The Best New Korean Dramas to Watch in 2021
- Sisyphus: The MythSisyphus: The Myth
- Beyond EvilBeyond Evil
- Taxi DriverTaxi Driver
- Move To HeavenMove To Heaven
- My Roommate is a GumihoMy Roommate is a Gumiho
- Hospital Playlist 2Hospital Playlist 2
- I Know But / NeverthelessI Know But / Nevertheless
- Youth of MayYouth of May
- Mount JiriMount Jiri
- One Ordinary DayOne Ordinary Day
- Red SkyRed Sky
- Love Alarm 2Love Alarm 2
- The Silent SeaThe Silent Sea
- No NameNo Name
- Kingdom: Ashin of the NorthKingdom: Ashin of the North
- That Year WeThat Year We
- Human DisqualificationHuman Disqualification
- When Flowers Bloom, I Think of the MoonWhen Flowers Bloom, I Think of the Moon
- Dal-Ri and GamjatangDal-Ri and Gamjatang
- Superior Shaman Ga Du-SimSuperior Shaman Ga Du-Sim
- Now We Are Breaking UpNow We Are Breaking Up
From swoon-worthy romances, edge-of-your-seat thrillers to exciting science fictions, here are the top Korean dramas that are set to be released this year
This article was first published on February 7, 2021, and updated on May 12, 2021.
All aboard the K-drama mania after watching hits such as Crash Landing On You, Itaewon Class and It's Okay to Not be Okay? You'll be pleased to know that a number of notable Korean dramas are set to be released this year––with Netflix even expanding its operations in Asia and leasing 16,000 square metres of studio space in South Korea. Besides all the new films coming to Netflix and new Netflix releases for this month, keep these Korean dramas on your radar to cure your lovesick hearts, give you the thrills or just provide an escape of reality.
A lot of South Korea's most famous names, from Gong Yoo, Song Joong-ki to Jun Ji-hyun are making their small scene comebacks, with 2021 already looking to be another strong year for Korean dramas. From swoon-worthy romances, edge-of-your-seat thrillers to exciting science fictions, here are the most popular Korean dramas that we can't wait to see this year.
(Related: The Most Popular Netflix Shows of 2020)
Sisyphus: The Myth
After a two-year hiatus from the small screen, Park Shin-hye is making her return in Sisyphus: The Myth, opposite Jo Seung-woo. It follows Han Tae-sul (Jo), a genius engineer armed with a high level of coding skills and outstanding looks. He's also the co-founder of Quantum and Time, building the company from the ground up to become a world-class company. But little does the world know, the company's stocks are constantly fluctuating after the death of Han's brother, causing him to set off to a dangerous path.
Meanwhile, Park plays Kang Seo-hae, a soldier with commendable skills—from zipling from building to building, shooting to fighting people twice her size—and sets off in search of Han. Following Park's commendable performance in #Alive, many are excited to see her back in action.
Release date: February 17, 2021
Beyond Evil is a thriller-psychological drama about two fearless men who are willing to go to extreme lengths in their pursuit of a serial killer that has shaken up their city.
Lee Dong-shik (Shin Ha-kyun), a former detective who has been demoted to mundane tasks at a local police station was just about to settle into a peaceful life he gets called back after a string of gruesome killings occur. Lee and detective Han Joo-woo (Yeo Jin-goo) team up to stop the vicious culprit in his tracks.
Release date: February 19, 2021
Another household name making a comeback is Song Joong-ki in Vincenzo, playing the role of Park Ju-hyeong who at the age of eight is adopted and sent off to Italy and takes on the name, Vincenzo Casano. As an adult, he becomes a lawyer for the mafia and a consigliere. But as friction among the mafia starts to run rifle and he flees to South Korea, only to fall in love with a lawyer, Hong Cha-young (Jun Yeo-bin).
Other members of the cast include 2PM's Ok Taecyeon and Yang Kyung-won, whom you would recognise from Crash Landing On You. Vincenzo will also be airing on Netflix.
