The 80 Best K-Dramas You'll Be Completely Hooked On

Wait, how is it already 2 a.m.?

a still from one of the best korean dramas, Lovestruck In the City
(Image credit: Netflix)

If you're not watching Korean dramas, better known as K-dramas, then you're missing out in several ways. First, there's the big-picture, cultural impact to consider: K-dramas and K-movies have become a worldwide phenomenon, and if you're going to be a pop culture connoisseur/productive denizen of the entertainment-loving internet—and you're here, so you obviously are both of those things—then you need to be versed in all things K-drama. And then there's the more important reason to watch Korean dramas: They are addictive and amazing, and you'll thank yourself for adding them to your pop culture diet.

Known for their interesting storylines and intense (if sometimes predictable) plot twists, Korean dramas can go from super sappy to incredibly heartbreaking to "WTF, what was that?" in a heartbeat. That variety is exactly what keeps viewers coming back for more. Here, we've listed the best-ever K-dramas to watch, grouped by the most popular genres—and if you're well versed in the more established K-dramas, consult our list of the best new Korean shows on Netflix in 2023. (And if you're looking specifically for the all-time best K-dramas on Netflix or best Korean dramas on Hulu? We've got you covered there too.)

Action/Thriller Korean Dramas

If your Korean entertainment knowledge doesn't expand beyond Squid Game and Train to Busan, here's where to start. These thrilling K-dramas are filled with action and intrigue, with some selections touching on societal issues in a similar vein to Parasite. (Also, so many zombies!) Your next stop: the best Korean thriller movies.

'Squid Game'

If you haven't yet checked out Squid Game, which is set to become Netflix's most-watched show ever, then here's one more recommendation: This edge-of-your-seat Korean thriller on Netflix is definitely worth a look. In the viral hit, a group of characters in serious debt sign up to play a series of children's games for a chance at 45.6 billion won (about $38 million). The catch? If the players loose at Tug of War or Red Light, Green Light, they die.

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'Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area'

This remix of the international Netflix hit La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) takes the original's thrilling plot and deftly weaves in Korean culture. The series takes place in a fictional timeline where North and South Korea are on the brink of reunification, and have made a Joint Economic Area, complete with a mint and a universal currency. However, the rich just keeps getting richer while the poor face inequality and discrimination. Enter a group of charismatic thieves who take over the Unified Mint with the goal of stealing four trillion won (roughly $3 billion USD).

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If you're looking for something in the middle of the Venn Diagram of "K-Drama" and "Mafia Drama," then Vincenzo is the show for you. In it, Song Joong-ki stars as a Korean man named Vincenzo who was adopted by an Italian mafia family and raised in the mob life in Italy. When his adoptive father dies, his adopted brother sets out to kill him, forcing Vincenzo to flee back to Seoul.

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'Sweet Home'

If you enjoyed Korean movies like The Call and #Alive, you'll be able to stomach and love Sweet Home. The show follows a guy who moves into a new apartment complex after the death of his family. Depressed and a loner, he starts witnessing frightening things in the building from some of his odd neighbors. If you're a peek-over-the-blanket-type person when watching horror shows like I am, then I'd advise you to tune into this during the day time. (I made the mistake of starting this show at night—never again.)

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This modern zombie drama is full of surprises at every turn, starting with being one of the only dramas to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic. Officer Yoon Sae-bom (Han Hyo-joo) has been dreaming of having her own apartment when she gets the chance to move into a high-rise with her high-school friend, Detective Jung Yi-hyun (Park Hyung-sik). Soon after they move in, an infectious disease sweeps the country, with those infected getting a craving of human blood. The apartment building ends up quarantined, with Sae-bom and Yi-hyun trying to keep the peace amoung the eccentric tenants.

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'All of Us Are Dead'

This heart-racing zombie thriller offers another unique spin on the drama, following a group of high school students as the zombie apocalypse comes to their school. The kids are left on their own as their classmates quickly return, and we see how they handle the survival challenge while also getting storylines of parents and politicians handling the virus outside the school. The most interesting part is how classic high school tropes (crushes, bullies, etc.) are twisted into thrilling plots.

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'My Name'

In this intense thriller, a young woman named Ji-woo (Han So-hee) sets out to avenge the death of her father, who was involved in the criminal underworld. She takes up a new identity as a member of the police force working with her father's old partner, Choi Mu-jin (Park Hee-soon). 

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This detective thriller takes place across two timelines, as detectives from different times form a cold case squad, solving cases based on real-life crimes. Criminal profiler Park Hae-Young (Lee Je-hoon) and detective Cha Soo-hyn (Kim Hye-soo) work with Lee Jae-han (Choi Jin-woong), a detective living in 2000, to work through heart-wrenching mysteries with edge-of-your-seat thrills. 

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In this action drama, Ji Chang-wook plays the "Healer," a night courier who messengers illegal items and does whatever the client needs—as long as it isn't murder—with the help of a genius hacker. When he crosses paths with tabloid writer Chae Young Shin (Park Min-young) and successful reporter Kim Moon Ho (Yoo Ji-tae), all three learn that they're connected in several ways. Come for the intricate plot, stay for some serious romance.

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'Flower of Evil'

Detective Cha Ji-won (Moon Chae-won) has a seemingly ideal family with a devoted husband and an adorable daughter. However, her loving spouse Baek Hee-sung (Lee Joon-gi) is hiding some dark secrets, as he assumed a new identity when he was young to escape a disturbing childhood. Ji-won's perfect life comes crumbling down as her latest investigation into a serial killer intertwines with Hee-sung's past, and she has to question whether her husband is really a murderer.

