Top 20 Best Korean Dramas of All Time (mixed between romance and non-romance)
KMazing – Korean drama is first creating an impact in the 2000s. Moreover, Korean drama with romantic genre is often the favorite choice for the people all over the world. The number of Korean dramas now have sprung up due to competition for the highest rating and financial surplus.
It can not be denied that the quality of Korean drama is fairly superior both from the flow of story and the quality of the production. Not just exciting, often the story is displayed can make the audience feel the various emotions from sadness to happiness – a roller coaster of feeling. It is still coupled with the ranks of actors and actresses that are handsome and beautiful, making Korean Drama more and more loved by fans around the world.
Especially now, as the globalization touch every aspect of life. It’s getting easier for audience to be able to watch Korean Drama, you can stream or subscribe to Korean television channel and many other way. Well if you are looking for the best Korean drama recommendations that can stir your feelings, here are 20 best Korean dramas of KMazing special recommendation.
Disclaimer : the drama list is based on Kmazing team’s perspective, not based on rating or award winning. You’ll definitely find a lot of underrated dramas here that you might get confused why they are in the list. But, eventhough underrated, they are here for reasons, and the reasons are because they are super amazing and anti-mainstream, even better then high rated or award winning dramas. You don’t believe it? Watch it yourself.
Also read : 20 Best Korean Movies of All Time (Up to 2017)
Enjoy the list!
Save Me (OCN, 2017)
The story of four young men who is jobless then by fate met a woman in distress. The woman says “save me”. and there revealed that the girl is involved with a group of heretical religions.
The drama is based on a web series titled Sesang Bakeuro by Jo Geum-San (published from June 21, 2011 to January 16, 2013). The story is quite heavy, telling about social life, a group of religious from the front looks good but actually plunged the congregation. A group of suspicious deviant and exist in a small town. Im Sang Mi and her family moved from Seoul. After arriving in the city they just realized that they have been cheated by her friend. The family was forced to live beside the cow shed. As a newcomer, which is directly seen by the head of the church administration, they got good treatment and is given a decent place to live. Seeing the goodness of the church Sang Mi feel something strange and do not believe the church, but she still follow because her family is indebted. One day she began to realize about the heresy and asked 4 people who were her high school friends to save her from the group’s trap.
The drama touch too many thing in one hand, the distribution of concept and scene was great, the intention and the plotline is super great as well. The execution was superb and I still kinda enjoy it, due to the moral point indebted to the story.
I think this drama is scarier than horror drama, imagine you are in the same situation as Seo Ye Ji in this drama, it’s really thrilling. Watch it yourself.
Reply 1994 (TvN, 2013)
This romantic comedy drama tells a story about seven college students who live at the same boarding house in Seoul – coming from the suburb, they struggle to grow up on their own and adapt in the big buzzing city. Their struggles make them grow closer and the next thing they know, they have become the best of friends who do not only share laughter, but also pains of their own. Reply 1994, just like its predecessors, is told in a non-linear type of storytelling – constantly switching from their 1994 days to the present days in the 2013. This is done to spark viewers’ interest and curiosity as to which one from the group will the female lead, Na-jung, will eventually marry in the future.
This hilarious and sweet Korean drama is not only entertaining, but gives us that nostalgic feeling. Although this drama and its predecessor can be considered as fundamentally different from one another in terms of storyline, the overall narrative structure is pretty much the same. The episode kicks off with a teaser of the present day Na-jung and her mystery husband – this is then followed with an introduction to the 90’s storyline.
Circle (TvN, 2017)
Starting from 2007, two brothers Kim Woo-Jin (Yeo Jin-Goo) and Kim Beom-Gyeon (Ahn Woo-Yeon) experienced a tense event and meet with something they believe is an alien. But the alien is a young woman, look like humans in general. Ten years passed, apparently much happened after the twins met the aliens. Their family is becoming a mess, because it turns out their father left the house with the alien woman. This makes Beom-Gyeon angry and want to have his revenge, and keep trying to find traces of women who he believed to be an alien. While Woo-Jin decides to forget all that and try to live a normal life like everyone else. Until one day, they met again with the women who has the exact same face as an alien they remember. Here then, the mystery continues.
