Must-Watch Korean Dramas (2000-2015)

I’m very behind on my reviews of all the dramas I’ve watched, and I might get caught up on them in the future, but since I have so many I have not reviewed, I just decided I would make a list of the dramas all Asian drama fans must watch…starting with Korean dramas. These are in no particular order, just the order they came into my mind (so, I guess they are in some sort of order…)

1. Kill Me, Heal Me (2015)- MBC

kill me heal me

All I have to say about this drama (since I just wrote a full-length review) is that it is one of the best in Kdrama history. So, go watch it. I promise you won’t regret it. With Ji Sung and Hwang Jung Eum together, you can never go wrong. Also, if you’re new to Korean dramas, this is a great one to start with and a great one to introduce to your family/friends who might be looking for something good to watch. For the full review, click here: https://silentshimmer.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/korean-drama-review-kill-me-heal-me/#more-981

2. Boys Over Flowers (2009)- KBS2

boys over flowers

Surprise, surprise! Actually, is it really a wonder as to why this was the first Korean drama to come to my mind? It was not my first Korean drama, but it was one that I have watched three times fully through and it never gets old. There were so many good things about this drama. I loved how the soundtrack was not just two or three songs played over and over. The first half of the drama had a round of songs it played and in the second half, these songs completely changed. The songs were very nice and were great mood-setters also. They didn’t seem to be just randomly put there and they definitely manipulated your emotions. The cast was great also. Lee Min Ho as Gu Jun Pyo was so perfect. He played the role very well. I thought Kang Hyun Joong did really well as Ji Hoo. I don’t think KHJ is a very good actor, but in this role, his very rigid and largely emotionless acting was very good for this role. He even made me and my sister cry. Aw…JI HOO!!!! The other two F4 actors were also good and perfectly played their roles. The only weak player in this drama was Koo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di. I thought she could have been much better at being Jan Di, but I enjoyed the drama nonetheless. Another thing that makes this drama so good is the fact that I’ve recommended this drama to other people who have never watched Asian dramas and they become hooked to only this drama. They usually do not care to watch other dramas, but they will watch this and love it. It takes a lot for an Asian drama to become likeable by people who have never watched them before, in my opinion. The storyline was great, the acting was very good, the music was great, the locations and scenery were all very good, which is why this is a MUST WATCH KOREAN DRAMA!

Also…if you’re a total newbie, watch this one first. I promise you will not regret it!

3. Goong, or Princess Hours (2006)- MBC

princess hours

This was the first Asian drama I ever watched! So, of course it holds a special place in my heart as it got me to watch other Asian dramas! I had read the manhwa before watching this, so I think that is what made it better. Although the acting was not the greatest (I’m pretty sure it was Yoon Eun Hye’s first big role), I still think it is a must see because it was a popular drama back in its time and it is quite funny. The romance is also really good.

If you are new to Asian dramas, this is the one that got me hooked, and it could do the same to you, but I would not recommend it to be the first one you watch unless you have read the manhwa. The manhwa really made me appreciate it more.

 4. You’re Beautiful (2009)- SBS

you're beautiful

Okay, so I really love this drama. It’s about the only drama I like with Park Shin Hye (sorry Heirs fans, that drama sucked) and Jang Geun Suk (well, I did kind of like Love Rain). I’m pretty sure this was also Lee Hong Ki’s and Jung Yong Hwa’s first big drama and they were fabulous in it. This had me hooked from episode one because it is very cute and it is also hilarious. I laughed so much while watching this drama. Although I normally do not like Park Shin Hye’s acting, she was great in this and very funny! She should go back to doing funny roles… Anyway, gender-bending dramas have always been something I liked. I think this is a must see drama because it is lighthearted, romantic, and funny. It’s a bit like Boys Over Flowers, it just has less drama and a different storyline.

If you are an Asian drama newbie, I think this is a good drama to get you interested in more Asian dramas. Although it may seem kind of bizarre and unrealistic, that’s how many Korean dramas are and it just adds to the fun of watching.

5. 49 Days (2011)- SBS

49 days

Ah, this drama. What a surprise drama it was! I just looked at the title and the synopsis and put off watching it for a month or two because, although the premise seemed interesting, I just didn’t think it would interest me, but boy was I wrong! From episode one, I was hooked and this drama surprised me by being so good. Although there is some comedy in it, most of it is drama. It is also very sad and there are some frustrating moments, but that just makes the ending all the better. Most of the ending was really good, since it gave the audience what they were seeking throughout the whole series, but it was a bit too rushed and something that happens in the end, I thought was very sloppily done. It was a bittersweet end, that, I think, did not need to have the bitterness in it. Nevertheless, this was a very good drama and the acting was very good as was the romance.

