The K-drama wave isn’t going anywhere soon. Whether you’re a casual viewer or an avid fan, we’re sure that there are titles you’re absolutely familiar with because of their immense popularity in and out of South Korea or their record-breaking ratings in South Korean local cable TV. And of course, some rise above the rest, earning their place as some of the highest-rated K-dramas to date.
Curious if your favourite is on the list? We list down the current top 10 along with reasons why we think they deserve their spots.
Vincenzo (2021) - 14.636%
Song Joong-Ki stars as Vincenzo Cassano, a South Korean-born lawyer adopted into a mafia family in Italy back when he was a kid. After a dispute between warring mafia factions, he was forced to go back to Korea to start over. There, he teams up with spunky young lawyer Hong Cha-yeong (Jeon Yeo-Bin). He starts helping her to win her cases.
Why you should watch it: Vincenzo is explosive, intriguing, and most importantly, entertaining. Song Joong-Ki and Jeon Yeo-Bin's chemistry also adds to the appeal of the series. We wouldn't want to spill too much of the details since every episode has a great twist but we're sure you're in for a ride when you hit play on this series.
Itaewon Class (2020) - 16.548%
If you want an inspiring story about second chances and starting over, this series is the one to check out. Park Seo-Joon leads the cast as Park Sae-Ro-Yi, a falsely accused ex-convict trying to fit back into society. He befriends a bunch of misfits and crosses paths with Jo Yi-Seo (Kim Da-Mi), a social media influencer struggling with her mental health. Together along with their new friends, Sae-Ro-Yi and Yi-Seo try to make their dreams into a reality.
Why you should watch it: Itaewon Class is a story about friendship, hope, and compassion. The love story aspect seems a little forced, but the effort to portray how the romantic relationships in the story developed from friendship makes it worth checking out.
Love (Ft. Marriage And Divorce) (2021) - 16.582%
The drama, which centres on women in their 30s (Boo Hye-Ryung played by Lee Ga-Ryeong), 40s (Sa Pi-Young played by Park Joo-Mi) and 50s (Lee Si-Eun played by Jeon Soo-Kyeong) who work together in a radio program, explores the family dynamics of working women in different stages of their lives. While everything seems picture-perfect at first, things get more complicated for the three of them as secrets about their lives — as well as their significant others — suddenly unravel.
Why you need to watch it: Family dramas, with a major emphasis on drama, are without a doubt some of the most exciting ones to watch. After all, they pull some inspiration from real life that, to some extent, we can find ourselves relating to. This is where Love (Ft. Marriage And Divorce) excels in the most, giving us a glimpse of the ups and downs of married life without necessarily spoiling anything.
Mr. Queen (2020) - 17.371%
This drama aired around the same time as hyped rom-com True Beauty, which might explain why you may have missed it. Now that you don’t have to split your attention between the two, we highly recommend you watch Mr. Queen ASAP.
The story starts in present-day Seoul with Jang Bong-Hwan (Choi Jin-Hyuk) working as a chef at President’s Blue House. In a twist of events, he accidentally finds himself transported back to the Joseon period — with his soul trapped in the body of the current queen (Shin Hye-Sun). With no knowledge of why things turned out the way they did, Jang Bong-Hwan has no choice but to live as the reigning monarch and navigate his way through Joseon court’s political drama.
Why you need to watch it: Soul-swapping has always been a popular theme in Asian dramas. While it may be formulaic, it’s still a foolproof way to inject effective comedy into any plot, something Mr. Queen succeeds at. However, on top of its lighthearted moments, Mr. Queen also provides edutaining value by showcasing how leadership and resiliency in history play a huge role in where the future of a society is headed.
Mr. Sunshine (2018) - 18.129%
Set in the 1870s to the 1900s, Mr. Sunshine is the fictional story of Eugene Choi (Lee Byung-Hun), a young boy born into slavery who escaped through an American warship during the United States' expedition in Joseon. He grows up to be an American soldier who gets stationed in Joseon years later. There, he falls in love with an aristocrat's granddaughter, Go Ae-shin (Kim Tae-Ri).