What I really love about this drama is the cinematography, with this kind of work you feel like you are watching movie rather than television series *well at least I feel that way*. As for the story, I think the series have two part, one in the recent generation while the other is the future story, I can’t really grab the idea yet but up until now, the story is quite good and worth your time to watch. Circle enclosed any mystery indulge inside the plot with sci-fi which is interesting to watch for K-Drama.
Signal (TvN, 2016)
THIS DRAMA is mind blowing, I never thought anybody could imagine to write this kind of script. Adopting thriller and mystery as the overall tone of the series, the drama provide time-travelling crime solving action which really out of this world. Scheme and intrigue is also exist inside this fantastic series. You won’t be bored while watching this drama due to it’s fast paced, perfect for short span drama lover.
The story begins when a police officer named Park Hae Young (Lee Je Hoon) accidentally finds an old walkie-talkie that turns out to belong to a senior police officer named Lee Jae Han (Cho Jin Woong). Actually nothing special, if only the broken walkie-talkie did not suddenly reciprocate Lee Jae Han’s voice on the other end. The problem is, Hae Young receives the signal in 2015 while Jae Han confesses that he was in the year 2000. And that’s certainly not a natural thing to happen.
Confounded by the very confusion, Hae Young initially sanctioned Jae Han’s words. But over time, Hae Young starts to believe that somehow, he and Jae Han can indeed communicate through space and time through the old walkie-talkie.
Age of Youth (JTBC, 2016)
This drama tells the story of the lives of five girls who live one roof, in a boarding house located in Seoul. From different family and social backgrounds, they have to face the fact that they have to share room space, kitchen, and toilets with their kosher friends. Initially not easy, It is usually difficult to control the ego and emotions, let alone mutual defeat. But because they have to always meet in the same house, over time they learn tolerance, and open up each other, until finally they become super close and became sweet companion Although they occasionally quarreled because of trivial problems that occurred in the boarding house, but ultimately they will be good again anyway.
The story is more interesting because it shows the other side of every character in this drama. Apparently, although they are now friends, but they each keep a surprising story. There are conflicts that they can not tell and which they are trying to hide.
Misaeng (TvN, 2014)
Misaeng with it’s 20 episodes was adapted from webtoon (a kind of online comics) with the same titled by Yoon Tae Ho. The screenplay was written by Jung Yoon Jung and directed by Kim Won Seok. The main genre took a bit slice of life and workplace drama. The messages are very touching, easy to relate and not excessive, so does the comedy. Romance is almost not there, the character was rather just shown interest in each other – little and subtle. Precisely because of the lack of romance that the drama feels so fresh. Moreover it was supported by the acting and plot that are fabulous.
Misaeng told the story of a young man named Jang Geu Rae (Im Shi Wan) who previously dedicated his time and life to becoming a professional Go player (sort of board game so, it looks like Othello). But for one reason or another, Geu Rae was forced to bury his ideals and try his luck to become an apprentice at a trading company called One International, and there the trouble and the story start.
Tunnel (OCN, 2017)
Telling story with the background of the year 1986, Detective Park Gwang-Ho (Choi Jin-Hyuk) desperately tries to catch a serial killer. He kept chasing the killer and walking through a tunnel. On the other side of the tunnel, Detective Park Gwang-Ho finds himself time travel and arrives in 2017. Although Detective Park Gwang-Ho is clever man but still he is an old-fashioned detective if he is in 2017. He struggle trying to adjust to modern life in the modern era. In the modern era, Detective Park Gwang-Ho works with detective Kim Sun-Jae (Yoon Hyun-Min) and Shin Jae-Yi’s Psychology Professor Shin (Lee Yoo-Young) to catch the killer.
I like the contemporary touch of sensitivity in changing technology in the series, it brings out the best of the character, the depth of the story is increasing as the plot develop. The strength of the profile getting on the ride of the plot which is quite interesting to watch.
Reply 1988 (TvN, 2015)
The drama takes place in Northern Seoul in the year 1988 and tells a story about the friendship of Duk-Sun, Sun-Woo, Jung-Hwan, Dong-ryong, Taek, and their families who live in the same neighborhood. The five friends are always seen spending time together in Taek’s room since he is the only person in the group who doesn’t attend the same school since he dropped out of school.
