In particular, Korean television shows, or K-dramas, gained a league of new non-Korean viewers over the past 18 months, as new avenues to escape pandemic life reached an all-time high.
K-dramas are known for being strangely addictive. While there’s a certain je ne sais quoi to their binge-worthiness, the twists, turns and pacing of the plots, storytelling and comedic timing are sure to get you hooked. In addition, the development of connection and chemistry between characters will have you incredibly invested, not just in the blossoming romances, but in the depth also given to the friendships and family dynamics.
Expect to cry one minute and laugh the next. Expect to feel your tummy rumble while the characters eat and drink delicious food, what sometimes feels like all the time, and don’t be surprised if you walk away with a few additions to your Spotify playlist. Most K-dramas have their own original soundtrack that you’ll probably be humming along to come episode three.
Despite obvious cultural differences and a language barrier, as Bong aptly put it in his Golden Globes acceptance speech last year: “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to many more amazing films,” and in the interests of this article, television shows too.
Spanning many genres, there’s plenty of variety for everyone. Below is a small taste of K-dramas available on Netflix, sorted by genres you know you already enjoy.
If you enjoy crime shows you might enjoy:
Flower of Evil (2020)
A cat-and-mouse thriller that has as much thrill as it has emotional depth, thiswill keep you on the edge of your seat with its suspense-filled plot brought to life by stellar performances from its actors.
Baek Hee-sung (Lee Joon-gi) is a metal craftsman living a seemingly perfect life with his young daughter and wife Cha Ji-won (Moon Chae-won), a detective. However, it’s a facade that shatters early on for the audience, after a violent encounter with an old acquaintance reveals Hee-sung is hiding a dark and complicated past.
Meanwhile, a series of murders is keeping Ji-won’s team busy, with the deaths resembling the same method used by a serial killer who died 18 years ago. As the team dives deeper into the investigation, Ji-won begins to question how much she actually knows about her husband.
If you’re an avid listener of true-crime podcasts, Signal is one to add to your must-watch list. Based on real, unsolved criminal cases in South Korea, the critically acclaimed series is crime thriller at its finest, with a time-bending twist.
The series follows criminal profiler Park Hae-young (Lee Je-hook) who comes across a walkie-talkie in 2015 which connects him across time to Lee Jae-han (Cho Jin-Woong), a detective in 1989. With the help of a detective Cha Soo-Hyun (Kim Hye-soo), who had been searching for her long-lost mentor Detective Lee, the three work to both prevent and solve crimes in the past thanks to their unique situation.
From the storytelling, acting and incredible attention to detail, Signal is one of the defining shows of the modern K-drama era.
If you like something closer to a pure “drama” you might enjoy:
It revolves around the lives of four housewives who live in an exclusive gated community in Seoul. While on the surface they like to present their lives as carefree and perfect, behind closed doors it’s a very different story. The show gives a peek into the strings these women pull in order to get their children into the country’s three top universities – commonly referred to with the acronym SKY – and the complications that arise after an incident in their neighbourhood.
While the show premiered with modest ratings on cable TV, its plot, themes and incredible acting clearly struck a chord with viewers, quickly rising to become the second-highest rated show in South Korean cable television history.
Move to Heaven (2021)
Move to Heaven explores life, death, grief and the different ways people deal with loss from the perspective of a “trauma cleaning” company. They are people who clean, collect and organise the belongings people have left behind when they die.
After the sudden death of his father, 20-year-old Han Geu-ru (Tang Joon-sang) is left to run the family business under the guardianship of his ex-con uncle Cho Sang-gu (Lee Je-hoon), whom he had not known prior. The pair are the complete opposite of each other. Geu-ru, who has autism, likes order and is incredibly intelligent but sometimes finds the world around him overwhelming. Meanwhile Sang-gu is messy and impulsive and used to only looking out for himself.
As the unlikely pair work together, they learn to navigate their differences – not without many hiccups along the way – and grieve, in their own ways, the loss of their own family member.
While it’s the ultimate tear-jerker, it’s equally heartwarming and being just 10 episodes long, I can attest to it being perfect binge-worthy material.