Release date: February 20, 2021
While most know Korean dramas for its swoon-worthy romance, Korean crime thrillers are also worth all the hype. Entering the scene is Mouse, a suspenseful story that addresses the question, "What if we could identify psychopaths in advance"?
The series stars Lee Seung-gi and Lee Hee-joon as the nation is gripped with fear when a crazed serial killer's ruthless murders have gone amok. The two justice-seeking police offers are on the hunt for the killer before he could wreak more havoc.
Release date: March 3, 2021
Taxi Driver is adapted from the original webtoon of the same name about a mysterious taxi service who enacts justice on behalf of victims. Kim Do-gi (Lee Je-hoon) is one of the drivers for the company whose mother was murdered. Kang Ha-na (Esom) is a lawyer while April's Go Eun (Lee Na-eun) is an IT specialist but many consider her a hacker, and all three crossed paths along the way.
A combination of action, horror, crime and drama—you can expect a lot of thrills from Taxi Driver.
Release date: April 2, 2021
Move To Heaven
Netflix's latest original Korean drama is Move to Heaven which stars Lee Je-hoon and Tang Joon-sang. This heartwarming story follows Geu-ru, a young man with Asperger's syndrome and Sang-gu, who suddenly finds himself as Geu-ru's guardian. The two team up to work as "trauma cleaners", a group of people clearing out the last possessions of the deceased and uncovering stories that are left behind. They are also tasked with delivering the stories of the deceased to the people they've left behind, offering closure, farewell and comfort.
This inspiring tale is based on a non-fiction essay, Things Left Behind by Kim Sae-byul which chronicles the first trauma cleaners in South Korea. The series will be helmed by director Kim Sung-ho who is making his drama directorial debut and writer, Yoon Ji-ryun who worked onO44vLin5VdA 2004's Boys Over Flowers. Ji Jin-hee and Lee Jae-wook are set to make special appearances.
Release date: May 14
My Roommate is a Gumiho
My Roommate is a Gumiho is based on a webcomic that follows the handsome and smart professor, Shin Woo-yeo (Jang Ki-yong). Secretly, he's actually a 999-year-old nine-tailed fox. In order to become fully human, he collects human energy in a bead.
University student, Lee Dam (Hyeri) crosses paths with Shin. During an unexpected encounter, Shin's bead falls out and Lee ends up swallowing it, tying their fate together. The bead can only exist inside of a human for no more than a year. Afterwards, it will break and Lee will die while Shim will lose his chance to become human. Shin suggests that they live together to find a solution to their problem.
Sounds like the classic co-inhabitation romance story right? With a nine-tailed-fox twist.
Release: May 26
Hospital Playlist 2
Smash medical K-drama, Hospital Playlist is coming back for a second season. Shin Won-ho is set to return to the director's chair. We can expect the second season to answer some of the hanging questions from the first season including whether Lee Ik-jun (Jo Jung-suk) and Chae Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do) will finally become a couple.
Release: June 17
I Know But / Nevertheless
The unofficial "son of Netflix" as most K-drama fans call him is adding Nevertheless (or I Know But) to his line-up this year. Song Kang will be playing university art major, Park Jae-eon who seems nice on the outside but is actually indifferent and has a nonchalant attitude towards relationships.
But it's always these "I'm not interested in romance" characters that end up finding love and Park ends up falling for Yoo Na-bi (Han Soo-hee). The two characters and their approach towards love begins to change.
Release: June 2021
Blackpink's Kim Ji-soo will be making her television debut with Snowdrop and fans cannot wait but be excited. Joining her are Jung Hae-in, Kim Hye-yoon, Jung Yoo-jin, Yoon Se-ah and Jang Seung-jo. The highly-anticipated drama will be set in Seoul in 1987 and follows the love story of Im Soo-ho (Jung), a student at a prestigious university.
Meanwhile, Eun Young-cho (Kim Ji-soo) falls in love with him at first sight during a social gathering and runs into him at her dorm. Will sparks fly behind the two?