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This brutally realistic drama stars Jung Hae-in as An Jun-ho, following the young man as he enlists in the South Korean army as part of his mandatory military service. After his basic service, during which he struggles with the ritualistic hazing and "survival of the fittest" culture of bullying, he lands a spot in the Deserter Pursuit unit, where he's sent to catch soldiers who've gone AWOL. The stories of the deserters are intense, with the drama shining a light on mistreatment in the armed forces.

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'Weak Hero Class 1'

This brutal webcomic-based drama tackles school violence through a realistic lens, taking place at a boy's high school where the richest students are the most powerful. Bullied student Yeon Si-eun (former Wanna One member Park Ji-hoon) sees his tormentors as an obstacle towards reaching academic success and getting a scholarship to Seoul National University. Though he doesn't see much need for friends, he eventually finds allies in fellow class outcast Oh Beom-seok (Hong Kyung), and the school's best fighter An Soo-ho (Twenty Five Twenty One's Choi Hyun-wook). Fair warning, the eight-episode drama has major twists and a devestating ending.

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Romance Korean Dramas

These romantic K-dramas are for the fans of intense, sweeping romances that can span from heart-fluttering to heart-wrenching in one episode. (Think Bridgerton, but even more swoon-worthy.) If you want to spend 16-20 hours invested in a serious slow burn, look here.

'Crash Landing on You'

A South Korean heiress, Yoon Se-ri, gets caught in a storm while paragliding and finds herself blown off course into North Korea. Se-ri then runs into Ri Jeong-hyeok, Captain of the North Korean Special Forces and a member of the North Korean elite family. Captain Ri eventually hatches a plan to get Se-ri back to South Korea with the help of his squad, but not before they all tackle the obstacles that come their way—and then some. This drama mixes romance with comedy and ultimately tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers. It's currently the highest rated tvN drama and the second-highest Korean drama in cable television history. (Also, stars Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin have since gotten married and are expecting a baby!)

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'Business Proposal'

This 2022 rom-com drama has become the year's biggest hit so far thanks to its hilarious romances (and a super-popular kissing clip). Shin Ha-ri (I.O.I. and The Uncanny Counter's Kim Se-jeong) is a food researcher at a company that just welcomed a new president, Kang Tae-moo (Ahn Hyo-seop). When her wealthy BFF (played by Seol In-ah) asks her to go on a blind date for her and ruin it, the date turns out to be Tae-moo. The morning after the disastrous date, Ha-ri receives a call—Tae-moo wants to marry her!?! Their hilarious courtship, as well as the second lead romance, will definitely steal your heart.

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'Descendants of the Sun'

If you've torn through Vincenzo and want to spend more time with Song Joong-ki, check out the acclaimed drama that made him part of the Hallyu Wave. This acclaimed drama follows Captain Yoo Si-jin (Song) of the Korean Special Forces as he falls in love with surgeon Kang Mo-yeon (Song Hye-ko).

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'Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha'

This country-boy meets city-girl romance starts when Seoul dentist Yoon Hye-jin (Shin Min-ah) loses her shoe during a visit to the seaside village of Gonjin. It's found by Hong Doo-shik (Kim Seon-ho), a jack-of-all-trades who does odd jobs around town. Hye-jin ends up moving to Gonjin, where Doo-shik helps her adapt to the new environment, and the couple slowly (and sweetly) grows feelings for each other.

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'Coffee Prince'

This classic k-drama follows Choi Han-gyul (Goblin's Gong Yoo), the irresponsible heir to a conglomerate with a popular chain of coffee shops. One day he meets Ko Eun-chan (Yoon Eun-hye), a tomboy who's often mistaken for a man and has been the breadwinner of her family since she was 16. Not knowing Eun-chan is a girl, Han-gyul hires her to be his gay lover to get out of the blind dates his grandmother sets up. Han-gyul also takes over a derelict coffee shop, renamed Coffee Prince, to prove to his grandmother and ex-girlfriend that he is capable. As he's only hiring good-looking male employees, Eun-chan decides to keep up her gender charade to get a job at his cafe.

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'Boys Over Flowers'

Boys Over Flowers is an old-school teen drama, focused on a group of popular/privileged/not-so-nice boys at the prestigious Shinhwa High School. The group, known as F4, bully others to get their way—until a working class girl named Geum Jan-di arrives at the school on scholarship and stands up to the boys.

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'True Beauty'

If you want to follow a high-school love triangle, then this hilarious coming-of-age drama is for you. High schooler Im Ju-yeong (Moon Ga-young) has an inferiority complex after being bullied for years by students and family members for her looks. After learning makeup artistry from YouTube, she is considered a "goddess" and becomes more popular at school. Soon she falls into a triangle between mysterious Lee Su-ho (Cha Eun-woo), who recognizes her through her makeup, and his former best friend Han Seo-jun (Hwang In-youp).

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'Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo'

This drama has one of the most likable protagonists and the cutest friends-to-lovers story. Kim Bok-joo (Lee Sung-kyung), a collegiate weightlifter training for the Olympics, meets Jung Joon-hyung (Nam Joo-hyuk) a swimmer at the same school recovering from a psychological problem. The two athletes start out as reluctant friends, but watching them fall in love makes for some hilarious, heart-warming moments.

