So-called K-dramas, series from South Korea, are enjoying increasing popularity internationally. Here are 15 series tips from the land of the morning calm that you should definitely take a look at.
Series productions from South Korea have been gaining increasing attention and popularity since the 1980s. They were an important part of the so-called “Korean wave”, which triggered a boom in (South) Korean pop culture worldwide. By the way, “Korean” always means South Korean in the following. K-Drama is the official term for such series; based on other important branches of the Korean entertainment industry such as K-Poptec. The exciting mix of romance, family conflicts and often a thriller plot is met with a lot of approval from the audience and gives a big K-drama on the domestic market ratings that our German Sunday evening institution “Tatort” can only dream of. For a few years now, too Streaming provider Netflix jumped on the road to success of South Korean series. Subscribers can now stream numerous series from South Korea, including some specially produced for Netflix.
In this article, you will find 15 recommendations from our editors in the area of K-Drama that you should definitely see. You can stream all of the named Korean series on Netflix.
The K-Drama and its special features
Compared to western series productions, there are some differences to Korean series. First and foremost, the form is to be mentioned here: K-dramas usually consist of only one season. Because the plot is designed from the outset for only one, self-contained season. In most cases, this comprises 16 to 24 episodes, each around 40 minutes in length.
In the beginning it was purely television productions by the major Korean broadcasters such as KBS MBC and TBC, but now production is often carried out by independent studios. Behind it is a huge industry that works closely with the music industry. Actors of K-dramas are often big stars in their home country who are also successful as K-pop singers, dancers and / or models. Well-known examples of this are the singer IU, boy group member Baekhyun or ex-girl group member and presenter Bae Suzy.
As in the United States, it was common practice in South Korea for many years to only shoot a few episodes before it first aired. Further episodes will not be produced until the broadcast continues, so that we can respond directly to the fans’ suggestions and requests. In general, the exchange with fans plays an exceptionally important role in the K-Drama industry. This concept has been weakened somewhat in recent years in order to be able to sell particularly promising series better abroad. On Netflix, the Korean series can usually be seen in the original with subtitles.
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Crash Landing on You
In the Korean series “Crash Landing on You”, a South Korean businesswoman and a North Korean officer fall in love. After Yoon Se-ri (…) is literally blown over the border with her paraglider in a storm, Ri Jeong-hyeok hides her and helps her return home. At the same time he is investigating the murder of his brother and is getting closer and closer to the perpetrator, a high-ranking officer. In doing so, he puts himself, his family and his men, as well as Seri, in danger.
The K-Drama is one of the first to address the conflict between North and South Korea. The series deals with cultural differences in a very refreshing way, which is very entertainingly discussed in one of the characters – a North Korean soldier who is a secret fan of the K-dramas that are banned in North Korea. The series with 16 episodes exceeded all expectations in 2020 and questions socialization as well as seemingly cemented role models.
Six young people meet at Kirin Art High School. Despite the most diverse origins, characters and motivations, they are all united by a love of music. Among other things, it develops around a complicated four-sided relationship and a power struggle for young talent. It is clear from the start that one of them has a great career ahead of them as “K” – just who will it be?
The K-drama “Dream High” was very successful in South Korea itself as well as in Japan and Switzerland, where it won the prestigious Rose d’Or award for Best Youth Series. Particularly noteworthy is the soundtrack of the series, on which the actors themselves contributed. Due to the enormous success, a second season followed in 2012, which also accompanies a group of young musicians at the Kirin School.
The young Park Sae-ro-yi has vowed revenge on the influential Jangga Group. He was once expelled from school because of the company’s founder’s son and his father was fatally injured in the ensuing conflict. The events were then systematically covered up by the Jangga Group. With the help of his friends, Sae-ro-yi now builds a rival company to repay his enemies and avenge his father’s death.
The series is based on the very successful Webtoon of the same name – a South Korean webcomic – and comprises 16 episodes in one season.
What if you could express your romantic feelings through an app? In the “Love Alarm” series, which is also based on a Webtoon, the app of the same name can do this, whether the users want it or not. If the person you rave about is nearby, a signal is triggered on their cell phone. In this world, in which nobody can hide their own feelings, the shy Kim Jo-jo and the popular model Hwang Sun-oh fall in love. His best friend Lee Hye-yeong also has feelings for yo-yo. Even more exciting than the triangular relationship is the social development through the app. The fronts between proponents of the app and those who categorically oppose it harden quickly.
The K-Drama even includes two seasons, which is atypical of the genre, and was released directly on Netflix from 2019. The first season is particularly recommended. The second falls off a bit in comparison, but closes the plot and is also worth watching.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Moon Gang-tae lives with his autistic brother Sang-tae, who witnessed a murder as a child and has struggled with mental health problems ever since. The two brothers therefore move frequently and lead a very isolated life. One day Gang-tae meets the children’s book author Ko Moon-young, who suffers from an antisocial personality disorder. The three quickly discover that their past is intertwined and that together they can overcome the traumas of their childhood.
