Hi everyone! This post might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I wanted to talk about my second love to Travel (besides my partner of course) and that’s Kdramas. Truthfully, I don’t know how I would’ve got through 2020 without them (and currently 2021 too). Providing the perfect amount of escapism, travel wanderlust cure (for Korea) and covering a broad spectrum of genres, it filled my days and nights and truthfully, kept me sane (although I am well aware that this addiction might make me insane). Originally I wanted to create a whole new blog dedicated to Kdramas and reviewing them, but thought I might integrate them here instead. After all, this is also a lifestyle blog and another way to get to know me!
Photo of Seoul from Google
So what is “Kdramas” exactly?
Kdrama or Korean Dramas are TV dramas (soap operas) usually consisting of 16 episodes, each an hour long. These are aired in the Korean language and have subtitles for us International fans. Kdramas are filled with plot twists, character developments, cliff hangers and cover a wide range of genres. I know some people might be put off with subtitles, but I never feel like I’m reading them. The audio and the subtitles flow so smoothly that it’ll be easy for a beginner too.
Usually Kdrama’s are associated with the Romance/Rom Com genre, but as I watched my fair share over 2020, I can confirm this is not always the case (although I am such a sucker for these and this list might contain more romantic suggestions!) The popularity for Kdrama’s has been growing more and more, due to an apparent “Korean wave” happening all over the world; due to many reasons but also thanks to my favourite Kpop boys BTS and other fabulous Korean Pop groups like Exo, Blackpink, Stray kids, Twice and many more (but this is a whole other blog post!)
Behind the scenes Polaroids from the Kdrama Extraordinary You – Image found on Pinterest
The Kdrama disclaimer:
Sorry folks, I have to place a disclaimer and say that Kdrama’s are no Bridgerton and very rarely have racy scenes. (Sorry!) This is due to TV shows being censored/ heavily monitored and can change the shows watching age requirement VERY quickly. Most Kdrama directors want to appeal to audiences of all ages. However, I can promise that once you get into them, you’ll be cheering with happiness when the main characters press their lips a few episodes in. Next thing you know, it’s 4am and you’ve binge watched the entire series.
Where to begin?
I’m going to list the best ones I’ve watched so far but remain conscious of which would be good Kdramas to start with. These 6 are just my opinion, and some may not agree. Oh! I will also not be putting them in order for which are best to watch either. I’ll leave that to you!
Crash Landing On You
Genre: Romantic Comedy (and is actually funny)
After a paragliding accident, Yoon Se-ri (a Heiress in South Korea) finds herself waking up in North Korean territory and comes face to face with North Korean Soldier, Ri Jung Hyuk. After going against his “better judgement” Ri Jung Hyuk decides to help and protect Se-ri and tries to help her return to South Korea. Meanwhile, Se-ri has to try and adapt to the less than glamorous lifestyle she is used to leading. Often hiding and making friends with the locals, Se-ri also becomes best friends with Ri Jung Hyuk’s fellow soldiers (they are the reason this is a comedy!) and simultaneously falls in love with Ri Jung Hyuk.
Crash Landing On You is a great first timer Kdrama. Honestly, this had me on the edge of my seat every week and I loved every minute of it. Laughing and crying with the characters, I was sad when it ended. There are a few actiony bits, a passionate hate for some characters, genuine laughing out loud moments and a lovely romantic storyline. Where is this available to watch? Netflix!
The Uncanny Counter
Genre: Action/Thriller/Mystery and Fantasy
The Uncanny Counter follows So Mun and his journey as a Demon Hunter. After a devastating past, So Mun’s journey starts by being struck by a partner spirit in Yung (the boundary between life and death) and develops supernatural abilities. This leads him to 3 others (Do Ha-Na, Ga Mo-Tak & Mrs Chu), which, coincidentally run a local noodle shop that Mun wants to attend for his birthday. Their job is to find evil spirits inhabiting evil human beings and send them off to the after life. Each Counter has individual abilities which help with the process, but in doing so they encounter one demon more powerful than any other that the partners in Yung have experienced.
As I write this, we are one day away from the weekend finale and what a series this has been. This is easily the very top of the list for being the best Kdrama I have watched! Each episode I’m hooked, as Mun develops into his powers more and more and the demon gets even more powerful. This is a great drama to start with if Romance is not your cup of tea. Studio Dragon (the creators of this drama) really said NO ROMANCE for this one. Available to watch on Netflix.
Genre: Drama/Romance & a little bit Tech based.
Start-up follows Seo Dal-Mi who is navigating her life after dropping out of University and daydreaming about being the next Steve Jobs. After a tragic beginning to her life, Dal-Mi finds herself split from her sister Won In-Jae. In-Jae ends up having a more fortunate lifestyle and Dal-Mi struggles with her grandmother.
After the split, Dal-Mi (who is a child at this point) starts writing to a mysterious Nam Do-San (who is really her grandmother and Han Ji-Pyeong) and gets her through the tough times. As Dal-Mi gets older and goes through her life, she is often thinking of the version of Nam Do-San in her letters and in doing so, Ji-Pyeong tries to find the real Nam Do-San. Who is Nam Do-San you ask? He is the owner of a start-up company called Samsan Tech. This drama follows the growth of Dal-Mi, Nam Do-San and Ji-Pyeong, who goes to extreme lengths to keep the secret while falling in love with an incredibly career motivated Dal-Mi.