Unless you’ve watched a few Korean dramas and liked them, I wouldn’t start watching this one. It’s a bit melodramatic and I think it is best to watch this once you’ve become well-rounded in Asian dramas as a whole. But, if you do decide start with this one, it is very good!

6. High Kick Through the Roof (2009-2010)- MBC

high kick through the roof

This was another drama that I put off watching for a long time. I saw that it was over 100 episodes long and immediately started looking elsewhere. Then, I found out it was a sitcom and the episodes were only half-hour long episodes, so then I looked into it again. There was a lot of talk about it while it was airing and right after it had finished airing (especially about the surprising ending) and so I looked to see who was in it and I saw that both Hwang Jung Eum and Jung Bo Suk were in it (I had watched Giant before this and I fell in love with them) and so I decided I would give it a shot. The first few episodes were a bit boring and not very sitcom-like so I was about to give up until Hwang Jung Eum and Gwang Soo came into the picture. Hwang Jung Eum was so hilarious and Gwang Soo was also funny and loveable that I continued watching. The sitcom only got better from there and it continued to be funny (though some of the jokes were rather juvenile). There was also some romance in it, which I absolutely loved! The only problem with this drama was the last few episodes and the ending. What started out and flourished as a funny sitcom turned into a melodrama, and I did not approve of this. The ending was certainly a surprise, but it was probably one of the worst endings of any Korean drama. I don’t know what possessed the writers to create an ending like this, but I hope they decide never to write a sitcom again! On another note, JULIEN IS A TOTAL HOTTIE THAT IS A NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER!!

Anyway, if you’re a total noob, do not start with this drama/sitcom. It is 100+ episodes and that is overwhelming in and of itself. Not to mention it would help to watch other Korean comedies and dramas to help you understand some of the humor in it.

7. Can You Hear My Heart? (2011)- MBC

can you hear my heart

Another drama with Hwang Jung Eum and Jung Bo Suk! What can I say? They are both good actors and it is always a delight to see them on the screen, not to mention they pick really great dramas. Ok, now on to this drama. This drama was so touching. The romance was especially touching. It was very pure. The title is great and was what made me want to start watching (besides HJE). The music was very emotional and I really liked it. This was definitely a melodrama and very soap-like (especially the camera work) and although that is usually a turn-off for me, in this case, it wasn’t. The child actors were also really good, I was sad to see them go. This drama also had one of the best endings of all the Korean dramas I’ve ever seen. There was no rushing in the end and all the loose ends were tied up very nicely. The last scene was so beautiful and it made me long to see other dramas end that well.

I definitely would not watch this if I are new to Korean/Asian dramas. As I said, it is very melodramatic and some of the camera work is cheesy, so until you’ve become familiar with many Korean dramas with different genres and styles, I would not touch this one.

8. Giant (2010)- SBS

Giant

Well, I think this is one of the best, if not THE best, Korean dramas of all time, so it’s no wonder that it’s a must-see. The villain, Jo Pilyeon is so great! As much as I disliked him, I kept wanting to see more of him because he was such a good villain. I won’t go into detail here on why I think this drama is a must-watch because I’ve already reviewed this drama. So, if you want more information, go read my review! https://silentshimmer.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/korean-drama-review-giant-%EC%9E%90%EC%9D%B4%EC%96%B8%ED%8A%B8/

For the newbies: I wouldn’t watch this until you’re a seasoned K-drama watcher. It’s sixty episodes long, very melodramatic (with some cheesy camera shots), and I think as someone trying to get more interested in Korean dramas, this might not be the best drama to watch since it is so long.

9. My Girl (2005-2006)- SBS

my girl

This drama was the one that truly solidified my love for Korean romantic-comedy dramas. I have not watched this in a long time, but I remember really liking it because it was cute and funny. The first time I watched it, there were so many parts where I was laughing so hard. Also, Lee Joon Ki is a so sexy and has the most beautiful smile in the world! This was also the first time I ever experienced “Second-Lead Syndrome.” And, if you watch this drama (and you should), you will too. There’s no way around it.

If you’re new to K-dramas, this is a great drama to start watching! It’s short and sweet and will probably leave you wanting more romantic-comedy K-dramas.