Having dropped out of school, Taek is known as a popular go player who goes by the name God and is always rather quiet especially when compared to the other four. Duk-sun, the only girl in her five-persons group, is known to be someone who has the brightest personality and always appears happy despite coming from a poor family. Duk-sun has an older sister named Bo-Ra whom she fights with all the time and in the finale is seen to get closer with one of the group members, Sun-Woo.
Sun-Woo himself is an incredibly smart and responsible guy, his father passed away leaving him with his mother and a younger sister. Another guy in the group is Dong-Ryong who, similar to Duk-Sun, has a passion for dancing and singing. The last one is Jung-Hwan, an aloof and sarcastic guy who’s into soccer – as opposed to Duk-Sun’s family who tragically lost their fortune overnight, Jung-Hwan’s family got rich.
Despite the controversial ending, Reply 1988 is one of those dramas that are very well written and executed. It’s filled with hilarious sequences and memorable scenes – the finale is one of the most poignant ending I have ever watched and I truly think it’s well-deserved. If there’s one complaint, to me, it’s not the ending – but rather, the fact that they didn’t explore more about Jung Hwan in the end. If you love a meaningful drama that can’t be predicted, you must watch Reply 1988.
The success of this series is the balance of attention sharing between all the cast even the supporting one, it created harmony and eliminate question about simple fact that sometimes neglected by the writer. You will find the ending a bit annoying but it is real and in life sometimes you don’t always get what you want. The franchise this time disperse the story evenly and getting the flow of the story as close to reality as possible. It’s charming and meaningful in our view.
Cruel City: Undercover (JTBC, 2013)
Heartless City drama is a drama about a policeman joining a gang to investigate drug cases. Rangers about the love and struggles of undercover agents and members within the network of famous drug dealers.
This 20 episode drama genre action thriller with a hint of romance that tells about South Korean special police unit in eradicating the producer and drug dealer class. Anyway the contents of this drama if not shoot ya hit-punch. There are so many sadistic scenes bleeding with pistols, knives, wooden sticks, and other sharp objects. But believe me, this is worth watching.
Lots of unexpected intrigue and twist and betrayal throughout the drama. It keeps me wondering what will happen to the maain cast. I can not stop watching even crazy contrived with the twist-twist plotted by the writer. But well, what is regrettable is the romance in this drama is very minimal. Chemistry between the two key character is less impact.
Gentleman’s Dignity (SBS, 2012)
A Gentleman’s Dignity is popular Korean drama series which have a lot of fans due to it’s cast and performance delivered by the actors. This is really interesting series you need to watch especially if you are a K-Drama lover. Adopting romantic comedy genre, this drama consists of 20-episode long with every one of them is very intriguing to watch. You might ask why do we recommended this drama over thousands other title in K-Drama, it is because this particular series got attractive story, great performance of the actors and actress, enchanting soundtracks, and many more.
A Gentleman’s Dignity is stories about bromance and 20 year friendship among the 40 year old friends named Im Tae San, Lee Jung Rok, Kim Do Jin, and Choi Yoon.
Do Jin yang had a career as an architect and was in love at the first sight with Seo Yi Soo, a high school teacher. However, Yo soo was actually in love with Im Tae San for a long time. Im Tae San is Do Jin’s best friend. On the other hand Tae San had been in love at the first sight with Hong Se Ra, who was Yi Soo’s home mate.
That is actually complicated and Yi Soo could only conceal her feeling without expressing it to Tae San. In fact, then Do Jin knew her feeling. While Jung Rok is trying to be faithful to his wife and Choi Yoon is starting to grow feeling for Im Tae San’s sister. It’s a complicated love stories with touches of comedy scattering over the plot.
Goblin (TvN, 2016)
Goblin tells the story of a guardian angel – or goblin – who can’t die until he marry his true love or else he have to live for eternity. The story of finding true love is never easy for him as by fate he encounter death angel who is on his own mission.
Goblin is GREAT, the story, cinematography, soundtracks, you name it, they have the perfect example of it. It’s a perfect combination of romance, poetic story, bromance and visual effect *Computer Graphics in this movie is killer*. Go ahead and find your way to start watching this series.
