50 Benchmark Korean Romance Dramas You Should Have Watched By Now
Schedule a weekend binge with these adorable and heart-fluttering Korean romance dramas!
K-drama fandom can all agree that a string of Korean romance dramas usually trigger the K-drama addiction. The unique and imaginative plots deviate from the basic triumvirate plot of cops-lawyer-doctor TV shows. On that note, it is one genre list that is hard to write because viewers have varied preferences on what love stories would appeal to them. I want to go as far as 10 years ago but video resources might not be available anymore. We will focus our drama reminiscing instead from 2006 onwards. But let’s do a quick stop on those classic Korean dramas that your mom or aunt might have told you about.
Early 21st century marked the surge of the Hallyu wave. The dominant genres are romance and melodramas. Most of the recurring love plots we have seen in the past 10 years can be traced back to these timeless Korean romance dramas. It was this period that Endless Love series by revered director Yoon Seok Ho aired.
These seasoned themed dramas sparked the popularity of most actors who are still active today. Autumn in My Heart, Winter Sonata, Summer Scent and Spring Waltz are breakout performances of present top actresses – Song Hye Kyo, Choi Ji Woo, Son Ye Jin and Han Hyo Joo. Benchmark rom-com dramas such as Attic Cat, Full House, My Lovely Samsoon and My Girl are forerunners of perennial K-drama elements like cohabitation, couple bickering, and rich-boy-poor-girl story premise. The melodramas at present have toned down compared to their predecessors.
Stairway to Heaven, What Happened in Bali, Save the Last Dance for Me and A Love to Kill are dramas that would exhaust you emotionally, yet they are strong in giving you lessons on affirming love.
There is no definitive yardstick on how to measure the best Korean romance dramas, but I’ll give you breakthrough and memorable dramas that you might have missed or you want to revisit.
1. Goong (2006)
A high school girl becomes the country’s princess, but the prince she married is still caught up with his first flame. Crown Prince Lee Shin and Princess Chae-gyung’s love story is the typical I-was-not-meaning-to-fall-for-you-but-I-fell-anyway romance. The love progresses from nothing at all to “I want you to be always beside me” kind of adoration.
There are frustrating moments but the eventual love admittance washes out some of the senseless and slow runs. Princess Hours gives a youthful presence while combining the individual growth of the main leads who are forced to marry due to their ancestors’ promise.
2. My girl (2006)
A rich man hires a woman to pretend to be his lost cousin so his sick grandfather will feel better. The con backfires as they fall in love with each other. Lee Dong Wook and Lee Da Hae’s first pairing is a zesty cohabitation where the couple bicker a lot until romance knocks them out to submission.
The road to the love realization threads on happy notes and lies. My Girl leaves a message on how time makes you braver to love someone, and how love stays true when separated by time.
3. Coffee Prince (2007)
Before Gong Yoo slayed the ratings in tvN’s fantasy-romance Goblin, he probably used to be your mom and aunt’s cherished “coffee prince”. Ask any avid K-drama watcher for classic k-drama picks, chances are that Coffee Prince is a recurring favorite. The First Shop of Coffee Prince immensely helped in the growing popularity of Korean wave that also solidified Gong Yoo’s bankable lead man status.
Yoon Eun Hye scored another memorable heroine performance as she pretends to be a man so that she can work in an all-male operated coffee shop. Coffee Prince’s ending is cheesy as it can be, but it wraps up with how the lead man lets go of his girl for her to pursue her own dreams. It is a must-watch grandpa classic that will surely not lose its appeal even after a few decades from now.
- K-Drama Time Machine: Gong Yoo & Yoon Eun Hye Brew Unforgettable Love Tale In “The First Shop Of Coffee Prince”
4. Worlds Within (2008)
Stage in television production background, Hyun Bin and Song Hye Kyo painted a heartfelt and realistic love story of two TV drama directors. Acquainted for a long time, and once lovers, Hyun Bin and Song Hye Kyo’s characters journey to discover why their love is true even then; and why it keeps coming back years after.
The heartfelt traverse of a couple working in the drama production team is under-appreciated, but it is one drama that you’ll exclaim, “Hey this story happens in real life!”
5. City Hall (2009)
This politics-based romance drama crawled in my heart without me realizing it. It beats the regular favorites Coffee Prince, Goong and even My Lovely Samsoon to get to the top of my list, because it’s not your conventional drama with cushioned and frosted romance. It is a love story where the prince does not rescue his damsel in distress, but pushes her to be brave and resolves things on her own.
With uncomplicated premise, the writing is exceptionally thought-provoking for any woman experiencing challenges in finding her worth not align to the standards of what the society dictates but in the dreams she has as a woman. A memorable performance for Kim Sun Ah and Cha Seung Won, who perfectly pictured a love declaration frame that the rest of Korean romance dramas I have seen yet to beat.
6. Boys Over Flowers (2009)
A young man (Lee Min Ho) from a rich household falls in love with a girl (Gu Hye Sun) from a poor family background. When she resists his bossy attitude, he starts bullying but eventually falls in love with her charm. This manga based drama swept my heart when it was adapted by Taiwan TV back when I was in my college days. It was so popular and introduced me to my first fictional love Dau Ming Si. So I had high expectations when Korea took it for their own production.
I say they presented it well. I went back to being in my teens, and even watching without subtitles every week when it was airing. What made it different from the rest of the remakes done is that it stayed true to the original context of young and sweet high school love, as well as a strong battle between the main and second lead in claiming the lead girl’s heart. It may not be perfect because of the moments when the drama has to ride its popularity, but it is an addictive drama that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
7. You’re Beautiful (2009)
Hong sisters made a successful splash in 2009 when they conceived the zesty story of a novice who leaves the convent to help her twin brother, who is about to debut with a popular K-pop band.
- K-Drama Time Machine: When Adorable A.N.JELLS Jang Geun Suk, Jung Yong Hwa, Lee Hong Ki & Park Shin Hye Debuted In “You’re Beautiful”
8. Dong Yi (2010)
Hallyu actress Han Hyo Joo played the titular role of Dong Yi – the drama that recounts the turbulent governance of King Sukjong in controlling the resistance of the stubborn factions eager to cause trouble in his tenure. The romantic plot, involving King Sukjong and his concubines, is also relayed in a classic sageuk manner, having a villainess keen to make everything hard for the heroine. Beautifully crafted, the political conspiracies, woman-empowering message and the love story are the reasons why this 60-episode period drama is still engrossing.
Dong Yi displays a stimulating TV drama while presenting the intricacies and controversies of Korean Joseon Monarchy. It presents the elaborated palace life, power struggles and vibrancy of the culture with clever layering of romance. Additionally, the narration is subtle in its approach, yet daring on its conviction.
The beginning is disheartening, the ending will make you pull the strings for it to end out of weary, but you tend to hold on to feel gratified on the conflict’s dissipation. Now the middle part, that is the best part of the series.
9. My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (2010)
A rich, lazy college student (Lee Seung Gi) dreams of becoming an action star. He accidentally frees a pretty woman from an enchanted painting. She turns out to be a nine-tailed-fox imprisoned for a long time. The two work on their dreams of becoming an actor and becoming a human. Soon enough, they fall in love with each other.
The fantasy and reality mixture of the story is what kept the engrossing vibe. Shin Min Ah’s gumiho character perks up the drama in providing laugh trip moments due to her journey in adapting to the human world. The love fulfillment, although hindered with the supernatural bead that binds the main love couple, is a neat conflict catalyst cementing the love connection which grew on the course of them wanting to be each other’s protector and person.
10. Personal Taste (2010)
A vulnerable lead girl (Son Ye Jin) is betrayed by her best friend who seduced her ex-boyfriend. She meets an architect (Lee Min Ho), who is on a mission to redeem his father’s lost glory by analyzing a house designed by a legendary architect who is the lead girl’s father. Mistaking the male lead to be homophile, she lets him board in her house. But then later on, they develop feelings for each other.
There are a lot of bright tones which compensated the dry moments when the lead girl is stuck in wallowing in her lack of self-esteem. The doting scenes easily melts viewers to crave for more. Why it made this list even if I refrain from weak heroines is because the romance is sweet and satisfying.
The female lead redeems herself through her hero’s encouragement to be a better version of herself. At the same time, the hero learns to step back and appreciate the people around him instead of keeping all his woes alone.
11. Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
Presenting Sungkyunkwan Scandal – the drama that can change belief that sageuk series are not fun. A bromance-filled tale incorporating a touch of traditional Korean history set in Joseon era’s premiere school. Sungkyunkwan Scandal is a Hana-Kimi-Boys-Over-Flower-fusion set in the Joseon period. It is where I suffered the most mind-boggling Second-Lead syndrome, in the end the second-lead prevailed. *chuckles
This is a kind of school life every girl wishes for. Having three gorgeous men as your friends and even two fighting for your heart. Considering the setting is in traditional times, they are able to execute love melting scenes while studying in the library, getting stranded inside a wooden elevator, and all the rest of those happy moments shared by the scholars.
Despite the politics related conflict, what I loved most in the narrative is the optimism and bravery of the characters which help in making their portrayals worth remembering. The drama gives epic romantic scenes that when you tell your friends, you get transported back to the moment when you were actually watching it.
12. Secret Garden (2010)
The sparkling tracksuit, the sweet sit-up kiss and coffee kiss, the hilarious body swap, Ha Ji Won’s stunt woman portrayal, and Hyun Bin’s melting gaze are some of the things that I remember most about “Secret Garden”. It is a breather from rom-com prototypes with its perfect blending of fantasy and romance. Secret Garden is your drama to see when you want a K-drama marathon vacation.
It plays well in keeping the excitement stable and hits a love progression which the viewers loyally cheer for. The fantasy body-switching plot is a brilliant addition to keep the story bubbly as well as the reversal of roles for the strong heroine and weak but charming lead man.
The strength of how the love couple bicker along the way to realize they are both rendered by the love bind they throw at each other unconsciously will make you mark this drama as an all-time favorite.
13. The Greatest Love (2011)
This love drama staged in the showbiz land revolves around the story of a top actor in his prime; and a struggling actress who used to be from a famous girl group – but was condemned unfairly by the public’s judgment. In a series of forming-a-love-story, they keep on crossing the same path every now and then. Before he knows it, the cutely egoistic and mischievous Dokko Jin’s protective instinct is awakened by the pure-sometimes-vulnerable character of Ae-jung.
An endearing battle-for-the-leading-lady’s-heart showcase can leave viewers truly blissful, as the two male leads wager their creativity to let Ae Jung notice how much they love her.
The Greatest Love disarms the viewers from earthly life and draws them to thrive inside a protective romantic bubble. It is done short and sweet with a basket full of happy hearts delivered personally by cupid to all of us.
14. Scent of a Woman (2011)
Looking back what I like most about this drama is how, for a change, I got the conflict first in one big blow at the beginning of the series and I stayed glued to it even when I got the picture of expected possibilities. I felt that the tears, the smiles, the bright side, the falling flower petals, the optimism, the strong heroine and Lee Dong Wook are all perfectly placed to the finish line.
Knowing the initially laid problem, Scent of a Woman anticipates how they will reach the climax, and how the characters will play together to achieve it. As a viewer, it made me prepare for the pain because of the heroine’s inevitable dying conflict. I am happy that the story comes up with an ending that Eun-jae, Ji-wook and I deserve. It is a conclusion that befits the death defying romance premise.
Love and life affirming, if you are looking for a drama that will make you laugh, fall in love, cry and be hopeful all at the same time, this one is for you.
15. I Need Romance (2011)
I Need Romance overflows with thought-provoking lessons about romantic relationship. It might argue with your existing love standpoint and rules of dating. It makes you yearn how it feels to be in a blissful, addictive, sometimes-painful-yet-binding and worth taking a risk kind of love. Tailored in a city vibe, it narrates modern stories of women in their 30’s and how they struggle to keep their romantic relationship and the lack of it.
It features confident characters and the importance of honesty in a relationship. The sassy friendship of the lead girls cover different faces of relationships that make or break a person. It draws the depth of commitment and the pain it comes when loving someone truthfully. It is a drama that can make you finish watching in one sitting due to its addictive and realistic taste.
16. Flower Boy Ramyun Shop (2011)
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop is a ball of sweetness powered by endearing characters. It is one of the quirkiest-so-pleasing-to-watch-main-cast. A love ride that you will keep in your heart because of the memorable characters in lead and supporting roles. The humor and the love triangle keeps the engaging run topped by the eye candy relief of the flower boy filled cast. The series tackles the different fears of falling in love.
On the female lead’s perception, she is crossed with falling for someone out of her league, and it made her even more confused when another man tries claiming ownership of her too. In the male lead’s mind, his passion over wanting to be with the woman he likes pours incessantly.
That it is overwhelming her when she is still in the process of healing with so many things that happened in her life. At the end of it all, with utmost sincerity he wins her heart. Overflowing with saccharine moments, if you are craving from a sweet story, this drama suffices beyond what you expect.
17. Spy Myung Wol (2011)
In accordance to fulfilling a military order, North Korean spy Myungwol infiltrates South Korea in her goal to seduce Hallyu superstar Kang Woo (Eric) so that he defects to North Korea as part of their military plan to kill Korean wave. Yes, cutely weird right? Her persistence achieves her goal, but her emotions sway to an unexpected scenario which her undercover agent skills can’t solve.
She embarks on a dangerous love affair and proves that a memorable love can spring beyond the North Korean border. The premise of having the heroine protecting the leading man is a breather from the usual vulnerable leading ladies needing a chaebol-in-the-shining-armor to rescue them. There is an equally lovable second lead (Lee Jin Wook) on the side too – which makes the love ride all the more exciting.
- K-Drama Time Machine: SHINHWA’s Eric Moon Swoons As Hallyu-Star-In-Love With “Spy Myungwol” Han Ye Seul
18. My Princess (2011)
The long lost princess of Korea embarks on re-claiming the honor of her royal family in the modern times. But it is not easy owing to her need to prove her worth as a princess to the country along with the evident rivals determined to stop the Monarchy’s re-emergence. She relies between the devil and the deep blue sea to fulfill her filial responsibility.
Sassy couple fights, well rendered sweet hero display, and the mischievous yet vulnerable princess make up the delightful run of this love spectacle. It threads on the princess-dark-knight love tale and maintains the bliss of the romantic narrative.
My Princess is that drama you watch with your girlfriends on a pyjama night party when you don’t want to talk about work and love problems; and just want to rest and feel each other’s presence. It is perfectly and sweetly made for a woman who loves freely as it can be.
19. City Hunter (2011)
The reckless hero in City Hunter leaves a gripping impression that girls may want to be kidnapped, wishing that Lee Min Ho would rescue them in his knight-in-shining-armor glory. Playing devil-may-care-ass-kicking-casanova is enough not to check the teaser and go straight on board the drama.
With ample romance, gorgeous fight scenes and definitive plot, it raised the bar to action drama set in modern times. The nifty plot provides life lessons owing to the base pretext of the main character’s family issues. Each episode is done where the tussles did not exhaust the viewers but place them on trance for wanting more.
20. The Princess’ Man
Reminiscent of Romeo-and-Juliet but in the back drop of Joseon era, The Princess’ Man sends any viewer to a weepfest due to the harrowing struggles and motivations of the love couple. The directing and cinematography are captured efficiently projecting an emotionally draining love chronicle. How they maneuver the movements of the conflict without making the protagonists looked so annoyingly pathetic is strategically done which yields admiration to its writing.
It is a moving narrative of how the lead couple patiently wait to claim the love that is rightfully theirs. An agonizing yet gratifying tale that reminds us of the risks in committing yourself to someone. That it could give bittersweet pain of coming to terms that love has always casualties.
