Are you new to Korean dramas? Or are you an old general looking to watch something new? Well, while we know that everyone has their favorite Korean dramas, there are a select few that everyone and their mama was watching and recommending the daylights out of once it ended. So on this list we stuck to the Korean dramas that were universally loved and just so happen to stick the landing or get relatively close to sticking the landing.
The dramas on this list may or may not have happy endings, but honestly, the journey to get there was worth it. Upon watching the ending, you might have been elevated to another level upon finishing or you might have cried buckets of tears, either way, these Korean dramas got it right, and they got it right throughout the duration of the show. So, without further ado, here are the Best Korean Dramas to watch on Netflix.
THE ABSOLUTE BEST KOREAN DRAMAS TO WATCH ON NETFLIX
1. Misaeng (office drama)
The show that helped tvN become the powerhouse in drama programing that it is today. Starting at 1% viewership and ending at a peak viewership at 10%, Misaeng was the story that took over Korea as it showcased a realistic yet hopeful look at the average companyman’s life in Korea.
It hit almost too close to home with many Koreans as it took the life of an awkward kid from a baduk championship background (kind of like a kid from a chess background) and dropped him into a company environment as a parachute employee. This causes tension between him and the other employees who grow to appreciate him and understand his situation as the drama progresses.
The journey through this drama is poignant and meaningful and it has the best ending.
Watch on: Netflix
2. Signal (fantasy-thriller)
Signal is a show on the top of my binge watch list because it is universally loved! It became one of the highest rated cable dramas at the time with 12.5% viewership.
Signal is the story of how a mysterious walkie talkie allows a detective in the year of 2000 to communicate with another detective from 2015 as they try to solve cold cases.
They use it to not only solve crimes, but to prevent them from happening to begin with. I mean what! That sounds amazing and the ratings prove that it was amazing so add this to your watch list!
Watch on: Netflix
3. Prison Playbook (human-drama)
I am trying not to spoil myself on the plot of this show because it is one of the ones that are top on my list to binge watch. It is the show that led Jung Hae-in to his current stardom and has been overall praised for how amazing it is.
Though it might be a tearjerker because people basically said it destroyed them, but in the best way possible. So, that makes me kind of scared to watch it, but literally everyone tells me that I should watch it.
This drama is basically about people who are in prison, but I have a feeling that there is so much more under the surface of that. Though I also have the feeling that I need to be in the mood to feel all the feels while watching it.
Watch on: Netflix
4. Stranger aka Secret Forest (political suspense)
If you are paying attention at all to the law and political climate in Korea then you know that corrupt prosecutors in the hubae-sunbae club (basically the equivalent to the good old boys club in America) are basically going to war with the current people’s president and his squeaky clean empathetic team.
There are protests galore on how the prosecutors only want to protect each other and their hubaes and sunbaes and do not care at all about the people of Korea or justice at all.
Well, that is basically what this show is about and it broke way before the real life corruption scandal broke in Korea. Alone, that is one reason to watch this show. The absolute lock solid storyline is the other.
Watch on: Netflix
5. Bad Guys (crime drama)
Cops using criminals to fight crime? That happens in this drama, y’all! Enter a detective with moral ambiguity who releases three convicts from prison and forms a team of Bad Guys to fight the rising crime in Korea.
A movie and a sequel were spun from this drama that has grit and surprising heart. But don’t be sad when your favorite bad guy gets stabbed because that is a thing that happens a lot in this show. Definitely worth checking out.
Watch on: Netflix
6. Secret Affair (Romance drama)
Secret Affair is the story of a successful, elegant, and married woman in her 40s who has an affair with a poor, yet very talented pianist in his 20s. They start a passionate love affair that threatens to destroy both their lives.
Both the heroine and the hero heat up the screen in this drama so it was good that it aired on cable! I have to say that this drama was nowhere on my radar when it aired, but everyone who was watching Misty with us said that we had to watch this show.
Plus it has Yoo Ah-in and Kim Hee-ae showing amazing chemistry that might turn your computer to mush, so it is on the list!
Watch on: Netflix
7. Iris (Epic-Romance)
A huge Korean blockbuster (and the most expensive Korean drama ever produced at the time at 40 billion won) during the first golden age of Hallyu.
