The 20 Best Korean Reality Shows to Stream Now

South Korea's impressive slate of variety and reality series are going global.

lee jin-seok and cho min-ji, sitting on a couch in a hotel suite, in 'single's inferno' season 3
(Image credit: Netflix)

By now, most television fans have dipped their toes into the world of Korean entertainment—from must-watch K-dramas to acclaimed Korean movies—but not many viewers have been exposed to the vast world of Korean reality shows. Some of the most popular series in South Korea are variety shows that have been staples of international primetime TV for over a decade—and the rise of streaming has finally allowed the unique competition series to find a global audience. (Add in a recent influx of can't-miss dating shows, and Korea has become home to some great new series that sit among the best reality shows of all time.)

Korea's unscripted TV slate truly has something for everyone: If you're a fitness buff or are thrilled by seeing people pushed to their physical limits, there's Korean survival shows. If you're the type of person who plays along with Jeopardy or tries to solve mystery movies before the twist is revealed, there's several complex puzzle shows. Here, we've listed a selection of best Korean reality shows to watch—grouped by the most popular genres—to welcome you into the world of K-reality.

Dating Shows

These dating-focused series are more introspective than anything Western media puts out—think more Terrace House than Love Island—but that doesn't mean viewers won't get sucked into rooting for couples or thirsting over fan-favorites. These series often have two layers—as the contestants mingle and flirt, a panel of celebrity hosts serve as audience surrogates, watching along and giving commentary. If you like your vicarious viewing with much less stress (a.k.a. the opposite of Love Is Blind), give these shows a try.

'Single's Inferno'

a man looks out at two large beachfront tents, in 'single's inferno'

(Image credit: Netflix)

Single's Inferno has become a proven gateway show for new fans of Korean unscripted TV. (After all, it was the first ever Korean reality show to enter Netflix's Top 10.) Every season, a group of gorgeous young singles are ferried to an abandoned island, dubbed "Inferno," where they get to know each other while living in tents and cooking their own basic meals. If a couple successfully pairs up, they get to have an overnight date in "Paradise," a.k.a. a nearby luxury hotel. Countless viewers have become engrossed by the show's pure escapism and breezy, low-stakes drama. (If you catch up too quickly, don't worry: Single's Inferno season 4 is already in the works.)

Watch on Netflix

'Heart Signal'

the contestants of the korean dating show 'heart signal,' standing in front of the sunny seoul cityscape

(Image credit: Viki/Channel A)

One of the most popular dating shows in Korea, Heart Signal, centers eight everyday people—four men and four women—as they live together and date each other for a month, hoping to find their soulmates. They aren't allowed to express their feelings verbally. Instead, at the end of each episode, everyone sends a "heart signal" text to whomever they like. Meanwhile, a group of celebrity panelists follow along and predict who will end up together in the end. Both Korean and international viewers have commented on how easy it is to relate to the cast members as they go through the highs and lows of dating.

Watch on Viki


the cast of exchange season 1 korean dating show

(Image credit: Instagram/

Also known as Transit Love, this popular show gives couples who are long broken-up a second chance to either reunite with their ex or to find new love. The cast of singles are made up of pairs of exes, who all move into a shared house on Jeju Island. All of the former couples also have to treat each other like strangers while the housemates get to know each other and go on dates, adding another layer to the drama.

Watch on Tubi

'Pink Lie'

a group of people sit on pink couches while staring at a tv, in the korean show 'pink lie'

(Image credit: Disney+)

This Disney Korea series is another one where a group of singles move into a house and date each other, but this one has a major twist: each person has one lie they're telling about themselves, whether it's their age, occupation, academic background, or upbringing. As the cast members get to know each other and bond through challenge games, some will get the chance to out another person's lie and see whether the hidden truth will change how they feel.

Watch on Hulu

'Love Catcher'

a man and a woman sit outdoors, in the korean show 'love catcher'

(Image credit: Viki/Mnet)

An eternal question of reality dating shows is whether contestants are there for "the right reasons," or just for the chance of a future career as an influencer. Love Catcher brings this question to the forefront. Of the 10 strangers living together over several weeks, some are "love catchers" and some are "money catchers." If money catchers end the show coupled with a love catcher, they can walk away with a prize 50 million Korean won (about $36,000). As the contestants go after either love or money, a panel of hosts join the viewers in trying to suss out everyone's true motives.

