10 K-Dramas to Watch for Newcomers

[ 한국드라마 … Hanguk Drama – “Hanguk” is Korean for… “Korean”]

Rom-Coms, Fantasies, Dramas, & More

For those wanting to discover the craze and addiction of K-dramas, it can be daunting to know where to even start. Yes, you’ll have to read subtitles, unless you know Hangul (the Korean language), but your reading skills will improve.

Typical K-dramas are between 14 and 20 one-hour episodes, so plan to dedicate some time getting into the drama as plots move rapidly.

There are some cult classics that everyone watches and many shows reference, but I have my own suggestions for people who may want to test the waters (links to their page on Viki are included).

In no particular order, here are my Top 10 K-Drama recommendations for newbies to watch in 2020:

Legend of the Blue Sea – a fantasy about a mermaid and a con-man; a great show with lots of laughs. This show has many humorous references and in-jokes you’ll miss at first, but the supporting cast will keep you entertained as well. Stars Lee Min Ho and Jun Ji Hyun.

I Am Not a Robot – a young entrepreneur takes a job as a robot and works for a millionaire who is “allergic” to people; without spoilers, this is a really well-done romantic comedy that I’ve watched several times. Stars Yoo Seung Ho and Chae Soo Bin.

Descendants of the Sun – fans call it “DOTS,” this is a romantic drama about a female trauma surgeon and the leader of a special ops squad in the military. Lots of action, love, adventure, and beautiful locations with this drama. Tourism at Navagio Beach has soared. Starring Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo.

What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim – rom-coms almost always have another deeper story hidden beneath the layer of what you see. Here, a narcissistic boss tries to date his long-time ace secretary, but she puts in her notice and turns his world upside-down. Starring Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young.

Healer – this is probably my mom’s and my favorite K-drama (did I mention I got her hooked?). Healer is a guy who works to right dangerous situations that go wrong, and he sets his eyes on a spunky reporter. Since his Healer persona is cloaked, he had to fit into her world some other way. Starring Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young.

Love in the Moonlight (also known as “Moonlight Drawn By Clouds”) – one of the only historical period dramas (a Sageuk, 사극) on my Top 10 list but only because I wanted to showcase a variety (I can do a list just on sageuks!). A poor female orphan dresses as a male eunuch to avoid being sold into slavery. She winds up in the palace, and, well… you have to watch. The OST in this is one of my favorites, and the dance in Episode 4 is simply ethereal. Starring Park Bo Gum and Kim Yoo Jung.

Mother – a gritty, gripping drama that will break your heart and have you cheering for the duo, it’s about a teacher who tries to help an abused student. The young actress is phenomenal! Starring Lee Bo Young and newcomer Heo Yool.

Search: WWW – one of a newer dramas airing in late 2019, this is an interesting drama about two internet search engine companies vying to be Number One among corruption and politics. While there is a secondary story of romance, there are equally as captivating third, fourth, and beyond stories. Starring Jang Ki Yong and Im Soo Jung.

Hotel Del Luna – another newer drama airing in late 2019, the wardrobe alone of the leading lady is fun to watch in and of itself. It’s a supernatural story of a much-older hotel owner and her staff, one who is brand new to the hotel because he was a traded by his father for his father’s life years before. Starring Yeo Jin Goo and idol “IU” (Lee Ji Eun).

Running Man – as much a part of Korean culture as Survivor is to the U.S., this variety show features a cast of well-known actors who complete outrageous tasks either amongst themselves or with famous guest stars appearing. Episode 178, my favorite, had teams building boats from cardboard, soda bottles, and duct tape and rowing on it across the Han River.

There are so many more shows I could list here, but these is a good snapshot of Korean dramas. Stay tuned for future lists!

If you want to discover the fantastic world of Korean rock, rap, and pop music, read my post on The Hallyu Wave of K-Pop where I list my Top 3 favorite K-groups/idols.