5 Best Korean Drama Series To Binge-Watch On Netflix in 2020
K-drama mania has hit hard. From black comedies to swoon-worthy romances and historical dramas, there’s a genre for everyone to enjoy
Crash Landing on You
This romantic series reinvigourated—or jumpstarted, in the case of some audiences—the K-drama mania. Released on tvN in South Korea and on Netflix worldwide, Crash Landing On You drew in a strong viewership, making it the third highest-rated Korean drama in television history.
Its premise is a strange one: Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin), a wealthy South Korean heiress, ends up paragliding into North Korean territory after a tornado blows her off course. This sends her crash landing—literally—into the arms of Ri Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin), a captain in the North Korean Special Police Force.
Aside from its well-executed romantic plot and stellar ensemble cast performance, the drama also received high praise for its portrayal of everyday life in the North, showing a cultural aspect of the country rarely explored in any fictional capacity.
Based on the webtoon of the same name, this underdog revenge story focuses on Park Sae-ro-yi (Park Seo-joon), a young man whose quiet life changes after he gets expelled from school for getting into a fight with a classmate (who is the heir apparent to franchise giant Jangga Group). Earning the ire of its CEO Jang Dae-hee (Yoo Jae-myung), Sae-ro-yi is forced to carry out a three-year prison sentence. His dogged determination propels him forward with a new dream: to open his very own restaurant-bar in the cuisine-rich Itaewon district in hopes of one day eclipsing Jangga Group’s success.
Heartwarming at its core, the series allows audiences a closer glimpse of the South Korean F&B industry culture while exploring themes around social class, racial discrimination, and gender-related issues, which are handled with care through the interactions of its core cast.
All top student Oh Ji-soo (Kim Dong-hee) wants is to get into university, but because he was abandoned by his parents, earning enough money to do so becomes a struggle. And so he turns to a life of crime as a security service provider for an illegal business under the name “Uncle,” with “Old Man” Lee Whang-chul (Choi Min-soo) as his man on the ground and muscle for hire. Business goes smoothly until Bae Gyu-ri (Park Joo-hyun), a classmate of Ji-soo, steals his business phone and taunts him with blackmail.
While Ji-soo is getting by thanks to his entrepreneurial spirit, he is no hero as he is breaking the law to ensure his own survival. His classmates—many of whom look down on him—are no better, as they themselves are caught up in their own dishonest businesses. Much darker than the usual teen-oriented K-dramas, Extracurricular is a brazen yet sober deep-dive into the moral failings of its young cast.
This fantasy drama first aired in 2016, but is still beloved to this day—so much so that it has reached cult favourite status in and out of South Korea.
Gong Yoo stars as Kim Shin, the titular goblin and a decorated military general from the Goryeo Dynasty. Framed as a traitor and cursed to remain immortal, he lives a lonely existence, waiting for the day when his bride will come to pull out the sword buried in his chest to end his life. Nine hundred years later, he meets a high schooler named Ji Eun-tak (Kim Go-eun), who claims to be his sought-after bride. Kim Shin also finds himself in the company of a nameless ex-grim reaper (Lee Dong-wook), who doesn’t remember anything from his former life. A perfect K-drama for the true blue romantics, Goblin highlights the value of friendship as well, with many audiences enjoying the bromance between Kim Shin and his grim reaper buddy.
The zombie apocalypse trope has been repeatedly tried, tested, and even overused, but this political horror thriller has taken it to new heights. Set during Korea’s Joseon period, Kingdom follows the story of Crown Prince Li Chang (Ju Ji-hoon), who finds himself caught in a political conspiracy as he begins to investigate the circumstances surrounding his mysteriously ill father. As his shocking discoveries urge him to travel around in search of more concrete explanations, he crosses paths with physician Seo-bi (Bae Doo-na) and tiger hunter Yeong-shin (Kim Sung-kyu), who are struggling to deal with a plague that brings the dead back to life by nightfall.
The show propels the plot forward at near breakneck speed, bringing audiences to the edge of their seats even during scenes sans zombies. Its historical setting adds to its richness; the thrilling fight scenes (with swords and bows and arrows taking centre stage), stunning landscapes, and detailed costumes never fail to please. The past two seasons have ended on cliffhangers, leaving viewers clamouring for more.