Unless you have been living under a rock, you would know the ever-growing popularity of the latest phenomenon brought by globalization: Korean media. Korean Pop music – commonly known as K-pop – has now become almost mainstream, dominating our iTunes and Spotify charts, and being basically, well, literally everywhere. As they got increasingly invested into the new musical wave, most K-pop fans slowly begun to discover more Korean media – such as movies like the Oscar-winning masterpiece Parasite, so much so that East Asian content has now become an important asset in popular culture.
The latest trend discovered by the general public are Korean Dramas, i.e. K-dramas. If you’ve never seen a K-drama before, let me just say: sorry guys, you’re missing out on a lot.
K-dramas are all incredibly different from one another.
K-dramas are all incredibly different from one another, they have intricated and tangled diverse storylines, with twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat during every single episode. However, they all have the same main ingredient: romance, or better, the complete and utter belief in it. In all K-dramas, the characters believe in love and its power until the very end, no matter if the finale is tooth-rotting lovey-dovey, or absolutely heart-breaking. For every hopeless romantic like myself, this is one of the most appealing traits of K-dramas – that despite all life’s ups and downs, amor omnia vincit, i.e. love conquers all.
So, here we have compiled a shortlist of K-dramas you must binge-watch this summer. You’re gonna laugh, you’re gonna cry, but most of all, you are for sure gonna get hooked.
Hotel del Luna (2019)
Hotel del Luna is probably one of the most complicated dramas out there, with its deeply intricated plot, but in a nutshell, it goes like this: Jang Man-wol (Lee Ji-eun, aka IU) is the owner of Hotel del Luna, an invisible hotel in Seoul that caters only to ghosts while they prepare for the transit to the afterlife. She has owned the establishment for about 1300 years, as she’s being forced to run it by the deities in order to pay for the sins she committed during her lifetime. Because of a pact made by his father, Koo Chan-sung (Yeo Jin-goo) begins working at the hotel as the general manager. However, he soon reveals himself to be far more important to Man-wol than she ever expected. This drama is exceptionally beautiful and will keep you hooked until the very last episode, but I must warn you: be prepared to shed a few (or many!) tears.
Sky Castle (2018-2019)
Just to give you an idea of how addictive Sky Castle truly is – it is the highest-rated show in Korean cable television history, having won over 22% of Koreans who would tune in every week to see the latest episode. The drama tells the story of four women and their obsession to keep the status quo of their families as members of the elite wealthy society of South Korea, and get their children into prestigious universities. Under a veil of satire, the series tackles many topics we’re all familiar with, such as the difficulty of college entrance exams, parental pressure, and tricky family situations. And of course, a good dose of romance!
If you’re looking for a wholesome drama with love triangles, a hint of angst, and a good dose of comic-relief, this one is for you!
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo (2016-2017)
College girl Kim Bok-joo (Lee Sung-kyung) is trying to pursue her dream of becoming a professional weightlifter when she runs into childhood acquaintance and now star swimmer Jung Joon-hyung (Nam Joo-hyuck). They become friends and (surprise surprise) eventually develop feelings for each other. If you’re looking for a wholesome drama with love triangles, a hint of angst, and a good dose of comic relief, this one is for you!
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)
From the 21st century, Go Ha-jin (Lee Ji-eun, aka IU) is magically transported during an eclipse back to the Goryeo era, during the reign of Taejo in the year 941. There, she wakes up as her doppelgänger, Hae Soo, cousin of the wife of the 8th prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha-neul), and is forced to live under her identity. With her angelic looks and pure grace, she captures the hearts of all the princes, yet she only has eyes for the dark and brooding 4th prince Wang So (Lee Joon-gi). As the drama develops, Hae Soo finds herself in the midst of the rivalry among the princes, as they fight for the place on the throne and the one in her heart. If you love romance, plot-twists, and historical digging, this show will surely steal and warm your heart, as well as break it into a thousand pieces. Just a tip – keep the tissues ready.
Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (Goblin) (2016-2017)
Kim Shin (Gong Yoo) was a mighty general from the Goryeo dynasty who, in the moment of his death, is cursed to live forever as a goblin. The only way he could ever really die is if he manages to find a human bride and she removes the invisible sword lodged into his chest. Luckily for him, he meets Ji Eun-tak (Kim Go-eun), a young girl who can see ghosts, who might just be the one he has been looking for to end his immortality. Despite their rocky start, the two eventually get closer and develop feelings for one another. Goblin is one of the most famous K-dramas out there, and it certainly earned its fame: with the way it intertwines mystery, mysticality and romance, who could resist its charms?
Strong Girl Bong-soon (2017)
Do Bong-soon (Park Bo-young) seems like a regular 20-something-year-old, but she has a secret: like all the women in her family, she was born with superhuman strength. Her dream is to one day become a videogame designer, but she has had no luck in finding a job so far. When she runs into gaming company CEO Ahn Min-hyuk (Park Hyung-sik), he hires her as his bodyguard after accidentally witnessing her powers. Throughout the show, the two develop feelings for each other, and Bong-Soon will find herself caught in a love triangle with the handsome CEO and with her long-time crush In Kook-doo (Ji Soo), while simultaneously trying to chase after a serial kidnapper. Magic, love, and a bit of thrill… what more could you wish for?