It’s no secret that we love a little bit of romance over here on Hypable — from Hallmark, to books, and everything in between. But you could be missing out on some great K-drama TV series on Netflix.
I fell into watching Asian dramas right around the same time Korean Pop stole my heart. I was in my first year at university — a time that was, for many reasons, incredibly difficult — and looking for an escape. There was something about Asian dramas that felt a little bit refreshing. Yes, some of them could be a little over the top and silly, but equally they’re heartfelt and brimming with joy.
(Though, if you ever find yourself watching 1 Litre of Tears, we recommend a bucket to catch them, because that title is not kidding.)
So, in the interests of spreading the Asian drama love a little bit further, I thought I’d give a quick entry point for any newcomers, with five of my favorite K-drama series currently available on Netflix.
5 Asian romance dramas you should be watching on Netflix
I’ll admit, Love O2O becoming available on Netflix is singlehandedly what inspired me to write this article. Love O2O isn’t just one of my all-time favorite Asian dramas, but also one of my go-to series whenever I need a pick-me-up.
Love O2O follows Bei Weiwei, an aspiring game developer, who excels in both her studies and as her avatar in the online game A Chinese Ghost Story. When her in-game “husband” leaves her for another woman, Weiwei is suddenly approached by the game’s number one player: Yixiao Naihe. Naihe suggests that they pair up, in order to enter a competition exclusively for couples, and the two immediately hit it off.
The way that Weiwei’s online life, and real life, overlap is one of the most interesting parts of this series. The romance is sweet, and devoid of the usual jealousy trope when other potential love interests are introduced. I cannot stress just how much trust the main couple have in each other. Also, the supporting cast are delightful and there are some interesting B-stories involving them. (When you’re done watching, please come back and scream at me about KO and Hao Mei.)
‘Strong Girl Bong-soon’
While Love O2O might just edge out the win for my favorite Asian drama, Strong Girl Bong-soon takes a very, very close second place. Much like Love O2O, the series subverts several of the expected tropes, and provides a fresh, exciting series that is equal parts delightful, ridiculous, but full of heart. It is one of the most-watched K-dramas on Netflix for a reason.
The show follows the titular Bong-soon, a girl born with superhuman strength, a trait that is passed down through the female side of her family. Bong-soon wants to find a partner who matches her characteristics, and falls for a local police officer, Guk-doo. She takes a job as a bodyguard to the heir of a wealthy family, Ahn Min-hyuk. The two clash, as Bong-soon tries to keep him, and the whole neighbourhood safe, especially following a slew of kidnappings.
Fast-paced and quick-witted, Strong Girl Bong-soon is a must watch, especially if you like street-level superheroes, mixed with a little bit of romance.
‘Boys Over Flowers’
Boys Over Flowers is probably one of the most iconic Asian dramas, and is often the first one watched by most new fans — and for good reason. It has seen several versions hit the screen, one as recently as 2018 in China, called Meteor Garden, which is also available on Netflix. Classic is probably the most accurate descriptor of the series, which hits several expected tropes of the genre, but never in a way that feels tired or overwrought.
The series follows Jan-di, a girl from a humble background. After she saves a boy from committing suicide, Jan-di gains the attention of F4, a group of wealthy boys who attend the exclusive Shinwa High School. Jan-di is given a scholarship to the school, which alters her entire life, particularly as she gets closer to the boys, eventually falling for Ji-hoo.
Things get significantly more complicated from there — especially as Jun-pyo is in love with Jan-di — as the close-knit F4 slowly begin to fall apart. It is well worth the watch, as are the many, many, many other adaptations.
‘Oh My Ghost!’
A series that edges more into fantasy and comedy territory, Oh My Ghost! also has an interesting romance angle with a supernatural twist. It — like many of the shows on here — can border on the ridiculous, but in the best possible way. I had several laugh-out-loud moments while watching, which is a rare occurrence for me.
Oh My Ghost! is centered around Bong-sun, a sous chef at a local restaurant. Bong-sun has very few interests, and is a little bit of a loner. Oh, and thanks to her grandmother, who practices Shamanism, she can see ghosts. Things escalate when Bong-sun is possessed by one of the ghosts, Soon-ae, who died before she could lose her virginity. While in control of Bong-sun’s body, Soon-ae seduces all of the men around her, including Bong-sun’s arrogant boss, Sun-woo.
It’s not all hilarity relating to Bong-sun and Soon-ae’s clashing personalities. There’s an interesting investigative side-story, as they try to uncover the mysterious circumstances under which Soon-ae died. So, if you like your comedy and romance mixed in with a little bit of mystery, Oh My Ghost! is the show for you.
‘Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo’
Much like Boys Over Flowers, Mischievous Kiss is also a staple when it comes to Asian dramas, having seen several adaptations in Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo is the most recent of these adaptations, and the second in Japan, but is perhaps the one I enjoyed the most.