If you like horror and are not opposed to gore, you’ll probably enjoy:
Set in the 16th century during the Joseon Dynasty, the series follows Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) who, during an investigation into rumours of political corruption, discovers a strange plague afflicting the country that makes those infected immune to death and hungry for flesh. Yup, zombies.
While zombies are of course a focal point, the series delves deeper than the typical zombie tropes, with the storyline focusing on the politics and the “rot” from the top down that has caused such a plague to spread.
If you think this all sounds eerily similar to the current Covid-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. As New York Magazine’s Matt Zoller Seitz points out, Kingdom – which was released before Covid – “mirrors the disastrous mishandling of the 2020 pandemic (particularly in the United States) with such withering irony and pitch-black humour that it seems to be riffing on headlines you read five minutes ago”.
If you need further convincing to add this show to your to-watch list, it’s not often that Korean television shows are planned to run longer than one season, but Kingdom is one of the rarities, proving its popularity.
Sweet Home (2020)
The first K-drama to reach the US Netflix Top 10, Sweet Home is based on a webtoon of the same name, set in an apocalyptic world trying to survive a monster invasion.
The gory horror follows Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang), an introverted high school student who moves into a rundown building, Green Home, by himself, after the recent deaths of his family in a car accident. Not long after he moves in, terrifying monsters begin appearing across the world, determined to destroy every human in its path. Hyun-soo teams up with the other residents of Green House in a fight for survival and to prevent themselves from turning into monsters themselves.
As the sinister backstory to the origins of the monsters begins to reveal itself, the show also explores themes of inherent human nature and the emotions and desires that create “monsters” inside ourselves.
Sweet Home doesn’t skimp on the gore and the viscera, so for those less inclined to watch horror, it may not be your cup of tea. However, if you’re able to squint through the bloody scenes, the quality of the direction, acting and production is undeniable. It’s fresh and exciting and will have you hanging out for another season.
Love a good rom-com? Give these a try:
Crash Landing on You (2020)
It was one of the most-watched non-English shows on Netflix last year – and for good reason. The perfect mix of comedy, action and a good ol’ star-crossed-lovers romance, Crash Landing on You is everything you’d want from a classic rom-com.
The show revolves around wealthy South Korean heiress and businesswoman Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin), who gets caught in a tornado while paragliding, crash landing into the North Korean side of the Korean Demilitarised Zone. She’s discovered by North Korean military officer Ri Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin) who, after much convincing, agrees to hide her and help her escape back to South Korea without being caught by the authorities.
With input from real North Korean defectors, CLOY gives you a glimpse into what life in the hermit country might be like, while exploring the differences and similarities between the two warring countries through Se-ri’s comical and heartwarming interactions with the people she meets along the way.
Strong Girl Bong-soon (2017)
If you like your quirky, playful rom-coms served with a side of psychotic kidnapping, you’ve come to the right place.
The larger-than-life, “cutesy” concept of Strong Girl Bong Soon can take time to adjust to for audiences new to K-dramas, but, juxtaposed with the unexpectedly dark scenes of the kidnapping, it’s a peek into why many people cite the variety and genre-mashing of K-dramas as one of the reason they keep coming back for more.
As the title suggests, Do Bong-soon (Park Bo-young) is a strong woman – like, superhuman strong – born into a family where super strength is a hereditary trait passed down to the women. Bong-soon dreams of working in the gaming industry, so when she’s hired as a bodyguard for Ahn Min-hyuk (Park Hyung-sik), the chief executive of gaming company Ainsoft, she sees it as the perfect foot in the door.
Meanwhile, Bong-soon’s childhood friend, police officer In Gook-du (Ji-soo), is trying to solve a series of kidnapping cases in their local neighbourhood and Bong-soon is determined to use her strength to help kick some ass ass and catch the culprit.
Ikuesan Oluwaseun (CEO OFOFONOBS) is a Nigerian news carrier blogger, writer, entrepreneur and a web developer. We bring you the Nigerian News, Music and All Informative Messages On This Medium. Connect With Me Via: IG/Twitter: @ofofonobs Call/Whatsapp: +2348114313795