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My Top 10 Korean Drama Recommendations for a Newbie

You accidentally came across one Korean drama and got hooked, and now you need another fix? Or you're tired of your friend endlessly going on about these shows with pretty boys and you've decided to try it, so you might at least have something to talk about? Or you are said friend, and you want to recommend some dramas so they can also become as addicted as you are?

You're in the right place. I got you.

*Please note that these are based on MY preferences. These are also relatively older dramas. I think 2008 - 2015 was the golden age of dramas. They were modern enough to explore interesting premises and plot lines, but still very 'Korean' and cultural in nature, without feeling like they were pandering to the international audience. While I love and enjoy the newer dramas, I believe everyone should start with one of these. It sets a good tone of what these dramas are like, and what to expect.

10 - Scent of a Woman (2011)

Warning: This is a melodrama, meaning it is sad. I repeat, this is a sad drama. But it's so deliciously sad.

It was also my first introduction to Kim Sun-A and Lee Dong-Wook, who both kick the ball out of the park with their acting. I could care less for the second leads in this one, as is the case with most dramas before 2013.

This is about a woman who finds out she has cancer, and a limited time to live. But oh, the life she lives.

This drama is not without fault. But while it is an imperfect drama, I am a sucker for female characters who take control of their lives and arcs, and absolutely refuse

to become the typical K-drama Candy-like Cinderella. Also, there's this dance scene, which is EVERYTHING!

9 - City Hunter (2011)

This is the best drama Lee Min Ho ever did, and nothing else he has done even comes close. This is a hill I am ready to die on, so fight me.

Also, I love, love, love superheros dramas, especially when they're done properly. And there is nothing better than watching baby-Min-Ho fighting and jumping over buildings, being an undercover hero. Park Min Young is also really good as the plucky presidential bodyguard. To be honest, she tends to be really good in anything she does, so remember her name.

It has everything you could want from a drama - romance, action, mystery, intrigue, a well justified revenge plot, an adorable righteous second lead (Who deserved better! #JusticeForKimYoungJoo) and a father-son relationship that made my heart ache.

8 - SungKyunKwan Scandal (2010)

I'm usually not a fan of Sageuks (historical dramas), but there are two reasons to watch this drama: Gu Yong Ha (Song Joong Ki) and Moon Jae Shin (Yoo Ah In).

No offence to the main couple who are cute in their own right, but this bromance completely steal the show. They even won the Best Couple award, and it's the most hilarious thing. I never wanted a scene that included these two characters to end.

Let's not forget all the cross-dressing hi jinks. This is about a girl, who pretends to be a man and gets into the illustrious all male college, SungKyunKwan.

Yes, we are purposefully going to ignore how and why people could not tell Kim Yoon Hee was female. Ignorance is extremely blissful in dramaland. Instead we're going to focus on all the pretty and heart fluttering romance. Between Joong Ki, Yoo Ah In and Min Young, there is more than enough to go around.

Remember what I said about Park Min Young earlier? Yup. She's really good in this as well. Although I'd never understand how she got three men to fall in love with her, all while dressed like a man.

The reverse harem trope has to be one my favorite K-drama tropes, because I love when it rains men. So cross dressing? Check. Reverse harem? Check. Historical drama (If you're into them)? Check. Two male friends with a steamy bromance hot enough to boil blood? Check. Check. Check.

7- Master's Sun (2013)

I love when dramaland finds new and inventive ways to encourage 'skinship' (physical touching) between characters.

This is about a woman who sees dead people (some really scary ghosts in this drama, *shiver). This unwanted talent really hinders her life, until she discovers that the ghosts disappears anytime she touches this particular grouchy, grumpy, stingy man who wants nothing to do with her.

Probably one of the most romantic dramas to ever be made, if I'm being honest. Considering the ghost plot, I really wasn't expecting it to be so cute and funny. But it really is.

Maybe don't watch this at night or alone though - Korean ghosts are a different level of scary.

6 - School 2013 (2013)

I have written many drama recommendation lists over the years, and all of them have included School 2013.

I feel like I have to give this warning though: There is no romance in this drama. But I promise, you won't even notice the lack of a romance plot.

Go Nam Soon (Lee Jong Suk) and Park Heung Soo's (Kim Woo Bin) bromance provides all the heart fluttering, toe curling, pillow squealing excitement you crave. It's so pure, and so angsty, and in my perfect world, I can put these two in my pocket and watch them be friends forever.

