Unless you have been living under a rock, –which I highly doubt since you are reading this article– you’ve heard, seen, or are an active part of the K-wave taking the world by storm. For those who do not know, ‘K-wave’ is the term used to refer to the sudden increase in popularity of South Korean culture around the world. I am sure you agree that K-wave is everywhere from K-pop idols like BTS and Blackpink, to K-dramas like Squid Game and Boys Over Flowers. The population can be divided into two with regards to the K-wave, specifically K-dramas: those who have given in and those who are fighting it because “Why should I watch Lee Min Ho?” For those in the former category, I come bearing recommendations and for those in the latter, I come with good news. K-dramas have improved by leaps since the days of Lee Min Ho. Below is a list of ten great K-dramas to prove it: (I dare you to watch even just half of the dramas on this list and still say otherwise. Unless you are too scared to take that risk.)
- MR QUEEN
This masterpiece shows a 21st-century celebrity chef who falls from a significant height only to wake up in the Joseon era (ancient Korea, sort of). Imagine falling to certain death, only to wake up in a perfectly healthy female body surrounded by people wearing hanboks (Korean traditional attire) and a weirdo who claims he is the king and that you, a very straight male, are his queen.
2. HOSPITAL PLAYLIST
Ever wonder what happens if all the children of a wealthy man decide to abandon their father’s wealth to become priests and Reverend Sisters? Or perhaps what the life looks like from the perspective of consultants like Dr. B. in Neurosurgery or Dr. B. in CTSU? Hospital Playlist shows us that as well as a classic we always look forward to in medical dramas: hospital romance and meddling mothers.
3. ITAEWON CLASS
Picture this, you stand up to bullying in school, get expelled for it and somehow end up in jail. Itaewon Class follows an ex-convict who is determined to make a multinational franchise of his failing restaurant and a gutsy psychopathic social media influencer who can make it happen.
4. IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY
Here, we see an author of children’s storybooks assault someone on live TV. Unfortunately, she cannot reveal that she suffers from a personality disorder because no one is about to buy a book written by a mentally disturbed mind for their 7-year-old. Instead, she leaves town in pursuit of a man who wants nothing to do with her. Well, until she shows up at his place of work to announce that she is horny and asks, “Will you sleep with me?”
A war between the Italian Mafia’s consigliere and a rich psychotic heir to a multinational corporation. Need I say more? Our protagonist, the consigliere is forced to flee the country to South Korea when the head of the Mafia dies. He has one goal in Korea: find a buried gold stash worth millions and a hard drive with enough information to blackmail everyone who is anyone.
6. DESCENDANTS OF THE SUN
A hardworking surgeon thinks she is finally getting recognized but realizes it is for her beauty, not skill when the Chief Medical Director invites her to a hotel room. She finds out after angrily resigning that she lacks the funds to set up her own practice. She is left with no other choice but to beg for her job back. To teach her a lesson, the CMD ships her off to a warring third-world country where she is stuck with her ridiculously attractive ex and nothing but sweltering heat and bad decisions.
7. TRUE BEAUTY
Adapted from a manwha, True Beauty tells a Cinderella-like story. In place of ‘pretty till midnight’, the protagonist is ‘pretty till the makeup comes off’. She transfers schools, gets a crash course on how makeup works and transforms into a princess just in time to start at her new school and of course, goes to over-the-top lengths to keep her secret.
8. SEARCH: WWW
This is a work of art. The 3 main characters are examples of how a work-oriented female may turn out. We have morally grey Tammy who picks the upright choice only when it is convenient, Ga Gyeong who picks whatever her powerful in-laws want and finally, Scarlett whose every decision is driven by her own will, fulfilling the role of the eternally upright one. I cannot do justice to this series but trust me, Search: WWW is a work of art.
9. SKY CASTLE
A daughter determined to meet her parent’s expectations of getting into Seoul National University to study medicine spends all her time studying –I cannot relate– until she nearly loses her mind. It gets worse when someone dies mysteriously and all the evidence points to her. Finally, in what appears to be the fashion of men everywhere, her father threatens divorce because ‘pikin wey spoil, na him mama get am’.
10. HER PRIVATE LIFE
A respectable art curator moonlights as a hard-core fangirl for boyband member, Cha Si An. The catch? Her boss can never find out because she hates fan girls and would fire her immediately. Things get complicated when her supervisor catches her and her best friend in the act and misunderstands, thinking they are a closeted lesbian couple. The catch? Her best friend is married.