South Korean TV shows have become extremely popular all across the world in the past few years. K-drama has shed the image of being the favourite of only teenage girls. Today, people of all ages and gender watch Korean shows and have become fans. While Korean TV shows have a reputation for being romantic comedies, there is a lot more to it. Dive deep and you will find some of the best science fiction and thrillers. Here are some of the best Korean dramas you can binge-watch.
Start-up is a 2020 television series centred on a woman who wants to be an entrepreneur. Protagonist Seo Dal-mi is played by Bae Suzy. She dreams of becoming Korea's Steve Jobs. However, she is an adventurer who doesn't have much savings but has a grand plan to establish herself in the Sandbox, South Korea's fictional Silicon Valley.
The other two main characters in the show are Nam Do-san and Han Ji-pyeong. Nam Do-san is the founder of a firm. He used to be a math genius. But now, he is shy and afraid of social interaction. Han Ji-Pyeong is a team leader at venture capital. He is called 'the Gordon Ramsay of investments' dir his sharp tongue.
'Descendants of the Sun' was a major hit in 2016, the year it was released. It was named the Most Popular Show of the year by Korea Broadcasting Advertising Corporation. Its popularity led to being streamed across Asia. The show has been credited with the rise of tourism in Korea. 'Descendants of the Sun' is the story of two people with different philosophical views. Yoo Si-jin is the captain of a special forces unit and believes killing to protect the lives of a larger population is right. Kang Mo-yeon, a doctor believes all lives are precious. The plot revolves around their classified tasks and fictionalised war-torn nations.
'Stranger' is a crime thriller drama which was a hit with both domestic and international views. It is known for tight plot and gripping sequences. It was featured on the New York Times list of Best TV Shows of 2017. Hwang Si-mok is a prosecutor who suffers from hypersensitivity to certain frequencies of sound. After corrective surgery, he loses his social skills and empathy. The plot thickens when he teams up with Police Lieutenant Han Yeo-jin to solve a murder but ends up exposing a larger scheme of corruption involving a conglomerate.
'Kingdom' is a political period horror-thriller that puts Hollywood to shame. It is the first original Korean series by Netflix. The story is set in Korea three years after the Japanese invasions. The country is ripe for a power grab. Crown Prince Lee Chang is facing a political conspiracy. However, the bigger threat looming over the country is a mysterious plague that is turning people into violent zombies. The show mostly deals with the life or death struggle of the prince and his allies to contain the plague. While there is no shortage of zombie apocalypse movies and TV shows, 'Kingdom' has a fresh and unique take on it. The show's success is largely due to how the creators made it look different than its predecessors.
'Record of Youth' is the tale of three youngsters trying to succeed in the contemporary fashion industry. Sa Hye-jun is a model from a working-class family who aspires to be an actor. Ahn Jeong-ha is a fan of Hye-jun. She wants to be a top make-up artist, but currently works at a beauty salon. Won Hae-hyo is Hye-jun's best friend. He also hails from a rich family. His acting career is managed by his mother. The plot is focused on the trio's struggles to make it in the industry and hold out hope for the future and not let go of their personal values.
'Crash Landing on You' is one of the most notable K-dramas of all time. It is praised for the bold and strong female protagonist. Yoon Se-ri and Ri Jeong Hyeok play two star-crossed lovers. Yoon Se-ri is a South Koran fashion entrepreneur. She is knocked off course by a tornado while paragliding to test her new company's athleisure wear. She crashlands in a forest in the DMZ area of North Korea. She is found by Ri Jeong-hyeok a member of the North Korean elite and a Captain in the North Korean Special Police Force. Jeong-hyeok and his team try to send her back home without notifying the authorities because they might not believe that she is not a spy. The show is widely loved for Se-ri’s relationship with younger team members who never left North Korea and is not aware of the world beyond borders.
'Mother' is a heartwarming show about a woman named Kang Soo-jin and a child named Kim Hye-na. Soo-jin is a school teacher who is getting ready to leave Korea for a promising job in Iceland. Hye-na is one of her students. Soo-jin realises that the child is being abused at her home by the mother and her boyfriend. This leads her to make an impulsive decision to run away with the child to Iceland. The show is about their journey to Iceland and the unexpected events that take place. Child actress Heo Yool was praised for the portrayal of Kim Hye-na (her name is later changed to Kim Yoon-bok). She was chosen from a pool of 400 candidates.
'The King: Eternal Monarch' is a romantic fantasy drama known for its production budget as well as the storyline. The story is set in a modern-day, fictional kingdom called Corea. During a political coup, the Emperor crosses a magical barrier and enters an alternative reality - the Republic of Korea. The plot revolves around his attempt to get back to his country and close the door between two worlds. The total production cost of the show was over USD 25 million. The production company was able to recoup the money from the broadcast deal with SBS (domestic) and (Netflix) before the first episode aired.