Watch on Tubi

'I Am Solo'

a woman and a man walk down an empty street during daytime, in the korean show 'i am solo'

(Image credit: SBS Plus)

This show takes the whole living-together-and-dating concept to a more serious level, as all the singles who come onto the show are focused on marriage. The cast members search for a future spouse by discussing their ideal families, core values, and everything else you'd look for in a long-term partner. (And yes, the show has led to successful marriages.) And, instead of following the same group all the way through a season, matches are made quickly with new casts being added in every couple of episodes.

Watch on VIki

Survival/Competition Shows

Survivor stans, look no further. These series follow every-day people as they compete in intense physical and teamwork challenges that also push them to their mental limits. The nail-biting challenges tap into the feral sports fan in all of us, and there's no shortage of entertaining contestants to capture your attention.

'Physical: 100'

two women wrestle for a ball in a dirt arena, in 'physical 100'

(Image credit: Netflix)

In this smash-hit survival series, 100 contestants—ranging from Olympic gold medalists to pro bodybuilders and fitness YouTubers—are put through a series of intense challenges to determine which among them has the "perfect physique." Often compared to Squid Game when it first premiered, Physical: 100 captured global viewers' attention thanks to its inventive quests, ranging from individual endurance matches to one group round where a team had to move a 4,000-pound ship across a field of sand. In a surprising twist, this series is often more heartwarming than brutal, as Physical: 100 may be one of the best depictions of sportsmanship ever shown on streaming.

Watch on Netflix

'Siren: Survive the Island'

24 women covered in mud stand in an outdoor arena, in the netflix show 'siren survive the island'

(Image credit: Netflix)

In this intense, all-female competition, 24 contestants grouped into teams by professions—police, military, firefighters, bodyguards, elite athletes, and professional stuntwomen—battle each other in brutal challenges to see which group will claim victory. (The gameplay has has been compared to a complicated Capture the Flag.) Meanwhile, the contestants' personalities and grit get time to shine, as they prove that women in these male-dominated fields are just as strong and fierce.

Watch on Netflix

'The Devil's Plan'

six people stand in a circular room, while a screen to the left reads 250 million korean won, in the netflix show 'the devil's plan'

(Image credit: Netflix)

With all the vibes of an intellectual Physical: 100, The Devil's Plan puts its contestants through an intense competition that tests their mental and social strategizing skills. The cast of super-smart celebrities and civilians (ranging from actors and K-pop stars to a college student who passed open casting) live together as they go through the challenges, which alternate between competitive and collaborative. Both the players and the viewers have to be quick on their toes considering how quickly alliances come together and fall apart, so it's an perfect watch for the Jeopardy and Big Brother fans out there.

Watch on Netflix

'The Gentlemen's League'

a group of men (The Eojjeoda Avengers soccer team and manager Ahn Jung-hwan) pose, in a promo picture for the korean reality show 'The Gentlemen's League'

(Image credit: Netflix)

Also known as Let's Play Soccer, the goal of this sports competition series is to bring together and train a successful soccer team, made out of athletes from other, lesser-known sports. It's a long process; each season contains more than 100 episodes(!) showing dozens of athletes going through challenge-based auditions. Once the final team is picked (and dubbed the "Legendary Avengers"), they're trained by notable retired players and eventually enter a nationwide competition. Several familiar faces from Physical: 100 have appeared on the show, including Kim Dong-hyun, Lee Jang-kun, Andre Jin, and Hong Beom-seok.

Watch on Netflix

Game/Variety Shows

The genre of "Korean variety" is more of a general vibe than a strict definition. These game shows are all based on one beloved viewing pastime: watching celebrities and comedians ridiculously work their way through outlandish situations. If your favorite part of late night TV is either Saturday Night Live (yes, there used to be a Korean version) or the game segments in talk shows, then be sure to check these out.

