6 Best Healing K-Dramas to Lift Your Spirits
When life is manic and uncertain, it’s nice to turn to relaxing and soothing Korean dramas to lift your spirits and tell you it’s all going to be okay
When the real world is already kinda crazy and dramatic, maybe we don’t need the shows we watch to be too exciting. Squid Game, Hellbound and My Name? All extremely nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching, nail-biting. After a long day of battling folks and situations in real life, perhaps it’s time to retreat to something slow and relaxing—K-dramas where nothing very exciting or even very much really happens, where people are nice to each other, and the world is hunky-dory (and pandemic-free).
Here are our favourite healing and heart-warming Korean dramas that will restore your faith in humanity, and maybe even get you through life’s tougher moments.
In case you missed it: 11 Korean Dramas With the Highest Ratings in 2021: Which Haven’t You Watched?
One of our favourite comforting K-dramas is the crowd-pleasing Hospital Playlist, which ran for two seasons, in 2020 and 2021. Things revolve around five doctors at Yulje Hospital, who have been best friends since they graduated from medical school. Amidst the mini-dramas of their patients (some uplifting, some tear-jerking), the lives and relationships of the telegenic docs (played by Jo Jung-suk, Yoo Yeon-seok, Jung Kyung-ho, Kim Dae-myung and Jeon Mi-do) play out very slowly.
The beauty of this show is the easy chemistry among the leads, and how realistic everything feels—the doctors have meals together, chat about everyday things and make fun of one another. Nothing is actually happening, but it’s just soothing to watch. Each episode ends with the docs jamming in their garage band, which is how they destress from the intensity of their work, and each song is a poignant reminder of the life lessons learned in that episode—such as how to let go, the sweetness of first love, the importance of family. The most relaxing one-and-a-half hours ever.
Despite the recent high drama involving one of its leads, Kim Seon-ho, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha remains one of the most healing drama hits this year. The tale of the city dentist (Shin Min-a) who gets sucked into the idyllic seaside village of Gongjin and the lives of its charming residents, particularly that of handsome handyman Hong Du-sik (Kim Seon-ho), is a sweet one of finding love, being true to yourself and coming to terms with the things that matter.
The picturesque and rustic scenes of the village, ocean and lighthouse are calming balm to stressed-out souls, and a reminder to slow down and take in all the good moments.
A K-drama classic that will hit you right in the feels, Reply 1988 from 2016 is the most beloved of the Reply series (which are all very sweet and healing), and takes us through the lives and loves of five childhood friends—Sung Deok Sun (Hyeri), Kim Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun-yeol), Sung Sun Woo (Go Kyung-pyo), Ryu Dong Ryong (Lee Dong-hwi) and Choi Taek (Park Bo-gum)—who live in the neighbourhood of Ssangmun-dong in Seoul.
The narrative starts from the year 1998, and explores the themes of family, growing up, coming of age, first loves, and first jobs, with a little mystery thrown in, as viewers are left to figure out which boy Hyeri ends up marrying. The nostalgic mood of a simpler time is like a warm hug, and unlike in most other K-dramas, where the parents are relegated to the sidelines, the ahjummas and ahjussis in Reply 1988 have their own (sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-aching) story arcs. If you don’t shed a tear (or 10), you’re made of stone.
Move to Heaven
Another poignant drama that will warm the cockles of even a stone-cold heart, Move to Heaven follows Han Geu-ru (Tang Joon-sang), a 20-year-old with Asperger syndrome, who, after the sudden death of his father, works with his estranged uncle Sang-gu (Lee Je-hoon) as a trauma cleaner. Together, they respectfully clear up the things left behind by those who have recently died, telling the often sad stories of the deceased and uncovering the secrets of their lives.
Along the way, nephew and uncle get a chance to clean up the misunderstandings and trauma in their own lives. Truly a show which makes you think about death, and about life. Perhaps a little more morbid than your usual K-drama, but healing in the sense that you’ll want to ruminate on your own existence and what you would leave behind. Life lessons aplenty.
A show about redemption and second chances always tugs at the heartstrings, and 18 Again, which aired last year, stars Lee Do-hyun as a 37-year-old man who miraculously returns to the body of his 18-year-old self and gets the chance to right some of the wrongs in his life.
He attends the school that his 18-year-old twin children are at and starts to really get to know his kids, meets his wife (except that she’s her older self and he’s 18) and slowly understands the reasons behind his crumbling marriage and family life. Cue lots of heartwarming moments and lessons about the truly important things.
A 2019 melodrama that’s really all about healing, Chocolate stars Ha Ji-won as a chef, and Yoon Kye-sang as a neurosurgeon who once dreamed of becoming a chef. After a fateful encounter when they were kids, they meet again as adults at a hospice ward, where they heal their own emotional scars, while preparing meals for terminally-ill patients in their final days.
The stories and the patients’ last meals are poignant, playing out in between a slow-burning romance between the two leads. If you’re looking for something sweet, sentimental, sad and slow, Chocolate is it.