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The Highest Rated Korean Dramas of 2019 and How to Watch

The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

The year has come to a close and the numbers are in for the highest rated Korean dramas of 2019! One take away is that money does not guarantee a successful drama as the two most costly dramas of the year, Vagabond and Arthdal Chronicles, did not break into the top 5. The most popular dramas had solid storylines throughout. If you love this list then be sure to check out our list on the highest rated Korean dramas of 2018.

As ratings go, there are many different way to determine rankings. We decided to use the average National AGB Neilson ratings to form our list. But we included the peak ratings below, that peak ratings might have happened in the opening episodes or in the final episode and is not a direct comparison on the overall popularity of the drama. For instance, a show can have a peak final ratings of 12% but an overall average rating of 8%.

THE HIGHEST RATED KOREAN DRAMAS OF 2019

15. The Tale of Nokdu

The Tale of Nokdu Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 8.3%

Premise: A gender swapping tale where a fighter journeys from an island to the mainland of Korea in order to discover why assassins are after his family. The only thing is, he has to find out his answers in a woman only village. So in he goes as a gender swapping lady who just so happens to fall for a gender swapping gisaeng.

Our Thoughts: A favorite of the year! An amazing fun drama that had a wonderfully light and romantic first 8 episodes that switch to daring and dark in the last 8 episodes and somehow managed to maintain the intrigue and delight of the storyline throughout. I loved this show and am so glad I watched it. The ending is so happy as well. Though the writer does put our couple through it to get there!

How to Watch: Kocowa, Viki

14. Radiant or The Light in Your Eyes

The light in your eyes dazzling radiant Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 9.7% (cable)

Premise: A contemporary-fantasy where a young woman can manipulate a watch to go back in time. Every time she goes back in time she becomes that much older, so she does not use it. But one day, she turns her time back to save her father and wakes up as an old woman.

Our Thoughts: The winner of so many awards. The people really loved this one. It is a fantasy so I feel like it should have a lot of humor and that I should like it. But it also kind of seems like it would be a melo so I may never watch it. I have had my fill of melo’s for the year, thank you very much.

How to Watch: Viki

13. Arthdal Chronicles

Athdal Chronicles The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 7.7%

Premise: In a mythical land at the beginnings of humankind, the human and human-animal inhabitants of an ancient city called Arthdal contend with each other and various tribes as they establish the beginnings of Korea.

Our Thoughts: A very fun dip into high fantasy land! Though the high fantasy aspect lost a lot of viewers in the beginning, if you can hold off and keep watching despite the confusing parts in the beginning episodes, then you will probably stay intrigued until the end. We loved watching this show, though we watched strangely as we saw the first two episods and then skipped ahead to season 3. Though expected to have two seasons, the low (by its standards) ratings led to another season not being optioned. The international internet basically erupted with comments about that.

How to Watch: Netflix

12. The Crowned Clown

The Crowned Clown The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 10.8% (cable)

Premise: With a crazy King in the castle, a replacement King is secretly brought in temporarily that looks exactly like the King. The replacement has to survive the politics of the palace and attempts on his life. (I don’t want to give anything else away; this show is so good!)

Our Thoughts: The best historical of the year for us! The first 15 episodes of this show are absolutely riveting! AH-MAZING. I loved it and was just astounded by how gripping this drama was from the filming angles to the acting (Hello, Yeo Jin-gu!) to the story, it was all superb. You can tell that they started to run out of money and time in episode 16 which led to a kind of cobbled together ending, but the first 15 episodes were outstanding enough for me to overlook that. If they had stuck the landing then this would be an all time favorite. Definitely, definitely worth the watch.

How to Watch: Viki

11. Doctor John

Doctor John The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 12.3%

Premise: An arrogant anesthesiologist and a caring resident of anesthesiology work together to solve mysterious medical cases involving acute or chronic pain.

Our Thoughts: We heard this show was good, though we didn’t watch it.

How to Watch: Kocowa, On Demand Korea, Viki

10. Boyfriend/Encounter

Boyfriend Encounter The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak ratings: 10.3% (cable)

Premise: Brought together in Cuba by fate, a wealthy yet sad woman who seems to have everything and a happy confident young man who seems to have nothing fall in love and learn to navigate their two worlds.

Our thoughts: One of our best dramas of the year! So lovely. The first episode could be a movie by itself. I really loved this drama that read as a modern look inside the life of a wealthy “princess” in a castle and the knight who saves her.

How to watch: Viki

9. Vagabond

Vagabond The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 13%

Premise: After a plane crash, a stunt actor gets pulled into a vast conspiracy when he seeks the truth. He has to use all of his stunt acting skills and boundless amounts of luck in order to make those involved pay.

Our Thoughts: This show was a mess of fun that leaned more towards mess. The opening was pretty tragic with the plane crash that soon turned into hilarity as this story did not know whether to stick to tragedy or tragic comedy or love story or farce. The ending was also all kinds of ridiculous that matched this show perfectly and made everyone wonder – is that it?

