Korean television has steadily increased its hold over our hearts and also streaming platforms worldwide. It could be a sweet escape from a world that constantly drains us out and is helplessly stressful. Its increasing popularity can be attributed to the fact that they’re mostly light-hearted and have endings that truly leave our hearts full. However, it is evident that Korean shows are also experimenting with the tone and genre.
Netflix has been slowly expanding its list of Korean dramas that have become highly sought by audiences universally. Although the platform initially started off with a few shows, its catalog now has countless options for you to choose from. Speaking of which, we have curated a list containing the best picks from the year 2021. Here’s a list of our favorite Korean dramas!
12. Sisyphus: The Myth
Park Shin-hye’s flawless portrayal of Gang Seo-hae adds to the thrill and suspense of ‘Sisyphus: The Myth.’ Over time, there has been a range of popular sci-fi Korean movies such as ‘Space Sweepers’ and ‘Seo Bok.’ If you’re looking for shows with similar elements, you can go for this addictive drama series.
The storyline delineates the experiences of a genius inventor Han Tae-sul, who invents a time-traveling device. Seo-hae is a mysterious fighter who needs to help him save the world from getting obliterated. The show has been recognized for its high-quality special effects along with finely orchestrated action sequences. You can watch the series here!
11. You Are My Spring
‘You Are My Spring’ follows Kang Da-jeong (Seo Hyun-jin), a 34-year-old woman looking for a fresh start. She works as a concierge at the Grand Hyatt and is renting a rooftop apartment in the building where a murder occurred right before her arrival. The building is shared by Joo Yeong-do (Kim Dong-wook), a divorced psychiatrist who befriends Da-jeong.
The storyline of the show fundamentally originates from messed-up childhoods and progresses into one that is dominated by a love triangle and a murder mystery. So, you can expect to be entertained at every moment of this gripping drama series, often compared to the likes of ‘Jane The Virgin.’ The best part about the show is that it teaches one how to accept love. If you’re looking to watch the series, head here!
10. My Roommate is a Gumiho
‘My Roommate is a Gumiho’ is a supernatural series that follows Shin Woo-yeo (Jang Ki-yong), a handsome man who identifies as a 999-year-old fox. The show outlines his quest to turn into a human using a bead where he stores human energy. These fantastical elements are merged with romance when he encounters Lee Dam, a woman who accidentally swallows the bead.
Although the narrative introduces major twists and turns, it remains loyal to the “happily ever after” trope that is observed in most Korean dramas. If you’re looking for something light-hearted with a little bit of edge actualized in the form of fantasy, this drama might be an ideal choice for you. Despite detrimental issues that plague the protagonist, you’ll find yourself giggling to occasional jokes and swooning over the mindblowing chemistry between the leads. You can watch the series right here!
9. Mad for Each Other
Despite the short episodes accommodating a single season, the series leaves a lasting impact on the audience. Aptly titled ‘Mad for Each Other,’ the storyline recounts the intense love story between Noh Hwi-oh (Jung Woo), a guy who has problems controlling his anger, and Lee Min-kyung (Oh Yeon-seo), a woman struggling with PTSD, delusions, OCD and other issues. Both of them coincidentally share the same psychiatrist.
Besides the intriguing storyline and compelling characters, the show lists out a few thought-provoking aspects of mental health. It emphasizes the importance of well-being while giving viewers much-needed background information on the debilitating effects of trauma. For people who want to watch it, you can do so here!
8. Move to Heaven
‘Move to Heaven’ is an unusual drama centering around themes that might seem alien to some viewers. The story has been derived from a South Korean essay by someone who has worked as a trauma cleaner. A trauma cleaner is a person who clears out the last possessions of the deceased and collects stories that the dead leave behind.
The series fundamentally revolves around Geu-ru, a young man who has Asperger’s syndrome, and his new guardian, Sang-gu. They get into the business of trauma cleaning, a part of which entails visiting the people close to their dead loved ones and offering them closure and support. In addition, the drama does a brilliant job of portraying the complicated ways of a person on the spectrum and pent-up family trauma. You can stream the show online right here!
