cold-hearted scholar.
6. Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth (2016)
A historical K-drama straight out of your K-pop dreams, this 2016 gem revolves around Hwarang, an elite group of young men in Silla, an ancient (and real!) kingdom that lasted until the 10th Century. Blending romance, comedy, action, and coming-of-age elements, Hwarang follows a group of men from different walks of life who are recruited to protect the kingdom from enemies.
7. Moon Embracing The Sun (2012)
Starring: Kim Soo Hyun, Han Ga In, Jung Il Woo, Yeo Jin Goo, Song Jae Rim
Set in the Joseon era, this historical fantasy series tells the love story between a fictional king and a gifted female shaman; they are destined to be together but are separated by dark magic and fascinating political intrigue. This series was a huge hit in Korea when it was first aired, and even won Drama of the Year!
8. Warrior Baek Dong Soo (2011)
Starring: Ji Chang Wook, Yoo Seung Ho, Shin Hyun Bin, Choi Min Soo
This epic tale of brotherhood centers on two childhood friends, Baek Dong Soo (Ji Chang Wook) and Yeo Woon (Yoo Seung Ho). Their friendship is tested as they are caught in the political turmoil of the Joseon Dynasty, as well as the brewing war between the royal family and a deadly assassin's guild.
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