ICYDK, 2018 was a big year for North and South Korea. After being separated for more than 70 years, the independent governments have made a series of promising big steps that can lead to their improved relations. The relationship between the two has been a sensitive topic for decades, but this hasn't stopped the media from talking about it, K-dramas included. In fact, it has actually given way to some of the most iconic Korean dramas ever aired. If you're a K-drama fan who loves a mix of politics, action, drama, and romance, then you'll love the list below:
1. The King 2 Hearts (2012)
The drama reimagines South Korea as a monarchy ruled by descendants from the Joseon Dynasty. In an effort to build friendly relations with North Korea, crown prince Lee Jae Ha (Lee Seung Gi) was sent to a joint military collaboration where he meets Kim Hang Ah (Ha Ji Won), the daughter of a high-ranking military official. Despite their initial antagonism towards each other, the two eventually strike a friendship and become engaged. Trouble starts when an assassination challenges Jae Ha and Hang Ah to choose between love and loyalty. While the drama uses politics as its main vehicle to move the story along, it still succeeds in showing a side to romance that is still human and raw. Think Romeo And Juliet but with guns and crazy magicians instead.
2. Descendants Of The Sun (2016)
While this 2016 hit doesn't really focus on North Korea, the plot includes it as a theme on critical points of the story. Captain Yoo Si Jin (Song Joong Ki) and Dr. Kang Mo Yeon (Song Hye Kyo) try to navigate their relationship as they keep true to their loyalties as a soldier and a doctor. Descendants Of The Sun hits the perfect balance between action, politics, and romance, while also doing a good job in showing a side of North Korean loyalists that often goes unexplored by the media.
3. Doctor Stranger (2014)
Park Hoon (Lee Jong Suk) was forced to spend some time in North Korea after he and his father were tricked to visit the place when he was a child. During his stay there, he meets and falls in love with Song Jae Hee (Jin Se Yeon), a North Korean resident he eventually lost contact with after he escaped back to the South. Years after, the two meet again in South Korea—Park Hoon now a genius doctor trying to navigate his way through the distrust from his colleagues, and Jae Hee, a woman with a mission she is forced to complete. Doctor Stranger courageously uses a lot of North and South Korea themes for its plot but translates it in a way that is more human and relatable to its audience.
4. City Hunter (2011)
Betrayal, politics, spies, and a forbidden romance. City Hunter checks all of these with its complicated but thrilling plot that will keep you hooked until the last episode. Lee Yoon Sung (Lee Min Ho) is a Blue House employee secretly trained by his foster father to exact revenge on high-ranking soldiers who betrayed him during a mission in North Korea. Despite Yoon Sung being set on his goal, he gets tested a couple of times after he falls for Kim Nana (Park Min Young), a loyal bodyguard who is also working for the Blue House. Kilig moments and thrilling scenes aside, City Hunter also does a good job in reversing the usual narrative between North and South Korea by showing that sometimes, the real enemies are the ones we least expect to be.
FYI: Lee Min Ho and Park Min Young ended up dating for some time after the drama!
5. Iris (2009)
This one's an oldie but a goodie. Inspired by the 1999 film Shiri, Iris set the record for one of the most successful South Korean dramas about North Korea after it racked up massive viewing shares during its time of airing. In the series, Lee Byung Hun plays Kim Hyun Jun, a South Korean Soldier who was scouted by Choi Seung Hee (Kim Tae Hee) for the National Security Service. Hyun Jun tries to exact revenge from his former best friend while managing his complicated relationship with Seung Hee and trying to stop IRIS, a secret society trying to stop the unification of North and South Korea.
Iris is the complete package of action, romance, and thriller with its highly-charged scenes, intense plot points, and bittersweet ending. The drama was so successful that it actually inspired sequels: Iris II: New Generation and Athena: Goddess of War.
6. Spy Myeong Wol (2011)
Here's a more light-hearted take on the North and South Korea drama. North Korean spy Myeong Wol (Han Ye Seul), a stubborn agent who has dreams of moving up to the special forces, is in charge of putting a stop on the rising popularity of South Korean pop culture in her side of the country. She accidentally has a run in with popular celebrity Kang Woo (Eric) who, after a series of crazy events, ends up botching her plan of being promoted. Set on her dream of moving up to the special forces, she goes back to South Korea to finish her mission, only to end up saving his life and eventually, falling for him! Everything was all fun and games until Myeong Wol was given a new mission—to persuade Kang Woo to get on North Korea's side! Spy Myeong Wol has all the plot points one would expect from a drama that deals with the North and South's relations but delivers it in a cuter, carefree way that's signature to the rom-com genre.
7. Blow Breeze (2016)
This 40-episode long drama shows the most realistic—if not ugly—part of being an escapee from North Korea. Mi Poong (Lim Ji Yeon) is a defector from North Korea who, after spending time in Macau, meets Lee Jang Goo (Son Ho Joon), a boy from the South. The two get separated before meeting again in South Korea where they get entangled in a major family inheritance drama. Blow Breeze tackles the harsh realities of leaving the North and the hardships of trying to build a new life in South Korea as a normal citizen. Though the story centers around the relationship between Mi Poong and Jang Goo, the drama serves big helpings of family drama as well.