How to Watch: Netflix

8. Doctor Prisoner

Doctor Prisoner The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 15.8%

Premise: A revenge drama were a very skilled physician is forced to quit working at his hospital after being accused of medical malpractice. He starts working in a prison with the goal of getting enough information and connects to exact his revenge.

Our Thoughts: A big hit that was completely off our radar. We might actually have to check this one out.

How to Watch: Viki

7. Memories of the Alhambra

Memories of the Alhambra The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak ratings: 10% (cable)

Premise: A CEO of an investment company that specializes in gaming and optical devices, purchases an Augmented Reality game the like he has never seen before. However, playing the game becomes more real than anyone could ever realize.

Our thoughts: The augmented reality game was riveting. The opening episodes that introduced the game and the stakes were amazingly done. But then it started getting lost in this love story that didn’t need to be included at all. Whenever the game is on the screen, this show is aces. Whenever it isn’t, the show falters. The romance made me want to throw something.

How to watch: Netflix

6. The Last Empress or Empress’ Dignity

The Last Empress The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak ratings: 17.9%

Premise:This drama follows the life of a failing musical actress who marries the Emperor of the Korean Empire (if the empire still existed in the 21st century) as she tries to find love but instead gets entangled in the murder of a royal family member which puts the royal family in a negative spotlight that may lead to the end of the empire.

Our thoughts: So fun, so hilarious, so serious and yet comical, this drama was the surprised delight of 2018 and on into 2019. It is impossible to predict what will happen as the #1 makjang writer penned this show as her first foray into 16-20 episode miniseries. She knocked it right out of the park; I can’t wait to watch her next one!

How to watch: Viki, On Demand Korea, Kocowa

5. Hotel Del Luna

Hotel Del Luna The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 12% (cable)

Premise: A hotel that caters only to ghosts and its quirky inhabitants and employees who all have a bit of vengeance to take, or not take, on the living

Our Thoughts: A spooky and yet caringly comedic tale of a ghost hotel in Seoul that will have you wondering what exactly happened 2000 years ago. If you love noona romances and beta males trying to protect their lady loves and yet ending up needing protection themselves then you will enjoy this show immensely.

How to Watch: Viki

4. Liver or Die

Liver or Die The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 22.8%

Premise: The story of Lee Poong-sang, a lonely middle-aged man, who supports all his siblings and expects nothing in return. But one day he needs something from them, their liver.

Our Thoughts: We heard this was great, though we didn’t watch.

How to Watch: Kocowa, Viki

3. Fiery Priest

Fiery Priest The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 22%

Premise: A former special forces soldier becomes a Priest in order to find his place in the world. But when his mentor is killed, the special forces of his nature comes out as he seeks revenge all across Seoul.

Our Thoughts: One of our favorites of the year! So amazingly hilarious that it made me wonder if the writer was a comic genius. The things that happened in this show were so off the wall that I could not help but laugh. And yet it was all grounded in some kind of reality. An excellent show that deserves all its ratings. In fact, the top four shows on this list show that you do not need a lot of money, star power, or fancy filming locations to make a hit drama. You just need a good story, y’all.

How to Watch: Kocowa, On Demand Korea, Viki

2. When the Camellia Blooms

The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak Ratings: 23%

Premise: A single mother tries to live and fall in love in a small coastal town in serial killer where a serial killer is on the loose.

Our Thoughts: Ugh. The opening was great and it has a happy ending but honestly, this show is just straight depressing. The writer is very heavy handed with the sad scenes and piles on the misery over and over again ad infinitum. Seriously, it is like she is the Incredible Hulk pounding you with pain and asking if you get it yet. “Feel pain? No? Feel More Pain! Argh! Hulk Smash!” Not a recommend, unless you enjoy suffering and want to be depressed.

How to Watch: Netflix

1. Sky Castle – JTBC – 23.77%

When the Camellia Blooms Sky Castle The Highest rated Korean Dramas of 2019

Peak ratings: 23% (cable)

Premise: A murder mystery that spotlights the materialistic and academic desires of upper-class parents in Korea and how they ruthlessly secure the successes of their families at the cost of others. SKY stands for the top three universities in Korea: Seoul University, Korea University, and Yonsei University.

Our thoughts: We heard so many great things about this show but did not watch ourselves. It became the show of 2018 and into 2019 achieving peak ratings of 23% in 2019. It also took over the cultural moment of Korea as phrases from the drama started to appear in commercials, variety shows, and other dramas all year long.

How to watch: Viki


There is a lot of good on this list. If we can only recommend two dramas then our two recommended would be the romances The Tale of Nokdu and Encounter. Though many of these shows are definitely worth the watch!

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2 Comments

  1. WPB
    November 29, 2019 / 7:21 am

    Just saw that there is a voting for Best Korean Drama going on at http://www.Koreandrama.org
    You can pick 8 to the final round.

    • V
      Author
      November 29, 2019 / 2:57 pm

      Thank you for the link!

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