Korean dramas, also known as K-dramas, have a rich cultural history that spans decades. From low-budget TV dramas that provided escapism for Koreans during the 35-year Japanese occupation (1910-1945) to Squid Games (2021) becoming Netflix’s most-watched show in 94 countries, Korea has proven to be a persevering force in global entertainment.
In 2016, when Netflix partnered with South Korea’s largest production company, Studio Dragon, and its parent company, CJ ENM, they purchased the rights to stream the studio’s older and upcoming productions, which allowed viewers in the U.S. to stream K-drama hits such as Crash Landing On You and The King: Eternal Monarch—which we’ll get to shortly.
K-dramas offer a colorful assortment of genres including fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, and period romances. Here are The Take’s favorite K-dramas that are available to stream right now:
Crash Landing On You (2019-2020)
If you’re a Bridgerton or Jane Austen fan, you should absolutely binge watch this K-drama show that follows the forbidden romance between a South Korean heiress and a North Korean army officer. Aside from the electric slow-burn tension, Crash Landing On You explores the political tensions between North and South Korea while also navigating class and family structures. Fun fact: the actors who play the main couple on the show are married in real life!
The Glory (2022-)
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and The Glory serves it with vengeful feminine prestige. Written and directed by two South Korean women, Kim Eun-sook and Ahn Gil-ho, this psychological thriller follows a teacher who executes a decades-long revenge plan on her childhood bullies. The Glory received eight nominations at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards, winning three – Best Drama, Best Actress for Song Hye-kyo, and Best Supporting Actress for Lim Ji-yeon.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022-)
One of the most-watched shows on Netflix, Extraordinary Attorney Woo is a heartwarming procedural that follows an autistic female attorney who is hired by a major law firm in Seoul, South Korea. While she encounters prejudice and is constantly underestimated by her fellow attorneys, Woo’s emotional intelligence and ability to parse through ethically-charged cases in unconventional ways make her a force to be reckoned with.
The King: Eternal Monarch (2020-?)
Love Fantasy AU stories? This fantasy/sci-fi K-drama should be right up your alley. Eternal Monarch follows a modern-day emperor named Lee-Gon (played by the South Korean star Lee Min-ho) whose father was murdered when he was a child. The murderer is Lee-Gon’s uncle, who acquired a magical flute called the manpasikjeok that allows him to hide in an alternate universe where Korea is a republic, not a kingdom. This ambitious series is prime Korean entertainment with a talented ensemble and intricate storylines. Netflix has yet to confirm a second season, which likely has to do with the controversy surrounding the show’s imperialist imagery.
Sweet Home (2020-)
Based on the original South Korean webtoon that attracted over 2.1 billion views, Netflix’s Sweet Home is a horror fantasy K-drama that was released in 2020. Mirroring our own reality—with creative liberties—the series follows a group of residents trapped in an apartment building as they try to survive a monster apocalypse. Sound familiar? The show has been praised for its high production value with each episode costing around $2.4 million to make.
Mr. Sunshine (2018)
This is another show for the star-crossed romance shippers. And, perhaps, one of the best historical K-dramas produced in the last five years. Mr. Sunshine has also been lauded as one of “the most realistic” K-dramas on television, tackling issues like colonization, class wars, and slavery. Set at the end of the Joseon dynasty, the story follows Eugene Choi, a former slave who returns to Joseon (Korea) as a United States Marine Corps Officer (played by Parasite actor Lee Byung-hun). Tensions ensue when Eugene falls in love with an aristocrat’s daughter.
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021)
A romantic dramedy and classic dose of comfort TV, this critically acclaimed series follows Yoon Hye-Jin (Shin Min-ah), an accomplished dentist from Seoul who leaves the big city to open her own practice in a small fishing village. There, she meets a charming handyman called Chief Hong (Kim Seon-ho) and the two can’t deny the chemistry growing between them.
Love The Sopranos? We highly recommend the South Korean dark-comedy series, Vincenzo, which follows a mob-affiliated lawyer who was adopted by the Italian Mafia when he was a boy. Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joong-Ki) is a charming anti-hero you can’t help but root for. Although Vincenzo only had one season, it’s been praised as one of the best K-dramas since Crash Landing On You. Prepare for plenty of action, romance, and even a treasure hunt…
Itaewon Class (2020)
Based on the original webtoon, Itaewon Class stars new MCU addition Park Seo-joon (The Marvels) who plays a struggling pub owner that dreams of starting his own franchise. He also seeks revenge against a villainous, rich, father/son duo from his past that own Korea’s top food conglomerate. The series deftly navigates class and friendship, and features a diverse cast that includes a transgender and Black Korean character.
Donned as the “Korean Scandal,” this fantastic political series follows a talented “fixer” who leaves her cushy job at a successful business to enter the world of politics. Determined to lead a career by ethics over profit, Hwang Do-hee (Kim Hee-ae) works to turn a civil rights attorney (Moon So-ri) into the next mayor of Seoul. Queenmaker is a story about friendship, female empowerment, and justice.
The titles mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are over 286 Korean movie and TV shows streaming on Netflix right now. Time to binge!
Hanumanth. “The King: Eternal Monarch: Why the Controversial K-Drama Is Banned in South Korea.” MovieWeb, 22, September 2023.
Mattson, Kelcie. “How Netflix Became the Go-to Streamer for K-Dramas.” Collider, 4, February 2023.
W. Steinmeyer. “Korean Understandings of the Occupation Through Drama.” Metropolitan State University of Denver.