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'Her Private Life'

This drama from rom-com queen Park Min-young is a sweet story of love and fangirling. Art gallery curator Sung Deok-mi (Park) has a secret life running a fan page for her idol Shi-an. She devotes her life to her job and family, while keeping her fangirl activities secret out of disapproval. One day, Ryan (Kim Jae-Wook) becomes the art director of Deok-mi's gallery, and he soon sets up a celebrity exhibit featuring Shi-an. As Deok-mi struggles to keep her private life secret, Ryan takes an interest in her.

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'Our Beloved Summer'

Ten years have passed since high schoolers Choi Ung (Parasite's Choi Woo-sik) and Kook Yeon-su (Kim Da-mi) starred in a documentary together. Though they started out hating each other, the pair later began dating and stayed together for five years. Now, five years after the rough breakup, the two adults find each other back in their lives at the same time the documentary goes viral, with fans clamoring for an update. Will Ung and Da-mi fall in love again while filming the sequel? Check out this enemies-to-lovers drama to find out.

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'Run On'

The storyline: Ki Seon-gyeom, a popular sprinter turned sports agent, meets Oh Mi-joo, who writes subtitle translations for movies, and Mi-joo believes they were destined for each other. The story centers around their budding romance alongside some strong secondary characters. Mi-joo is played by actress Shin Se-Kyung (from Rookie Historian) while Seon-gyeom is played by Im Si-Wan (from Strangers From Hell), so if you're familiar with both famous faces then give this show a chance.

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Bae Suzy and Nam Joo-hyuk stans will want to tune into this drama, which mixes comedy with romance. The show centers around a group of young individuals who are all eager to start their own businesses. When Bae and Nam's characters, Seo Dal-mi and Nam Do-san respectively, are chosen to join Sandbox (a tech accelerator for entrepreneurs), along with Seo's sister Won In-jae, the three are pitted against one another in a contest to be the best. Little does Dal-mi know, however, someone important from her past (Han Ji-pyeong, played by Kim Sun-ho) has her back throughout this start-up journey. Viewers will be rooting for Dal-Mi to end up with Do-San or Ji-pyeong. Personally, we are team Ji-pyeong.

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K-dramas are known for being more chaste than Western romances, taking several episodes for couples to build their feelings before they become official or even kiss. If you're looking for something steamier, Nevertheless follows the flirtation and eventual friends-with-benefits relationship between art students Yoo Na-bi (My Name's Han So-hee) and Park Jae-eon (Love Alarm's Song Kang). Their love story may be frustrating, but the actors' chemistry makes this drama worth the watch.

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'Touch Your Heart'

I'm somewhat biased because I am an unabashed Lee Dong-wook stan, but Touch Your Heart is really, really fun to watch. Things take place in a high-powered law firm, where a washed-up actress works as a secretary for a cranky attorney. The two leads have great chemistry—they've played star-crossed lovers in Goblin—and they're both extremely good-looking. Plus, it's another workplace love story! Is the universe trying to send me a sign?

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'What's Wrong With Secretary Kim'

This beloved rom-com stars Park Min-young as Kim Mi-so, the skilled secretary to chaebol businessman Lee Young-joon (Park Seo-joon). The job is demanding and Young-joon is narcissistic and self-absorbed, and after nine years at her job, Mi-so has finally decided to quit and start living her life for herself. However, Young-joon refuses to let her go, and eventually he realizes that his feelings for Mi-so go beyond professional admiration. On Mi-so's side, she begins to see her slowly-softening boss in a new life, leading to a genuinely sweet love story (and some top-tier kissing scenes).

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'Strong Woman Do Bong Soon'

This drama has a bit of everything, cramming a compelling crime thriller, a charming love story, and a family legacy of super-strength all into 16 episodes. Tiny and mighty Do Bong-soon (Park Bo-young) has inherited a gift of monumental strength that runs through the women in her family. Her dream is to create a video game, but she spends her days searching for permanent employment and using her power for good. One day, gaming CEO Min-Hyuk (Happiness' Park Hyung-sik) sees Bong-soon's power and hires her as a bodyguard, since he's been receiving threatening letters. Add in a serial killer threatening Bong-soon's neighborhood and a longtime crush/cop (Ji-soo) to complete the love triangle, and you have a show that will suck you in.

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Fantasy Korean Dramas

These sci-fi/fantasy shows range from modern to historical, and the magical elements can either be hidden among day-to-day life or blown out to encompass tons of lore Game of Thrones-style (though minus the gore, most of the time). K-dramas also love a good fated romance, so expect some mystical love connections.

'Goblin (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God)'

This series, written by Kim Eun-sook, is the fourth highest-rated Korean drama of all time. The fantasy romance is about a modern day goblin, Gong Yoo, who needs a human bride (Kim Go Eun) to end his cursed immortal life. His life then becomes intertwined with a grim reaper, Lee Dong-wook, who is unable to remember his past. The story evolves as all these strangers' lives intertwine.

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'Hotel de Luna'

The Hotel Del Luna is a refuge for the dead, a middle ground that helps souls pass into the afterlife. All souls pass on after dealing with their unfinished business in life, except Man-wol (IU), the owner who has been cursed to run the hotel for over a millennium, as penance for her sins. The hotel also needs a human manager to help it run; the next fated human is Koo Chan-sung (Yeo Jin-goo), a Harvard grad who discovers that he can see ghosts. As they work together, Chan-sung begins to unravel the secrets of Man-wol's past.

