55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

TV programmes from Korea have taken the world by storm. DESIblitz explores 55 Korean dramas that will have you hooked.

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers - F

"I told my nieces and cousins about it and watched it with them"

Korean dramas, also known as K-dramas, have become popular worldwide, with a loyal fan base.

These Korean dramas range from whimsical and swoon-worthy to heart-wrenching and relatable.

With beautiful visuals, superb costume design, and reverting plots, K-dramas fall under various genres.

There’s something for everyone – be it romance, satire, adventure, action, thriller, comedy, sci-fi and much more.

Shareen Bibi*, a 30-year-old Pakistani postgraduate student in Coventry adores K-dramas:

“I love the fact, so many of the dramas have an amazing combination of themes and components.

“So far, I haven’t found myself disappointed with Korean dramas. They are awesome at giving a bit of everything without it feeling cluttered. And without it feeling like the plot has no depth.”

This is a sentiment that Ren Bee, a British-Pakistani based in Singapore shares. She has watched over 100 K-dramas and has become immersed in Korean popular culture:

“90 per cent of what I watch is Korean dramas, along with a variety of shows and films. You really get into the language and culture.

“The actors are so good in their craft and skill – sometimes it doesn’t feel like they’re acting and that it is real.”

Thanks to online platforms and streaming sites like Netflix, Viki, and WeTV, Korean dramas continue to gain fans globally.

Online portal Esquire highlights the popularity of Korean dramas and their effects, particularly :

“K-dramas have swept the Earth in what the Chinese call “Hallyu”, the Korean wave.”

Korean dramas can come in bite sizes of 16 to 24 episodes. Other K-dramas have a season or more of 30 plus episodes.

DESIblitz lists 55 Korean dramas that are great for beginners and Desi viewers.                                          

Full House (2004)

Full House is a romantic drama of 16 episodes that has become a classic and is available on Netflix.

The drama originally aired on the channel KBS2 owned by Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), and helped propel the Korean wave.

Han Ji-Eun (Song Hye-Kyo) lives in Full House, a house built by her late father.

One day, her two best friends trick her into believing that she has won a free vacation. Then, while she is away, they sell her house.

The house has been sold to star Lee Young-Jae (Rain). Although they don’t get along, they agree to live with each other.

At first, Ji-Eun works as Young-Jae’s maid to repurchase her house. Later, they enter into a contract marriage as Young-Jae wants to make his crush, Kang Hye-Won (Han Eun-Jung), jealous.

For Korean popular culture fan Ren Bee this remains a favourite K-drama. It holds a special place in her memories, despite watching over 100 Korean dramas:

“I’ve watched it three times. When I went to Pakistan, I told my nieces and cousins about it and watched it with them too.

“It’s one of the early rom-coms.”

This K-drama is wholesome viewing, making it great to watch with a Desi family consisting of different generations.

Boys over Flowers (2009)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Boys over Flowers is an iconic hit teen romance drama consisting of 25 episodes that originally aired on KBS’s network KBS2. The drama is available on Netflix and Viki.

It is based on the Japanese manga series written by Yoko Kamio, which has led to several TV adaptations.

The story setting is at a famous and prestigious high school for the super-wealthy. The divide between the rich and poor/middle-class is materially glaringly obvious throughout.

The love story centres on a poor girl Geum Jan-Di (Ku Hye-Sun), and uber-rich kid Gu Jun-Pyo (Lee Min-Ho).

Jun-Pyo is the leader of the infamous F4 gang of rich kids who many idolise and fear within their school.

When Jan-Di’s bravery gets a place at the prestigious school attended by the F4, her life changes drastically.

The drama’s depiction of romance, masculinity and family tensions is reminiscent of early Indian cinema and dramas.

Boys over Flowers is a show that requires the audience to get some popcorn and sit back.

Bridal Mask (2012)

Bridal Mask is a period drama consisting of 28 episodes and originally aired on KBS2. It is also available on the American platform Kocowa.

Lee Kang-To (Joo Won) is a detective during the 1930s, Japanese colonisation in South Korea.

His father was a nobleman, possessing power and wealth, but he devoted himself and his fortune to the independence movement.

Initially, Kang-To works with the Japanese police to capture “Bridal Mask”, a mysterious rebel who fights for Korean independence. But that all changes, and when it does, he finds himself in danger.

He puts on a gaksital (bridal) mask and avenges the brutality suffered by his people.

A reviewer on Seoulbeats found themselves on the edge of the seats and enjoying each episode:

“I love how the writers aren’t afraid to get gritty with the plot.”

Strong acting from Jpoon Won ensures the drama is entertaining. As a period piece, it is a good series for K-drama beginners.

Heirs (2013)

Heirs is a romantic K-drama of 20 episodes and originally aired on Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS). It can be seen via American streaming site Viki and on Netflix where it goes by the title of Inheritors.

Kim Tan (Lee Min-Ho) is the heir to the Empire Group, a family conglomerate business. In the shadow of his older half-brother Kim Won (Choi Jin-hyuk), he strains against family expectations and pressures.

A chance encounter in LA, with poor girl Cha Eun-Sang (Park Shin-Hye), leads to an unexpected connection. The two meet again at an exclusive high school attended by Korea’s uber-rich.

The reunion leads to plenty of drama for the two teens, especially as Kim Tan’s family have an arranged marriage organised for him.

Filled with teenage angst, commentary on socio-economic inequalities and social judgements, it makes some interesting points.

However, the drama’s larger than life characters and events mean it is not to be taken too seriously. Viewers will be drawn in by the actors of this K-drama.

My Love From Another Star (2013)

My Love from the Star, also known as My Love Another Star is an award-winning fantasy and romantic comedy-drama with 21 episodes.

It is a direction of Oh Choong-Hwan who also directed the popular Korean dramas Doctors (2016) and Hotel Del Luna (2019).

Available on Netflix, Viki and Apple TV, the drama that aired first on SBS remains popular.

Do Min-Joon (Kim Soo-Hyun), an alien that came to Earth 400 years ago, will be able to return to his planet in three months.

However, when he meets famous actress Cheon Song-Yi (Jun Ji-Hyun whose English name is Gianna Jun) things change. All the centuries he spent distancing himself from humans come to an end.

Overall there is plenty of humour in this drama. Also, there’s a strand of danger running through the drama.

Alina Singh*, a 33-year-old Indian teacher in Birmingham has watched the drama multiple times, including with family:

“It’s hands-down one of my favourites. I love that I can watch it with anyone.

“I’ve seen it with my mum and mother-in-law. There’s no worrying about there being parts that will have me jumping for the remote. It’s like the Bollywood movies from the early 2000s.”

The drama won many awards upon its release, including three awards at the 50th Baeksang Arts Awards in 2014.

Good Doctor (2013)

Good Doctor is a medical drama of 20 episodes available on Netflix and Viki. It was originally aired on KBS2.

Park Si-On (Joo Won) is a savant on the autism spectrum. As a child, he is sent to a specialist care centre. There it is discovered, he has a genius-level memory and keen spatial skills

He eventually enters the field of pediatric surgery as a resident, where he has six months to prove himself capable.

However, due to his atypical mental and emotional condition, Si-On faces conflict from his peers and patients, who view him as childlike and unreliable.

