Korean Drama Recommendations for Beginners

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I know I haven’t actually finished many Kdramas. But I feel like I’ve been in Kdramaland long enough and have seen enough Kdramas to recommend some series to everyone. I will be going off of my drama list, which can be found here.

I will only be recommending series that I’ve actually tried. Also, since this is a Kdrama-focused list, I will not be including other Asian dramas. But otherwise… This is a pretty complete compilation.

Enjoy.


t h e    l i s t

** = The dramas I really like

  • 49 Days: This is one of the first Kdramas I saw as a teenager, and I remember being fascinated by the storyline. Romance, mystery, supernatural elements all included.
  • 9 Ends 2 Outs: There needs to be more of these type of stories in Kdramaland. The two leads aren’t first loves, but they are grow up as best friends. When they’re adults, they live with each other. And then they fall in love.
  • **Age of Youth: Roommates navigating through college and relationships. I love this series.
  • All In: A drama from my childhood… which means I don’t remember much plot-wise. It’s a very stereotypical Kdrama but has a great OST. There’s romance, gambling, fighting, and Song Hye Gyo.
  • Arang and the Magistrate: Supernatural romance and Shin Min Ah is a good singer. I could care less about the supernatural elements (the ghosts) but the two leads were lovely.
  • Angel Eyes: There’s this one OST I like but this drama is forgettable.
  • Biscuit Teacher Star Candy: Gong Hyo Jin has chemistry with all of her co-leads. This drama is no exception. This is a teacher-student romance, though, which crosses into some moral ground.
  • Boys over Flowers: Ha. Ha. Frankly none of the main characters are particularly likable. Goo Hye Sun’s acting leaves much to be desired. Rich stuck-up guy falls for poor hardworking classmate.
  • Bubblegum: I actually really liked this drama at first, but I guess I got bored and dropped the series? The chemistry between the leads is kinda eh. Best friends become lovers plot.
  • Cheese in the Trap: The series doesn’t end in a way that most people watching would want it to end. Nevertheless, good acting performances. Set in college. Tsundere male lead who falls for someone who basically perceives that he’s not all that he seems.
  • Chuno: Amazing OST. Action sageuk. Don’t remember much else.
  • City Hunter: I really tried to like this drama, but despite trying it maybe five times, I still couldn’t fall in love. However, there is a lot of chemistry between the two leads. There’s action as well.
  • **Coffee Prince: Gender-bender and on-fire chemistry. Girl (who everyone thinks is a guy) works at a coffee shop, where the owner gradually develops feelings for her.
  • Couple or Trouble: Kind of a bizzarre opening sequence but cute interactions between the two leads. Amnesia involved.
  • Cunning Single Lady: Second lead syndrome. I’m not sure if there was much character development.
  • Delightful Girl Choon Hyang: Even with the stereotypical Kdrama elements, this drama was just delightful. Comedic, and features a super cute OTP.
  • Dong Yi: A sageuk about a girl who gradually moves up the ranks in the palace. I think she played a musical instrument? Some romance.
  • Fated to Love You: I’d say go for the Taiwanese version of this series instead.
  • Finding Mr. Destiny: Freaking Gong Yoo with Im Soo Jung– they are the definition of OTP. However, the actual plot in this movie is not only confusing but also underwhelming. I’d say just watch an AMV instead.
  • Flower Boy Next Door: One of my first Kdramas and I loved the plot- a girl who doesn’t go out of her apartment often meets people who gradually begin to open her world view and her heart. Also this OST sang by Park Shin Hye.
  • Flower Boy Ramen Shop: Reverse harem, where a girl gets to work in a ramen shop filled with guy workers. The second lead actually is still dating the female lead in real life, I think.
  • Full House: Kdrama classic. Contract between a guy and girl just to share a house– we all know where this story is headed. This song though.
  • God’s Gift – 14 Days: Primarily an action series. Lee Bo Young delivers an emotional performance here.
  • Goong: I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with the male lead as the series progressed, but there was so much love for this series that there was a sequel (that really didn’t do so great ratings-wise). Modern day palace drama.
  • Healer: It’s like a better version of City Hunter! Coincidentally the female lead here also was the lead in City Hunter.
  • Heartstrings: College setting, music-centered. You’re Beautiful fans who got second lead syndrome will like this show.
  • History of a Salaryman: Really funny and smart. And this song.
  • Hot Young Bloods: A forgettable movie. Sorry, Park Bo Young.
  • **I Hear Your Voice: An amalgamation of crime mystery, law, friendship, and romance. Highly recommend.
  • I Need Romance: Welp, I remember almost nothing about this series.
  • **Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum): A longer series, at 54 episodes. But I cherish this drama for giving me a love for cooking. The cooking competitions in this sageuk are dramatic. Romance is icing on the cake, but not pronounced.
  • **Innocent Man: Revenge-but-love-gets-in-the-way plot. It’s super dramatic, but so good. The two leads make an awesome couple, and the antagonists play their roles well.
  • Let’s Eat: If I wasn’t recapping this drama on my old blog I would have dropped the series sooner. If you like seeing people eat yummy food, you’ll like this series. There’s a touch of mystery and romance.
  • **Liar Game: It’s difficult to feel bored with this series because it’s so fast paced. Mystery coming in the form of a dangerous game, and a fantastic protagonist. Where is Season 2…
  • Little Girl K: Short series but manages to pack in both action and romance. Badass female lead.
  • **Marriage Not Dating: This is what rom-coms should aspire to be.
  • Mask: The leads deliver stellar performances in this revenge melodrama, but the plot felt contrived and overly dramatic.
  • May Queen: The love interests kind of switch halfway through. Who knew shipbuilding had this much drama involved? But as I remember the story, it was pretty solid.
  • **Misaeng (Incomplete Life): The episodes feel long, but I identified so much with the main character’s struggles in his work that I forgave the drama. A breakout performance from Byun Yo Han (and honestly, all of the main cast). Not much romance; slice-of-life.
  • **Missing Noir M: Crime mystery, with episodes so fantastically directed that it reminded me of the Sherlock series.
  • **My Name is Kim Sam Soon: A classic romance between a baker and restaurant owner, and it doesn’t disappoint. This drama is like the guide to creating great character development that many other Kdramas seem to ignore.
  • My Girl: Kdrama classic. The two leads have natural chemistry together.
  • **My Girlfriend is a Gumiho: Hilarious. “Real action, my dream.” A nine-tailed fox comes to earth to bother a human, but he ends up falling in love with her.
  • My Princess: College student finds out she’s a princess, and is trained on proper manners by a dude who ends up falling in love with her. Visuals and the feels.
  • Mr. Lawyer, Mr. Jo (Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul Ho): I was too pissed that no character development was shown for Kang Sora to care about the actual plot. A defender works for the public good, fighting for justice.
  • Nail Shop Paris: I don’t remember anything about this show except that Song Jae Rim was in it.
  • Nine: Nine Times Time Travel: As the title suggests, there is time travel and mystery. Male lead was really hot.
  • **Oh Hae Young Again (Another Miss Oh): The chemistry between the leads is about as good as it gets in Kdramaland. Superb acting performances all around and a solid plot to boot.
  • Pasta: Romance between the head chef and a novice chef. The head chef is sometimes so extreme that it seems like he’s really sexist. Gong Hyo Jin is perfection in this drama though.
  • Personal Taste: Could not feel the chemistry between the two leads. Noona romance.
  • Pinocchio: Eh, couldn’t get too into this drama. About newbie reporters. Lead female gets hiccups whenever she lies. Lee Jong Suk and Park Shin Hye look picture-perfect though.
  • Playful Kiss: High school girl gets to live with her crush and get tutored by him. She pursues him relentlessly even though at first he really has no interest in her. Korean version was fine, but the feels are stronger with the Taiwanese and Japanese editions.
  • Que Sera, Sera: Toxic relationships, mature romance. I liked the drama but read too many spoilers to continue.
  • Queen In Hyun’s Man: The leads were so cute together they actually dated in real life for a while. The guy time travels from centuries ago to present day. He tries to solve the mystery of how he got to the present whilst falling in love.
  • Reply 1988: Hyeri puts up an impressive performance, but the ending is somewhat unexpected and a let-down. Skip it and watch Reply 1997 instead.
  • Reply 1994: The second lead syndrome is strong with this one. The episodes are ridiculously long too. Skip it and watch Reply 1997 instead.
  • **Reply 1997: Set in, you guessed it, 1997, this is a coming-of-age story with lots of romance. The first installment of the Reply series, and the only Reply drama you should watch. The lead couple is my favorite Kdrama OTP. Plus the main female lead is a fangirl!
  • Rooftop Prince: Crown Prince and his eunuchs (is that what you call them?) travel centuries into present day. The eunuchs are hilarious. But the pace gets boring after a while.
  • School 2013: Featuring a bromance and school drama.
  • Secret Garden: Rich guy and stuntwoman switch bodies every so often due to supernatural reasons, hjinks follow. Many scenes in this drama are gold, like the famous coffee kiss.
  • Shining Inheritance (Brilliant Legacy): Kind of feels like May Queen 2.0, but I don’t know which drama came first. Possibly a retelling of Cinderella.
  • Soulmate: Feels like an indie movie. Kinda bittersweet, like the aftertaste of summer lemonade.
  • **Splash Splash Love: Great for if you like shorter dramas (there’s only two episodes). It’s a great time-travel romance. One word to describe: cute.
  • **Stars Falling From the Sky: A heartwarming series about a sister who raises her many siblings. Tsundere male lead who plays a lawyer.
  • Surplus Princess: A really funny series. Also OTP became real-life couple, so… Mermaid gets legs for a while, falls in love with a human.
  • Sandglass: Kdrama classic. Historical drama featuring veteran actress Go Hyun Jung. I’m not too familiar with Korean history though, which is why perhaps I did not enjoy the drama as much as I could’ve.
  • **Sassy Go Go: High school coming-of-age story set at a competitive prep school, where a group of students form a cheerleading squad. The male lead is my ideal type.
  • *******Shut up Flower Boy Band: My all-time favorite Kdrama. A high school rock band and their ups and downs while trying to deal with the grief of a very sad incident.
  • Spring Day: Listen to this song. Two brothers who fall in love with the same girl. One plays bass (unconvincingly…) and the other was the girl’s first love. She ended up with the wrong brother imo.
  • Stairway to Heaven: So cheesy. So many Kdrama tropes. But why do I like this drama so much? Also features a great OST.
  • **Sunny: My favorite Korean movie detailing the ups and downs of a group of friends as they navigate their way through high school.
  • Thank You Life: Unlike the title, this is actually a depressing show.
  • That Winter the Wind Blows: Gorgeous but shallow drama. That cinematography though.
  • The Greatest Love: An ex girl-group member and top actor meet via variety show and end up falling in love. A cute rom-com.
  • The King of Dramas: If you like seeing how the drama industry works, this might be the drama for you to watch. It’s a bit exaggerated though.
  • The Lover: Crude humor, depicting the lives of 20-some year olds living in an apartment. Also 18+.
  • The Master’s Sun: A woman who can see ghosts and a tsundere CEO. Lots of chemistry.
  • The Moon that Embraces the Sun: A sageuk romance. The beginning half of the series is really good. After that the show suffers from a lack of acting effort from the female lead.
  • **The Princess’ Man: Everything about this series is legendary. A sageuk version of Romeo and Juliet, with fantastic acting, plot, props, and OST.
  • The Time We Were Not in Love: A shitty drama. I want my time back. Watch the Taiwanese version instead.
  • Time Between Dog and Wolf: Revenge story, friends who love the same girl. Lee Jun Ki is hot.
  • To the Beautiful You: Gender-bender, reverse harem. I’d skip this series, as the acting and plot isn’t amazing. Watch You’re Beautiful instead.
  • Ugly Alert: Started this drama for Kang Sora, and though the two leads were adorable, this also is a pretty long series.
  • W: Two Worlds: Creative plot surrounding a manhwa character literally brought to life, popular cast. I liked this more than the hyped Descendants of the Sun.
  • Winter Sonata: Too many Kdrama plot devices. Skip it, but do listen to its gorgeous soundtrack.
  • You Who Came from the Stars: Rom-com where an alien and top actress fall in love with each other. Jun Ji Hyun’s performance is pretty much perfect.
  • **You’re Beautiful: Gender-bender, reverse harem. A nun steps in for her brother after an accident to fill his spot in a band. Personally, my favorite performance from Park Shin Hye.