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'The Uncanny Counter'

This show loosely reminds me of Ghostbusters, but with an eclectic group of characters who each possesses special abilities. The five-person group, called "Counter," work at a noodle restaurant by day and at night, hunt down evil spirits who have escaped from the after life to go after humans. (Their red tracksuits in the show are iconic and honestly would make for great group Halloween costume in 2022—just putting the idea out there.) This K-drama has been very well received by the audience and will have you binging all the episodes in one weekend.

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'Tale of the Nine Tailed'

You might want to keep the lights turned on for Lee Dong-wook's new show because it's a little scary (think scenes with ghosts and a water well à la The Ring). Aside from some minor scenes that make you shudder, however, the story largely revolves around his character Lee-yeon, a mythical fox known as gumiho, and a documentary filmmaker Nam Ji-a (played by Jo Bo-ah) who were once lovers in the past. (The foxes adopt human appearances, but have special powers.) Circumstances in the present bring the two on a treacherous journey that involves solving Ji-a's parents mysterious deaths and the two rediscovering their love for each other.

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'The King: Eternal Monarch'

This Korean drama has it all: parallel universes, time travel, a handsome king, a strong female detective, tragedy, and romance. The show tells the story of Lee Gon (played by one of South Korea's most popular actors: Lee Min-ho), a Korean emperor who rules The Kingdom of Corea (the North and South are still unified in this world) and discovers a portal opening in the bamboo forest that leads him to a parallel universe—the world that we know today. He meets, and falls in love, with detective Jung Tae-eul (played by Goblin's Kim Go-eun) in this world and they have to work together to close this time portal before their two worlds collide and freeze in time forever. Will they succeed in their journey and will their love be able to transcend time?

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'Mystic Pop-up Bar'

This show checks off the boxes for drama, fantasy, and mystery. The storyline centers on Ssanggab Cart Bar, which is only open at night on the rooftop of a building. Wol-Ju (played by Hwang Jung-eum) runs the mysterious food cart and customers who visit her consist of the living and dead. While drinking and eating, they converse with Wol-Ju about themselves and their internal struggles.

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'Memories of the Alhambra'

This fantasy drama is perfect for Hyun Bin and Park Shin-hye fans (you may remember her from the popular show The Heirs). The two actors play each other's romantic interest in Memories of the Alhambra, which is set between Spain and South Korea. (Fun fact: Park Shin-hye learned Spanish for the show, so her voice is not dubbed!) They encounter each other in Spain when Hyun Bin's character, Yoo Jin-woo, arrives to the hostel owned by Park Shin-hye's character, Jung Hee-joo, because he wants her to sign over the rights to develop her brother's augmented reality game. (The brother, meanwhile, has vanished into thin air). Jin-woo starts playing the game and eventually realizes it is causing those around him to die. If he wants to save himself and Jung Hee-joo's missing brother, he has to complete the dangerous quests.

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'Legend of the Blue Sea'

This fantasy romance show explores the relationship between a con artist and a mermaid who meet and fall in love. The mermaid, Shim Cheong, (played by the talented and beautiful Jun Ji-hyun) follows her lover Heo Joon-jae (Lee Min-ho) to land unbeknownst to him that she is a mer person. Juxtaposed against present day, the storyline also focuses on the two's Joseon-era incarnations, town head Kim Dam-ryeong and the mermaid Se-hwa. That pair met a tragic fate, so what does this mean for their current counterparts? Will Shim Cheong and Joon-jae meet the same bad fate?

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If you've ever wished that the hero of your favorite book could jump off the page and into your arms, this contemporary fantasy is just for you. Cardiothoracic resident Oh Yeon-joo (Happiness' Han Hyo-joo) is the daughter of Oh Sung-moo (Kim Eui-sung), the artist behind the popular 10-year webtoon W, who goes missing the day his final chapter is due. While looking in his office, Yeon-joo suddenly gets sucked into the comic itself, and saves the life of its hero Kang Chul (Lee Jong-suk), who her father is determined to kill. She then emerges back in his office, with the webtoon chapter having finished itself, with her actions as the new plot. 

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'My Love from the Star'

In this rom-com, Do Min-joon (Kim Soo-hyun) is a handsome alien who landed on Earth 400 years ago during Korea's Joseon era. He's been waiting for a chance to return to his home planet for centuries. When he has three months left on Earth, he gets a new neighbor, Hallyu star Cheon Song-yi (Jun Ji-hyun), who resembles a young woman from his past. Their romance will have you watching the skies hoping for an alien invasion (as long as they look like Min-joon).

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'Alchemy of Souls'

Set in the fictional country of Daeho, this period fantasy takes place in the world of mages, who live as nobles and warriors among other mortals. Elite warrior Nak-su has evaded authorities by using a forbidden spell called "alchemy of souls," which allows her to switch bodies. When she jumps into the weak body of Mu-deok (Jung So-min), she has to re-build enough strength to wield her powerful sword. So she takes a position as a servant for Jang-uk (Lee Jae-wook), a noble who needs a teacher to help him unbind his magic.

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'While You Were Sleeping'

Reporter Nam Hong-joo (Bae Suzy) lives with an ability to dream about the future, and her visions are usually unfortunate events. Though she can warn the people involved, the dreams have always come true. One day she meets prosecutor Jung Jae-chan (Lee Jong-suk), who also receives the dreams and has the ability to change the outcome of the visions. This drama is full of twists and turns, with policeman Han Woo-tak (Jung Hae-in) helping the pair stop the tragedies from happening. And if you need romance, the fated love between Hong-joo and Jae-chan provides plenty.