The drama’s depiction of the struggles and experiences of Si-On will have the audience caring about what happens.

In addition, the narrative and characters will ensnare the emotions of Desi and wider audiences.

The drama won the 2014 Baeksang Arts Awards for ‘Best Drama’ and was remade in America as The Good Doctor (2017).

Heartless City (2013)

Hearthless City also titled Cruel City is a Korean crime and action drama that originally aired on the Joongang Tongyang Broadcasting Company JTBC.

There are a total of  20 episodes, which went LIVE on, for example, Viki.

Jung Shi-Hyun (Jung Kyoung-Ho) grew up in an orphanage. Running away, he made a living by working as a drug courier, picking up the nickname, “Doctor’s Son”.

He is the boss of a mid-size gang, with his drug supplier being Joeul also familiar as Scale (Kim Byung-Ok). Shi-Hyun has plans to take over his position.

Meanwhile, Ji Hyeong-Min (Lee Jae-Yoon) becomes the section chief of a special investigation unit and aims to catch Scale. When Hyeong-Min learns the “Doctor’s Son” they go after Shi-Hyun.

The danger, secrets and tension running through the plot make it a good watch.

A 2014 review of the drama highlights the intensity, which draws the viewers in:

“Every ep of Cruel City (AKA Heartless City) was deliciously intriguing, filled with noir and above all else, it was filled with lots and lots of intensity.”

The drama captures the bleak landscape of crime and police in South Korea and many other countries.

Doctor Stranger (2014)

Doctor Stranger is a medical drama consisting of 20 episodes that are watchable on Viki and Netflix. The drama originally went LIVE on SBS.

As a child, Park Hoon (Lee Jong-Suk) and his father were kidnapped by North Korea. In North Korea, Park Hoon trained to become a doctor.

Park Hoon who goes on to become a genius and highly respected surgeon flees to South Korea. He begins to work as a doctor in South Korea’s top hospital Myungwoo University Hospital.

Feeling like an outsider, Park Hoon has the determination to bring his love Song Jae-Hee (Jin Se-Yeon) from North Korea.

Engaging actors make this drama a mode of escapism for fans and those just dipping their toes into Korean popular culture.

With the popularity of medical dramas across Desi communities, this is sure to keep many South Asian viewers entertained.

Birth of a Beauty (2014)

Birth of a Beauty is a K-drama filled with romance, comedy and mystery that first aired on SBS. It has 21 episodes that are viewable on Netflix and Viki.

Overweight Sa Geum-Ran (Han Ye-Seul) has a shock when her hubby, Lee Kang-Joon (Jung Gyu-Woon) tells her he wants a divorce.

Geum-Ran has done everything for him and her in-laws. Yet, he has been having an affair with media darling, Gyo Chae-Yeon (Wang Ji-Hye).

Yet, Geum-Ran still wants to save her marriage. When she is presumed and declared dead, everyone but Geum-Ran and her mother seem pleased.

Thus, she seeks the help of Han Tae-Hee (Joo Sang-Wook) to transform into the stunning Sara.

Initially, she wants her husband back, but that changes when she confronts some home truths about her husband. During all this, Tae-Hee finds himself falling in love with Sara/Geum-Ran.

Rozina Ahmed*, a 22-year-old Pakistani store worker in Birmingham, found the drama highly entertaining:

Birth of Beauty had me sinking into my sofa with some chocolate and just relaxing. I really like it and have watched it twice.

“At the start Geum-Ran is annoying, but once she gets her husband is a waste of space, she becomes fierce.”

Even with themes such as murder and betrayal, this is a light K-drama, perfect for beginners and fans who want something easy.

Healer (2014)

Healer is an action romance and thriller with a good dash of comedy that first aired on KBS2. The 20 episode drama is available on for example Netflix.

Kim Moon-Ho (Yoo Ji-Tae) is a famous reporter at a prominent broadcasting company. When he learns the truth of a past case, he is consistently aiming to help those most hurt.

Meanwhile, with the help of Kim Moon-Ho, internet reporter Chae Young-Shin (Park Min-Young) unearths truths, linking to her past.

Then there is secretive Seo Jung-Hoo (Ji Chang-Wook), famous as the “Healer”. Going undercover, he finds himself drawn to Young-Shin.

Bonds of steel are forged, whilst secrets and betrayal shatter some relationships. Danger, action, suspense, romance and humour ripple wonderfully through each episode.

This drama is a prime example of how Korean dramas can effortlessly blend genres, much like Desi serials and films.

Entertaining for the whole family, it is an enjoyable watch for beginners and avid fans of Korean dramas.

Reply 1988 (2015)

Reply 1988 is the third instalment of tvN’s Reply series. It is the most successful in the series directed by acclaimed Shin Won-Ho.

It is a family drama and comedy of 16 episodes that can be seen on Netflix and Viki, after originally airing on tvN.

Sung Duk-Seon/Sung Soo-Yeon (Hyeri), Kim Jung-Hwan (Ryoo Joon-Yeol), Sung Sun-Woo (Ko Gyung-Pyo) and Ryu Dong-Ryong (Lee Dong-Hwi) are high school students and main characters.

Choi Taek (Park Bo-Gum) is also a prominent go player.

The story focuses on these five individuals and their families. The five are childhood friends whose families are very close.

Through the characters in Reply 1988, a nostalgic look back at the 1980s occurs. This drama was expectingly popular as reviewer Yukta Padya for The Movie Culture maintains:

Reply 1988 is one of the highest-rated K-Dramas to ever come out, and rightly so.

“It is every bit wholesome, satisfying and emotional and for that 1 hour, it really does transport one to a secluded happy place.”

Overall the show has a lot of heart, with the friendships on display being relatable and fun to watch.

The cinematography also has a unique yesteryear quality to it, which will be a treat for the eyes o the viewers.

Last but not least, the exploration of family and friendship bonds will draw in and engage Desi and the wider audience.

20 Again (2015)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

20 Again also known by the title Second 20s has 16 episodes and is a romantic comedy available on DVD. The drama originally aired on TvN.

Ha No-Ra (Choi Ji-Woo), a 38-year-old dreams of becoming a dancer when she was younger.

She met her future husband when she was only 20-years-old and became a mother unexpectedly.

From then on, she begins to focus on being a wife and mother. Then, on the brink of divorce from Kim Woo-Cheol (Choi Won-Young) who looks down on her lack of education, she decides to enrol in a university.

No-Ra then decides to attend the same university as her 20-year-old son Min-Soo. Thus, facing life a second time like a twenty-year-old.

There is a lovely sprinkling truth in this drama, which shows how mothers/wives can put the needs of loved ones ahead of themselves.

Watching No-Ra grow in confidence and self-assurance will have audiences smiling in pleasure.

For Korean and Desi cultures, where parents and mothers are meant to be venerated, this drama makes some excellent points.

Doctors (2015)

Doctors, also familiar as Doctor Crush, is a medical drama and romance with 20 episodes. Viewers can watch this series on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Viki. It was first aired on KBS.

Yoo Hye-Jung (Park Shin-Hye) was a headstrong girl in high school with a prickly, gangsterlike personality. Due to her many childhood scars, Hye-Jung keeps her heart closed towards other people.

However, she changes after meeting her teacher and mentor Hong Ji-Hong (Kim Rae-Won). He plays a key role in transforming her life from a “hopeless” delinquent to a compassionate doctor.