Release date: May 28, 2021
Youth of May
If you've seen the Netflix original series, Sweet Home, two of the leads of this Korean drama might look familiar to you. After starring as siblings in Sweet Home, both Lee Do-hyun and Go Min-si will try their chemistry as lovers in Youth of May. The youth drama will follow Lee and Go as they become swept up in the Gwangju Uprising in May 1980.
Transitioning as a lead actor, Lee plays Hwang Hee Tae, who despite being a troublemaker is actually a bit of a genius, earning top grades to enter South National University College of Medicine. Marking Go's first lead role, Kim Myung-hee is a nurse living in Gwangju and despite her beautiful appearance, holds a cold exterior. The two seemingly living different lives, end up meeting and experiencing the hardest May of their lives.
Release date: May 2021
Jun Ji-hyun will be making her small-screen comeback with Mount Jiri which is centred around a group of rangers and other employees of Jirisan National Park whose primary mission is to rescue lost trekkers. But there's more secret around the unexplored regions of Mount Jiri, left for the rangers to find out.
Jun plays Seo Yi-kang, the park's top ranger who's also very knowledgeable in navigating the national park. Joining her is Kang Hyun-jo (Ju Ji-hoon), a rookie national park ranger. As a military academy graduate and former lieutenant, he's had his fair share of horrific experiences on Mount Jiri, leading him to become a ranger.
Release date: June 2021
One Ordinary Day
South Korea's highest-paid actor, Kim Soo-hyun is starring in Korean drama, One Ordinary Day, which was previously known as That Night. It made headlines following rumours of Kim's hefty salary per episode.
Kim will be playing university student, Kim Hyun-soo who is accused of murder. Coming to his rescue is third-rate lawyer, Shin Joong-han, who barely passed the bar exam. Despite that, he's determined to help Kim prove his innocence. The upcoming drama is a remake of the British TV show, Criminal Justice.
Release: November 2021
If like me, you were bummed to find out that the original pairing of Kim Yoo-jung and Ahn Hyo-seop in Clean With Passion For Now didn't happen due to Ahn's scheduling conflict, then you'll be pleased to know that the pairing has been given a second chance in Red Sky.
This historical drama is set during the Joseon era where Hong Cheon-ki (Kim), a painter, is picked as the first female painter of the Dohwaseo (Korean Royal Academy of Painting). Painting is everything to her until she meets Ha Ram (Ahn), a blind officer in charge of astronomy, geography, divination and meteorology.
Release date: September 2021
Love Alarm 2
Ever since Love Alarm ended on a cliffhanger, many have been clamouring for a second season. And when the second was announced, many anticipate when it will drop, with production delayed due to various reasons from conflicting schedules to Covid-19. But we can expect to see a continuation of where the first season left off as Kim Jo-jo (Kim So-hyun) finds herself torn between Hwang Sun-oh (Song Kang) and Lee Hye-young (Jung Ga-ram).
Release date: TBC
The Silent Sea
2021 seems to be the year of comebacks for many of South Korea's household names. Gong Yoo and Bae Doona will also be making their returns to drama in The Silent Sea, a science-fiction tale set in the future when the planet is suffering from lack of water and food. Actor Jung Woo-sung is serving as executive producer.
Considering that there hasn't been a lot of science-fiction Korean dramas, this one is highly anticipated in addition to Gong and Bae's comeback who will be playing soldiers sent on a mission to retrieve a mysterious sample from an abandoned research station that could potentially save the planet. Lee Joon is also part of the cast and marks the follow-up to his 2017 drama, My Father is Strange as well as his comeback after completing his military service.
Release date: TBC
Yeon Sang-ho, director of smash Zombie flicks, Train to Busan and Peninsula, will be helming this Netflix original. Hellbound is based on the webtoon of the same name and author Choi Gyu-seok will be part of the production process. Yoo Ah-in of the critically acclaimed, Burning, will make his small-screen return for the lead role of Jeong Jin-su, one of the leaders of the New Truth Church.
Joining the cast is Park Jeong-min as a producer at a broadcasting company set out to investigate the mysterious church, Kim Hyun-woo as a lawyer going up against the church and its devotees, Won Jin-ah as a member of the church and Jin Gyeong-hun as a police detective investigating the "death angels". Fans of Save Me, another drama based on a cult may want to be on the lookout for this one.