Why you should watch it: If you love historical K-dramas but want something a little more unique, you should definitely check this one out. It took liberty in portraying real-life events and historical figures before Japan's annexation of South Korea, but it's still very edu-taining. The mix of suspense and romance is also exciting to watch, making it no surprise why this is still one of South Korea's highest-rated dramas.
Goblin (2016) - 18.680%
Headlined by Gong Yoo, Lee Dong-Wook, Kim Go-Eun, and Yoo In-Na, this fantasy K-drama is all about defying heaven, earth, and everything in between for the one you love. Gong Yoo plays the titular goblin, a warrior-turned-deity who was cursed with immortality until he finds his 'bride' who can finally let him literally 'rest in peace'. However, when he does find her, he learns a horrible truth about her fate, which he couldn't allow to happen.
Why you should watch it: This is one of the best K-dramas there is. It's well-written, well-acted, and the cinematography and soundtrack are all on-point. Plus, the chemistry of all the leads? Perfection!
Reply 1988 (2015) 18.803%
Reply 1988 holds its spot at the top even after so many years and for good reason. It presents the coming-of-age stories of Sung Duk-seon (Lee Hye-ri), Choi Taek (Park Bo-Gum), Sun-Woo (Go Kyung-Pyo), Kim Jung-Hwan (Ryu Jun-Yeol), and Ryu Dong-Ryong (Lee Dong-Wi), as well as focus on the tight-knit relationship of their small neighbourhood in Ssangmun-dong, Seoul.
Why you should watch it: This drama depicts a certain warmth and realness that made it the classic that it is. It also upholds a lot of Asian family values that are relatable even to audiences outside of South Korea, making it a great watch for every member of the family no matter the age.
Crash Landing On You (2019) - 21.683%
Reel-to-real couple Hyun Bin and Son Ye-Jin led this 2019 hit where they played the star-crossed lovers Ri Jyeong-Hyeok and Yoon Se-Ri. The story starts with South Korean businesswoman Yoon Se-Ri (Son Ye-Jin) accidentally landing on North Korea's side of the Demilitarised Zone after her paraglider gets swept up by a storm. She meets Korean People’s Army captain Ri Jeong-Hyeok (Hyun Bin) who tries to help her go back to South Korea. However, due to their unique circumstances, the attempt proved to be more challenging than they thought.
Why you should watch it: Despite its heavily fictionalised portrayals of both North and South Korean lifestyle and cultural differences, Crash Landing On You is definitely a great gateway to inspire people to learn more about the two nations outside of what's depicted onscreen. Plus, can you really resist this drama after knowing it paved the way for BinJin's real-life romance?
Sky Castle (2018) - 23.779%
This suspenseful drama revolves around the Kangs, the Hwangs, the Chas, and the Woos who all live in the same high-end residential neighbourhood. What starts out as friendly competition on their children's university prospects turns into a game of manipulation and deceit to make sure their family comes out on top.
Why you should watch it: It's over-the-top in many aspects but that's what makes it so engrossing. Every episode has a twist that will make you hit that 'Next Episode' button continuously and will leave you wanting more even after the last episode's credits start rolling.
The World Of The Married (2020) - 28.371%
Nothing beats the 'wife versus other woman' narrative no matter how many versions we've seen it in and The World Of The Married proves it. It chronicles how the seemingly perfect like of Ji Sun-Woo (Kim Hee-Ae) eventually crumbles after she finds out her husband (Park Hae-Joon) is cheating on her with a much younger woman (Han So-Hee).
Why you should watch it: Even if the familiar storyline and stereotypical character tropes feel a bit exhaustive, this drama still manages to create an interesting story given the stellar performance of its cast.
(Cover photo from: Netflix.com)
Curious about what we really think of some of these fan favourites? We share our honest review of some of these titles here.
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