Descendants of the Sun (KBS2, 2016)
Yoo Si-Jin is a captain of Korean Special Forces who is on a United Nation Peacekeeping mission in a fictional country called Urk. Si-Jin accidentally met a beautiful doctor, Kang Mo-Yeon, in the hospital shortly after he had successfully caught a thief. Shortly, the two decided to go on a few dates. With his line of work, their dates almost always get interrupted, and after a while, Si-Jin and Mo-Yeon realize their ironic differences – of which Si Jin takes lives to protect the country whereas Mo-Yeon tries to save lives for a living – and decide to part ways. Eight months have gone from their last date, Mo-Yeon who rejected the hospital director’s advances was assigned to a medical team for Urk as a result. There, by fate, she meets Si-Jin again.
This action melodrama was filmed in Greece which gives us a great and fitting setting that supports the storyline. While there’s no shortage of memorable romantic scenes in this series, when it comes to the action part of the drama-series, it feels rather manipulative and overly done which bores many viewers during the action scenes. However, if you’re a fan of melodramatic series, I can confirm that Descendants of the Sun is the one for you.
Padam Padam (The Sound Of His and Her Heartbeats) (JTBC, 2011)
This serie tells the story of Kang Chil who has just come out of jail for murder. Actually the murder case is a slander because it is not Kang Chil who kills but his friend when Kang Chil was about to be killed by the victim. Because of this slander Kang Chil must be languished for 16 years in prison.
Upon leaving the prison, Kang Chil decides to move to Seoul because the people around him mock him for a murder he does not commit. Kang Chil goes to Seoul along with Lee Gook Soo who is his friend and guardian angel (?) for Kang Chil.
I have always recomended this drama to anyone who are interested in K-Drama and doesn’t know where to start. The reason was, this drama is all round okay-ish close to great in every aspect. The story is not typical, the visual is great and the ending is *&^%*^% – translate it yourself XD.
D-Day (JTBC, 2015)
Lee Hae Seong (Kim Young Kwang) surgeon at the mirae hospital. He is a doctor who dare to do anything for the safety of his patients including violating the procedure in the hospital. This attitude makes the hospital worried that there will be problems that harm the hospital. Any way is done to get rid of Lee Hae Seong. But a major disaster struck a Seoul, a massive earthquake sent many victims to the hospital. Mirae hospital which is a special hospital for cancer had to be converted into a disaster emergency hospital.
I came through this drama because I love medical drama, but this is not your typical medical drama. Disaster and politics is so deep inside the story line I sometimes forgot that they are indeed taking hospital and doctor as the background story. The revelation of the story is develop nicely and the character inside it is enriching the plot perfectly. Just right.
Defendant (KBS2, 2017)
Defendant tells a story about Park Jung-Woo who is a prosecutor at Seoul Prosecutor’s Office who is undergoing temporary amnesia. One day, he wakes up and realizes he’s being locked up in the police station. Park Jung-Woo is accused and sentenced to death. He had to fight to prove himself innocent.
Simple yet super strong, one hell of a story. Almost every aspect of the series is super enchanting, call it the scene, the moments even a small glimpse of impact from the extra is bringing super modest yet powerful punch toward the story. I am not one to judge the how an actor act but I can feel deeply through their eyes every emotion which reflect on the plotline itself. What a pleasant experience.
IRIS (KBS2, 2009)
IRIS tells the storyabout the betrayal, confidence, and conspiracy of secret agents of South Korea and North Korea. Despite the theme of a secret agent, the drama is also embellished with a romantic story among its characters. Kim Hyun Joon is one of the secret agents working for the South Korean NSS secret service, and Vlck is a murderer working for a secret organization based in the United States under the name IRIS, Vick has a tough task, which is to kill Hyun Joon.
Besides the two main character, there is another character, Jin Sa Woo, who is Hyun Joon’s friend and at times can be his enemy, he also fell in love with Choi Seung Hee. Seung Hee herself works as a psychology analyst who plays an important role to bring Hyun Joon into the NSS. It’s quite complicated story, It would be much better if you watch this drama yourself to understand, because the story is very good. This drama in fact is the cornerstone drama that drag me into this K-Entertainment world.
Bad Guys (OCN, 2014)
Bad Guys was originally about the high level of crime in the city of Seoul. Police are considered unable to solve criminal cases are rampant, especially the case of serial killer. At the beginning of the episode is told of the death of a detective who was the son of a miserable Chief of Police (Commissioner Nam) while he was on duty to arrest the suspect in the serial killings. The mistrust of the public is increasing against the police and the crime rate is getting higher each day. It triggers and underlies Commissioner Nam’s decision to create a Special Investigation Team secretly, whose job is to help solve criminal cases that the police can not handle. Especially the case of serial killings that caused him to lose his son.