Release date: TBC
Another Netflix original to keep in your radar is No Name, which will be helmed by director Kim Jin-min of acclaimed series, Extracurricular. The story follows Yoon Ji-woo (The World of the Married's Han So Hee), a member of an organised crime ring who goes undercover to infiltrate the police, in search of those responsible for her father's death.
Choi Moo-jin (Park Hee-soon) plays the boss of the biggest drug ring in Korea and helps Yoon go undercover. Impressing watchers with his performance in Itaewon Class, Ahn Bo-hyun scores his first lead role, playing Jeon Pil-do, a police detective in the Drug Investigation Unit and become Yoon's partner.
Release date: TBC
Kingdom: Ashin of the North
Zombie fans rejoice! A spin-off episode of historical zombie hit, Kingdom is coming out this year. While this is not a series per se, it's still one of the new ones that's highly anticipated. This sidequel to the series stars Jun Ji-hyun as Ashin, an heiress to a northern Jurchen town who knows the secret behind the resurrection plant.
Jun's cameo at the end of Kingdom 2 garnered a lot of buzz and she's here to tell you the story you've been waiting for.
Release date: TBC
Youth is an upcoming drama inspired by the BU or the BTS Universe which is a shared fictional universe that is centred on a series of music videos and short films done by BTS. The characters are inspired by septet and the franchise has since expanded to include short stories, books, a webtoon and a visual novel. Youth is set to follow the stories of seven boys, each carrying their own secrets and pain. But amidst all that, they find each other during the hard times. While the BU uses the real names of the BTS members, fans have asked to change it for the drama and the production team has not yet released the new character names.
Seo Ji-hoon will be playing the son of a National Assembly member who lives his life based on what his father wishes. He seems perfect but is actually lonely. Ro Jong-hyun plays a quiet person with a warm heart. But others see him differently as rumours have it that he set his own house on fire and killed his own mother. He finds comfort in playing the piano.
Actor Ahn Ji-ho's character loves dancing and radiates positive energy but deep inside, his life is filled with pain after being abandoned at an amusement park. Seo Young-joo's role comes from a poor family so he had to become an adult much faster. He juggles jobs while studying and doesn't have anyone to care for him. Kim Yoon-woo's character has a bright smile but behind that, he's confused about who he is. All his life, he's an overprotected child that's constantly been fed lies by his family.
Jung Woo-jin's character lives with his alcoholic and sometimes, abusive father. He fears that he will become like him someday. Finally, the role of Jeon Jin-seo doesn't care much for life and death, having lived with an insecure family. These seven boys will cross paths and become each other's pillar.
Island is based on the eponymous webcomic of the same name and stars Kim Nam-gil. It's Okay to not be Okay star, Seo Yea-ji was initially the female lead but dropped out after her skinship controversy. Kim is set to play the character of Ban but not much has been revealed yet except that Ban may be a ghost hunter.
The female lead character Won Mi-ho is described as arrogant and selfish, perhaps because she's the only child of a father who runs the wealthy Daehan Group. After causing trouble, her father sends her to Jeju Island to work there as an ethics high school teacher. But she starts getting involved in a case related to ghosts who have started to target her.
Affection is based on the comic, Yeonmo by Lee So-young and stars Park Eun-bin as Prince Lee Hwi. Yes, you read that right. Park will be playing a prince in the drama or at least pretending to be a prince.
When the Crown Prince's wife hides her son's death, she brings her twin daughter to the palace and raised him as the prince instead. Because of this secret, Lee is unable to have anyone close to her until Jung Ji-woon (Kim Min-jae), her teacher arrives.
Rising star Jeon Yeo-bin from Vincenzo and Night in Paradise is headlining another drama this year. This time, it's with the creators of Netflix series, Extracurricular. In Glitch, the rookie actress will be playing Hong Ji-hyo who's tracking down her missing boyfriend with the help of members of a UFO club. She is also expected to portray her multidimensional character in a unique and imaginative way.