10. Nice Guy/No Such Thing As Nice Guys (2012)- KBS2

nice guy

This was another drama it took forever for me to start watching. The poster just didn’t appeal to me and the synopsis seemed rather grim. The drama seemed to have the same feel of the drama “Bad Guy” (with Kim Nam Gil and Han Ga In) and there was no way I was going to put myself through something like that again (If you watched “Bad Guy” you know what I’m talking about). When it finally clicked in my mind that Song Joong Ki (I fell in love with him in Sungkyunkwan Scandal) was in the leading role, I decided I would give it a try. It’s not every day that the random guy you liked in one drama gets a lead role. Well, seeing how this is on my list, it was a great drama. It was heavy, dark, and sad, but it was really good, and it will hook you. Every actor was really good, but Moon Chae Won had me really surprised. I had only seen her in “Shining Inheritance” before, so I really didn’t know the extent of her acting abilities, but she was really good. The romance is also really good. Besides revenge, love and forgiveness are other big concepts in this drama. Even though the ending left me scratching my head and rolling my eyes a bit, it was still an okay ending.

I wouldn’t recommend this to a new Kdrama watcher, since it is rather heavy. However, if you like revenge plots and touching romance, you might give this a try as your first Korean drama.

11. Answer Me 1997/Reply 1997 (2012)- tvN

answer me 1997

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness! What can I say about this drama? I can only sigh and smile! It was such a cute, touching, emotional, and nostalgic show. I like how the writers kept us on a cliffhanger until the very end. I honestly couldn’t guess the ending, and I was conflicted as to what I wanted to happen (not like with “Answer Me 1994″…I don’t think I’ll ever get over that ending…). The high school life of the main characters was so precious and actually made me want to be in high school again. Also, the crazy fan stuff that happens is absolutely hilarious. I believe this was Jung Eun Ji’s acting debut (or at least lead-acting debut), and she did a marvelous job. I honestly couldn’t tell she was a Kpop star acting in a drama. The music in the drama is great, the acting is great (especially Seo In Guk), the situations and dialogue are great, and the romance is great. If you watch this drama, it will definitely make you feel nostalgic. And the ending *sighs.* What a touching ending! Just writing about this drama makes me want to watch it again. And, if that’s not enough reason to make you watch it, Hoya from Infinite is in it, and his character makes you want to hug him all the time!

I would recommend this drama to EVERYONE. Like, seriously, that’s how good it is. This is a great way to start your Kdrama journey if you haven’t already. At the end, I promise you’ll be sighing just like me and wishing there was another Korean drama like this. Well, there isn’t (trust me, I’ve looked!) but at least you can have that feeling!

 12. Cain and Abel (2009)- SBS

cain and abel

The second Korean drama I ever watched, and even today, I think it’s one of the best I’ve watched. I won’t say much about this here, since I have a review elsewhere on my blog: https://silentshimmer.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/korean-drama-review-cain-and-abel-%EC%B9%B4%EC%9D%B8%EA%B3%BC-%EC%95%84%EB%B2%A8/

Since this was one of the first Korean dramas I watched, I would recommend this to newer Kdrama watchers. Maybe not as a first Kdrama, but certainly as one of the first, since you don’t want to miss out on this.

13. Secret/Secret Love (2013)- KBS2

 secret

. . . And the Best Korean Drama Actress Ever award goes to: Hwang Jung Eum! Seriously, though, reading the previous dramas on this list, you might have come to realize that I am a HUGE Hwang Jung Eum fan. Before this drama, she was just one of my favorite Korean drama actresses. After I watched this drama, she immediately became my favorite. No other Korean drama actress stands above her or even on the same level as her! This drama was one of the hardest things for me to watch, and if you decide to watch it (which you should), it will be one of the hardest things for you to watch too. Things never seem to get better for Hwang Jung Eum’s character, and she breaks your heart throughout it all. Ji Sung gets a mention too because he is great at being “sexy crazy obsessive guy.” Nobody’s acting gets close to Hwang Jung Eum’s, but he still makes you angry and happy at the same time. The ending is also a good bitter-sweet ending. Something that happens in the end will make you want to throw your screens across the room or go into the screen and kill some people. I cried so much at this part and even though the ending of this drama was supposed to be sweet, there’s just no getting over that thing that happens. I tried to watch the drama again, but had to stop before I got to that part. It’s too hard to watch a second time. But, don’t let that scare you. This drama may be dark and sad, but it is a great drama, and you will not regret watching it. Major props must be given to writers who can make you feel depressed for a few days after the drama, not because the drama is over, but because of what happened in the drama.

Definitely not for those new to Korean dramas. Though, if you’re into dark, depressing stuff (think “Game of Thrones), then this could very well be your gateway drama. Since I am into dark, depressing stuff, if I had watched this drama as a newbie, it would have totally turned me on to Kdramas. BUT, it might have ruined everything else for me because it’s such a good drama and there are very few Korean dramas that can live up to this one. Which is why I wouldn’t recommend this as a first Kdrama because I wouldn’t want all other dramas to be ruined for you.