'Running Man'

a group of people (lee kwang-soo, kim jong-kook, yoo jae-suk, haha, yang se-chan, song ji-hyo, jeon so-min, and lee seok-jin), pose in a running stance, in promo still for 'running man'

(Image credit: Viki/SBS)

Running Man, one the longest-running variety shows in South Korean history, is essential viewing for anyone dipping their toes into Korean unscripted TV. In each episode, a regular cast of TV personalities welcomes on several guests, as they play challenges that range from basic party games (think upgraded charades and rock-paper-scissors) to massive sports tournaments and multi-location scavenger hunts. Odds are, any Korean celeb you can think of has a hilarious clip from a Running Man appearance (and even some U.S. celebs, including Ryan Reynolds and Tom Cruise).

Watch on Viki


a group of people (l-r, Sehun, Kim Se-jeong, Park Min-young, Kim Jong-min, Ahn Jae-wook, Yoo Jae-suk) stand over a man (Lee Kwang-soo, center) as he kneels over a corpse covered by a white sheet, in the netflix show busted

(Image credit: Kim Jin-young (Exoticshop), Hong Sang-won, Jang Hoon-woo / Netflix)

This Netflix series is like a mix of The Amazing Race, Running Man, and LARPing, where a group of celebrities (Yoo Jae-suk, Ahn Jae-wook, Lee Kwang-soo, Kim Jong-min, Park Min-young, Kim Se-jeong, and EXO's Sehun) role-play as rookie detectives investigating a murder-conspiracy case. As they travel throughout Korea, solving challenges and picking up clues, they're met with tons of slapstick surprises that they have to navigate. Come for the intricate games, stay for the hilarious, self-aware antics that the group must fumble their way through.

Watch on Netflix

'The Zone: Survival Mission'

three people (lee kwang-soo, yoo jae-suk, and kwon yuri) sit and kneel on a bridge, in 'the zone survival mission'

(Image credit: Disney+)

This Disney Korea series is similar to Busted!, except the overall theme is surviving natural disasters. In seasons 1 and 2, hosts Yoo Jae-suk and Lee Kwang-soo (both best known from Running Man) and Kwon Yuri (of Girls' Generation) solved puzzles during simulations of earthquakes, extreme temperatures, and a zombie apocalypse. Season 3 is set to stream later this year, with Single's Inferno's Dex and Physical: 100's Kim Dong-hyun joining Jae-suk and Yuri as hosts.

Watch on Hulu


a man (dex) hides in a grocery store as a zombie stands behind him, in the netflix show 'zombieverse'

(Image credit: Netflix)

Everyone has wondered at one point or another if they could survive an zombie apocalypse, so it's no wonder that the masters behind the zombie genre would turn the hypothetical into a reality show. This time, a group of celebs and comedians, who think they're about to serve on a dating show panel, are launched into a fight for survival. This show also straddles the line of scripted and unscripted (after all, contestants know that the "zombies" are actually a horde of talented background actors), but the fun comes through in the cast's spontaneous moments of fear, selfishness, or bravery.

Watch on Netflix

Lifestyle/Celebrity Shows

This side of the variety coin is filled with slice-of-life docusoaps that follow celebrities and public figures around as they live their daily lives. The plots can range from mundane daily activities to behind-the-scenes looks at their work lives. Some traits all the shows share: any drama that comes up is very low stakes, and often monitored by the ubiquitous celeb commentary panel.

'I Live Alone'

a large teddy bear sits propped next to a gold tea pot as a man (right, cha seo-won) sits in a chair, in the korean show 'i live alone'

(Image credit: MBC)

Also known as Home Alone, this lifestyle show (which just celebrated its 11th anniversary) follows the daily lives of celebrities who live alone, forgoing the cultural norm (Koreans often live with their immediate family until they move out to get married and start their own family). The guests who appear on the show record their daily activities, give testimonials, and even appear on the panel that watches along and comments on the footage. This hugely popular show is made for "people watchers," who find comfort in the fact that even famous celebrities struggle with stuff like cramped apartments and brutal hangovers.

Watch on Viki

'Return of Superman'

a man (left) tries to feed three babies sitting at a long desk, in the korean show 'return of superman'

(Image credit: KBS)

The premise of this family show is simple and often adorable. It follows celebrity dads as they take care of their themselves, while the moms get time off to relax. In the decade-plus since the show began, not all of the families have followed the exact scenario (sometimes the moms stick around to help) but two things never change: the kids are absolutely delightful, and celeb friends of the dads often pop by to help out. Some of the well-known dads over the show's history have included Physical: 100 alums Choo Sung-hoon and Kim Dong-hyun.