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Melodrama Korean Dramas

While many see "melodrama" and think of women in beautiful gowns slapping each other (and yes, that does show up), we consider the genre as anything involving heightened emotions of the non-romantic variety. Think intense jealousy, blood feuds, lifelong revenge plots, deep misery, and life-or-death situations. If you're not lunging for the "Keep Watching" button, it's not enough.

'The Glory'

When Moon Dong-eun (played as a teen by Jung Ji-so) was in high school, she was severly bullied and assaulted by a group of classmates, led by the unrepentant Park Yeon-jin (Im Ji-yeon). The bullies run the aspiring architect out of school and leaves her with deep emotional scars, so much that she dedicates her life to getting revenge. Decades later, and having become a teacher, Dong-eun (Song Hye-ko) begins her elaborate scheme when she becomes the homeroom teacher of Yeon-jin's young daughter.

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'It's Okay, That's Love'

This complex drama follows the building relationship between Jang Jae-yeol (Zo In-sung), a famous mystery novelist who lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Ji Hae-soo (Gong Hyo-jin), an ambitious psychiatrist with negative feelings about relationships. Though they don't get along when they meet on a talk show panel, they eventually get thrown together as housemates, and as they get to know each other, the duo helps each other heal from deep emotional scars. 

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'The Penthouse: War in Life'

If you thought shows like Big Little Lies and Revenge laid the melodrama on thick, just wait until you take a bite out of this rollercoaster of a series. Penthouse follows three wealthy families vying for power in the exclusive Hera Palace community–a luxurious 100-floor high-rise that juts out of the Seoul skyline. Like its forebears, the series centers on three women who hide behind their various secrets and traumas with piles of money and their boundless ambitions for their children. Their world begins to crumble after a mysterious girl falls to her death and the trio attempt to cover up the location of her death to protect the reputation of Hera Palace. It’s messy, and I am living for it.

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'SKY Castle' 

This series follows the journeys of four women and their families as they try to maintain the status quo among the upper crust of South Korean society. The drama revolves around one mother's obsession with getting her daughter into an elite university by any means necessary...sound familiar? This one is a nice mix of romance, soapy drama, and comedy, so if you enjoy human-interest stories, SKY Castle is definitely the K-drama for you.

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'It's Okay to Not Be Okay'

The story centers around a caretaker at a psychiatric ward, Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun), who crosses paths with a children's book writer Ko Moon-young (Seo Yea-ji). Gang Tae has lived life on the run while taking care of his older brother, Sang Tae (Oh Jung-se), who is autistic and suffers from reoccurring nightmares of the day their mother was murdered. He is a big fan of Ms. Ko, who is known to be antisocial and has a difficult personality. After a series of events, all three lives become intertwined and their dramatic back stories are revealed. Gang-tae, Sang-tae, and Ms. Ko share more in common with one another than they think. Aside from the fact that the two leading romantic pairs are both gorgeous, this show will keep viewers glued to their seats thanks to Gang-tae and Ms. Ko's push-and-pull dynamic.

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'Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce)'

This drama follows the tumultuous married lives of three women who work together on a radio show. Host Boo Hye-ryung (Lee Ga-ryeong) and her lawyer husband Pan Sa-hyun (Sang-hoon) have been married for three years and remain child-free by choice. Producer Sa Pi-young (Park Joo-mi) has worked to be the ideal mother to her daughter, and wife to her hospital director husband, Shin Yoo-shin (Lee Tae-gon). Writer Lee Si-eun (Jeon Soo-kyung) has been married for 30 years and made several sacrifices to support her husband Park Hae Ryoon's (Jeon Noh-min) academic career. Each of these marriages slowly unravel over the course of this three-season drama.

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'The Heirs'

This drama tells the story of a group of rich, privileged high school students who will one day take over their families businesses. The coming-of-age themes explored in the drama include identity, wealth, and relationships. One of the main characters is Kim Tan, a chaebol heir to Jeguk Group, who hasn't had the easiest relationship with his older half-brother Kim Won because he thinks Tan is trying to steal their father's company from him. To make Tan's life even more difficult, he ends up falling in love with his housekeeper's daughter, Cha Eun-sang, much to his father's disapproval and he has to compete with classmate Choi Young Do's sudden interest in Eun-sang too when she transfers into their elite school. Tan seeks to overcome all the obstacles to be with Eun-sang no matter what his family or friends at school say.

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'Hi, Bye Mama'

If you like a little supernatural pizazz with your drama, this show is for you. Cha Yoo-ri is a ghost who died five years ago, leaving behind her husband, Jo Kang-hwa, and their child. In a move to become a living human again, Cha Yoo-ri carries out a reincarnation project for 49 days. When she reappears to Jo Kang-hwa, however, she finds that her husband has changed a lot since she died.

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'Move to Heaven'

You'll need to gather some tissues before you watch this gorgeous story about life, death, and love. Geu-ru (Tang Joon-sang), a young man with Asperger syndrome, works with his father as a trauma cleaner, arranging the items left by the deceased and delivering them to their families. When his father dies in an accident, his uncle Sang-gu (Lee Je-Hoon) reappears and becomes his guardian. The ex-convict and martial arts fighter needs to learn to work with Geu-ru on the business, named Move to Heaven, for three months before he can receive the inheritance. The beloved show is best known for changing viewers' perspectives about grief and family.

