10 Korean Crime Dramas That Will Keep You Up At Night

Plotlines this gripping deserve a binge-watching session.
PHOTO: POSSESSED/NETFLIX

Are you just as hooked on romantic Korean dramas as we are? Then you're likely familiar with the following: scenes that send shivers down your spine, cliffhangers that leave you at the edge of your seat, and endings that make you want to watch the whole series in one sitting.

These instances aren't limited to kilig­­-inducing shows like Touch Your Heart and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, of course. In fact, when it comes to TV shows, South Korea excels in the crime and mystery genre, too. Here are 10 thrilling K-dramas that will leave you breathless, intrigued, and sufficiently creeped out.

1. Signal (2016)

Every Korean crime drama roundup must always include Signal, and for good reason. It's widely regarded as one of the best crime shows to come out of South Korea in recent years, and the fact that it's inspired by real-life murder investigations and cold cases in the country makes it even more chilling. On paper, the story of how a mysterious walkie-talkie allows a detective (Kim Hye Soo) and a profiler in 2015 (Lee Je Hoon), and a detective in 1989 (Cho Jin Woong) to crack cases and bring justice to victims might sound absurd, but Signal really is more than that. If we had to choose just one title as your gateway into this wildly addictive genre, we'd pick this.

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2. Trap (2019)

When esteemed news anchor and aspiring politician Kang Woo Hyun (Lee Seo Jin) goes on a trip to the mountains with his wife and son, he didn't expect to encounter cruel individuals who kidnap his family and leave him nearly dead. The high-profile case falls into the hands of Ko Dong Kook (Sung Dong Il) and Yoon Seo Young (Lim Hwa Young), who must uncover the events that transpired that day. Things are never as straightforward as they seem, however, and the two detectives suspect that there may be something more sinister at play.

3. Stranger (2017)

Stranger, also known as Forest Of Secrets, made headlines and earned praise from around the world for its stellar acting, tightly woven storyline, and realistic representation of modern-day South Korea. While a murder case is at the center of the story, what really propels the plot forward and makes Stranger a worthy watch is its depiction of corruption, bribery, and deception among high-ranking officials in the government and the police. Starring Cho Seung Woo and Bae Doona, Stranger is a masterpiece that's truly worth the hype—Netflix didn't pay $200,000 per episode for nothing!

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4. Tunnel (2017)

It's 1986, and Park Kwang Ho (Choi Jin Hyuk) is investigating a serial killer who preys on young females. After yet another murder, our hero chases the suspect into a tunnel, only to emerge 31 years into the future. There, he learns that someone is murdering women in an eerily similar manner to the killer from his original timeline. Unfamiliar with modern methods like profiling, DNA capturing, and simple Internet searches, Kwang Ho employs good old-fashioned smarts in his fervent desire to catch the killer and return to his pregnant wife (Lee Shi A). Yes, it gets emotional and heartbreaking, but truthfully, that's what makes Tunnel so compelling!

5. The Guest (2018)

What compels a person to commit brutal crimes? Jealousy, revenge, and psychotic tendencies are common tropes found in dramas, but in the case of The Guest, there exists a darker, more menacing presence that quietly waits in the shadows for its next victim. An exorcist (Kim Jae Wook), a psychic (Kim Dong Wook), and a detective (Jung Eun Chae) reluctantly band together to solve these supernatural crimes. Undoubtedly the scariest show on this list and the one most worthy of a "horror" label, this is a drama we'd warn against watching at night with the lights turned off.

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6. Possessed (2019)

If The Guest sounds downright terrifying, consider this drama, which you can find on Netflix, instead! Despite its title, Possessed is a delightful mix of comedy, mystery, fantasy, and just the right amount of creepiness, with an interesting plot and likable characters to boot. When the resurrected spirit of a lunatic serial killer wreaks havoc in the city, a cranky, cynical detective (Song Sae Byeok) teams up with a fashionable online seller-slash-psychic (Go Joon Hee) to stop the murderer. The detective may not be as mundane as he thinks he is though, especially when ghosts start showing up at his apartment.

7. Pied Piper (2016)

The pen is mightier than the sword, as the adage goes. Nowhere is it more applicable than in Pied Piper, a drama about a police crisis negotiation team. Shin Ha Kyun is Joo Sung Chan, the charismatic and quick-witted head negotiator, while actress Jo Yoon Hee is Yeo Myung Ha, a member of the SWAT team. The series highlights the many cases they encounter, all of which they must handle without the use of force. FYI, The Philippines plays a crucial, though admittedly not very desirable, role in the first episode.

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8. Voice (2017)

It's uncommon for a Korean drama to ever see a second season, much less a third one. So popular and well received was Voice that the producers came out with a second season in 2018, to be followed by another in May 2019! In the first season, Jang Hyuk portrays temperamental detective Moo Jin Hyuk, while Lee Ha Na is skilled voice profiler Kang Kwon Joo. After brutal murders took their loved ones away, Jin Hyuk and Kwon Joo are brought together by the same desire to catch the perpetrator.

9. Life On Mars (2018)

Based on the 2006 British television series of the same name, Life On Mars sees Jung Kyung Ho as Han Tae Joo, a skilled detective who is attacked while on the job, falls into a coma, and wakes up in 1988. A modern man who can't justify the old-school bullying and brutality rife among the police in '80s Korea, Tae Joo immediately locks horns with the station's caption and, effectively, his new boss, Kang Dong Cheol (Park Sung Woong). As Tae Joo slowly warms up to his colleagues, he must figure out why he was sent back in time while solving a murder mystery that's somehow connected to his childhood.

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10. He Is Psychometric (2019)

Got7's Jinyoung is no newbie to the acting scene—he has several credits to his name, including playing the younger version of Lee Min Ho's character in Legend Of The Blue Sea. In He Is Psychometric, he plays Lee An, a young man who has the skill to see people's memories just by touching them. When the same terrible accident he experienced as a child occurs in the present day, An strives to get to the bottom of things using his special ability. What he doesn't know, however, is that the people he's working with—a stoic prosecutor (Kim Kwon), a sharp detective (Sistar's Dasom), and a police officer who's hiding a dark secret (Shin Ye Eun)—were all involved in the accident that separated An from his parents.

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