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21 Must-Watch Korean Dramas in 2021


R E C O M M E N D A T I O N – D R A M A


Sara Kabir


Long before Oscar-winning South Korean movies like Parasite and Train to Busan took over the charts and everyone’s hearts, creating a global sensation; the love for Korean culture had been gaining international popularity with the rise of popular Korean music, cuisine, movies, fashion, and even skin-care products. Korean dramas have played one of the biggest roles in this boom of Korean culture, also known as the Hallyu Wave. With everyone stuck in quarantine, what better time than now to start watching some dynamic, action-packed, romantic K-dramas — all available to stream on Netflix?

While the genres and premises vary, here are 21 K-dramas everyone can enjoy with their friends and family in 2021.

1. Crash Landing on You

Genre: Military, Comedy, Romance, Friendship, Political, Action

Episodes: 16

A South Korean heiress goes paragliding and ends up in North Korea, only to be rescued by the captain of the North Korean Special Police Forces. Will he be able to keep her safe all while keeping her identity a secret? Relatable humour, star-crossed forbidden lovers, and dynamic action scenes combined with the novelty of such a comprehensive depiction of North Korea make this one of the most popular Korean dramas of all time. It’s a classical Romeo and Juliet story. (minus of course, you know, all the death and suicide.)

2. Goblin: The Great and Lonely God

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Fantasy, Melodrama, Supernatural

Episodes: 16

What happens when an immortal Goblin who spent 900 years searching for his mortal bride, the only one who can end his endless long life, finally finds her? A magical realistic world where Grim Reapers, ghosts, and Goblins exist, mixed with epic action scenes perfectly intersected with comedic relief, and a stellar cast is what Goblin is all about. Perfect for fans of romantic fantasies.

3. Hotel Del Luna

Genre: Action, Mystery, Horror, Comedy, Romance, Drama, Fantasy
Episodes: 16

Located in the middle of Seoul, Hotel del Luna caters to a unique host of customers: ghosts and spirits with unfinished business. It is run by an eccentric individual known as Jang Man Wol, who is cursed to run the hotel for eternity as punishment for her past crimes. Her only hope of escape is to find someone who has committed a worse sin than her own, but after a thousand years, she’s beginning to lose hope. Everything changes when a young man shows up to be her new assistant. 

4. Record of Youth

Genre: Friendship, Romance, Youth, Drama, Family, Melodrama
Episodes: 16

If you’re looking for a refreshing change of pace in the romantic comedy genre, this is the series for you. This is a drama about the growth record of young people who strive to achieve their dreams and love without despair in a generation where dreams have become a luxury. Record of Youth revolves around the story of three young, aspiring professionals: A model, an actor, and a makeup artist. The realistic family dynamics, the moral quandaries, and the subtle slice-of-life style plot are what make this drama so unique and loveable. 

5. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Genre: Psychological, Comedy, Romance, Drama, Family
Episodes: 16

A romantic series that follows a caretaker at a psychiatric ward who meets a popular children’s book author with an antisocial personality disorder. Equal parts, heart wrenching, and wholesome — the series is praised for showing a realistic portrayal of mental health issues. This healing and moving series is sure to pull at your heart strings.

6. Kingdom

Genre: Thriller, Historical, Horror, Drama, Zombies
Episodes: 6

Kingdom blends the much-loved zombie genre with the classic setting of a historical period piece. The series contains intriguing undertones of class struggle that speak to contemporary Korea’s preoccupation with inequality.

7. Extraordinary You

Genre: Friendship, Comedy, Romance, School, Fantasy
Episodes: 16

What would you do if you found out that you were, in fact, a character in a comic? And an extra character on top of that? Change the course of the story, obviously! A heart wrenching drama about finding true love and taking control of one’s own fate.

8. Memories of the Alhambra

Genre: Action, Thriller, Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi, Virtual Reality
Episodes: 16

An augmented reality (AR) game set in Spain’s Alhambra palace, medieval Spanish knights strolling the streets of Granada to simulated thunderstorms, an adrenaline filled quest across cities- the fantastic game world of Alhambra contains a multitude of mouth-watering details and cinematography which are sure to leave you craving more.

9. Extracurricular

Genre: Psychological, Crime, Life, School, Youth, Drama
Episodes: 10

A model high school student gets involved in a world of serious crime in order to pay for college — but then runs into complications when a classmate discovers his secret double life. This drama portrays the dark side of high-school life and the consequences of keeping secrets and getting into risky businesses.

Get a glimpse into the taboo world of South Korea’s prostitution business. It is sure to draw you in and leave a lasting impression.

10. The King: Eternal Monarch

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Action, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Episodes: 16

Parallel universes, time travel, doppelgangers, and magic, The King has it all. An unlikely love story between an emperor and a police detective whose lives are separated by space and time will leave you wishing you could travel between worlds. 