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'My Mister'

My Mister tells the story of two people struggling with financial troubles, family drama, and loneliness. Park Dong-hun (Lee Sun-kyun) is a middle-aged engineer working under a boss who is younger than him, all the while providing for his two unemployed brothers and their mom. To make matters worse, Dong-hun’s wife is having an affair with his boss (yikes). Meanwhile 20-something Lee Ji-an (K-pop star IU) is in a mountain of debt and will do just about anything to get the loan sharks off her back. After she catches Dong-hun accepting a bribe, she decides to steal gift certificates he received in an attempt to pay off her loans. Heart-wrenching and hopeful, the show tells the story of two people developing a sweet kinship while trying to dig themselves out of trouble.

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When substitute teacher Soo-jin (played by Lee Bo-Young of When My Love Blooms) discovers one of her students Hye-na (played by the brilliant Heo Yool) is being abused by her mother and her boyfriend, she impulsively decides to run away with the little girl. Soo-jin sets out to travel from South Korea to Iceland (she is a bird researcher and has been given a grant to work at an institution there), but before she can make it to Iceland so many unexpected events happen. Viewers will discover why Soo-jin is so drawn to Hye-na and they will grow into the quite unexpected mother-daughter pair we're all rooting for. This show will ask viewers to think about what it means to be a mother/who gets to be one and will leave your eyes puffy from sobbing after every episode. Mother is one of South Korea's most highly-rated series.

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'Reborn Rich'

One of the most-watched dramas in South Korean cable TV history, this revenge drama stars Song Joong-ki as Yoon Hyun-woo, devoted secretary to the chaebol family behind the conglomerate Soonyang Group. When Hyun-woo is betrayed and murdered by one of founder Jin Yang-cheol's (Lee Sung-min) children during a succession battle, he wakes up in the body of the youngest member of the family, Jin Do-jun. With his new position, Hyun-woo forms a plot to take over the company and punish the unknown family member who killed him.

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Historical Korean Dramas

Korea's historical dramas, also known as sageuk, take place throughout the country's history, including the well-known Goryeo (10th-14th century) and Joseon (14th-late 19th century) periods. They can range from rom-com to political saga to even zombie thriller, with the customs of each time heavily affecting the story. Perfect watches when you want remember a simpler time (and yes, there are handsome princes and brave princesses).


Two subjects K-dramas do extremely well: historical epics and zombie horror. Put them together and you get the first Netflix original drama to become an international hit. As a mysterious plague moves through the country, a crown prince sets out to find the source. Luckily, this drama doesn't end at one season, with a spin-off film premiering this year and a third season reportedly in the works.

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'100 Days My Prince'

In 100 Days My Prince, Prince Lee Yul (EXO member D.O.) is forced to flee the palace after he discovers a secret that puts his life at risk. After an accident causes him to lose his memory, he's nursed back to health by a commoner and told he's betrothed to their daughter, Yeon Hong-shim. The story focuses on their next 100 days together, with Lee Yul living life as a commoner and their love story growing in the process.

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If there isn't already a label for the international, prestige K-drama, we're creating it for Pachinko. Created by Soo Hugh based on a novel by Korean-American writer Min Jin Lee, this gorgeous drama tells the tale of four generations of a Korean family living in permanent residents in Japan, spanning from Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1910s to 1980s Tokyo. With a cast including Oscar winner Yuh-jung Youn, Hallyu star Lee Minho, and newcomer Kim Min-ha, the saga of love, family duty, and perseverance is a must-watch tearjerker.

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'Mr. Sunshine'

This historical saga is based on real historical events that affected Korea (then Joseon) in the early 1900s. Born in Joseon as the child of slaves, Marine Corps officer Eugene Choi (Squid Game's Lee Byung-hun) returns to his native country, years after smuggling his way to the U.S. There he meets Ae-shin (The Handmaiden and Twenty Five, Twenty One's Kim Tae-ri), a noblewoman who's part of efforts to secure the country's independence against the threat of colonization. The two fall in love, despite their class differences and Ae-shin's impending marriage, against the backdrop of a changing nation.

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'The Red Sleeve'

This historical romance, based on a fictional novel about real historical figures, is a slow-burn that both warms your heart and leaves you in tears. Crown Prince Yi San (2PM's Junho) falls in love with one of his court ladies, Sung Deok-im (Lee Se-young), and wants her to be his concubine. However, strong-willed Deok-im wants to live her life freely, and rejects his advances. Eventually, she realizes that his love for her is true, and that together, they can create a better future for their country.

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'Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung'

In a Romeo and Juliet-esque storyline, this show revolves around a romance between an aspiring palace historian and a lonely prince. Together, they go on a journey to break societal norms and uncover secrets from their pasts that could have consequences on their present day lives. This show is suited for those seeking sweet, heart-fluttering moments and will have you rooting for the couple until the very end.

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'Love in the Moonlight'

This coming-of-age romance follows Hong Ra-on (Kim Yoo-jung), a relationship counselor who lives as a man named Sam-nom for safety reasons. When she's forced to live in the royal palace as an eunuch, as punishment for being unable to repay a debt, she forms a friendship with the mischievous Crown Prince Lee Yeong (Park Bo-gum). As they fall for each other, they're both put in danger as her true identity is discovered and they wrapped up in dangerous political battles.

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'Under the Queen's Umbrella'

This period drama has drawn comparisons to SKY Castle, though these ambitious mothers and children aren't competing for a place at a top university. Instead, they're princes and concubines of the king of Joseon, who are striving to become heir in a system based on talent and merit. When the current Crown Prince and Queen Hwa-ryeong's (Kim Hye-Soo) eldest son falls gravely ill, the queen has to whip her four younger sons into shape, or their lives as well as their positions will be in danger.