14. All About Eve (2000)- MBC

all about eve

All I’ll say about this drama is that the romance is AMAZINGLY SWEET! And that the ending is one of the best I’ve seen in any Korean drama. Don’t let “dated” feeling put you off to this drama. Read my full review here: https://silentshimmer.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/korean-drama-review-all-about-eve/

This would be a good drama for newbies just because it’s simple and it’s about something that is very common: jealousy among girls. It’s something that I think all people, especially girls, can relate to, so it would be a great first Kdrama for someone.

15. Dae Jang Geum/ Jewel in the Palace (2003-2004)- MBC

dae jang geum

This was my first historical drama and it definitely impressed. I don’t think it was very true to history, but I loved seeing all the costumes and food. Especially the food! If you watch this drama, you will definitely be hungry for most of it, since most of it takes place in the royal kitchen. It can get melodramatic at times, but, if you can get past those parts, the rest of the drama is really good. The romance is really sweet, and it’s not overpowering. The romance never threatens to be the main part of the show, which I like in a drama that is about a historical figure’s life (because real life isn’t all about romance).

This drama is long, so new Kdrama watchers should steer clear. Heck, even as a seasoned watcher, it took me forever to get through this drama! I had to take a couple of breaks. But, you will definitely like this drama if you like period dramas/movies.

16. Dong Yi (2010)- MBC

dong yi

Now, I know I just said that I like romance taking the back-seat in historical dramas, but this drama is an exception. Honestly, I only started watching this drama once someone said that the romance in it was good. I wasn’t interested in a drama about a concubine unless there was love somewhere in it. Love was the driving force of this drama.  Without the romance, this drama would have very well been boring (and it got a bit boring during the last ten episodes). But, the romance is so good, that I just had to put this down as a must-watch Korean drama. Also, it’s nice to have something to root for in dramas, and from the very beginning, you’re rooting for Dong Yi. Also, props go to Ji Jin Hee in his portrayal of the king. He was very good at making himself seem realistic as a king and as a man. There were times when you loved him and there were times when you wanted to smack him over the head with a frying pan. It was a very interesting drama and the 50+ episodes went by in a flash.

Not recommended for new Kdrama watchers simply because it is so long. Otherwise, if you like historical/period pieces, or some really great romance, this is the drama for you.

16. God’s Gift – 14 Days (2014)- SBS

god's gift

Looks like Ji Sung’s wife has acting chops like he does! This was the first drama I ever saw her in, and I was pleasantly surprised at just how good she was. Normally, in “actor” couples, there’s one good actor and one mediocre one, but Lee Bo Young is just as good as her husband in the acting realm. Power couple! Anyway, the first two episodes of this drama were amazing! The rest of the drama was good too, but those first two episodes…wow. For about twelve or thirteen episodes, I was on the edge of my seat. I always wanted to see what happened next and never wanted to stop watching. After episode thirteen or fourteen, things slowed down a little bit, but that still didn’t make me disinterested from the drama. There was a great mix of mystery, suspense, and family in this drama that makes it irresistible. Jo Seung Woo also did a marvelous job. Baro was the cutest thing (although his voice needed a little work), and Jung Eun Pyo, as always, was great. Even if you only like romantic dramas, I highly recommend watching this because it’s simply a really good drama. Some of the twists and turns were a little much, but most of them were skillfully implemented.

I would highly recommend this if  you’re new to Kdramas. It doesn’t have a soap-opera-y vibe like so many other Korean dramas have, and my brothers even got interested in some of the drama, and that is saying a lot since they always shun Asian dramas. So, if you’re new to Kdramas or just looking for something new to watch, definitely watch this drama. Once you’ve watched it, if you want some perspective on the ending, read this: https://silentshimmer.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/a-different-perspective-on-the-gods-gift-14-days-ending/#more-1065

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This concludes my list of must-watch Korean dramas. You must be thinking…but wait! Where’s My Lovely Sam Soon? Autumn in my Heart? (WON BIN!) Coffee Prince? You Who Came from the Stars? The Heirs? Secret Garden? The Moon that Embraces the Sun? FULL HOUSE!? You must not have watched them…that’s why you didn’t put them on this list.

Actually, I have watched all those shows fully through (with the exception of You Who Came from the Stars and The Heirs, which I got about 6-8 episodes into). And I think all of those dramas are overrated and don’t deserve to be on this list. Sure, they’re all entertaining (with the exception of The Heirs and Full House), but they’re not “must-watch” material. If you want to watch them, by all means watch them, but they’re certainly not the first Kdramas that come to my mind when someone asks for a suggestion on what to watch.

Also, just a side note, but it seems like MBC and SBS are matched in the greatest probability of producing a good drama.

Hope you enjoyed my list! NOW WATCH ALL THE DRAMAS I SUGGESTED RIGHT NOW! Just kidding. You don’t have to. . . I guess. . .

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