7. Hospital Playlist
For hardcore TV buffs, this show might seem reminiscent of ‘Friends,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ and ‘Scrubs.’ Perhaps that is why it has remained a perpetual fan favorite Korean series on Netflix. It follows the turbulent emotional and professional lives of a group of friends who try their best to thrive amidst the pressure of everyday life. The main characters also try to take it easy by playing together in a band. They prioritize their personal lives every once in a while, which breaks the monotony of hospital life. Hence, the name ‘Hospital Playlist’ is derived from this very idea. If you’re intrigued by this unusual fusion of medical drama and music, you can watch the show here!
6. My Name
Han So-hee’s impeccably versatile acting is what makes the crime drama ‘My Name’ truly special. She portrays Yoon Ji-woo, a woman solely guided by revenge, as she tries to find her father’s killer and give him a taste of her fury. Apart from So-hee’s excellent acting, the series has been lauded for its interesting storyline, stylish cinematography, and gut-wrenching action scenes.
In addition, you might be impressed with Ahn Bo-hyun’s portrayal of detective Jeon Pil-do and Park Hee-soon’s role as drug lord Choi Mu-jin. At the end of the day, this show stands out as a thriller that will keep your heart level racing! You will find the show on Netflix.
5. The King’s Affection
At first glance, this historical Korean drama could be dismissed as a commonality among so many other shows bearing similar themes. Moreover, the aspect of gender-swap that defines the central plot is something everyone has seen before. However, ‘The King’s Affection’ turns out to be way more than that. It is a classic tale of romance wrapped up in a journey filled with trials and tribulations.
The show follows a young woman who is forced to pose as her twin brother – the late Crown Prince – after being sent away from the palace years back. The emotional heaviness of the plot is intelligently balanced by moments of light-hearted comedy. On top of that, viewers also receive heartwarming moments of romance centering around the protagonist, Dam-i (Park Eun-bin), and her royal tutor, Jung Ji-woon (SF9’s Rowoon). To get started on the show right now, head here!
‘Vincenzo’ is a fresh take on K-drama that mostly caters to the teenage or young adult demographic. It is a dark comedy that essays the unusual story of a Korean-Italian mafia consigliere. Viewers didn’t see this one coming but were glad to have sat through the 20 episodes. Replete with dramatic love-hate relationships between characters, interesting twists, and addictive action sequences, ‘Vincenzo’ stands out as a wholesome watch. In the end, ‘Vincenzo’ rests as a compelling thriller, with comedy breaks introduced occasionally to ease up the tension. If you’re interested, take a moment to check the show out right here!
‘Hellbound‘ is another name in the list of darker Korean shows that have gained immense traction and fan following. This beautiful dystopian fiction is crafted across an intense beginning with three giant dark demons scarily killing a man on the street. The first scene serves as an agency for more chaos, and what comes next is a six-episode-long non-linear account of humanity’s descent into darkness.
The focus shifts to characters thriving in different storylines. The plot is held together by attorney Min Hye-jin (Kim Hyun-joo), who helps a woman afflicted by the world that has turned irreversibly bleak. So, Hye-jin must understand and dig deeper into the factors that have contributed to this undesirable ordeal. If you’re subscribed to Netflix, you can watch the show here!
This modern-day relationship drama tugs at our heartstrings, leaving us both smiley-faced and teary-eyed. An art student Na-bi (Han So-hee) just enters university, where she chances upon a handsome young man. She immediately falls for his boyish charm and mysterious persona. But his tainted reputation prevents her from pursuing a relationship with him.
On the surface, ‘Nevertheless’ can be compared to a standard Korean drama that retains all the elements of love and romance. However, it is a complex story that pulls through because of the emotional depth and nuances that build upon its central premise. The most interesting part of the plot is the fact that the lead male protagonist is a character that is essentially flawed, unlike the “knight in shining armor” trope that we are conventionally accustomed to seeing. If you’re all set to stream it on Netflix, you can do so here!
1. Squid Game
If we have to name a single show that has taken the world by storm, it has to be Netflix’s ‘Squid Game.’ It deviates from the usual feel-good tropes of Korean dramas in general and takes us on a gritty journey of survival. It essentially revolves around hundreds of financially plagued contestants competing in a series of children’s games for a huge sum of money. However, the consequences turn out to be unimaginably dire.
Although the show thrives on violence, for the most part, it is somehow hopeful, which ultimately gives us something to root for. In addition, it has good cinematography, coupled with well-executed action sequences and a background score that chills our spine! ‘Squid Game’ has hence received critical acclaim along with worldwide recognition for its unwavering brutality shielding a soft core. If you’re subscribed to Netflix, you can watch the show here!
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