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'Youth of May'

This romance takes place amid the Gwangju uprising, as local citizens took up arms against the martial law government. Rather than focusing on the tumultuous time, it shows the love story between medical student Hwang Hee-Tae (Lee Do-hyun) and nurse Kim Myung-Hee (Go Min-si). As the couple goes through hardships that are both personal and related to the era's politics, they begin to depend on each other and find themselves in a twist of fate.

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'Mr. Queen'

This hilarious genre-bending drama is a must-watch for anyone interested in a time-traveling, body-swapping comedy with a hint of romance. In the present day, Jang Bong-hwan (Choi Jin-hyuk) is the virtuoso, womanizing head chef at the Blue House (the presidential residence, so literally South Korea's White House). After he gets in an accident and nearly drowns in his apartment swimming pool, he wakes up in the body of the queen of Joseon, Kim So-yong (the stellar Shin Hye-sun). As the time traveler gets used to 19th century palace politics, they also need to contend with their irritating husband King Cheoljong (Crash Landing on You's Kim Jung-hyun), who's hiding secrets of his own.

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Professional Korean Dramas

Including the subcategories medical and legal, these dramas show workplaces or schools within a certain professional industry, with many covering cases or projects of the week. As with Grey's Anatomy and The Good Wife, the characters' relationships are just as important as their jobs.

'Hospital Playlist'

Grey's Anatomy and other medical drama fans will want to dive right into this drama that depicts the stories of people working at a hospital. The five doctors have been friends for 20 years (they all went to the same medical school) and now they're colleagues navigating through a career centered around life and death. This show is currently one of the highest-rated Korean dramas in cable television history with two seasons so far and a third already confirmed!

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'The Ghost Doctor'

This supernatural medical drama follows the doctors and ghosts that haunt the halls of a large university hospital. Cha Young-min (idol-actor Rain) is a genius, arrogant surgeon who enters a coma after a mysterious car accident. Ko Seung-tak (Boys Over Flowers' and Law School's Kim Bum) is a kind surgical resident whose family owns the hospital...and is totally incompetent. The two total opposites (one ghost, one human) end up working together to treat patients and investigate corruption among the hospital execs.

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'Extraordinary Attorney Woo'

Woo Young-woo (played by Park Eun-bin, spelled the same way backwards and forwards) is a young law prodigy, who graduated from the best school at the top of her class and lives with autism spectrum disorder. When she starts her first job at Hanbada Law Firm, she has to adapt both in the office and at court, as her social skills are very different from her colleagues, clients, and opponents. But with the help of her kind co-workers and her love of whales, Young-woo can find success and maybe even love at her work.

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Yoon Hee-jae is a handsome attorney who's confident in crushing his opponents in court. He has a "chance" meeting at a laundromat with a mysterious woman and ends up falling for her only to later discover that the woman, Jung Geum-ja, is actually an attorney representing the opposite side. She had strategically won Hee-jae's heart (and his case files) because she really needs a win to save her struggling business. Despite being wronged, Hee-jae is attracted to Geum-ja and the pair duke it out in court. If Yoon Hee-jae looks familiar to you it's because the character is played by Ju Ji-hoon, who also plays the dazzling Crown Prince in Kingdom.

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'Law School'

How to Get Away With Murder fans are sure to love Law School, which focuses on students and professors are prestigious Hankuk University Law School. The show's plot kicks off when one law professor at the school is found dead and another, Professor Yang (played by Kim Myung-min) is arrested for the crime, forcing the students to team up to prove Yang's innocence.

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'Chief of Staff'

Remember House of Cards? The Netflix original series followed the complex and ilicit lives of politicians and journalists in Washington, D.C. The show was nothing short of a hit, but it came to an unfortunate end once its star became embroiled in a very serious, very disturbing controversy. Chief of Staff is a lot like House of Cards, but rest assured, the drama is maintained within the show. There's scheming, manipulation, illicit affairs, serious criminal activity, and a whole lot of lying to the general public by the voters by the very people they put in office—sounds appropriate for the day and age we're living in, no?

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'Search: WWW'

This workplace drama follows the relationships between three women running two competing web portal companies. Bae Ta-mi (Im Soo-jung) is the director of search department of Unicon, until she becomes the scapegoat for company corruption and gets fired. She's then scouted by Barro, a rival company that wants to overtake Unicon and become Korea’s top web portal. She teams up with Barro director Cha-hyun (Lee Da-hee) to beat their mutual frenemy, Unicon director Song Ga-kyeong (Jeon Hye-jin). While the show focuses on the three strong female characters, there's also a sweet side romance between 38-year-old Ta-mi and 28-year-old Park Morgan (Jang Ki-yong).

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This drama takes place in the world of journalism among a star-crossed duo of broadcast reporters. Choi Dal-po (Lee Jong-suk) has a loaded past with the media, as his family was torn apart by misreporting and public shunning when he was a boy. Fellow rookie reporter Choi In-ha (Park Shin-hye) is determined to become a competent reporter, but she has a "Pinocchio" syndrome where she hiccups whenever she lies. The duo are tied together by the past, and eventually fall in love as they try to right the wrongs within their industry.

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Slice of Life Korean Dramas

This is another genre that's best described by a vibe. Rather than the heightened emotions of melodrama, these shows depict characters experiencing and working through the everyday emotions that make up a life. They're the perfect comfort watches, for when you want to see characters that you'd consider friends, and cheer for them as they go through familiar situations. (This is also where you'll find some great coming-of-age stories.)