Watch on Viki

'Jinny's Kitchen'

a group of people (jung yu-mi, choi woo-shik, park seo-joon, v, and lee seok-jin) pose while standing in a korean restaurant, in the show 'jinny's kitchen'

(Image credit: Prime Video)

This 2023 show is the latest in a series of specials where a group of actors open and operate a Korean restaurant in a tranquil corner of the world. Oscar winner and Minari star Youn Yuh-jung used to lead the cast, but in this installment (the first without her), Lee Seo-jin is in charge of the shop, with returning cast members Jung Yu-mi, Park Seo-joon, and Choi Woo-shik joining him in running a Korean street food eatery for two weeks in Balacar, Mexico. BTS's V (real name Kim Tae-hyung) rounds out the cast as this season's intern. (A previous season of Youn's Kitchen, filmed in Tenerife, Spain, is also streaming on Tubi.)

Watch on Prime Video

'The Game Caterers'

the members of seventeen on the korean show 'game caterers'

(Image credit: YouTube)

In this YouTube series, famed variety show producer Na Yong-suk (New Journey to the West, Earth Arcade, Jinny's Kitchen) hosts pop-up "business trips" where he brings entertainment to groups of Korean celebrities. The celebs get to show off their personalities as they're put through variety-style games including the "famous people" quiz, word relays, and sport games where speaking in English is forbidden (which is always way harder than you'd think). Some of the global stars who've appeared so far include actors from Hospital Playlist and Squid Game, as well as K-pop groups like BTS, Seventeen, and Girls' Generation.

Watch on YouTube


Some of the most popular K-pop groups in history, and the most well-known viral TikTok dances, have originated from these singing and dancing competition shows, and there are likely many more to come.

'The King of Mask Singer'

a woman wearing a paper face mask stands on stage and holds a microphone, in 'king of mask singer'

(Image credit: MBC)

If you've ever watched the acid trip that's the U.S. version of The Masked Singer, then the original Korean series deserves a viewing. But fair warning: You won't find elaborate, full-body costumes or flashy performances with dozens of background dancers here. Instead, Korean celebrities with impressive voices (including many, many K-pop idols) get the chance to show off their pipes without any preconceived judgments based on their backgrounds. (It's another Korean show that Ryan Reynolds has appeared on! Who knew?)

Watch on Viki

'Boys' Planet'

a group of boys pose while standing on a circular stage, in the korean show 'boys planet'

(Image credit: Mnet)

Among the numerous selection of Korean singing survival shows, the most buzzy hits tend to be competitions where idol trainees (a.k.a. aspiring singers going through the industry's training system) compete to land a spot in a temporary K-pop group. (Some of the famed groups that have come out of these shows include I.O.I., IZ*ONE, Wanna One, and Kepler.) 2023's Boys Planet took over the overall K-pop fandom for its three-month run, as 98 male trainees went through performance elimination rounds with the hope of debuting in the eventual nine-member group ZEROBASEONE.

Watch on Viki

Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci is a Contributing Culture Editor who writes pieces and helps to strategize editorial content across TV, movies, music, theater, and pop culture. She contributes interviews with talent, as well as SEO content, features, and trend stories. She fell in love with storytelling at a young age, and eventually discovered her love for cultural criticism and amplifying awareness for underrepresented storytellers across the arts. She previously served as a weekend editor for Harper’s Bazaar, where she covered breaking news and live events for the brand’s website, and helped run the brand’s social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Her freelance writing has also appeared in outlets including HuffPost, The A.V. Club, Elle, Vulture, Salon, Teen Vogue, and others. Quinci earned her degree in English and Psychology from The University of New Mexico. She was a 2021 Eugene O’Neill Critics Institute fellow, and she is a member of the Television Critics Association. She is currently based in her hometown of Los Angeles. When she isn't writing or checking Twitter way too often, you can find her studying Korean while watching the latest K-drama, recommending her favorite shows and films to family and friends, or giving a concert performance while sitting in L.A. traffic.