When Ji-Hong and Hye-Jung meet after thirteen years, the bond they share remains strong. Sparks fly even as Hye-Jung tries to seek justice for what happened thirteen years ago.

Hye-Jung character as a troubled teenager turned skilful doctor is attractive for the audience. Her action scenes and straightforward nature are a delight.

Accordingly, potential viewers will watch Doctors many times, due to a great medley of action, jealousy, humour, romance, and emotion.

In the words of K-drama fan Miriam Bibi*, a 33-year-old Kashmiri community worker:

“The show’s a mad and awesome mix of romance, action and funny moments. I love how cool and powerful the heroine is.”

Overall, the engaging characters and plot make this a must-watch.

Oh My Ghostess (2015)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Oh My Ghostess, also famous as Oh My Ghost is a supernatural romantic comedy and fantasy with 16 episodes.

It went first LIVE on tvN and is available to watch on watch on Viki and Netflix.

Na Bong-Sun (Park Bo-Young) works as an assistant chef. But because of her timid personality and low self-esteem, she does not have any friends.

Since childhood, she has seen ghosts and one day finds herself possessed by seductress ghost Shin Soon-Ae.

Kang Sun-Woo (Jho Jung-Seok) is a star chef, who Bong-Sun has a secret crush on. After her sudden change (possession), he begins to notice Bong-Sun.

This drama is sure to have the audiences laughing in entertainment. A rather cute drama, with a murder mystery plot as well. It is a hoot for beginners and K-drama fans.

Falling For Innocence (2015)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Falling For Innocence, also familiar as Beating Again is a romantic comedy and melodrama with 16 episodes It is available to watch on Viki, WeTv and Netflix.

Kang Min-Ho (Jung Kyung-Ho) has been through a difficult time following his father’s sudden death. In turn, his uncle takes the company over and boots him out.

After he undergoes a heart transplant, Min-Ho begins to learn the meaning of true happiness and love.

He also starts to develop feelings for his secretary, Kim Soon-Jung (Kim So-Yeon). But when Joon Hee (Yoon Hyun-Min) also falls for Soon-Jung, will Min Ho have to fight for what he really wants?

A show that is great if you want some escapism and your emotions to be awake. One Blog review in 2015 stresses:

“Through all 16 episodes of Falling for Innocence, there was never a moment we didn’t experience different emotions. Shock, happiness, pain, humor and yes, joy.

“One thing this drama was great at, was ensuring you were never unmoved.”

Furthermore, the K-drama use tropes that are also popular in Bollywood movies. Therefore, it will be an entertaining watch for many Desi viewers.

Kill Me, Heal Me (2015)

Kill Me, Heal Me is a medical drama and romantic comedy with a good degree of suspense. It first aired on MBC. The drama has 20 episodes and is viewable on Netflix and Viki.

The drama is a love story between the son of a wealthy family who has seven personalities and a 1st-year female resident who becomes his doctor.

Cha Do-Hyun (Ji Sung) is a third-generation business heir who develops dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder).

He has seven distinct identities, which his family have kept hidden from the world.

He tries to regain control over his life with the help of Oh Ri-Jin (Hwang Jung-Eum). Ri-Jin is a beautiful first-year psychiatric resident who secretly aids him.

Fabulous acting and solid pace will certainly have the audience leaning in their seats wanting more.

Looking at people with mental illnesses and the issues they have to navigate, this drama is engaging. Touching on issues that require more focus on Desi communities, this drama is a must-watch.

Scarlet Heart (2016)

Scarlet Heart, also titled Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo is an SBS network historical drama and fantasy with 20 episodes. Based on the Chinese novel Bu Bu Jing Xin, it is on YouTube.

When a total eclipse of the sun takes place, Hae-Soo (IU) travels back in time to the Goryeo era. In the past, she falls in love with Wang So (Lee Joon-Gi) who makes other people tremble with fear.

She has no choice, but to live under the identity of Hae Su, cousin to the wife of the 8th Prince. Consequently, she finds herself involved in the conflicts between the royal family.

Overall, this drama has some great visuals and costumes, just like Desi historical dramas. In addition, the main characters ensure that audience will remain riveted.

One of the highest-rated Korean dramas of 2016 it is “a cult-favourite” with fans.

For anyone in need of an emotional watch, this will have you reaching for the tissues.

Weightlifting Fairy, Kim Bok-Joo (2016)

Weightlifting Fairy, Kim Bok-Joo is a coming of age, sports romantic comedy of 16 episodes. It originally came on MBC and is later available through Netflix and Viki.

The drama is inspired by the life of South Korean Olympic weightlifter gold-medalist Jang Mi Ran.

Kim Bok-Joo (Lee Sung-Kyung), is a young woman chasing her dream of weightlifting at Haneul Sports University in Seoul.

Bok-Joon is crushing on doctor Jung Jae-Yi (Lee Jae-Yoon), leading to her fibbing about her major.

Jae-Yi is the older brother of talented swimmer Jung Joon-Hyung (Nam Joo-Hyuk), who is at the same university as Bok-Joo.

At first, Joon Hyung teases Bok-Joo and helps her. But he soon finds himself falling in love with her. The interactions between the two are full of humour.

We see the lead and secondary characters fight for their dreams, negotiate and fight against expectations as well as realise their potential.

Overall, this entertaining little morsel shows a different dimension to actress Sung-Kyung.

The fact that this bite-size drama focuses on themes around coming of age means it will attract Desi viewers.

Descendants of the Sun (2016)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Descendants of the Sun is a hit romance drama, with a good dash of melodrama and comedy.

The 16 episode drama had an initial transmission on KBS2. Later it became available on Viki and Netflix.  The very popular PD Lee Eung-Bok is the director of this drama.

Yoo Shi-Jin (Song Joong-Ki) is the captain of the special forces. In a hospital emergency room, Shi-Jin meets Dr Kang Mo-Yeon (Song Hye-Kyo) and immediately falls in love with her.

Mo-Yeon mistakenly assumes Shi-Jin is part of a criminal gang. Luckily, he can change her mind. The two start dating but what seem like opposing values and views have them breaking up.

When they meet again in Uruk, their feelings are palatable, but can they be together?

While not without its flaws, this drama is an entertaining form of escapism with engaging characters. Sam Begum*, a 24-year-old student in Birmingham emphasises why one should view this drama:

Descendants of the Sun is something you have to watch. Anyone who says they love K-dramas has to watch it, it’s a classic.”

The cinematography in this is lovely, and the drama has a soundtrack that compliments each scene. Thus, Desi and other viewers will find this drama to be a treat.

Prison Playbook (2017)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Prison Playbook is a dark comedy with 16 episodes on Netflix. The drama series depicts the story of prisoners and staff at a prison. Kim Je-Hyeok (Park Hae-Soo) is the best relief pitcher in Korea.

Je-Hyeok receives a one-year prison sentence for using excessive force on a man who was assaulting his sister.

Meanwhile, Lee Joon-Ho (Jung Kyoung-Ho) is a school friend of Je-Hyeok’s and works in the prison as an officer.

Devastated by what has occurred, Je-Hyeok must adapt to life in prison. However, it is in the prison that he meets several interesting individuals.