21. The King 2 Hearts (2012)
King 2 Hearts is staged in a quasi-utopian Korean world where the North and South Koreans are sort of in peaceful communicating terms. It is polished, calculated but never failing to entice and push the audience to the assumed outcomes. That being said, what I applaud about this drama is how it seems predictable but it will act otherwise.
It meets all the criteria for a superb k-drama in terms of directing and acting plus it ends with conviction. It has one of the most memorable villains who graced the evil camp land and a heartbreaking second lead character conclusion. It is an honest yet tender love picture of a man and woman who overcome political ideologies and personal reservations.
22. Faith (2012)
Taking a slow-moving approach, Faith moves to a direction where it was making the viewers join the drama characters. Cheering for them, feeling each of the character’s pain and glory is inevitable. It engrosses with the happy moments and draws frustrations with the inability to end the villains vile ways. It successfully established a connection that will not make it forgettable.
Assimilating the action plot with the supernatural spices and decorating it with folklore made Faith an astounding drama treat. Having a band of villains equipped with mojos and X-men powers, a sassy and bubbly modern day doctor that was lost cutely to a new world she was forced to live, and of course the Thor-ish General who made Kenshin Himura looked so inferior – were the essentials that made this drama such an enthralling TV experience.
Defying time and never giving up on their love, even if the time played with them makes Faith a drama worthy to be added on your watch list.
23. Rooftop Prince (2012)
Joseon Era – All is doing well with Crown Prince Yi-gak (Park Yoochun). The empire is smooth sailing and he enjoys afternoon walks with his princess and riddle games with his sister-in-law. Until a morning of surprise when the Crown Princess is found dead floating on a lake. Determined to catch the culprit on the Princess’ death, he gathered three of the most useful Joseon men he could find and off they go to uncover the mystery.
In their pursuit to unveil the cause of the Princess’ death, they are transported 300 years after to modern Korea and landed on a rooftop house. From there the real adventure begins. The adorable three Musketeers and their prince are a bundle of bliss showering viewers chuckling moments on how they acclimatize to modern living.
The romance is not rushed, and with that love-transcending-time premise, excuse me Romeo and Juliet here’s a couple to beat. It is not your perfect drama technical and script wise, in fact there are a few labyrinth-bound story bends and out of place conflicts. But then again the sweet moments and the humor are overpowering so you would hardly notice the lapses.
24. Queen In Hyun’s Man
The drive to bring the viewers to a spontaneous romantic binge while holding the reign to a bewitching plot is quenchless with this time-slip-rom-com delight. Queen In Hyun’s Man stirs an excitement due to its avant-garde story of a time-traveling Joseon scholar who utilizes a talisman that powers his time-space wrinkling ability to hide in the present time while brewing his next moves on fulfilling his duty to the deposed Joseon Queen.
An actress helps him to adapt to contemporary living and they eventually fall in love with each other. The drama is hip and fun and affirms that my decision to eat k-dramas for breakfast is valid. Queen and I disarms the viewers each episode through its creative drama pulls by going maverick to is predicted to happen. It swerves from the typical KDrama cliches of unfinished love issues, family problems, useless vengeance driven characters, and all those personal exhausting battles.
Given the time-voyaging premise of the story, the production team worked diligently on the smooth timeline transitions with witty humor. It plays the past and present ends without losing the fluidity of the story. The story line pulls off and amazing conflict deliverance in a make-sense attitude. It is a supernatural rom-com drama at its best, no questions asked, period.
25. Moon Embracing the Sun (2012)
This drama premiered with a grand fireworks display. The ratings stayed up even if there were times when the plot movement really needed to speed up. But the production team sure knew when to wake you up when you were about to doze off, so the following remained positively raving. The young love which bloomed and defied time, reasons, and political issues are reasons why the production was applauded immensely.
The strong and consistent character portrayals, supernatural seasonings, family issues and brotherly love cement the viewers’ loyalty. It is euphoric on its strong notes and contemplating on its sad tones. The verdict? This is a drama full of love and anguish, but you will eventually CHERISH it.
26. A Gentleman’s Dignity (2012)
A Gentleman’s Dignity tells the story of a brotherhood of middle-aged men, 40 plus, who grew up as friends since high school and nurture their friendship since then. The morning breakfast forums, the constant cover ups to survive the feisty wife, the one-sided love, the mischievous-kiss-may-december-love-affair, the now-we-break-up-tomorrow-we’ll-get-back relationship, the opening hilarious anecdotes, the sweetest, heart-wrenching love declarations and love-believe-me’s, and the bromance – are some of the reasons why I highly recommend this rom-com favorite. From a woman’s perspective,
I enjoy the stories of these blow up F4 boys as having them all together is the strongest point of the drama. The conflicts mainly focus on finding and keeping a functioning relationship for them. I have generally positive feelings on the series.
All those minor-so-what-situational-supporting-conflict I disregard because the story and the characters have sketched love anecdotes that can make people ponder on how they deal with commitment issues. This drama makes you remember how vulnerable and defiant you become because of love.
27. Reply 1997 (2012)
Reply 1997 sprints all the way to the audience’ hearts with its vibrant characters, nostalgic premise, fan girl foolish escapades, friendship and crazy first love. Nothing magical, mythical and supernatural, just a pure trip down to the moments of when we were young. Spicing up the story with flashback element, the drama switches from present to the later part of the ‘90’s showcasing tamagotchi, flip top phones and other ancestors of modern technology in their conceiving stage.
This engrossing first love drama shares a wonderful friends-turned-lovers journey without hassles. It will make you recollect the good old times when you first passionately and recklessly fell in love. The charming screenplay brings out the best of the newbie artists.
The evasion from rom-com clichés makes the plot a winner. Reply 1997 grows on you without you realizing it. This is a wistful memoir of that point in time that we first fell in love.
- K-Drama Time Machine: Jung Eun Ji & Seo In Guk Warmed Viewers’ Hearts With Nostalgic Romance & Friendship In “Reply 1997”
28. The Master’s Sun (2013)
In the sea of dramas where stories are usually woven from the rich-boy-poor-girl love affair or the male-pretending-lead-girl, a you-and-me-against-the-ghosts love story hits all the romantic nerves in my body even with its comic spooky vibes. In a way, the calculated but not false-hope promising story pace invites the viewers to back up the lead love couple in discovering the reasons why they fell in love with each other, alongside why they are in denial and scared to admit it.
When you have a stubborn romantic lead man who with-and-without amnesia knows how to claim the heart of the woman he loves; and a heroine who struggles in confusion to the path on how she is supposed to love her man – it will give you a love tale full of acceptance and understanding. It will inspire you to trust why your heart falls in love with the person and how your mind will be overpowered by reasons.
A nicely blended romance that reminds how being with someone is not half-loving yourself and half-loving the person. It should be loving the person with all you can.
29. That Winter The Wind Blows (2013)
“I pretended to be a long lost brother to a blind heiress because I need money to continue to live only to find myself waking up wanting to protect my fake little sister every single day” is the premise of this melodrama. That Winter the Wind Blows nails adequate emotional scenes to stimulate the heart and tear ducts, but not bordering on a draining weep fest.
Loving someone when you are literally blind takes faith beyond reasons, and finding a reason to live because you love someone takes bravery beyond faith. Narrating the tale of not really siblings who are entangled by fate, unexpected fondness, blind trust, and true love; this drama surges up with the intense revelations and love conflict. It was not a happy-yey!-ever-after closure, but at least they end up together.
Sometimes it’s really the pain that makes the love worth it, because without it you can never differentiate if you are willing to let go or to love the person. That Winter, The Wind Blows is a poignant love drama that will make you remember how you are scared to start a love you are unsure of. Also, how you took the odds to claim it. It is not perfect but it is emotionally stunning.
30. My Love From the Star (2014)
Love stories need not to be so big in a romantic kind of way. Not that I didn’t like the “alien-who-loved-me” twist, but My Love From the Star draws a great following because of the vibrant characters who brought to life their fictional images in an unforgettable way. I think the lightness of the conflicts and not involving much negative emotion, but focusing on making the lead couple work their way to defy the cosmic problem inhibiting them from being together gives a gratifying closure for the story.
Engrossing and fun, it has surely and splendidly built up the conflict, the romance, and the conflicting romance, binding me in perplexing contemplation on how a drama with typical love pretext propels a romantic bliss without never looking back. It comes strongly and surely with each chapter, seemingly faultless in executing the how-to-make-a-perfect-romcom guidelines.
31. Discovery of Love (2014)
Discovery of Love walks on the unconventional path of presenting the love story between an estranged couple and how they are able to realize that their love is true even then, and even years after. The heart-breaking dialogues during those “if you only did that” scenes rip me apart as a viewer due to its painful truth.
Given the situations and dilemmas raised in the story line, it is really how a normal person would have thrown words at his lost love who presents himself again just when you thought you are done and over him. It gives a painful reminiscing of how after losing a cherished love, it makes us contemplate on how a lost love is a reminder of how beautiful things can change painfully in a moment, and there would be no way for you to prepare.
Hitting all the realistic elements of what it really takes to be in a relationship is the best part of the love triangle in this roller coaster romantic ride. The series dig into the root of love problems in a coherent world – the strength to let go of a half-baked love and the choice to be in a not so perfect but true love.
- K-Drama Time Machine: When Eric Moon & Jung Yu Mi Gave Romance A Second Chance In “Discovery Of Love”
32. It’s Okay That’s Love (2014)
It might be the most unconventional modern romance drama. But given that sickness in K-dramaland usually involves amnesia or anything fatal, the unique illness conflict makes the drama attractive. It’s Okay, That’s Love is just how relationship realities are translated in ardent and unadulterated TV drama scenes.
It incites emotional outburst from a beautiful and heartfelt thread of painful and fervid love moments that will cut deep in anyone’s heart while recollecting memories of how it felt to love someone deeply without holding back.
Seamless and unfeigned, it progresses from warm to romantic to sacrificial to against-all-odds and eventually to you-were-meant-for-me love timeline. I saw all the faces of love tackled bravely and painfully in this love story.
- K-Drama Time Machine: Jo In Sung And Gong Hyo Jin Shared Heartfelt Romance On “It’s Okay That’s Love”
33. Healer (2014)
Healer is one of the best Korean dramas you should include in your list if you haven’t seen it yet. It has a brilliant premise about a one-of-a-kind hero who chose to disconnect from society, but accidentally grew attachment to a woman who drew him out of his hibernation. The drama quaintly links the furtive relationship of the characters while building up the plot’s climax and romance to perfection.