The series, which appeared in 2020, was very successful internationally. In addition to the great cast, the high-quality and soulfully staged look of the Korean series should be emphasized. “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” comprises 16 episodes in one season and is an absolute recommendation for all fans of melancholy romantic series.
Descendants of the Sun
Due to their completely opposite convictions, the relationship between the soldier Yoon Si-jin and the surgeon Kang Mo-yeon is not a lucky star. But fate has its own plans and the two meet again in the fictional Uruk war zone.
The K-drama “Descendants of the Sun”, broadcast in 2016, is one of the few Korean series productions that was shot in advance. The series is definitely worth seeing because of the beautifully told love story, numerous, well choreographed action scenes and a wonderfully matching soundtrack.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the officer Eugene Choi and the aristocrat Go Ae-shin meet in Korea. He fled the unrest in the country to the United States as a child and is now returning home for a mission. She works in secret for the rebels who oppose the annexation of Korea by Japan. Despite different social classes and an arranged marriage for Ae-shin, the two fall in love and discover a political conspiracy.
Several real-historical events have flowed into the Korean series, even if some inaccuracies led to criticism. Nonetheless, “Mr. Sunshine “a K-Drama on Netflix that is well worth seeing with an impressive historical backdrop and costumes. In the female lead, the film actress Kim Tae-ri, known from “Die Pickpocket” and “Space Sweepers”, is convincing.
The Last Empress
The series “The Last Empress” takes place in a hypothetical constitutional monarchy in contemporary South Korea. When the actress oh Sunny becomes a Cinderella overnight and marries the young, attractive Emperor Lee Hyuk, she can hardly believe her luck. Little does she suspect that it is just a diversionary maneuver and that the imperial family in the background swept a number of crimes under the carpet. In the palace, the young woman is initially on her own. However, she unexpectedly receives assistance from one of the palace guards, Wang-sik. He sneaked into the palace to avenge his mother’s death.
With 26 episodes in a season, the K-drama on Netflix is unusually long. The reason for this was the enormously high audience ratings in 2018. Because the series scores among other things with telenovela-suspicious entanglements and a couple of really nicely choreographed action scenes.
A former mercenary involuntarily gets caught up in the machinations of a powerful family. In order to avenge the death of his beloved, he becomes the bodyguard of the unstable daughter of the head of the family. A close bond develops between the two, which then leads to various conflicts of conscience on all sides.
The mix between political power games, beautiful action scenes, a special love affair and a personal campaign of revenge makes a difference. “The K2” comprises 16 episodes and was able to garner numerous audience awards in South Korea.
At the time of the Joseon Dynasty, a mysterious zombie disease raged in the kingdom that even afflicted the king. Crown Prince Chang and Seo-bin, the doctor’s assistant, investigate the spreading epidemic and get entangled in political intrigues without knowing it.
The K-drama, produced by Netflix itself, mixes the well-known zombie theme with medieval Korea in a refreshingly new way. So far, a total of 12 episodes have appeared in two seasons, a sequel is quite likely.
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In the mythical land of Arth, the political elite fights for power. The focus is on the fates of two people who have been predetermined by fate and who are destined to plunge their own people into chaos.
“Arthdal Chronicles” is sometimes referred to as the Korean “Game of Thrones”. From the political intrigues to the fantasy kingdom of Arth, there are actually some similarities, but one should not compare the series under any circumstances. If you like Asian medieval fantasy, you shouldn’t miss the K-Drama on Netflix.
An arrogant, wealthy businessman falls in love with an ambitious stunt woman. She doesn’t really want to know anything about him, but due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, the two accidentally swap bodies.
The romantic comedy ran on Korean television in 2010. All 20 episodes of the K-drama can now be seen on Netflix.
During the Joseon Dynasty, the outcast Prince Yi Geum had only one goal: to take his rightful place as king. To do this, he enters into unusual alliances, including with an ambitious policewoman and a famous clown.
The historical K-drama, released in 2019, comprises 24 episodes. The historical figure Prince Yeoning, one of the most colorful figures in Korean history, served as a template.
Live Up To Your Name
A doctor from the Korean Middle Ages wakes up in the present after his supposed death in Seoul. There he meets a successful surgeon who firmly believes in the achievements of modern medicine. A passionate reality develops between the two and ultimately a scientific exchange over the centuries.
The K-Drama on Netflix with a funny, reinterpreted time travel theme comprises 16 episodes. The series was also the impressive comeback of Kim Nam-gil, who plays the somewhat idiot and at times insensitive medieval acupuncturist.
In-ha and Dal-po both have the same goal: They want to become journalists. She because she wants to follow in the footsteps of her successful mother, which is made more difficult for her by her “Pinocchio” syndrome – she hiccups when she lies. He to stand up for his principles and to publicize and avenge his family’s tragedy. Years ago it was In-ha’s mother who drove Dal-pos’s mother to suicide with speculation and public incitement.
The successful K-drama consists of 20 episodes. The leading roles include Lee Jong-suk and the internationally known actress Park Shin-hye.