The friendship bonds created within the prison are a lovely surprise and well depicted. A stellar cast and detailed storytelling make this bite-sized drama great for K-drama fans and beginners.

On The Way To The Airport (2017)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

The Way To The Airport is a romantic melodrama that has 16 episodes. It is available to watch on KBS2 where it originally aired.

Choi Soo-Ah (Kim Ha-Neul) works as an AirAsia stewardess. She has been working there for twelve years.

She has a twelve-year-old daughter Park Hyo-Eun (Kim Hwan-Hee) with her husband, Park Jin-Seok (Shin Sung-Rok), a pilot.

Soo-A thinks she is content with her life, but everything changes when she meets Seo Do-Woo (Lee Sang-Yoon).

The drama takes an interesting look at fidelity, happiness and whether or not to stay in an unhappy marriage.

Such themes remain quite sensitive within Desi and Korean culture, making this a thoughtful drama to watch.

Emotionally, this drama is somewhat of a rollercoaster ride that will have you holding your fingers crossed for Soo-Ah.

Defendant (2017)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Defendant, also known by the title Innocent Defendant is a legal drama and thriller with 18 episodes. The taunt drama is available via Netflix after originally airing on SBS.

Park Jung-Woo (Ji Sung) is a prosecutor at Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

One day, he wakes up and finds himself a convict on death row. Suffering from temporary amnesia, Jung-woo has no idea what transpired to land him in prison.

In a nailbiting show, the audience will see him struggle to recover his memory and clear his name. The drama does well in creating and maintaining a tense atmosphere.

This is a drama with zero romance, instead, the focus is on the defendant Jung-Woo trying to prove his innocence.

A gripping drama, which will have viewers keen for more.

Voice (2017)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Voice is the first season of the very popular crime and thriller drama that was directed by Kim Hong Sun.

It first aired on Orion Cinema Network (OCN). With 16 episodes, the intriguing drama is watchable on Viki and Netflix.

Moo Jin-Hyuk (Jang Hyuk) was a popular detective who solved major cases. However, after his wife’s murder by a serial killer, his life spiralled down.

Consumed with the guilt, he secretly looks for her killer, determined to gain justice and vengeance.

Meanwhile, Kang Kwon-Joo (Lee Ha-Na) graduated from the police academy with top marks. She began to work at an emergency 112 call centre and lost a loved one to the serial killer

Detective Jin-Hyuk and Kwon-Joo solve cases together. Both are chasing the serial killer responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.

The drama is a engrossing one that has moments of really sharp tension.

Great acting, a well-paced plot and a solid narrative will have Desi and South Asian communities eager for more.

Queen For Seven Days (2017)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Queen For Seven Days is a sageuk (Korean term for historical dramas) political drama, lacing with romance and melodrama. It had an originally showing on KBS2.

The drama takes inspiration from true events, occurring in the late 14th century. With 20 episodes it is viewable on Netflix and Viki.

The drama tells the tragic story of Lady Shin Chae-Kyung (Park Min-Young) and Prince Jinsung aka Lee Yeok (Yeon Woo-Jin)

In the drama, Prince Jinsung ties the knot with Chae-Kyung, making her his queen.

However, Chae-Kyung is removed from her position and expelled from the palace in just seven days.

This like most Korean dramas has a great soundtrack that helps heighten the energy of each scene.

Overall, it is a good mix of fun and great drama filled with heart-gripping moments that will have the audience drawn in.

Strong Woman Do Bong Song (2017)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Strong Woman Do Boo Song, also known as Strong Girl Bong Soon is a romantic comedy, action and fantasy drama.

It has 16 episodes, which were first aired on JTBC and can be seen on Netflix and Viki.

Do Bong-Soon (Park Bo-Young) was born with superhuman like strength. Her strength is hereditary and passed along only to the women in her family.

CEO of video gaming company Ainsoft, Ahn Min-Hyuk (Park Hyung-Sik), witnesses Bong-Soon beating up a group of thugs. Smitten from the get-go, he offers Bong-Song the role of his bodyguard.

Trouble is afoot on multiple fronts for Bong-Soon. Min-Hyuk has recently been receiving anonymous threats. Plus, someone has been terrorising and kidnapping women where Bong-Soon lives.

Sonia Khan, a 30-year-old Pakistani postgraduate student in Birmingham, has seen this drama several times, introducing her mother to it also:

” I love the drama, the main couple are so very cute! I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve rewatched.

“It’s one of the first Korean dramas I introduced to my Ammi (mum), and she loved it.

Usually, she says a hard no to anything that’s not in English, Urdu or Hindi, but when I showed her the trailer, she was hooked.”

The drama has several themes and characters that will be relatable to Desi viewers.

Good Manager (2017)

Good Manager, also familiar as Chief Kim is a comedy-drama that originally aired on KBS2. It has 20 episodes that are watchable on Viki and Netflix.

Kim Sung-Ryong (Namkoong Min) used to manage money for gangs/criminals successfully.

Through an accidental opportunity, he begins to work as the chief of an accounting department for the large TQ Company.

He struggles to save the decaying TC Company, fighting against corruption and irrationality in the company.

This drama’s primary and secondary characters will have the audience laughing and curious to see what happens next.

There’s a liveliness to the characters and plot, allowing a good pace throughout. The comradeship that emerges throughout the drama will engage Desi and other viewers.

What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim (2018)

What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim is a romantic comedy with 16 episodes that first aired on tvN.

It is based on Jung Kyung Yoon’s 2013 novel of the same title, serialised into a Webtoon comic by KakaoPage.

The story follows the vice-chairman of a major corporation Lee Young-Joon (Park Seo-Joon), and his dependable secretary, Kim Mi-So (Park Min-Young).

Self-absorbed and narcissistic, Young-Joon’s world takes a shaken when secretary Kim announces that after nine years, she is resigning.

Min-Young is ecstatic about beginning a new chapter of her life, leaving behind the demands of her boss. But her boss is bent on doing all he can to persuade her to stay.

What neither expects is romance to blossom. Feelings that have been hidden for years boil over as the two get closer.

The revelation of a similar past trauma brings them even closer but leads to family secrets being dug up for Young-Joon.

There is a good dash of humour and romance in this bite-sized drama.

This enjoyable drama will have the audience laughing in amusement.

Sky Castle (2018)

Sky Castle is an award-winning dark comedy, family satire and psychological drama with 20 episodes. It is available on Netflix and the JTBC website, the creators of the drama.

The drama follows a group of women and their families who live in the luxurious Sky Castle neighbourhood.

It looks at the materialistic desires of upper-class parents in South Korea and how they ruthlessly secure their families’ successes at any cost.

One of the main characters is Han Seo-Jin (Yum Jung-Ah), married to an orthopaedic surgeon, Kang Joon-Sang (Jung Joon-Ho) and has two daughters. Seo-Jin seems to have a perfect life, but she has a secret.

Then there is Lee Soo-Im (Lee Tae-Ran), author of children’s books. She has a son with her husband and neurosurgeon, Hwang Chi-Young (Choi Won-Young).

Next, No Seung-Hye (Yoon Se-Ah) is the wife of law school professor Cha Min-Hyuk (Kim Byung-Chul). Her husband talks about justice but has a side that he hides from the world.

