It's no doubt that Korean dramas are dominating global screen time. TBH, who can resist picture-perfect leads, squeal-worthy storylines, the picturesque backdrop of Seoul, and all the food, culture, fashion, and style that come along with it? If you're totally new to all things K-drama, this list will help you get started!
1. Coffee Prince (2007)
Dating contracts are a common trope in K-Dramaland. Coffee Prince puts a classic twist to it as it tells the story of hardworking Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) who pretends to be a boy to secure a string of part-time jobs. She crosses paths with Choi Han Gyul (Gong Yoo) and finds herself in a pickle when she agrees to help him avoid being forced into marriage by pretending to be his male lover. Han Gyul is clueless that Eun Chan is a girl, which complicates things as sparks begin to fly when they work together to revive a rundown coffee shop.
2. Boys Over Flowers (2009)
Based on the Japanese manga series Hana Yori Dango (the same series that the mega-Taiwanese hit Meteor Garden was based on), Boys Over Flowers cemented the flower boy concept (a key ingredient that K-dramas are known for) and catapulted Lee Min Ho into global superstardom. The drama takes you to elite school Shinhwa High where you'll meet Geum Jan Di (Ku Hye Sun), a middle-classed girl who scores a scholarship at the prestigious school, and the F4 (Lee Min Ho, Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Bum, and Kim Joon), a group of popular, wealthy, and handsome boys who also happen to be school bullies. You'll learn everything you need to know about chaebols (the Korean term for rich folk who come from large family-owned business conglomerates) as you enjoy the eye candy (c/o the F4) and fall in love with the drama's take on young love, family ties, and friendship. BOF's amazing OST is also worth noting (it might even convert you into appreciating K-pop as well!).
3. You're Beautiful (2009)
What do you get when you combine elements of K-drama with K-pop? This cult-favorite fuses the best of both worlds into a memorable piece that you can enjoy on repeat. Its plot centers on a three-man fictional idol band called A.N.JELL (Jang Geun Suk, Jung Yong Hwa, Lee Hong Ki). When new recruit Go Mi Nam (Park Shin Hye), enters the picture, the boys get stirred up as she touches each of their lives with her dorkiness and kindness (similar to other K-dramas that involve cross-dressing, it takes the boys a while to figure out that our heroine is actually a girl!). The drama gives you a peek into what idol and fangirl life are like and will most likely get you hooked on its catchy OST hits.
4. Love In The Moonlight (2016)
Historical Korean dramas are known for their rich cultural references, complex plots, and web of treachery. If you want to dip your feet into this K-drama genre, Love in the Moonlight (aka Moonlight Drawn By Clouds) is a good place to start. It has a light, positive vibe to it that helps balance out the palace conflict that comes with the territory. And did we mention that it stars cutie Park Bo Gum as a crown prince? The drama is a coming of age story that revolves around Bo Gum's character, Prince Lee Yeong, and how his unlikely relationship with a commoner pretending to be a eunuch, Hong Ra On (Kim Yoo Jung), develops into friendship and love.
5. My Love From The Star (2013 to 2014)
In the mood for an out of this world love story? This 21-episode drama earned so many positive reviews when it aired in 2013 that SBS, the network that aired it, held a special exhibit at Seoul's Dongdaemun Design Plaza featuring a replica of the homes of the main characters, along with props from the show. The hit fantasy drama tells the story of an alien (Kim Soo Hyun) who was stranded on earth many years ago, and his encounters with his newfound next-door neighbor, a famous actress (Jun Ji Hyun) who whirls him into a series of crazy situations right before his scheduled return to his home planet.
6. I Can Hear Your Voice (2013)
Older female viewers appreciate how K-dramas have a wide selection of noona (a Korean word used by males to address females older than them) romance-themed shows that pair women with younger men. I Can Hear Your Voice is a classic example.
It stars Lee Bo Young as a cutthroat lawyer whose life changes when she crosses paths with a high school student, Park Soo Ha (Lee Jong Suk). Soo Ha is gifted with the ability to read people's thoughts (a skill that comes very handy when you have a big case coming up!). Bound by a distant past that comes back to haunt them, they end up working together to solve cases and close the mystery that binds their fate.
7. Goblin (2016 to 2017)
Some K-dramas contain huge servings of fantasy which require a suspension of disbelief for full enjoyment. If you can temporarily park all logic, then The Lonely and Great God – Goblin is a must-watch. Viewers the world over rekindled a love for Gong Yoo (of Coffee Prince and Train to Busan fame) because of this drama. In it, he plays a goblin, cursed with immortality. The only way to lift the curse and end his life is for him to find a human bride. As fate would have it, he finds his bride in high schooler, Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun), and as their lives intertwine, she gives him something to live for.
8. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017)
With great strength comes great responsibility. Coming from a line of strong women gifted with superhuman strength, Do Bong Soon (Park Bo Young) has no choice but to suppress her unique abilities to be the woman worthy of her longtime crush, In Guk Doo (Ji Soo). She comes one step closer to her dream of one day creating her own video game when a series of events lead to her being hired as the bodyguard for gaming company CEO Ahn Min Hyuk (Park Hyung Sik). When serial kidnapping cases happen in Bong Soon's neighborhood, our heroine steps up to use her super-strength to help others and cops love from two hotties while she's at it.