It is so addictive and a drama you can sit on with family, friends and even your lover. The story’s main conflict focuses on peeling the truth behind the death of the lead couple’s fathers while journeying on their fated love. While a lot evolves in the story, it never misses its steps in binding the romance, the back story and the conflicts together.
The story is intoxicating because it assimilates Healer’s Promethean skills and heartfelt media coverage to battle the conscience-less power players of the country. When your cast is smart and the writing is nifty, there’s no way the notes will not be hit.
- K-Drama Time Machine: “Healer” Soothes With Impressive Romantic Story Powered By Ji Chang Wook & Park Min Young
34. My Love Eun Dong (2015)
A man’s unrequited romance to a woman who keeps being separated from him by fate spins the story of My Love Eun Dong. It narrates a love story so blissful and agonizing as if it came straight from a classic love novel. The love couple met when they were young and became each other’s puppy love, they meet again in college and they formally enter a relationship.
But the girl, Eun Dong (Kim Sarang) who dreams of being an actress, faces an accident which separates her again from the the lead man. He becomes a top actor to fulfill her dream. In his quest to find his true love, he commissions a ghost writer to help write a book about his love story. Eun Dong, who is suffering amnesia, takes the job and while writing the book, her memory comes back.
She realizes the lies her current disabled husband and adopted father did to her. The conflict of Eun Dong’s marriage situation while the lead man fervently waits for her is agonizing. It is a test of justifying what you’ve been through to lose your greatest love and if you can be happy after reclaiming your love that is legally not yours anymore.
The love triangle is in a helpless state trying to break out from that suffocating bind. My Love Eun Dong uses a strong narrative which will put the audience on an emotional dilemma in finding a solution for everyone to be happy. It leaves a lesson that love involves two people loving each other the best way they can and not how the people around them understands it.
35. Reply 1988 (2015)
They say that as you age along, you get more sentimental as you look back on what has happened in your life. Sitting on this neighborhood drama set between 1988 – 1995 makes you reminisce the good old days of endearing family love and friendship full of memories and laughter. Reply 1988 pays homage to the irreplaceable bliss of being young – of our young dreams and our young love.
It gives you a trip to memory lane when technology hasn’t taken over the world yet— when friends meet up at a house to watch movies, to eat and to chat and when romance comes true by heartfelt love declarations, stolen kisses and warm hugs.
Hands down to the extent of the research and the meticulously vibrant writing that are fused together to bring up a heartwarming chronicle. It feels like stepping into a time-warping machine and bringing out the best memories of our youth.
Delving on nostalgic premise, Reply 1988 brilliantly utilizes sweet melancholia by sending the viewers back to their very own youth. It is a strip of mementos any person with a euphoric youth can relate to.
36. Oh My ghost (2015)
Bright, cheerful and feel good are the after-effects of Oh My Ghost chapter doses. It consistently runs the romance and comedy by sprinkling it with an adorable supernatural twist. A timid girl connives with a wandering ghost to build up her self esteem in her plan to seduce the man she likes. The man she likes is a famous chef who thinks his employee is suffering from a bipolar disorder hence she is switching from perky to shy attitude.
As romance slowly blooms between them, the wandering ghost’ sad death is revealed. Park Bo Young is able to differentiate the two characters she portrayed resulting in the rom-com elements being fused well with the metaphysical plot of the story. Each character’s story is entwined neatly to the conflict making the love story binding.
It’s hard not to drum your feet on your bed and grin when the hero turns to his usual I’m-the-man antics and the heroine’s pesky man cravings guided by the spirit possessing her body. If you are in need of a love elixir to boost your already blooming relationship of if you just want a perfect rom-com drama getaway, this drama will serve the purpose.
37. Descendants of the Sun (2016)
Rarely do we get a story in dramaland that is so affecting when the narrative is relying on the love plot. Most of the time it maintains a decent showing but in the waning part of the series it will lose its magic. The raves it got can be attributed to how fitting the actors to their character portrayals are, the snappy lines and giggle inducing captured frames and how the story depends on the fulfilment of the romance.
The charm of Captain Yoo Si Jin (Song Joong Ki) would have not been possible if his lead girl was not as endearing as our clever surgeon Mo Yeon (Song Hye Kyo). Descendants of the Sun takes pride in capturing the heartfelt romance even with a violence and disaster plot. It marks lessons on patriotism, life, career and friendship. It defies all K-drama overuse tropes by going to balanced character portrayals and earnest romance build up.
This is a drama so beautiful in each chapter, and even more stunning as it flows in the culminating closure. It sends an inspiring message to become the best that we can ever be to the person we love, to the profession we have and to the life we live.
38. Another Oh Hae Young (2016)
Another Oh Hae Young narrates the story of a woman whom after all the betrayals and half-hearted I-love-you replies still chooses to be with the man she loves. She might appear weak for letting her love for him consume all the reasons why she should let him go. She might look desperate for throwing away the fears she felt, the days she half-lived and the moments she almost gave up.
But at the end of it all, she just wanted to love and be loved back. We typically get utopian love stories, but that is not the case for Another Oh Hae Young. They shared the pain and the bliss in its barest and heart-piercing manner. The angst and confusion of qualifying love is stripped to its messiest and yet sweetest state just how someone would remember how he fought for his one great passionate love. It details the real emotion someone has to go through when he is bargaining with love and when he is angry and missing the person at the same time.
It induces a love lesson on how you don’t overthink when you intend to love someone all the way, how you say I love you because that’s what you felt at that moment, and how you embrace the love feeling because you believe it to be true. This sweet melodrama takes pride in its keen perception of the difference between how a man and a woman take distinct approaches in loving someone while weighing on their preconceived inhibitions that the relationship might not work.
39. Legend of the blue sea (2016)
The fusion of a reincarnation plot and a mermaid-human romance appears trite on its onset, but as the plot thickens, the mythical element supports the romance driving point of the story. It effortlessly keeps the viewers piqued on how the plot will unfold to stay invested in its future episodes. The consistency of the plot while using alternate timelines of the past and the present would have gone ambiguous.
But the writer strategically alternates the focal character point from the heroine in its preliminary episodes, then maneuvers to a hero-centric plot halfway through the story. Legend of the Blue Sea succeeds in a lively pace of intelligent storytelling with smart characters you will not hate as they don’t play dumb at hindrances thrown at them. It is superb in the candied-heart-fluttering moments of the love couple, but even stronger in relaying the sweet and yet agonizing journey to endure the love they have in the present in the pretext of a human-mermaid romance impossibility.
It smartly spins the narrative by using simple rules considering its fantasy premise by modernizing the reincarnation plot, and by playing the resident drama fix of how love overcomes everything between two people fated to be together.
40. Something about 1% (2016)
With its swift format following how web dramas usually are, this sweet love treat explores the story with each closing chapter with a stunning lead couple chemistry. The drama generously displays heart-fluttering scenes every chance they can get. The premise of contract relationship has tendencies to overkill rom-com drama if not elaborated with the right amount of love progression.
Something About 1% translates how romance happens in reality which is by sharing conversations, bickering and meaningful events. They are on a clear agreement that strings will not be attached only to succumb to the emotion that springs as a result of spending time with one another. They are intending not to cross the wall they set initially, only to realize how binding shared memories can be in a relationship.
It is refreshing to feel a romance drama that is not fortified with misplaced conflicts and negative vibes. It may not be that polished or creatively conceived with twist and turns and top actors that can make such a romantic drama spree amazing. But it is with its heartfelt and pure storytelling that made me pick as one of the rom-coms I’ve seen. It leaves a message on how love does not happen in an instant.
You’d be lucky if you recognize it happening at the moment. It is when we are not beside the person that we realize we are in love, and holding them in our arms is when we want to love them even more.
41. W: Two Worlds (2016)
W: Two Worlds imbibes an electrifying writing but it fails to close the story with a befitting ending. Sprinting in a mind-blowing setting this rom-com about a manhwa hero crossing the real world pushes the audience to the extent of an imaginary world where everything is possible to happen.
The transition of the alternating worlds is a visual treat along with the love couple’s charming renditions. Despite the staggering twists and turns in the narrative, I still like how W: Two Worlds is ambitious on how it vividly displays and chronicles a love story that defies alternate universes.
It maneuvers to constant deviation and possibilities having the premise of “everything is possible to happen as long as they can draw it”. The fantasy premise lets you feel immersed in the extent of chimeric world the story threads to, even when it hits a frustrating circle.
The drama accelerates to its proxy-universe-deriding setting. It presents a surreal drama experience and yet the romance development for the main leads is pragmatic and memorable. Be prepared for a mixed emotional spin as you frolic on this enslaving K-drama spectacle.
42. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (2016)
This is the drama I will make my daughter watch when she goes to college so she can have an idea of what a perfect college boyfriend is. *wink This campus romance pokes buried love memories set in their school life. Weightlifting Fairy lunges to a momentum that viewers can relate to.
Buoyant and feel good, Bok Joo and the rest of the sports athletes in Haneul University give us an awesome time with their interactions and side chronicles. It is a simple story with an almost non-existent conflict. The hours spent watching them fall in love was like a comfort food and bubble wrap combined.
It is a genuine coming of age story that beautifully captured the joy and pain and everything in between of being young, of building dreams and of falling in love for the first time.
43. Goblin (2016)
Goblin affirms your K-drama fan spirit with its addictive pace, perceptive characters, detailed back story and the exciting race to its closure. It gives a constant awe at how the yarn of the folklore and supernatural mise-en-scene fit perfectly to the modern setting. What made Goblin such a novelty for a love story is how the transcendental element blends the mystical notes and sensible realities happening in the narrative. It marks all the bullet points of a lingering story even though the metaphysical milieu is tricky.
Although set on a melancholic tone, the dynamics of the cast and the lively humor cushioned the viewers so well given its inevitable tragic ending. At times there are moments when it is languid, but it was necessary for the build-up of the character connections to make the climactic conflict confrontation solid and stunning. Goblin is beautifully done from its cinematography, story line to its character portrayals.
The writing does a lot of impossible tweaks by conceiving an intricate realm while managing the labyrinth set for the story. The exquisite tale of a man searching for the woman to end his immortality curse establishes a memory that K-drama followers will still love in the future.
It explores the boundless creativity of Korean culture through writer Kim Eun Sook’s sweet story manipulation. See for yourself why this drama raised a cult following.
44. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017)
It is a whimsical love ride with thugs, a psycho, a policeman, a gaming company CEO and a woman with extraordinary strength. The labyrinth is a whirlwind of cuteness, mirth and everything a fan would ask K-drama gods for. Consistently endearing with amusing surprises along the way, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon is a steady delightful romantic-comedy.