Last, there is Jin Jin-Hee (Oh Na-Ra), who comes from a wealthy family. Jin-Hee admires Seo-Jin and tries to copy what she does.

Like Seo-Jin, she is also a wife to an orthopaedic surgeon, Woo Yang-Woo (Jo Jae-Yun).

Looking at issues like suicide, its impact on those left behind, educational pressure and social pressures, this is a compelling watch. Overall, Sky Castle has an intense satirical plot that grips the viewer.

Encounter (2018)

Encounter is a romance and melodrama with 16 episodes. It first aired on tvN and can also be enjoyed on Netflix.

Cha Soo-Hyun (Song Hye-Kyo) is the daughter of a politician. Marrying a man for her father’s political career she is a divorcee and the CEO of a hotel.

In contrast, Kim Jin-Hyeok (Park Bo-Gum) is an ordinary young man with very little money. He tries to find a regular job and works part-time in the meantime.

Jin-Hyeok decides to take a trip to Cuba where he meets Soo-Hyun, which has a ripple effect on both their lives.

This is a drama that knows how to play with the emotions of the audience as they root for Soo-Hyun and Jin-Hyeok.

Also, the reversal in roles, with the male lead being the poor one was a nice change.

Overall, the drama is great for Desi TV fans, who want a K-drama that focuses on a relationship’s subtle features.

My ID is Gangnam Beauty (2018)

My ID is Gangnam Beauty has 16 episodes. It is a romantic comedy and coming of age drama that first aired on JBTC. The drama also became available on Netflix and Viki.

The derogatory Korean term “Gangnam Beauty” refers to women who became beautiful by plastic surgery.

The story focuses on Kang Mi-Rae (Im Soo-Hyang), who had a timid personality due to her perceived ugly appearance.

She became a victim of tease and even bullying, whilst at school. Despite Kang Mi-Rae going on to become beautiful, she still has her timid personality.

As Kang Mi-Rae starts her first year at a university, people are still mean to her, calling her “Gangnam Beauty” in a derogatory manner.

Meanwhile, she finds romance with Do Kyung-Seok (Lee Dong-Min), professionally also known as Cha Eun-Woo) who attends the same university.

He does not judge people by their appearance, but Mi-Rae has insecurities she struggles to let go of.

This drama is an engaging watch in a world where physical appearance matters, with also immense pressure to fit in.

Many of the issues, tensions and realities highlighted in the drama reflect the contemporary world.

The drama also has a tone of lightness to it, making it great for the audience who want some downtime.

The Last Express (2018)

The Last Empress is a mystery, thriller and comedy-drama consisting of 52 episodes on Netflix.

Originally the 48 episodes drama had an extension, courtesy of the SBS network due to its  increasing popularity

Modern-day South Korea is the setting of the drama. However, it is under the premise that a constitutional monarchy still governs the country.

Oh Suuny (Jang Na-Ra) is newly married to Emperor Lee Hyuk (Shin Sung-Rok). Unfortunately, her marriage means she finds herself fighting against the absolute power of the palace.

The young Princess Ari (Oh Ha-Rin), the emperor’s daughter, steals the show in many scenes. The development of the princess’s bond with Oh Sunny is terrific to witness.

With numerous twists and turns, the plot will have the audience guessing about how things will end.

The mixture of humour, danger, and suspense make this a must-watch for DESI fans and beginners.

Moreover, themes like the tensions between tradition and change, make this a compelling watch. It is as dramatic as any Desi drama.

When the Camellia Blooms (2019)

When the Camellia Blooms is a romantic comedy and thriller with 40 episodes available on Netflix.

The story focuses on Oh Dong-Baek (Kong Hyo-Jin), who is a single mother in the small town of Ongsan. She runs the bar-restaurant Camellia, while also taking care of her son, Pil-Gu (Kim Kang-Hoon).

The people of Ongsan frequently gossip about Dong-Baek. Growing up as an orphan, she is a single mother who runs a bar that many men in Ongsan frequently visit.

Local police officer Hwang Yong-Sik (Kang Ha-Neul) falls deeply in love with her at first sight. Raised by a single mother himself, he does not negatively judge her.

Meanwhile, Dong-Baek’s ex-boyfriend and father of her son Kang Jong-Ryeol (Kim Ji-Suk) suddenly reappears in her life. While Dong-Baek tries to find happiness, danger lurks in the background.

This drama has a realistic plot and relatable characters, especially in single mother Dong-Baek, making it an essential watch.

Also, the drama looks at socio-cultural stigma and the struggles single parents can face, attracting viewers. Such themes will also resonate with many Desi viewers.

Crash Landing into You (2019)

Crash Landing into You is a hit Korean romantic comedy that remains on numerous lists of must-watch Korean dramas.

Consisting of 16 episodes it can be seen on Netflix and was directed by the famous Lee Jung-Hyo.

The series aired for the first time simultaneously via tvN in South Korea and on Netflix worldwide.

Yoon Se-Ri (Son Ye-Jin) is an heiress to a conglomerate in South Korea. One day, while paragliding, an accident caused by strong winds leads Yoon Se-Ri to make an emergency landing in North Korea.

In North Korea, Se-Ri meets Ri Jeong-Hyeok (Hyun Bin), a prominent North Korean army officer.

Over time, the pair fall in love. However, with the two belonging to two different nations that are in conflict, can they have a happy ever after?

The ending to this drama says a lot about the dark conflicts between the countries. As of 2021, the drama is accredited as the third highest-rated South Korean drama in cable history.

It is also the TVN network’s most viewed K-drama to date.

Hence, it is a highly recommended watch for anyone new to or a fan of Korean dramas.

Furthermore, an unusual plot and sizzling chemistry between the main characters are sure to force an engaging audience.

Hotel Del Luna (2019)

Hotel Del Luna is a dark fantasy and romantic comedy consisting of 16 episodes. It originally aired on tvN and later made its way on Viki and Netflix.

In downtown Seoul, Jang Man-Wol (IU) is the quirky and beautiful CEO of Hotel del Luna. Man-Wol made a large mistake years ago and since then has been stuck at Hotel del Luna.

Koo Chan-Seong (Yeo Jin-Goo) worked as the youngest assistant manager ever at a multinational hotel corporation. Then, he begins to work as a manager at Hotel del Luna, where the clientele consists of ghosts.

With some lovely cinematography and great costumes, this drama illustrates the stylish nature of many K-dramas.

In addition, the bite-sized nature of Hotel Del Luna makes it a nice foray into Korean dramas for beginners.

Plus, for K-drama fans and those who need to unwind, this drama has a good blend of fantasy and humour. The hit drama is known as one of the highest-rated Korean dramas in cable television history.

Touch Your Heart (2019)

Touch Your Heart is a romantic comedy with 16 episodes on Viki and Netflix. The drama is based on the web novel of the same name first published in 2016 via KakaoPage.

Oh Yoon-Seo (Yoo In-Na) is a famous actress trying to make a comeback after a scandal.

Thus. when Yoon-Seo hears that a famous screenwriter wants her to play the lead female role for a drama series she is determined to succeed.

To secure success, she must first take a job, working as a secretary to a lawyer named Kwon Jung-Rok (Lee Dong-Wook).

The two who initially appear to clash are not expecting to fall in love. However, over time, they do.