Although it sounds complicated by my description (oops, sorry!); The kdrama itself is so easy to follow and you’ll fall in love with each individual character. Dal-Mi’s grandmother is an absolute sweetie too! Not only that, I felt really connected with Dal-Mi, she felt really relatable as a character, she struggles through life but eventually finds her motivation to success. This drama is a great one to watch if you’re new but also going through an unmotivating period of your life.
Available to watch on Netflix too.
It’s Okay Not To Be Okay
Genre: Romance, Drama & Covers important Mental Health Topics
How to describe this incredible Kdrama? I think the first of its kind in Kdrama land, that’s for sure!
Following the ups and downs of Ko Moon-Young and her success as an “antisocial, unnerving, selfish and rude” children’s author and the life of employee (of a psychiatric hospital) Moon Gang-Tae and his brother, Moon Sang Tae, who suffers from extreme Autism. This kdrama explores all mental health issues, talks openly about sex and is one of the first where the female lead is portraid as incredibly powerful (in my opinion). These things aside, this drama follows this trio’s journey to happiness, confronting their trauma and flaws, finding their version of success and the development of romance between Ko Moon-Young and Moon Gang-Tae.
I really enjoyed this drama, it was quite unpredictable in the plot line and I think it’ll be a great drama to start off with if you’re new to Korean Dramas. In my opinion, It’s Okay Not To Be Okay was a “finally!” moment as the plot line/ideas behind it was more inline with Western theme programs and topics, which is a big stepping stone for Kdramas. (Also, potential trigger warning for sexual harassment, suicide, distressing scenes and self harm) Available to watch on Netflix.
One of the most popular Kdramas of 2020, Itaewon Class follows the story of Park Sae-Ro-Yi who is an ex-convict. After spending a few years in prison, Park Sae Ro Yi doesn’t let this hold him back. He spends his time inside learning, discovering his dream and making steps towards it. After he’s released, the drama follows his ups and downs to opening a restaurant in an extremely competitive field, with an enemy to match.
This is a great drama to watch for your first time, it’s been described as keeping it’s Kdrama feel but without the romance (although there is a little, this isn’t the main storyline!) Itaewon Class was also another great motivating drama, and the amount of patience and kindness Park Sae Ro Yi has truly made it commendable. I definitely couldn’t keep my cool in his situation!
Another thing I loved about this, is it covered the storyline of one of the characters who is Transgender and how they experience Transphobia (as well as overcoming it). I also like the positivity around giving ex-convicts a chance too. This helped it become a down to earth, relatable story line. Available to watch on Netflix.
Genre: Coming of age/Romance
The final drama on my recommendations! True Beauty! This is currently still airing in Korea and online, but as we are 11 episodes in, this drama is one I want to talk about. Easily one of the most digestible drama’s that I’ve written about so far. This kdrama follows the life of Lim Ju-Kyung and her being bullied for “being ugly” by Korean drama standards. (warning, this may be triggering to some, as she in fact is NOT ugly and just has a red face and wears glasses)
As Ju-Kyung moves schools with a new found popularity of being “beautiful” after having a glow up and learning makeup. Ju-Kyung quickly finds herself in a love triangle of two friends (Lee Su-ho & Han Seo-Jun) who have fallen out with each other, due to the death of their friend (trigger warning: suicide).
This drama is also perfect to start with if you love feel good, romance dramas/films. I’ve found myself addicted to it and trying to pace myself. Not only that, this drama is incredibly funny. I’ve laughed out loud a lot! It’s quickly become one of my favourites so far this year. Unfortunately not available on Netflix, but don’t worry, I talk about where you can watch this below! (P.S. I am team Seo-jun)
“But I don’t have Netflix!” I hear you say!
Not to worry, I have some alternatives for you!
Typically if a drama is not on Netflix, it will be available on Viki. Viki is a mobile app and website and is free to use. There are a few downsides though, the free version does have a lot of ads. But if you’re on a tight budget, it’s perfect. I currently pay (around) $3 per month to be able to watch ad free. Another downside is that some series have a few episodes but then have others locked mid series and you need to be a premium member of (example: True Beauty). Your $3 ad free pass doesn’t get you that far in terms of unlocking them, just literally removes the ads (and no, it’s not avoidable by using an Ad Blocking extension! It tells you to turn it off)
This is currently where I am watching a few dramas. I’d suggest downloading the Chrome extension for an ad blocker to use this site but this website has all episodes as they air and no doubt a few more that are not available on Netflix. Alternatively, try KissAsian too.
All the above dramas are available on Netflix, Viki and Dramacool currently.
That concludes my post on my top 6 Kdramas to watch for newbies! Have you watched any that I’ve listed above already? Will you be? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you enjoy review style posts, please let me know. I wrote about Emily In Paris a few months back and that seemed to go down well!
If you liked this post, you can pin it on Pinterest: