Korean dramas can be really hit or miss for me. It's not easy to stretch out a decent storyline over 15+ episodes, that's for sure. I abandon the ones that are too corny and clichéd, but most are decent enough to be entertaining.
The K-dramas on this list are the ones I highly recommend. There's only five of them, but they're excellent and they'll set the bar high. The last three are from the same writer, so maybe I'm biased. I like a good blend of comedy and drama, likeable actors who also happen to be drop-dead gorgeous, epic love stories, and suspenseful plotlines with a lot at stake. A killer wardrobe doesn't hurt either.
Coffee Prince (2007)
Coffee Prince was the first K-drama I watched, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. A tomboyish young woman (Yoon Eun-hye) pretends to be a man to get work at Coffee Prince, a cafe that hires only men—"princes." She falls in love with her boss, the grandson of a business mogul (Gong Yoo), who wants to prove to his family he's capable of running a business.
Around this time, K-dramas involving girls disguised as boys was really popular for some reason. Yoon Eun-hye is actually convincing as a young man, and the storyline is mostly lighthearted and funny. Gong Yoo is a babe. You might recognize a younger Lee Sun Gyun from Parasites.
I'm still listening to the Coffee Prince soundtrack to this day!
17 Episodes. Stream here.
Secret Garden (2010-2011)
Gil Ra-im (Ha Ji Won), a down-to-earth stuntwoman, and Kim Joo-won (Hyun Bin), a snotty department store CEO, crosses paths by chance. Kim Joo-won is intrigued by Gil Ra-im but can't get over her lower-class lifestyle. When the two magically switch bodies, they really begin to understand each other.
As fantastical as the plotline is, I like the realistic development of the characters' personalities. It still took quite a long time for Kim Joo-won to stop being such a high-class snob, for example, even when he was in a woman's body. It seemed like the main actors all had fun with this. The supporting class is great as well, especially Kim Joo-won's cousin Oska (Yoon Sang-hyun), a flashy famous singer.
20 episodes. Stream here.
My Love From the Star (2013-2014)
Stuckup A-list actress Chun Song-yi (Jun Ji Hyun) starts falling for her neighbour Do Min-jun (Kim Soo Hyun), who, unbeknownst to her, is an alien who has been living on earth for 400 years.
The show has its fun rom-com moments, but there's also a murder plot line that ramps up the suspense.
This drama was so influential on my personal style during that time. Chun Song-yi was always dressed in the chicest designer ensembles, and I, like everyone else in Asia at the time, looked to her character for fashion and beauty inspiration.
21 episodes. Stream here.
Legend of the Blue Sea (2016-2017)
Shim Cheong (Jun Ji Hyn), a mermaid from the Joseon era, follows her true love (Lee Min Ho) to modern-day Seoul. In this incarnation, he's a con artist with no memory of her.
Another drama-comedy starring Jun Ji Hyun with themes of reincarnation, family turmoil, crime, and magical elements? It's by the same writer, Park Ji-eun. She sure knows how to write great TV.
20 episodes. Stream here.
Crash Landing on You (2019-2020)
After watching one episode of Crash Landing on You, I suspected it was the work of Park Ji-eun. I was right. Park Ji-eun, you have done it again.
After a freak paragliding accident, a South Korean heiress (Son Ye-jin) ends up in North Korea. Army officer Ri Jeong-hyuk (Hyun Bin) finds her and decides to help her. Hyun Bin is the most handsome I've seen him. Maybe it's the uniforms.
This show gave me an idea of what life is like living in North Korea. The fashion is also on point. Oh, if you like action—fighting, guns, and car chases—there's plenty of that too.
16 episodes. Watch here.
Do you have any addictive K-dramas to recommend? Let us know in the comments below.