'Reply 1988'

The Reply series are different kinds of period dramas; instead of taking us back to  the Goryeo or Joseon eras, these comedies show recent cultural events through the eyes of young people coming of age at the time. The slice-of-life series is beloved for its storylines of young love and its portrayals of pop cultural phenomenons. Though Reply 1988 was the last series made (they came out in reverse chronological order by year), it's the most popular, following both the kids and parents of the Ssangmun-dong neigborhood in Seoul.

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'Itaewon Class'

Where to start with this one? This series tells the story of Park Sae-royi, who opens a restaurant in Itaewon after having spent a few years in prison for beating up chaebol heir Jang Geun-won. The two have a rough history and now, with a fresh start, Sae-royi wants to not only franchise his restaurant DanBam, but have it overtake Jangga Group as a household name. (His ultimate goal is to get revenge for his father's death, which was caused by the Jangga family.) The CEO of Jangga Group is a self-made man of success and he will not let Sae-royi defeat him or his son. The two engage in a power struggle throughout the entire series that's filled with juicy plot twists and turns.

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'Something in the Rain'

Although we love outrageously plotted k-dramas, Something in the Rain is a more straightforward and realistic look into an ill-fated romance and workplace discrimination. Yoon Jin-ah (Crash Landing on You's Son Ye-jin) is a single career woman who begins a romance with her friend’s little brother (played by your new crush Jung Hae-in) after he returned from a stint abroad. But their relationship draws an immense amount of scrutiny from their families, who don’t approve. Jin-ah also faces a sexist workplace, where she and her female co-workers are demeaned by their male colleagues.

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'Because This Is My First Life'

Does broke millennials working underpaid jobs and dealing with today’s high cost of living sound familiar? The characters in Because This Is My First Life are just like us–following their dreams, working in high-powered industries, all the while just barely reaping the benefits. Nam Sae-hee (Lee Min-ki) is a software developer working for a start-up who suffers from a mortgage that eats up all his disposable income. Yoon Ji-ho (Jung So-min) is a struggling screenwriter who dreams of developing her own k-dramas, but she’s relegated to being a highly underpaid writer’s assistant on mediocre shows. After she’s forced to move out of her apartment, she ends up renting out a room in Sae-hee’s house. When they realize that a fake-marriage would be mutually advantageous for both their precarious financial situations and societal expectations, they decide to tie the knot. Obviously, one thing leads to another and they’re unable to separate their contractual marriage from the real feelings that they begin to develop.

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Fair warning: Navillera is the kind of show that is best watched with a full box of tissues at your side. The series focuses on Shim Deok-chul, a 70-year-old retired mailman who dreams of being a ballet dancer. As Deok-chul pursues his dream, he also battles advancing Alzheimer’s.

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'Record of Youth'

This show centers on three ambitious individuals from different social classes working in the cut throat world of show business and fashion. Sa Hye-joon (Park Bo-gum) and Won Hae-hyo (Byeon Woo-seok) are models who aspire to be actors. They end up becoming friends with makeup artist An Jung-ha (Parasite's Park So-dam) and together the trio must face a variety of obstacles that threaten to stop them from achieving their dreams in the entertainment industry.

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'Lovestruck in the City'

This mockumentary-style rom-com follows six single people living in the city, who each have been burned by dating in some way. Architect Park Jae-won (Ji Chang-wook) and marketer Lee Eun-oh (Kim Ji-won) were in a relationship a year before, and both have regrets about how it ended. Meanwhile, architect Choi Kyung-joon (Kim Min-seok) and jill-of-all-trades Suh Rin-yi (So Joo-yeon) are dating, while novelist Kang Geon (Ryu Kyung-soo), who has not dated for two years, crosses paths with gym teacher Oh Sun-young (Han Ji-eun), a self-admitted serial dater.

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'Dear My Friends'

Featuring a star-studded cast of industry veterans—most notably Oscar-winner Youn Yuh-jung (!)—this heartwarming slice-of-life drama follows elderly friends who are just vibing in their last years of life. After Park Wan (Go Hyun-jung) decides to write a novel about the life of the elderly at the behest of her mother, she gets close to her mother’s group of lifelong friends and learns their small but significant life stories. The series is a love story about friendship and lifelong connections that looks through time at old memories and the ways those moments thread into our twilight years.

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'Fight For My Way'

This drama follows that transformative period of the quarter-life crisis, as a quartet of friends make big changes in their professional and romantic lives. Choi Ae-ra (Kim Ji-won) works at a department store, but she's decides to finally follow her dream of becoming a television anchor. Ko Dong-man (Park Seo-joon), a former teenage athlete, overcomes his past to become a rookie MMA fighter. Meanwhile, their best friends Kim Joo-man (Ahn Jae-hong) and Baek Seol-hee (Song Ha-yoon) have been dating for six years, and now face a new challenge to their relationship. You'll end up rooting for each of these characters as they grow, and the friends-turned-lovers arc between Dong-man and Ae-ra will make your heart flutter.

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'Yumi's Cells'

This webcomic adaptation and ultimate comfort drama centers around Yumi, an everyday office worker in her early 30s who's been unlucky in love. Years after experiencing a devastating heartbreak, she meets a new guy on a blind date and begins to fall for him. Viewers follow Yumi's new relationship through the point-of-view of her cells, a group of adorable animated characters who live in her brain and control her feelings (including the Rational, Emotional, Love, Hunger, Anxiety, Fashion, and Naughty Cells). Come for the cutest premise ever, stay for My Name's Ahn Bo-hyun and GOT7's Jinyoung as Yumi's love interests.

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Quinci LeGardye
Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.