As you probably know by now, age is a big deal in Korea. In dramas and IRL, Koreans have various ways to respectfully address someone older than them. Aside from using honorific words, they call older guys hyung, oppa, or ahjussi. Then, there's noona, eonni, and ahjumma for older women. Noona is specifically used by guys to address a woman that's older than them.
And when it comes to love, age is definitely not just a number. Dating a man who's younger than you can be frowned upon by others, especially those who are more conservative. But that doesn't mean stories like that don't get portrayed in melodramas and rom-coms. There have been amazing pairs over the years that prove no age difference can stop good chemistry!
1. Uhm Jung Hwa and Park Seo Joon in Witch's Romance (2014)
This rom-com is like the mother of noona romances if you ask avid Korean drama fans. The storyline is full of fun twists, and the chemistry of the leads is AMAZING. Just look for a highlight reel or a compilation of their kissing + love scenes to see how they're legit ON FIRE!
The witch in the story is Ban Ji Yeon, played by Uhm Jung Hwa. Ji Yeon a single 39-year-old woman who's very driven at work as a reporter. In fact, she's too passionate, and that makes her unlikeable. She doesn't believe in love either after her failed past relationships.
Park Seo Joon, on the other hand, plays Yoon Dong Ha. He runs an errand center with a friend, and they do all sorts of tasks for anyone willing to pay their price. Dong Ha and Ji Yeon don't hit it off at first—who would if one of you stole the other's bike, right? Eventually, they find themselves attracted to each other. Ji Yeon freaks out after learning that Dong Ha is just 25 years old, and all sorts of romantic chaos follow.
2. Gong Yoo and Gong Hyo Jin in Hello My Teacher (2005)
If you're a new K-drama fan, this has probably never been on your radar. Well, unless you're obsessed with Gong Yoo, that is. Hello My Teacher gave birth to the "Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy" couple and it's also one of those old series that will make you feel nostalgic, especially if you've had the hots for a teacher before!
This old rom-com stars the hunky oppa as a young student, Park Tae In. He's the classic punk in school—unruly, difficult to discipline, and disrespectful to authorities. He then meets Na Bo Ri, played by Gong Yoo's female bestie IRL, Gong Hyo Jin.
Bo Ri was a substitute teacher who wants to prove that she's a mature adult despite her good ol' days as a troublemaker. Unfortunately, her students (including the rowdy Tae In) make it difficult. Tae In, however, gets to know her and falls head over heels for her. Luckily, he grows up and matures before they reunite as a couple.
Trivia: The teacher-student pair had quite the age difference in the drama, but IRL, Gong Hyo Jin (40) is younger than Gong Yoo (41)!
3. Son Ye Jin and Jung Hae In in Something In The Rain (2018)
This slow-burn romance is perfect for lazy, cuddle-weather days. It doesn't come with a lot of action or heart-stopping plot twists, but it serves a looot of kilig. The ~*physical*~ interactions of the main pair are TDF!
In the series, Son Ye Jin plays Yoon Jin Ah, a 30-something career woman. She's easygoing and cheerful, but she feels empty and lonely, too. She's not really good at dating, and she even gets dumped for being bland and boring.
Then, she reunites with Seo Joon Hee (Jung Hae In), who's the younger brother of her BFF. She looks at him like her younger brother, too, but he ends up charming her pants off (LITERALLY! Hehehe)! With how close their families are, they definitely struggle when they decide to be a couple and have to sneak around a lot! They also have various differences and get into some petty fights owing to their immaturity. How they make their way through those challenges is the cute and romantic ride you're in for in this K-drama.
4. Song Hye Kyo and Park Bo Gum in Encounter (2018 to 2019)
This drama portrayed all sorts of issues: dating a divorcee, getting romantically involved with your boss, and having an office romance. But it's still a noona romance of sorts since the age difference between the leads come into play throughout the series.
Here, Song Hye Kyo (who's unbelievably 38) plays Cha Soo Hyun, a daughter of a politician and an ex-daughter-in-law of owners of a huge conglomerate group. She and her ex-husband only got married for ~*political*~ reasons. When they got divorced, she asked for a hotel as alimony and made it a successful company on her own.
As part of her duties as CEO, Soo Hyun visits Cuba and encounters the carefree Kim Jin Hyuk (played by Park Bo Gum, who's 27). He's an ordinary young man in his 20s who's just traveling before setting off on a solid career path. Little did he know, Soo Hyun was the CEO of the hotel that hired him. But that doesn't stop him from trying to get close to her and win her affection.
5. Lee Jong Suk and Lee Na Young in Romance Is A Bonus Book (2019)
Like the previous drama, this Netflix Original also tackles dating a divorcee and a co-worker. This one's a more legit noona romance, though, with the female lead only looking at herself initially as an older sister of the male lead.
Unlike CEO Soo Hyun, also, Kang Dan-i (played by Lee Na Young, who's actually 41 years old!) is just trying to start afresh in her career after being a stay-at-home mom. Dan-i has an impressive background in advertising, but no one would hire her because of her long hiatus from her career. She then decides to ditch a huge chunk of her resume and apply for an entry-level job. She luckily gets hired by a publishing company, and one of the chief editors turns out to be her dongsaeng, Cha Eun Ho (Lee Jong Suk).
Eun Ho has always loved Dan-i. He dated around, but his heart really only belonged to Dan-i. He met her when they were just kids and has treated her as a noona since then. As they grew up, though, he came to admire her strength and her caring side, but he never really had the guts to pursue her. As they see each other more often because of work, Eun Ho couldn't really hide his feelings anymore. Eventually, he succeeds in making Dan-i's heart flutter—but not without the complications along the way.
6. Kang Ha Neul and Gong Hyo Jin in When The Camellia Blooms (2019)
Kang Ha Neul's comeback drama after getting discharged from military service was a sure hit when it aired in 2019. When The Camellia Blooms looks like your regular ol' rom-com but there's actually a dark twist to it.
The drama stars Gong Hyo Jin as the strong and independent single mom Dong Baek who runs a bar called Camellia. Ha Neul's character is Hwang Yong Sik, an offbeat and socially awkward policeman who falls in love with Dong Baek at first sight. Their relationship is tested by Dong Baek's complicated past, their neighbors' initial unacceptance of their coupling, and a serial killer on the loose. When The Camellia Blooms proved to be not only a commercial success but also well-received critically because the drama won several awards at the 56th Baeksang Arts Awards: Best Actor for Ha Neul, Best Supporting Actor for Oh Jung Se, and the Television Daesang or Grand Award.
Yoo Ah In and Kim Hee Ae in Secret Love Affair (2014)
Oh Hye Won (Kim Hee Ae) is a woman in her 40s whose husband teaches piano. One of the talented young artists he teaches is 20-year-old Lee Sun Jae (Yoo Ah In). As if the almost-two-decade age gap wasn't a big deal enough, their love is so controversial since it's an extra-marital affair. You'll really see how versatile the actors are in this passionate melodrama.
Lee Jong Suk and Lee Bo Young in I Hear Your Voice (2013)
Here's another Lee Jong Suk K-drama. He plays a high school student named Park Soo Ha this time, and he can read minds. It's such a handy ability, especially when he falls in love with a lawyer named Jang Hye Sung (Lee Bo Young). The drama is filled with thrilling twists and shows you the lengths people are willing to go to, so they can protect the person they love.
Which noona romance is your favorite?
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