That Year We
Parasite actor Choi Woo-sik and Itaewon Class star Kim Da-mi are reuniting after starring together in The Witch for this drama. That Year We also marks Choi's return to the small screen after his last drama in 2017.
The two stars will be playing Choi Woong and Kook Yeon-soo respectively, an ex-couple who broke up 10 years ago. But when a documentary they filmed together during high school becomes popular, they are forced to reunite and stand in front of the camera.
This year is proving to be the year of comebacks with Ryu Jun-yeol and Jeon Do-Yeon returning to the small screen in Human Disqualification. The story will revolve around a 40-year-old woman (Jeon) and a 27-year-old man (Ryu). The woman works as a ghostwriter who hasn't achieved anything in life while the young man is afraid of becoming a nobody.
When Flowers Bloom, I Think of the Moon
Hyeri is set to star in another drama this year, opposite Yoo Seung-ho in When Flowers Bloom, I Think of the Moon. This saeguk (historical drama) takes place during the late Joseon period when a strict alcohol ban is in place.
Nam Young (Yoo) is an officer for the Saheonbu, who catches people that break the alcohol ban. Here, he meets Kang Ro-seo (Hyeri), who is the breadwinner of a poor noble family. In order to pay off her debt, she begins brewing alcohol during the ban to earn money.
Dal-Ri and Gamjatang
Following her eye-catching supporting roles in It's Okay to not be Okay and Sweet Home, Park Gyu-young finally lands her first lead role in Dal-Ri and Gamjatang.
She will be playing opposite child-actor-turned-heartthrob Kim Min-jae who's taking on the role of Jin Moo-hak, the second son of a family that runs a global restaurant franchise, Dondon F&B. Though Jin lacks education, he knows how to make money. Meanwhile, Kim Dal-ri (Park) is a visiting researcher of an art gallery and the only child of a wealthy family. To top it off, she's also polyglot.
These two people from two very different backgrounds will cross paths. Unaware of the other's background, they start to develop feelings for each other.
Speaking of comebacks, two other actors are making her returns to the small screen in Happiness. Actress Han Hyo-joo who made her English debut in the drama series, Threadstone is making her return to Korean dramas after a five-year hiatus. The drama also marks Park Hyung-sik's first acting role after finishing his mandatory military service. Directors Ahn Gil-ho and Han Sang-woon are also working together again after their 2019 drama, Watcher.
Happiness is set in the near future and centres around a newly constructed high-rise apartment building that has residents from diverse backgrounds. Suddenly, a new infectious disease breaks out and the building is sealed off. The residents will try their best to survive while on lockdown. Han is playing Yoon Sae-bom, a member of a special police squad who recently moved into the new building. Park plays Jung Yi-hyun, a detective who has always had feelings for Yoon. He tries his best to protect her and other residents when the lockdown happens.
Actor Joo Woo-jin will also be in the drama as Han Tae-seok, a lieutenant colonial that belongs to the health service command. He may hold the key to stopping the outbreak.
Superior Shaman Ga Du-Sim
Kim Sae-ron and Nam Da-reum are all grown up. While Kim has been in starring roles in the past, Nam is finally stepping out of playing the younger version of lead male characters for Superior Shaman Ga Du-Sim. The two ex-child stars will be playing high school students.
Ga Du-sim (Kim) has always been tapped to become a shaman since birth. But refusing her fate, she tries to live a normal life. When she transfers to a new high school, she meets Na Woo-soo (Nam) who is probably the definition of perfect: the son of a wealthy family, handsome and excels academically. The two become a rag-tag duo of evil spirit fighting high schoolers.
Now We Are Breaking Up
Song Hye-kyo is also making her long-awaited comeback to the small screen with Now We Are Breaking Up opposite Jang Ki-young. The drama will tell the story of love and break-ups. Song will be playing Ha Young-eun, the leader of a design team for a fashion company.
She's cold-hearted because she's realistic but smart, beautiful and good at what she does. Meanwhile, Yoon Jae-wook (Jang) is a freelance fashion photographer. He seems to have everything: intelligence, wealth and a charming personality.