It reaches a heartfelt closure for a love that missed its timing, and celebrates how true love happens when you are patient enough to wait. What made this drama so endearing is the perfect fusion of the love couple/triangle chemistry, the warranted humor, even the slapstick travesty, and the charming tale of the heroine who blooms to become a woman who acknowledges her strengths and frailties. Hers is a story that any girl can relate to.
From those love confusions, career-where-I-am-going-questions and finding her worth as a person. This drama might be coated in chocolates and marshmallows, but it provides a tangible encouragement especially to women watching it.
45. Fight For my way (2017)
Fight For My Way incidentally creates its own kind of beauty by presenting a cheerful cast, who channeled the honest storytelling to a good-humored spectacle. This leaves lingering lessons on chasing dreams while finding true love. Charting consistent impressive ratings, the chirpy synergy of four friends living a common life leaves an impression on how love and happiness are always within our reach if we are brave and forbearing enough to claim it.
Fight For My Way deviates from the idealistic rom-com stories by giving us characters living a typical life while adjusting to career pressure and a bleak future. The love story rides on an apprehensive note as the main couple works on giving a chance to a love that will break the friendship they shared for a long time.
The approachable framing of the love and life struggles makes this drama a comforting chronicle due to its vivid sketches on how common people fight their ways to claim the love and life they deserve.
It displays a well-thought scenario, from kick-off to its closure. It is a rom-com delight that draws strength from the realistic and heartfelt conversations. It has managed to avoid K-drama cliches, thanks to the genius depiction of how normal people live to dream and to love.
46. Queen For Seven Days (2017)
Queen For Seven Days tells the story of two brothers in contention of the King’s position. It efficiently maximizes the staple government intrigues and character motivations to balance the frustrating love line. That is one of the reasons why even with its weep fest premise, you end up forgetting the tears and being consumed in finding the best way possible to make the people of that eccentric love triangle happy.
When you think of those tragic love stories, you will remember them only as a sad tale. But not in this drama. While you grieve with the love couple who are forced to love each other from afar, you will accept that true love is kept in the heart with the best memories you have with someone, even if you cannot have future moments together.
This drama, though not achieving a happy ending fully, is still a satisfying romantic tale, which will appeal to people who know that love waits, love goes on, and love endures. Queen For Seven Days leaves a lingering message on how an enduring love may not picture an ever after at the moment, yet it does not mean that it won’t be fulfilled in the future.
47. Because This is My First Life (2017)
Armed with equally captivating side romance stories, the heart-fluttering affair of two people who found love through a marriage contract interestingly pulls off a unique attraction based on its familiar tune. No self-help books can teach how life can be lived perfectly the first time. In this emotionally perceptive drama, viewers are given pep talks on how to burst happiness on our faces by living and loving to the fullest. It is a tale that would easily grow fond in your heart.
If you want to deviate from the standard romance stories, with a relaxing drama that is intuitively penned, an overnight marathon of Se Hee and the gangs’ love journey will make you sigh and ponder about the sweet little moments of being in love. If truth be told, if you have been hesitating on your marriage plans, this yolo drama prods you to disregard commitment anxieties.
48. The Third Charm (2018)
Unlike most romantic stories which do not allow a detailed growth on a character’s love perspective, the series took its strength by showing the character development of the love pairing together, and when they were apart from each other. Traversing the buildup and peak of their romance until its eventual fallout, has made the audience feel like invisible friends, who still hope that their beautiful romance will be given another chance.
Aside from a healthy dose of heart-fluttering moments viewers received from The Third Charm, the series deftly painted a genuine representation of romantic relationship through the varying perspective and maturity of the lead couple. In a sea of Korean romantic dramas, it is rare to find an unfeigned love story. Most often than not, avid followers can already predict the flow of the narrative. Hence, going an extra mile with a simple love premise is already a feat hard to accomplish.
- K-Drama Review: “The Third Charm” Drifts To A Brave Picture Of The Pain That Comes When Loving Someone
49. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (2018)
Seo In Guk is a gift in this drama; coupled with Jung So Min, and you get a K-Drama life-affirming treat through their characters’ story. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes put me on that realization on how I underestimated melodramas to be just relying on tears and series of unfortunate events to whirl its narrative.
If given proper treatment, even with bare setting along with essential conflicts and characters, it can paint an idyllic picture that goes back to one of the fundamental goals of storytelling — providing clear inspiration to its viewers.
- K-Drama Review: “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” Painfully Threads An Unforgettable & Life-Affirming Romance
50. Crash Landing On You (2019)
We finally reach the end of this Korean romance dramas countdown. We hope you include our recommendations on your K-drama watch list. You Might Also Like These Features:
- 100 Must-Watch Korean Dramas In The Last 20 Years
- Year In Review: 2019 Best Korean Dramas
- Year In Review: 2018 Best Korean Dramas
ABOUT THE WRITERabbyinhallyuland discovered the beauty of kdramas through her initial love of Korean films. She likes to travel, read, and listen to the sound of falling rain. Promoting K-Drama watching as stress therapy is her life advocacy. She is fond of Spencer Reid, Gregory House, Kenshin Himura, Starwars saga, Haruki Murakami and Hunter x Hunter.
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