Lisa Jha*, a 32-year Indian old teacher in Birmingham, found the drama to be a fab way of relaxing after a long day:

“It was on my watchlist forever, after a manic week at school I need something easy and fun.

“Touch Your Heart hit the spot perfectly.”

A light and well-timed romantic comedy, this is the perfect viewing for when someone needs to unwind.

Catch The Ghost (2019)

Catch the Ghost has 16 episodes and is a crime drama, with a good sprinkle of humour. It can be watched on tvN where it first aired.

Yoo-Ryung (Moon Geun-Young) is a rookie detective with a strong sense of justice. When her twin sister with autism goes missing to find her, she applies to the subway police team.

Yoo-Ryung solves cases using her exceptional space perception.

Her partner, detective Go Ji-Seok (Kim Seon-Ho) is often busy cleaning up behind her.

The secondary characters help ensure the fluidity of the story, keeping new and diehard K-drama fans watching.

A light and fluffy drama, which will get one away from the mad rush that life can be.

Her Private Life (2019)

Her Private Life is a 16 part romantic comedy, which was first broadcast on tvN. This entertaining little morsel is on Netflix and Viki.

Sung Deok-Mi (Park Min-Young) works as a curator at an art gallery. She is a huge fangirl of idol group member Shi-An (Jung Jae-Won) and secretly runs a popular fan website about him.

One day, Ryan (Kim Jae-Wook) begins work as the new art gallery director where Deok-Mi works. The attraction between the two starts to draw them closer.

Consequently, Deok-Mi needs to decide if she will keep her fan obsession a secret. The chemistry between the leading characters ripples off the screen.

Additionally, the potency of the chemistry engages the audience to stay tuned and see how things go.

With excellent comedic timing and entertaining secondary characters, this will have Desi audiences smiling.

Doctor John (2019)

Doctor John is a medical drama with 32 episodes on Viki and Netflix. It revolves around the Japanese novel On Hand of God by Yo Kusakabe and first aired on SBS.

The story focuses on Cha Yo-Han (Ji Sung), who is a doctor of anesthesiology. He is arrogant, but a genius when it comes to his profession.

Yo-Han is also a man who cannot feel pain. Kang Shi-Young (Lee Se-Young) is a resident who works with Yo-Han.

People, with mysterious acute or chronic pain, come to the hospital. There, Yo-Han and Shi-Young try to find the causes of their pain.

The show touches on some complex and sensitive issues, such as the debate over euthanasia.

As a result, the audience will have mixed moments, with some viewers leaning forward in surprise, whilst others smiling.

The general popularity of medical dramas in South Asia and its diaspora make this a must-watch for Desi viewers.

An engaging plot, as well as strong acting from main and secondary characters, will have the audience stuck to their TV screens.

Flower of Evil (2020)

Flower of Evil is a romantic thriller and melodrama consisting of 16 engrossing episodes. It was first shown on tvN.

Baek Hee-Sung (Lee Joon-Gi) is a man who hides his identity and past from his wife, homicide detective, Cha Ji-Won (Moon Chae-Won).

Ji-Won and her colleagues begin investigating a series of unexplained murders that lead to her unearthing the dark secrets her husband has been keeping from her.

There are multiple twists in this drama as secrets unravel, and Ji-Won begins to question everything.

The addition of the lead characters’ adorable daughter Eun Ha (Jung Seo-Yeon) is a delight. The father and daughter relationship portrayed by Joon-Gi and Seo-Yeon adds a lovely layer to the story.

There are scenes of intense emotion, heartache, fear, and danger conveyed wonderfully through the leading actors.

A great blend of romance, action, suspense and emotion will engage viewers until the credits roll.

Available on Viki, the rich mixture of themes and compact size of the series makes this a great K-drama for beginners.

Zombie Detective (2020)

Zombie Detective is a comedy made up of 12 episodes that first aired on KBS. It later became available on Netflix and Viki as well.

Kim Moo-Young/Kang Min-Ho (Choi Jin-Hyuk) has been a zombie for the past two years. To survive, he has mimics the mannerisms of humans.

Heading for the city, he opens an office to work as a private detective, using his unique abilities. Having no recollection of who he was before he became a zombie, he tries to fit in.

Gong Sun-Ji (Park Ju-Hyun) is former a reporter. After facing an attack due to becoming a witness in a case she was working on, Sun-Ji quits her job.

When she becomes Moo-Young’s part-time employee, it’s only a matter of time before she makes some startling discoveries.

There’s a good blend of comedy, dark humour, mystery and action in this K-drama. Narration is concise throughout, making it a fun watch for beginners and K-drama fans.

With quirky secondary characters and a unique protagonist, this little morsel is a good way to sink into the world of Korean dramas.

Hospital Playlist (2020)

Hospital Playlist is a medical drama with romance and comedy running through it. The two seasons of the drama each have 12 episodes and first aired on tvN.

The drama tells the story of five successful and passionate doctors who have been friends since entering medical school in 1999.

The five main characters include Lee Ik-Joon (Jo Jung-Suk), Ahn Jeong-Won (Yoo Yeon-Seok), Kim Jun-wan (Jung Kyung-ho).

Yang Seok-Hyeong (Kim Dae-Myung), and Chae Song-Hwa (Jeon Mi-Do), who are the only female in the group of friends complete the line-up.

The story is laced with humour and strong friendship bonds. It wonderfully explores the professional and personal lives of the five friends.

By the first season’s conclusion, the series became the ninth highest-rated K-drama in cable television history.

The compact size of this K-drama makes it great for beginners.

Available on Netflix, it’s sure to keep audiences across generations entertained. Thus, it’s a good watch for Desi families.

Mr Queen (2020)

Mr Queen, also known as sageuk is a historical drama and comedy that was first broadcast on tvN.

With 20 episodes, it can be seen on Viki and Netflix and is based on the original Chinese web drama Go Princess Go (2015).

During contemporary times, arrogant Jang Bong-Hwan (Choi Jin-Hyuk) works as a chef at the President’s Blue House.

Somehow his spirit finds its way into the body of Queen Kim So-Yong (Shin Hye-Sun) in the Joseon period.

The Queen is married to King Cheoljong (Kim Jung-Hyun), who has secrets. He also seems like a figurehead, who is gentle and easygoing, but it’s a visage.

In the body of So-Young, Bong-Hwan finds that dangers abound and the King’s arms are not initially the safety.

Bong-Hwan also has to deal with So-Young retaking her body at the wrong times. She does this specifically when her desire for the King comes to the forefront.

The drama also has strong OSTs (original soundtracks) that help enhance scenes and are a good way for beginners to be introduced to Korean music.

Overall, the drama is filled with humour and wit, balancing comedy and tense moments. All of which makes it an ideal drama for Desi and broader audiences.

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay (2020)

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay is a dark fairytale, romantic comedy of 16 engaging episodes. It first aired simultaneously on tvN and Netflix.

Moon Gang-Tae (Kim Soo-Hyun) is a health worker at a psychiatric hospital. Gang-Tae’s only family is an elder autistic brother, Moon Sang-Tae (Oh Jung-Se), who he has spent his life taking care of.

Gang-Tae silently struggles through life, doing his best. His world is completely turned upside down when he meets anti-social children’s author, Go Moon-Young (Seo Yea-Ji).

