If you’ve never watched a Korean drama, or K-drama, in your life: allow us to introduce you to some really good television. K-dramas are Korean language series in a variety of genres. Whether you’re into romance, comedy, fantasy, action, or period there’s something for everyone. The best part is they won’t string you along for five or six seasons, you get all the closure you need in about 16-20 episodes. FATIMA MOOSA and SHAAZIA EBRAHIM count down the 10 most bingeable dramas for beginners.
Boys Over Flowers (BOF)
BOF might be one of the most iconic K-dramas of all time. If you look past the bad hair, you’ll soon understand why. Based on the Japanese manga series of the same name, BOF is the story of Geum Jan-di, a poor and ordinary girl who finds herself attending a prestigious private school after saving a student’s life. The rescued student was bullied because of the (in)famous F4, four chaebol heirs who run the school. Jan-di stands up to the F4’s leader, Gu Jun-pyo, and he ends up falling for her. If you’re into the reformed bad boy trope, this one’s for you.
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
Another highly rated K-drama, Strong Woman is one of our absolute favs. It follows Do Bong-soon who just wants to create a video game with herself as the main character and become a delicate and elegant woman, the ideal type of her crush, policeman In Guk-doo. But alas! Bong-soon, like all the women in her family, was born with superhuman strength. This strength lands her the job as bodyguard to rich heir and CEO of gaming company Ahn Min-hyuk. Bong-soon and Min-hyuk get roped into a game of cat and mouse with a sadistic kidnapper. Sometimes silly, sometimes cute, there’s little that warms our hearts more.
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?
This is for all the rom-com lovers: completely predictable but thrilling from beginning to end. The show is based on Jung Kyung-yoon’s novel with the same which was first published in 2013, which was then made into a comic in 2015 via KakaoPage. It’s also one of the highest rated K-dramas of all time. It all begins when a spoiled Vice Chairman Lee Young-Joon’s life is thrown into a tailspin when his loyal secretary of nine years Kim Mi-so resigns. Naturally, he realises he can’t let her go because he is completely in love with her. It’s swoonworthy.
This one’s for those who love intense, action-packed dramas with intricate storylines. Decades ago, a group of friends ran an illegal pro-democracy broadcasting station during the Fifth Republic in South Korea. Years later, an illegal “night courier” with the codename “Healer” (who has kickass fighting skills and really good looking), a tabloid reporter, and a famous journalist unite in trying to uncover the truth from that 1992 incident. Between car chases, fight scenes, and secret identities, the three learn about what it means to be reporters committed to the truth. Did we mention that there’s a killer romance in between?
Move over Gossip Girl, we’re into a new group of spoiled, rich high schoolers who are heirs to huge empires. Heir to a large Korean conglomerate Kim Tan was exiled to the United States by his brother who wants control of the family business. In the US, he meets Cha Eun-sang who is looking for her sister. Even though Tan is engaged to fellow heiress Yoo Rachel, he falls for Eun-sang. When Tan returns to Korea, his former best-friend-turned-nemesis Choi Young-do begins picking on Eun-sang to annoy Tan, but then also falls for her. Cue the angst and the drama! In between all this, Tan must choose between pursuing the family business or true love. We love rich people problems.
Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (Goblin)
As the third highest rated drama in Korean cable television history, Goblin is not just a drama it’s a cultural phenomenon. The story follows the lives of four characters whose destinies are intertwined. There’s Kim Shin, a goblin and protector of souls who is the landlord of the grim reaper, in charge of taking deceased souls. Tired of immortality, Shin spends long, lonely years searching for his human bride, the only person who can end his life. Then in the mortal world there’s high school student Ji Eun-tak who is going through the most. Eun-tak summons the goblin by chance, and ends up falling for him. There’s also beautiful Sunny who owns a chicken restaurant. This drama has the most beautiful storyline, soundtrack and cinematography. Prepare to fall in love.
My Love From The Star
This drama combines three worlds: outer space, the Korean Josean Dynasty, and the current world of showbiz. There are quite a few elements to the plot but it’s basically a romantic fantasy. It follows an alien Do Min-joon who landed on Earth in the Joseon Dynasty who, 400 years later, falls in love with a beautiful and famous Hallyu actress Cheon Song-yi. Both the leads took Daesangs (highest awards) for their roles in the series and it isn’t difficult to see why. Min-joon and Song-yi are one of our favourite K-drama couples of all time.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
At first glance this drama seems like a typical school/college drama. But Weightlifting Fairy deals with deeper issues of body positivity, parental abandonment, eating disorders and societal pressures young people face. It also has one of the cutest relationships! It’s a coming-of-age story about a group of college athletes who are fighting for their dreams, experiencing and finding love in the process, and growing every step of the way. It features Kim Bok-joo, a gifted weightlifter as she tries to gain success in her career. She has to deal with boyfriend, school, and friend pressures while staying true to herself.
Moonlovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Angst, angst and more angst. That’s really the only way to describe this drama which is based on a Chinese novel. Combining the themes of time travel and a period drama, this show had a little bit of everything. There is the impossible good-looking cast, the beautiful costumes and settings, and a fantastic soundtrack. The show is centered around a woman from the 21st century who is transported back to the Goryeo Dynasty into the body of Hae Soo. Hae Soo finds herself caught between rival princes all intent on taking the throne, as well as rival love interests. This show will leave you with the all the feels, as well as demands for a second season.
Descendents of the Sun
Descendants of the Sun is one of the most popular Hallyu dramas. It follows the love story of a doctor and an army captain. Yoo Si-jin is an army captain and Kang Mo-yeon is a doctor at a Seoul hospital. After a series of mishaps and misunderstandings, the two begin to fall in love. However, their relationship is constantly hindered by the fact that the jobs and their different values. They meet again in Uruk which has been hit by an earthquake. No K-drama is complete without plenty of angst but this one has a healthy balance of comedy and light-hearted moments. The soundtrack is also amazing. The couple in this show eventually got married so you know the chemistry is off the charts! (They divorced this year, but we’ll ignore that).
What are you waiting for, get streaming! You can find K-dramas on Netflix, or any of these platforms.