Iris is a cross country espionage thriller and love story that does not take the foot from the gas for one moment as it explores the tensions between North and South Korea. They have to overcome their differences and face a greater evil than either side imagined.
Alliances are tested, allegiances change and lovers are put in jeopardy during this high paced show. It is a wild ride all the way to the end.
Watch on: Netflix, Just Watch
8. Kingdom (Horror)
Kingdom is the new must watch Game of Thrones meets The Walking Dead zombie thriller set in the Joseon dynasty of Korea. It brings fresh life to the zombie genre with its CREEPY ways of becoming a zombie as well as zombies that will make you run for the hills.
Kingdom is set in the 15th or 16th century at a time of high corruption and relentless power seekers in the government while the people of Korea starved. Famine spread through the nation and killed hundreds of thousands if not millions of people. That literally happened. Well, what if the deaths were due to zombies?
Enter a zombie apocalypse intermixed with a political take over of the throne of Joseon. The crowned prince is sent on a suicide mission to find out what is causing all these deaths while his family stays behind and plans how to murder him if he returns.
If you only watch one historical Korean drama on Netflix, then watch this one! Plus, season 2 is coming up!
Watch on: Netflix
9. The Reply Series (Romantic-comedy)
A wonderful series of three seasons that brings back the same parents each reboot but has a complete new cast of young characters as they look back on their youth and we wonder who the main heroine ended up with.
The first drama in the series, 1997 was set in a high school from 1997 and has a lot of throwback humor and references from that era. The second series, 1994 is set in college. The third is set around the time when Korea hosted the Olympics of 1988 and is set in a neighborhood, though it follows the lives of high school and college students as well as their families.
I really enjoy this series. Though, after the short and sweet episodes from 1997, the series ballooned to one and a half hour episodes by the time 1988 rolled around. So, make sure you have a lot of time on hand to watch.
Watch on: Netflix Reply 1997, 1994, 1988 (not on Netflix yet)
Have you watched any of these? Did you love them? Hate them? Are meh about them? Let us know which Korean dramas you think are absolutely worth watching on Netflix in the comments!
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Awwwhh, you guys get Reply 1988? My region don’t have it yet and it is so annoying because I want to rewatch it on my tv.
We don’t have it in the US either! I hope they get it and release it everywhere!
I’ve watched most of these shows and absolutely love them! I need to watch Secret Affair, it shows up on my list quite frequently but I’ve yet to see it. And as much as I would like to watch Kingdom, I just don’t do zombies very well! As far as the Reply series, you can watch that in the US on Viki.
Secret Affair was the first Kdrama we watched and we were hooked. Acting, directing, music, and as we’ve discovered are standard on serious KDRAMA, existential issues.
Hands down the best thing we’d ever seen on a screen.
The came My Ahjussi, different but another 10. And now, Where the Camelia Blooms. All 3 are better than anything we’ve seen out of Hollywood.
Those dramas are super well made. Try Signal or Sohn the Guest (or The Guest) if you haven’t already! Mistress and Children of a Lesser God are also really good. Though I need to find out if they are available to stream.
I have watched all of these except Bad Guys!
And you missed out on the BEST ONE! BAD GUYS 1 IS SO DAMN GOOD! The Pysco ( Park HaeJin) is AWESOME! THEY ALL ARE AWESOME! But it’s really gritty and bloody!
Would not recommended watching Reply series on Netflix, I think they didn’t get the licensing for all the music so the soundtrack is very off in most scenes at least that was the case in my region
Aw, man, that stinks! But I can see that being a big problem with Korean dramas on Netflix. Especially their variety shows.
I heard so much about Misaeng and its been on my watchlist for forever. I will definitely check out Iris. Lastly, am I the only one who is not into Reply series. I watched the one with PBG but each ep is like 90 minutes long and ended up just watching up to ep 3.
I feel you! I watched season 1 which had 30 minute episodes that I think ballooned to 90 minutes by the finale. I missed season 2. The very long running time of season 3 is the only reason why I did not finish the third season. Even though I really enjoyed each episode, thinking about spending an hour and a half on another episode was really too much to overcome.