This K-drama revolves around mental illness and neurodiversity.

A major setting in the series is the OK Psychiatric Hospital.

Moon-Young herself is diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Moon-Young is not shown as evil, and the drama never suggests that she has no emotions.

The drama’s popularity and complexity make it a must-watch for Desi viewers, especially as it touches on issues of mental health. This requires a more close focus in Desi communities.

The New York Times named It’s Okay Not To Be Okay as one of “The Best International Shows of 2020.”

True Beauty (2020)

True beauty is a coming of age story and romantic drama with 16 episodes. It is based on the Line Webtoon of the same name by Yaongyi.

Eighteen-year-old Lim Ju-Kyung (Moon Ga-Young) is a high school student who has faced horrible bullying. She is picked on due to what is seen as her ugly appearance.

Changing schools, she is very self-conscious of her appearance, never letting her peers see her without makeup.

In this new school, she has friends, is popular and is viewed as beautiful. However, despite her popularity, Ju-Kyung feels ugly and is terrified that people will learn the truth.

Moreover, circumstances have her gaining the attention of two schoolmates – handsome and intelligent Lee Soo-Ho (Cha Eun-Woo) and bad boy Han Seo-Joon (Hwang In-Youp).

The drama looks at the pressures in a visually-orientated society. Therefore, there are themes in this story that will resonate with the audience.

The drama is a good source of entertainment, which also highlights how deeply bullying can impact a person.

The drama originally aired on tvN and can be seen on Netflix and Viki.

The Penthouse (2020)

The Penthouse with its first season of 21 episodes, made a bang as a K-drama via network SBS. In a drama full of twists and turns, there are three seasons that can be watched on Viki.

The drama tells the story of wealthy families living in Hera Palace and their children at Cheong-ah Arts School.

Shim Su-Ryeon (Lee Ji-Ah) is an elegant and wealthy woman who has a tragic past. Her husband Joo Dan-Tae (Uhm Ki-Joon), is a successful businessman, hiding a secret from her.

Oh Yoon-Hee (Eugene) comes from a humble family background. She clashes with Cheon Seo-jin (Kim So-Yeon), a famous soprano whose father is the head of Cheong-ah Arts School, since high school.

All the adults have grand ambitions and desires for their children. Such desires lead to murder and betrayal, setting off a chain of events that will shake the foundations of Hera Palace.

Asha Begum*, a 32-year-old teacher in London has devoured the first season on Viki:

“I couldn’t help but binge-watch. The first series was totally insane, I couldn’t put it down.”

In this drama, themes of jealousy, greed, murder and the hunger for success no matter what, run throughout. The drama gives a spectacle that will have the audience wanting more.

Itaewon Class (2020)

Itaewon Class comprise 16 episodes, airing first on JTBC. Later making its way on Netflix, it is a powerful drama, looking at bullying, corruption, sexism, fighting against the odds and much more.

High school student Park Sae-Ro-Yi (Park Seo-Joon) stands up to wealthy bully Jang Geun-Won (Ahn Bo-Hyun).

Consequently, Geun-Won’s father CEO Jang Dae-Hee (Yoo Jae-Myung) has him expelled and ensures Sae-Ro-Yi’s father loses his job.

Next, Sae-Ro-Yi’s father dies in a motorcycle accident caused by Geun-Won, leading to him beating Geun-Won. The beating leads to imprisonment.

Sae-Ro-Yi, determined to succeed upon release, opens a restaurant in Itaewon, Seoul. Jo Yi-Seo (Kim Da-Mi) helps him immensely. Jo Yi-Seo (Kim Da-Mi) is a social media influencer and strategist.

The drama is also about how family, is more than blood ties and the struggles of creating one’s own destiny. Sae-Ro-Yi’s motto had never been revenge. In one of the scenes, he says:

“I want my words and acts to have power so no one can mess with me and my people. I don’t want to be swayed by anyone or any injustice.

“I want to live a life where I make my own decisions and I don’t have to pay for my principles.”

This is a drama that will engage audiences across age groups and cultures. Much of its social commentary is something that Desi viewers will relate to.

My Roommate Is A Gumiho (2021)

My Roommate Is A Gumiho is a fantasy drama and a romantic comedy of 16 episodes.

The popular series premiered on streaming platform iQIYI worldwide and cable channel TVN. It also became available on Viki and iQiyi.

Shin Woo-Yeo (Jang Ki-Yong) is a handsome and smart professor. He is also a 999-year-old nine-tailed fox. To become a human, he collects human energy in a bead.

However, when Lee Dam (Hyeri) accidentally swallows the bead, Woo-Yeo’s wish to become human is threatened.

The bead can exist inside a human for no more than one year. After this, the bead will break inside of that person. If this happens, Lee Dam will die, with Shin Woo-Yeo losing his chance to become a human.

Hence, Woo-Yeo suggests that he and Lee Dam should become roommates until they work out a solution. An action that leads them down the unexpected path of romance.

Within Korean popular culture and mythology, nine-tailed foxes are very popular.

Accordingly, this is an excellent drama for beginners introducing them to the fantasy world of none-tailed foxes.

One the Woman (2021)

One the Woman is a romantic comedy and crime0mystery drama consisting of 16 episodes on Viki. The drama premiered originally on SBS TV.

The story focuses on a tough female prosecutor, Jo Yeon-Joo (Lee Hanee/Honey Lee), who has made herself a force to be reckoned with in her male-dominated profession.

Suffering from amnesia after a hit and run, she is confused for the uberwealthy and married Kang Mi-Na.

Mi-Na looks just like her (Honey Lee in a duel role). So, Yeon-Joo finds herself navigating a world of greed, secrets and betrayal.

Even Yeon-Joon’s life is not as white and black as it initially appears. Trying to learn the truth, she joins forces with Han Seung-Wook (Lee Sang-Yoon), a chaebol.

As with many Korean dramas, we have a female lead who is wonderfully strong and a treat to watch. Indeed this is one of the key reasons why One the Woman is a must-watch for beginners.

Moreover, with some fierce actions scenes and a lovely strand of humour running throughout, this is a fun watch.

Vincenzo (2021)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Vincenzo is a comedy, crime and law drama first aired on tvN and available on Netflix. Consisting of 20 episodes, it has a good blend of quirkiness, humour and romance.

At the age of eight, Park Joo-Hyeong goes to Italy, following adoption. Turning adult he has the name of Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joong-ki).

Vincenzo is a lawyer who works for the Mafia as a consigliere. However, tensions with the new mafia leader have him deciding to leave Italy for South Korea.

In South Korea, he gets involved with the lawyer, Hong Cha-Young (Jeon Yeo-bin). The two find themselves joining forces to fight for social justice.

A 2021 review of the drama in The Hindu praised the show, noting:

“For a show whose initial promos promised a dark, legal-action drama, Vincenzo went above and beyond this all while delving into some dark comedy, slick action and even relationships.

“In these rather grim times, the campy and pacy show serves as a perfect foil for some distraction…”

The dark humour, as well as the blurring between law and justice, will have you eager to watch each episode. The mixing element of genres in Vincenzo and its quirkiness is great for K-drama newbies.

The Devil Judge (2021)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

The Devil Judge is a firm and mystery drama of 16 episodes that first aired on tvN.