It follows Kotoko Aihara, a girl who underperforms at school, but is hard working, gentle, and kind. Kotoko has been in love with the most intelligent and popular boy in school, Naoki Irie, ever since he gave a speech at the entrance ceremony. In her third year at school, Kotoko decides to write a love letter to Naoki, but is instantly rejected. She vows to get over him… right up until her house is destroyed by a falling star. Kotoko and her father are taken in by the Irie family, as Kotoko and Naoki continue to clash.
Though Kotoko and Naoki infuriate each other, they each make the other’s life far more interesting, and they begin to fall for one another. Although, the realization on either side isn’t all that straightforward, as obstacles continue to come up in the form of outside sources. However, it makes the finale of the first season all the sweeter for it…
Korean Dramas that’ll help you get into Korean Television
By Nasim Mansuri
Want more from the world of Korean television? The Korean approach to making TV shows is drastically different from the one taken with shows in the West. Many of the aspects we’re used to seeing neglected on screen are given a lot of attention: character arcs are deeply explored, chemistry is built over time with lots of screen time in ways much more profound that physical contact, and bonds between characters of different ages are given relevance. Oh, and food montages. There are a lot of food montages.
In a time when we’re almost oversaturated with shows, which sometimes seem to blend together because they’re so similar, it’s nice to see human stories of love, identity and honor approached from a different angle.
Worried about where to watch? It’s easy! There are shows on Netflix, and even more on other legal streaming websites.
But a warning: if you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be thoroughly obsessed with something, K-Dramas are about to consume your life in the most amazing way.
So here’s a list of K-drama recommendations for you to get a feel for different types of Korean TV storytelling. Whether you like fantasy, hospitals, or history in your shows, there’s something here for you.
Starring Gong Yoo (who you may know from Train to Busan) and Go-eun Kim, Goblin is a supernatural romance with a dash of historical drama, following the story of a man cursed with immortality who works miracles in the real world, while waiting to meet his Bride — the only person who can remove the invisible sword from his chest and finally allow him to rest in peace. But of course, things with his Bride don’t go quite as expected. Oh, and his roommate is literally the Grim Reaper.
With huge production value, some of the best actors in the industry, and some really powerful themes on life and death, Goblin is a show you’ll binge-watch, laugh, and cry about. You’ll also fall in love with every single character (and wish Gong Yoo made more shows dressed in ancient armor).
If you liked this: Coffee Prince (a Twelfth-Night-like romantic comedy starring Goo Young), Legend of the Blue Sea (a mermaid/human romance), Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (a fun comedy about a woman with Herculean strength)
‘The Heirs’ (2013)
The Heirs is possibly simultaneously the most cliched and the most obsession-inducing show Korean television has ever produced. You’ll either love it or hate it (but you’ll probably love it). Starring two of the most famous actors in the industry — Park Shin-hye and Lee Min-ho — it follows a poor highschooler who falls in love with an estranged heir to a fortune with a myriad of family problems.
The show is packed with incredibly attractive actors, lots of emotional moments, and the most scalding slow burn of all time. It also features a badboy with a heart of gold that puts Draco Malfoy fanfics to shame and a lot of dramatic music swelling that you’ll laugh about at first but end up singing along to through your happy tears near the end.
If you liked this: Boys over Flowers (also starring Lee Min-ho and actually The Cheesiest Show of All Time), Pinocchio (a story about journalists with intense family baggage), Secret Garden (a badass stunt actor and a spoiled CEO… with an eventual bodyswap!)
‘Emergency Couple’ (2014)
Emergency Couple (starring Choi Jin-hyuk, who plays the older brother in The Heirs) starts with a story of young love between a rich boy and a poor girl, who elope despite family disapproval. Unfortunately, six years later, they’re divorced and hate each other with a passion. Even worse, it turns out that they’re both now residents at the same hospital and have to work side-by-side if they want to keep their jobs.
A wonderful exploration of the meaning of marriage, rekindling the flame, and finding a balance between ambition and love, Emergency Couple is just as profound as it is funny and sweet.
If you like this: Doctors (another hospital show), Marriage, Not Dating (that fake marriage fic you always liked except in a show), Kill Me, Heal Me (an urealistic but fun take on Dissociative Identity Disorder)
While the West has Game of Thrones, South Korea was way ahead of everyone in 2006 when they made Jumong — a historical period drama about the founder of the kingdom of Goguryeo. Based on ancient legends, it’s the story of his life, from his early days as a prince through his adulthood as he fought to build a new kingdom.
With epic strong female characters, amazing costumes, heroic swordfights, and a dash of magic, Jumong might actually be the most epic historical show of all time. It’s a kind of transporting show that we rarely see on screen, as it takes you on a journey through the ancient history of another part of the world, the glory of which deserves to be appreciated.
If you like this: The Kingdom of the Winds (a sequel to Jumong, starring the same lead actor, Il-guk Song), The Moon Embracing the Sun (a more romantic historical drama)