With the recent hype of “Squid Game”, Korean dramas are now in the spotlight like never before. As someone in the K-Drama community so aptly put it, “‘Squid Game’ is to Korean dramas what ‘Gangnam Style’ was to K-Pop.” However, despite its popularity, “Squid Game” may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
This sentiment certainly rings true for myself, since it seems just a tad bit on the gruesome side for my liking. This prompted R. and myself to compile a list of Korean Dramas that are a excellent alternative for both new and seasoned K-Drama fans.
After a tragic incident, the 9-year-old Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) develops the ability to read people’s minds. Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) is a few years his senior and comes to his aide when he had lost all hope. To repay her for saving his life, he promises to grow up and become her protector.
Years pass and Soo-Ha is now in his last year of High School while Hye-Sung has gone on to become a lawyer. Soo-Ha is constantly searching for Hye-Sung, but she has all but forgotten about him. Shortly after meeting again, a monster from their past reappears before them.
Following true on his promise as a child, Soo-Ha makes it his life’s purpose to keep Hye-Sung safe. Spending much time together and getting to know each other for real, they start developing feelings for each other that go beyond that of friendship.
Authors Note: This is a romance with just the right amount of action/suspense sprinkled in, brought to life by a group of actors masters of their craft. It is also a ‘Noona Drama’, meaning it features a romantic relationship between younger male lead alongside a older female lead.
Tae Gong-Shil (Gong Hyo-Jin) became able to see ghosts after being involved in an accident as a teenager. Due to this, the formerly lively girl became increasingly reclusive, living in constant fear of the ghosts scary appearances. Also, if she lets her guard down in any way, ghosts have taken over her body in the past to resolve their grudges. Whenever this happens, Gong-Shil has no recollection of the things they did afterwards. Stuck in this cycle, Gong-Shil struggles through daily life until, one day, she meets Joong-Won.
Joo Joong-Won (So Ji-Sub) is CEO to the Kingdom Group, which also owns and operates a major hotel and department store. He is known as a savvy business man, who is composed, serious, and somewhat mysterious and mostly keeps to himself. Only a few select people around Joong-Won know that he carries the trauma of a kidnapping gone wrong from when he was a teenager.
Joong-Won and Gong-Shil meet one rainy night on a deserted road under bizarre circumstances. To her amazement, he seems to be the miraculous answer to her troubles that she’s been waiting for.
Author’s Note: This Horror-Romance, written by the Hong Sisters, is a neat combination of spooky scenes and sweet touching moments. A stellar cast and amazing soundtrack make this Korean drama a memorable one.
Go Mi-Nyeo (Park Shin-Hye) and Go Mi-Nam (Park Shin-Hye) are twins who grew up in a orphanage with only faint recollections of their father. While Mi-Nam decides to leave the orphanage in order to pursue music, his sister Mi-Nyeo stays behind and becomes a nun in training.
One day, the sheltered and naïve Mi-Nyeo is approached by her brother’s manager who is begging her to impersonate her twin brother to sign a important contract. Mi-Nam is out of the country and unable to return in time. The contract signing will be the final step for Mi-Nam to be accepted into A.N.Jell, a famous K-Pop boy band.
A.N.Jell already has three members: Hwang Tae-Kyung (Jang Geun-Suk), the fierce leader and main vocal; Kang Shin-Woo (Jung Yong-Hwa), the bass player and most calm member; and Jeremy (Lee Hong-Gi), the bands bubbly drummer and maknae. Each member has their own thoughts on the newest addition to their band after meeting Mi-Nyeo.
Go Mi-Nyeo is about to wreck havoc on the [formerly] organized dorm life of the A.N.Jell members. Her well meaning but utterly clumsy personality keeps getting her in many awkward situations.
Author’s Note: Another drama written by the Hong Sisters, this young adult romantic comedy is a well liked story among the K-Drama community. It was even remade in Taiwanese (“Fabulous Boys”) and Japanese (“Ikemen Desu Ne”). Causing a serious case of “second-lead-syndrome” among many fans, the drama is arguably the reason “Heartstrings” exists. “Heartstrings” is a subsequent musical themed drama starring Park Shin-Hye opposite Jung Yong-Hwa.
Hometown ChaChaCha (Seaside Village ChaChaCha) (2021)
Yoon Hye-Jin (Shin Min-Ah) is a confident and outspoken 34-year-old dentist working in the city. After her moral and professional ethics put her at odds with her superior, she decides that a change is in order. Moving to a small seaside village, she opens up her own dental clinic.
Hong Du-Sik (Kim Seon-Ho) is 35-year-old and was raised in the seaside village by his grandfather. A popular among the locals and also the village chief, he quickly becomes a important support to the newbie in town.
Despite them not hitting it off right from the start, Hye-Jin and Du-Sik develop feelings for each other as they get better acquainted.
Author’s Note: This is a very recent new favourite of ours. A perfect feel-good drama complete with beautiful scenery and comical side characters.
Voice (2017 – Present)
Kang Kwon-Joo (Lee Ha-Na) is a voice profiler at the emergency call center. One night her father, who works as a police man goes to a murder scene. While on the phone with his daughter to tell her about his findings at the scene, he gets attacked and killed as well. Kwon-Joo hears everything. The killer picks up the phone and talks with her. In midst of her fear and grief, she can hear a slight jaw cracking sound when he talks.
She teams up with Detective Jin-Hyuk (Jang-Hyuk), who’s wife was killed by the same killer. Together they solve many cases but their most important case isn’t over yet. Until one day the man with the destintive speech appears before them.
Author’s Note: This drama has great suspense. The actors executed their roles perfectly and this show gave birth to one of our Beloved K-drama Villains: Mo Tae Gu. There has so far been four sequels to this drama, which is a rare thing in the realm of K-Dramas.
Mo Na-Nee (Kim Seul-Gi) hates her short stature and average looks which cause her to constantly being overlooked. When her Mom tells her of a magical family heirloom in the form of a ring, she is ecstatic. Said ring has the power to ensure that whoever places it on your finger sees in you their ideal type. With the magic ring in her possession, Na-Nee embarks on a mission: Secure the affection of Park Se-Gun.
Park Se-Gun (Ahn Hye-Seop) goes to the same university as Na-Nee. He is handsome, tall and a cheerful person, popular for both his character and his good looks. He is also famous for being a womanizer who only dates the most beautiful women.
Unaware that he is under a spell, Se-Gun starts dating Na-Nee believing her to be someone he met in his past and considered his ideal type. Things become chaotic when said person shows up in their university, making Se-Gun feel confused and causing Na-Nee to panic.
Author’s Note: This is a perfect little webdrama to binge-watch in one go. Dealing with themes of insecurity and self-loathing, it encourages everyone to discover their own unique and lasting inner true beauty.
Here is a complete list of Korean dramas we have watched over the years in case you are looking for additional suggestions.
Until we drama again,