Uniquely, this secret special team is not like any other team that can be called The Dream Team because it contains (say) the famous detective, smart prosecutor or normal geniuses. This special team is more categorized as The Nightmare Team, because it contains a temperamental detective known as the nickname “mad dog” and three dangerous criminals who are considered smart, cruel and cold-blooded.
Voice (OCN, 2017)
Moo Jin-Hyuk (Jang Hyuk) is a reliable detective, he leads the team in major operations and always succeeds in capturing the target fugitive. Until one day, his wife died in a murder case. This accident shock him and throw him into depression that almost end his career, in the end he was assigned as an ordinary cop. Until one day Moo Jin-Hyuk was again offered as leader of the Golden Time team by Kang Kwon-Joo. Tim Golden Time is a team of police officers tasked with responding quickly to emergency calls through call center 112.
Actually Moo Jin-Hyuk and Kang Kwon-Joo had known each other before. Kang Kwon-Joo (Lee Ha-Na) is a 112 call center clerk who responds shortly before Moo Jin-Hyuk’s wife is killed. This led him to be involved as a witness. Unfortunately during the trial, the actual evidence has been manipulated so the truth is not revealed and the murderer of Moo Jin-Hyuk’s wife can not be punished. This makes Moo Jin-Hyuk hates Kang Kwon-Joo.
Watching each episode of Voice summarized in just one word: tense! Well, at least that’s what I feel. And expect a lot of disturbing scenes throughout this drama considering that the series is clearly taking their background in criminal cases. But this drama would be suitable for you who like mystery or thriller genre. Voice mark the return of Jang Hyuk after his hiatus in 2016 and perfectly portrayed his character in Beautiful Mind as Lee Young-Oh. Kang Kwon-Joo character played perfectly by Lee Ha-Na.
I love this kind of drama as my escape interlude drama between the cheesy lovey theme that are all over K-Drama. Voice is perfectly written and I can see that the screenwriter dig pretty deep for the material, in a way it’s almost a perfect drama if only the supporting cast could be giving more central role rather than being a side dish. If you are not meticulous person like me, you will love this drama.
Nine: Nine Time Travels (TvN, 2013)
The drama revolves around a newscaster on a TV station called Park Sun Woo (Lee Jin Wook) who is in love with a co-worker who is none other than his junior in an office called Joo Min Young (Jo Yoon Hee). Minyoung admires and loves Sunwoo for a long time, even since they first met in the recruitment of new journalists. But Sunwoo just opened his heart 5 years later and realized that he really loves the girl. Park Sun Woo then met Joo Min Young in Nepal to propose to her.
Actually his main mission to visit Nepal is not just to meet his girlfriend Minyoung who was covering there, but at the same time wanted to see the body of his brother who died while climbing the mountain Himalaya. Sunwoo then found 9 magical incense sticks that none other than his brother’s. Each incense stem measuring 30 cm can only be used for 30 minutes travel time to the past 20 years ago and if the incense is burned out, then Sunwoo will automatically return to the current time. The nine incense allowed him to change whatever he wanted to change (his term against fate), as well as revealing the mystery of his father’s death 20 years ago.
I am quite well astonished with this drama, during the time I first watch this, I really never thought that this drama could be all developed and branching to many aspect of life. The way the shoot the drama is also very nice, the cinematography is enhancing the impact that are already huge that came from the story.
First Place : Another Miss Oh (TvN, 2016)
To be honest, I don’t really enjoy Eric’s acting, I have seen him in another series I guess, but this series change my perspective. The story of this drama revolves around two girls named Oh Hae-Young that are a complete opposite and a man who has a clairvoyant ability of seeing visuals of the future ahead of him. One particular visual bothers him and due to his bitter past, he decides it would be better if he tried to get away from these girls. It’s not just another simple love story here, but more complicated sometimes poisonous love hate relationship. It’s perfect for you who are tired with cliche love story series with typical rich man and poor woman.
The way this drama impact me is that there are almost no other drama that came close to be in the same theme as this one, this drama is super complete in any way you can imagine. From storyline, OST, cast acting skill, overally this drama is on the highest level among others.