There is also Jang Nara and Choi Daniel. I have never been so interested in the platonic relationship of two high school teachers. Even the antagonists in this drama made my heart ache sweetly. Watch this drama. Watch it.

5 - I Can Hear Your Voice (2013)

There are some actors that I always recommend people to look out for, because they have a very good track record. At the top of that list would be Lee Jong Suk. Except for Dr Stranger (that cursed drama that we must never talk about ever again), he tends to do a fantastic job picking his dramas. And I Hear Your Voice is no different.

It also has one of my favorite drama tropes, Noona Romance. (although this towed a VERY thin line considering the male character was a high school student, and she was a full grown lawyering adult)

The storyline is sweet. The actors are superb. The romance is cute (ick factor ignored). And the villain is actually scary.

4 - Queen In Hyun's Man - (2012)

The Kisses! The numerous kisses! The amazing chemistry! The two lead actors actually ended up dating in real life, if that gives you an idea on just how electric their chemistry is, in this drama.

It's about a Joseon nobleman and a modern day actress, so there's time travel involved. And like with all sageuks (historical dramas), there is a lot of politics drama in the Joseon timeline.

But that does not prevent the storyline from being cute and easy to follow. I also like how the characters accepted early on that they liked each other, so none of the idiotic push-and-pull. The female lead was also remains one of my favorite feminist icons. My girl know what she wants, and how to go for it? And in 2012, she was as rare as a unicorn. I truly love this drama and the barriers it broke for it's time.

And also, again, THE KISSES!

3 - My Love From Another Star (2013)

If you learn nothing else, learn this: Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun are not of this realm. They are perfection incarnate.

End of post.

Lol, no, but seriously. These two are absolute powerhouses, and so is this famous drama.

This is about an alien who is just trying to mind his business, and an actress who literally bulldozes her way into his heart. Cue all the cute music.

MLFAS is not without fault (I am still so upset about how they never explored the alien's backstory. So much unused material). But for all its faults, this is still one of the 'easy to binge watch and repeat numerously' dramas. The story line is adorable. Kim Soo Hyun makes for one HOT ALIEN!

If all aliens look like him, I am hoping and begging that the Earth gets invaded this very second.

2 - Pinocchio (2014)

I do not know how to review this drama without giving away the whole thing.

This is technically about two reporters, one of whom has a fictional disability called the Pinocchio Syndrome. Anyone with this syndrome cannot lie, without hiccuping.

But this is such a small part of the plot. It is so much more. There is so much more awesomeness, and I'm not a skilled enough writer to condense it into a couple of lines.

My favorite scene EVER comes from this drama in episode 7, where a character's past words comes back to haunt him. It is cinematography brilliance! it is such a great scene, and I think about it at least once a month.

This is a near perfect drama, in my opinion. As stated earlier, Lee Jong Suk has truly been blessed by the gods. This is also one Park Shin Hye's best kissing scene... do with that information as you wish.

But seriously, watch this drama. It is damn near perfection.

1 - Healer (2014)

If we have ever had a conversation about K-Dramas, you know that this is my Holy Grail of dramas. Ji Chang Wook is the best thing to ever happen to my screen. I love him SO much! I especially love him in this absolutely perfect drama. I really do not have to words to describe how much you need to watch this drama.

This is about a self proclaimed loner who works as a night courier under the pseudonym 'Healer'. All he wants is to save enough money to buy an island and live in isolation , which makes him my spirit animal. Then he accepts a mission that brings him in contact with someone who used to know his late father. Which kicks starts the unraveling of all the dark secrets in his life.

This drama has everything you're looking for: Action, Romance, Suspense, Comedy, extremely brilliant writing, a hidden hero, screen crackling chemistry and f**king fantastic acting.



Bonus - Marriage, Not Dating (2014)

A grumpy abrasive plastic surgeon who never wants to get married, and a hopeless romantic who wants nothing else but to get married, come together to fake a relationship.

What could go wrong? Or I guess in this case, what could go right? *wink wink

This drama is extremely hilarious. I'm talking 'pause the show so you can laugh' funny. It's a very well executed romance comedy, and if you want a light watch, with a lot of heart, it does not get better than this.

I did get a little annoyed with the direction style as the drama went on, but that was my personal bias. I find that a lot of people enjoyed that direction style. And whatever fault I might have with it, it does not change the fact that this really is a good drama, and deserves a spot on your 'to watch' list.

Any drama you think I missed? Let me know in the comment section. Let's chat about it.


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