The drama is set in a dystopian version of modern-day Korea where daily life is one of chaos. The general population mistrusts the elite.

During this time, a judge turns the court into a reality show and punishes evil elite people mercilessly.

The entire nation can participate in trials through a LIVE broadcast courtroom show led by judge Kang Yo-Han (Ji Sung).

Some people see Yo-Han as a crusader for justice, while others are certain that he is a devil.

Kim Ga-On (Jin Young) is a rookie judge, aiming to fight for true justice. The chemistry between the male leads ripples off the screen.

There are ket moments of intensity, emotion and unease that will have the audience glued to the screens.

The Devil Judge highlights the versatility and complexity found in Korean dramas, making it a fantastic show for beginners.

In addition, the richness of the plot and characters means it will have viewers hooked.

Mouse (2021)

Mouse is a thriller and crime fiction drama with 20 episodes, premiering on tvN. The chilling story is also on platforms like Viki.

The story focuses on Jung Ba-Reum (Lee Seung-Gi), an honest and hardworking rookie police officer.

Focused on trying to obtain justice, Ba-Reum finds himself trying to stop a psychopathic serial killer. A killer that has the entire nation consumed by fear.

Ba-Reum’s chase to stop a crazy man changes his life. It also drives him and his partner Go Moo-Chi (Lee Hee-Joon) to try and unearth the truth behind psychopathic behaviours.

A spine-tingling drama, Mouse has made history.

It is the only K-drama to be nominated for the international Panorama Category at the 11th Annual Series Mania 2021.

This is an unpredictable drama, with some jaw-dropping twists and solid acting throughout.

Fitly, Mouse will have beginners and K-drama fans on the edge of their seats until the very end.

Voice 4 (2021)

Voice 4 is the fourth season of the very popular crime drama, which had its premiere on the South Korean cable TV channel, Orion Cinema Network (ONC).

With 14 episodes, the fourth season is as engaging as the first and can also be seen on Viki and Netflix.

The story in the fourth season focuses on the hunt for a serial killer, with an enhanced hearing ability that is used to kill.

As the head of the 112 emergency call centre, Kang Kwon-Joo (Lee Ha-Na) carries a lot of responsibility.

Using her incredibly boosted hearing ability to better understand the calls coming into the centre, Kwon-Joo has helped save countless lives.

Due to the serial killer, Kwon-Joo is driven into a corner. In this season, she finds herself working with Detective Derek Cho (Song Seung-Heon) to catch the serial killer.

Voice 4 and previous seasons are great for fans of the crime thriller genre.

Desi viewers and those starting with Korean dramas will find that this drama to be an engaging rollercoaster.

There is an expected fifth season of this popular Korean drama series.

Taxi Driver (2021)

Taxi Driver is an action, crime and suspense drama with 16 episodes that first aired on SBS. It is an adaptation from the webtoon, The Deluxe Taxi and is available on Netflix.

Kim Do-Ki (Lee Je-Hoon) graduates from the Naval Academy and becomes a UDT (underwater demolition team) official. Following the murder of his murder by a serial killer, his life changes drastically.

After her death, Kim Do-Ki becomes a deluxe taxi driver, working for the Rainbow Taxi Company. The company is anything but just ordinary.

The company offers a special “revenge-call” service. Kim Do-Ki and his co-workers will ensure revenge occurs for clients where the villains of their story escape the law.

Filled with action, suspense and questions around justice and the law, the show is slick and engaging.

Mohammed Hussain*, a 27-year-old Pakistani store clerk enjoyed the drama immensely:

” I came home from work and my sister was watching it, it wasn’t a sh** romance so I stayed to watch. It was good, proper action and revenge. Told my mates about it.”

Gaining inspiration from real-life cases like that of child rapist Cho Doo-Soon, the film whilst entertaining also makes the audience think once the end credits roll in.

Hometown Cha Cha Cha (2021)

55 Best Korean Dramas for Beginners & Desi Viewers

Hometown Cha Cha Cha is a romantic comedy with 16 episodes that first aired on tvN. The series is a remake of the South Korean movie, Mr. Handy, Mr. Hong (2004)

Yoon Hye-Jin (Shin Min-A) works as a dentist who ends up moving to the seaside village of Gongjin. There, Yoon Hye-Jin meets Hong Du-Sik (Kim Sun-Ho).

Hye-Jin finds herself curious about handsome Du-Sik, who is called Chief Hong by local residents. If somebody needs help, Du-Sik is the first one to appear and provide help.

Opposites in personality, romance blooms between Hye-Jin and Du-Sik.

A commercial hit, Hometown Cha Cha Cha has drawn in many viewers. Toslima Ali*, a 24-year-old Bangladeshi undergraduate student in Leeds loved the drama:

“It’s on my watch again list. It’s a classic example of Korean romance dramas, that you can curl up with. Everyone has been all about Squid Games, but I love Hometown Cha Cha Cha.”

The drama is great for Desi TV fans who enjoy a lighthearted romance, with entertaining characters.

Yumi’s Cells (2021)

Yumi’s Cells is a 14-part romantic comedy, which premiered on tvN. Also watched on Viki, it is based around a webtoon.

Kim Yu-Mi (Kim Go-Eun) is an ordinary single working woman and a very relatable character. Through a romantic relationship and work, she grows and finds happiness in her daily life.

Yu-Mi has cells in her brain that represent different emotions like love, violence, rationality, good, and bad.

These tiny cells in the brain work actively, dealing with her emotions and troubles.

When she meets games developer, Goo Woong (Ahn Bo-Hyun), her cells start to wake up.

This drama has a surprising ending with a strong message, making this K-drama different from most romantic comedies.

The World of Korean Dramas

  • Oppa is a term women can use for their older male; siblings, close friends and boyfriends.
  • Unnie is a term for someone who is or feels like your big sister.
  • The prestigious Baeksang Arts Awards is like the Oscars for Korean TV.
  • Usually, after the first 4 episodes, K-dramas are shot continuously as the series is aired.
  • Most Korean dramas avoid including racy scenes to remain family-friendly.

Ruby Ahmed*, a 34-year-old Texas-based grad student has been watching Korean dramas since 2003. Ruby found herself charmed by Yumi’s Cells:

“I’ve watched a heap load of K-dramas. Yumi’s Cells is so different, even when it comes to rom-coms outsides Korea, it’s so good.”

The ups and downs of the main characters, as individuals and a couple, will resonate with many people. Scenes with depth and humour will ensure viewers carry on watching.

Across 2020 and 2021 the world has witnessed Korean dramas grow and grow in popularity worldwide.

The diverse range of genres and themes covered ensures there is something for everyone.

Globally, the Korean dramas highlighted above and much more can be seen on streaming sites and apps like Netflix, Amazon, Viki and WeTV.

In addition, they can be viewed on other platforms such as Hulu and Korean cable TV.

Beginners and Desi viewers will have an extraordinary experience watching Korean dreams  To those who are already avid fans, happy and continue watching.

Somia is completing her thesis exploring racialised beauty and shadeism. She enjoys exploring controversial topics. Her motto is: "It's better to regret what you have done than what you haven't."

Images courtesy of HanCinema, Soomoi, Drama Current, Twitter, Netflix, Viki, Drama Panda and Pinterest.

*Names have been changed for anonymity.

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