11. Penthouse: War in Life

Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Crime, Drama, Family, Mystery
Episodes: 21

How far is a parent willing to go for the academic success of their child? What could a person be willing to do to hide their secret feelings? Can someone go so far as to commit a murder in order to live in the penthouse of Hera Palace, South Korea’s most coveted luxury apartment?

Secret affairs, horrific murders, group lynching, and desperate individuals — Penthouse has it all. Watch even the best people succumb to the whims of evil for power, wealth, and success. Dark, twisted and chilling, Penthouse never fails to keep the tensions high till the very end with its unpredictable plot twists and unthinkable acts.

12. Itaewon Class

Genre: Food, Friendship, Business, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama
Episodes: 16

One of the most popular K-dramas of 2020, Itaewon Class follows an ex-convict who opens up a bar in South Korea’s Itaewon neighbourhood, determined to take down the CEO of a powerful food conglomerate who had a hand in both his father’s death and his prison sentence. The series goes beyond typical K-drama tropes to highlight discrimination in contemporary Korean society against ex-convicts, LGBTQ+ community members, and mixed-race individuals.

13. Because This is My First Life

Genre: Friendship, Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life
Episodes: 16

The best way I can describe this drama is that it is an embodiment of a warm hug. The story revolves around two people who get fake married not because they are in love, but because it is financially convenient. But what happens when they start having feelings for each other while living together? Light hearted, romantic, and fun — this is the perfect drama to watch on a rainy day. 

14. Love Alarm

Genre: Fantasy, Friendship, Comedy, Romance, School, Youth
Episodes: 8

What if you could know how many people like you in a 10-metre radius just by clicking on an app? Love Alarm seems like a typical high school love story at first glance, but it also explores important issues, such as self-esteem and mental-health, and comments on how social-media is making our relationships more superficial. Season 2 is rumoured to release in 2021.

15. Save Me

Genre: Action, Suspense, Friendship, Thriller, Mystery, Psychological, Drama.
Episodes: 16

Looking for a slightly darker, change of pace? Save Me takes a sharp turn from the typical K-drama plot line as the story involves a girl who gets trapped into a cult disguised as a Christian church. While in their clutches, she runs into four high school friends on the road where she desperately mouths only two words: “save me.” 

16. Descendants of the Sun

Genre: Action, Military, Comedy, Romance, Medical, Melodrama
Episodes: 16

An epic love story between a Special Forces captain and a doctor which tracks both their personal and professional struggles, while exploring issues about the value of life as they face battles, disasters, and other dangers. Filled with swoon-worthy moments, it is perfect for fans of cheesy rom coms. 

17. Start-Up

Genre: Business, Comedy, Romance, Youth, Drama
Episodes: 16

The latest K-drama taking the world by storm, this series is pretty self-explanatory. It is about a start-up, telling the story of the razor-thin margins between ultimate success and abject failure. The meme-worthy scenes will leave you with a stitch on your side from laughing too hard and the second lead syndrome will make you want to pull your hair out, all while trying to guess what new plot twist will happen next. 

18. Who Are You: School 2015

Genre: Mystery, Romance, School, Youth, Family
Episodes: 16

Who doesn’t love a good case of swapped identities? A school outcast and the most popular girl in school might have more in common than they think, they are in fact long-lost twins. When an accident and a case of mistaken identity leaves one sister dead and the other taking her place, they need to keep up the façade for as long as possible, or else the consequences might be too dire. This drama will leave you reeling from a good case of the second lead syndrome as the heroine struggles to keep her identity intact. 

19. Her Private Life

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Friendship, Business, Life, Drama, Family
Episodes: 16

All hail the fangirl representation everyone needed in K-dramas! This hilariously relatable story follows an ordinary girl as she tries to juggle her secret private life as an avid fangirl and her professional life as the curator of an art gallery. However, her carefully kept secret might not be such a secret anymore when her new boss finds out.

20. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

Genre: Action, Thriller, Comedy, Romance, Drama, Supernatural
Episodes: 16

What happens when the handsome CEO of a company falls in love with a girl with Herculean strength? He employs her as his bodyguard, obviously! This is a hilariously addictive drama of a girl trying to juggle her inhuman strength to fight crime and a normal life, all while breaking gender stereotypes and protecting the people she loves.

21.The Uncanny Counter

Genre: Action, Mystery, Fantasy, Supernatural, Found Family
Episodes: 16

On the tail end of the popular hype over webtoon to drama adaptations, The Uncanny Counter takes the popular found family trope and adds dynamic action scenes and mystery to create a whole new addictive genre: supernatural fantasy. It follows a group of people who run a noodle shop during the day and fights evil spirits by night.

 


Sara Kabir is the quintessential Literature student, always finding joy in her favourite books, shows, songs, and artwork and being able to discuss them with her friends. Find her @scarletfangirl on Instagram to join in the discussion and see which new language she’s attempting to learn this week by watching TV shows and dramas.

 

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