And yep, that’s about it for now. I’ll update this list periodically.

 

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About coffeenlucia

College student studying biochemistry. I stan Twice.
This entry was posted in Asian Dramas, Kdrama, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Korean Drama Recommendations for Beginners

  1. I really like your list. Some of your favorites are also my mine. I also started loving C-dramas for a year now. So, can you have this same list for C-dramas along with your favorites? It would be really helpful since I’m looking for another great C-drama after watching Love 020 which was to die for. Hihi.

    Like

    • coffeenlucia says:

      Hi! I haven’t actually watched too many Cdramas (compared to Kdramas) so I’m not sure how comprehensive the list would be. I can, however, recommend some Chinese dramas in this comment:

      Who Controls My Youth – </3 One of the most shippable OTPS of all time. I've written a post on the first episode: https://discardedmusings.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/i-just-fell-in-love-with-a-drama-who-controls-my-youth/

      Prince of Lan Ling – Period drama with Ariel Lin. I don’t remember much, but liked the OTP.

      Legend of Lu Zhen – An ancient period drama with an OTP that tugs at the heartstrings. Tells the story of the first female prime minister of China.

      Remembering Wang Li Chun – Heartthrob Godfrey Gao. Modern Cdrama about a CEO and a new employee whose father was the CEO's past boss (complicated, I know). The CEO and the new employee fall in love.

      Bu Bu Jing Xin – One girl and a lot of suitors, set in ancient China. Fantastic writing of convoluted, morally ambiguous characters — including the main leads. A must-watch imo.

      Best Get Going – A modern workplace drama where protagonist goes through an internship before (hopefully) getting the job. Romance is not heavy but is there.

      Battle of Changsha – Honestly don't remember much plot from this drama, but I do recall liking the acting and the OTP.

      IPartment – SO FUNNY. It's like a Chinese version of Friends.

      Also, three of my favorite Chinese dramas are recommended in this post: https://discardedmusings.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/three-underrated-chinese-dramas/

      Hope this list helps!

      Like

      • Shan says:

        Wowew Lucia.. those long lists you provided – I actually havent watched any of those. Seems like ur knowledge of c drama is much more ample than mine. Hehe. 😍 nice

        Like

        • coffeenlucia says:

          Lol it’s actually because I just have too much time and watch so many. btw 69 recap is mostly up now, thanks for the patience ^_^

          Like

          • shannymelbournian says:

            Thanks Lucia ^^ ^^ Really grateful to you for recapping sparrow ..
            Are you considering to recap / watch Princess Wei Young by any chance?
            I am super super in LOVE with the OST below

            omggggg so good

            Like

            • coffeenlucia says:

              I’m probably not going to recap Princess Wei Young, sorry… I like the music video! If I’m not mistaken Tang Yan and the male lead are dating in real life right? That probably contributes to their chemistry in the drama.

              Like

              • Shan says:

                The male lead is Luo Jin. This is the 4th series they are paired up as the main leads lol.
                Are they really dating in real life? I didnt follow the chinese celebs news. Luckyyyyyy male lead !!!!!!

                Like

  2. Yami Hyunnie says:

    Wow, there is definitely some on this list that I am tempted to check out, especially Stars Falling From the Sky and Missing Noir M. Thank you so much for this list! Perhaps I should organise one based on my dramalist too…You wouldn’t mind if I borrowed the idea and created one on my blog, would you? :3

    Liked by 1 person

    • coffeenlucia says:

      Yay, I’m glad my list was at least a little helpful. Of course you can create a list of recommendations too ^^ I don’t mind at all

      Like

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