Hellokpop K-Drama Picks: A Tribute To Classic Korean Dramas That Never Lose Magic
Reaching a phenomenal popularity, classic Korean dramas essentially have contributed to the worldwide growth of Hallyu.
With the internet aiding the prevalence of streaming K-Drama content through various online video platforms, the direction of the industry it belongs looks utterly auspicious.
An offshoot of this thought ended up propelling our K-drama team to kick off this new segment of rounding up our own recommendations.
Trust us, drawing a preference list is hard. Although we can’t argue how recent Korean dramas keep on getting better, there are just quintessential Korean television series not to be missed.
On that note, since we have just recently begun a new year, our first recommendation list celebrates the K-Dramas which became forerunners of Hallyu.
We present our favorite classic Korean dramas. When we say classic, we mean it for dramas which aired between 2000 until 2010.
Note that we considered availability of video sources for this list since we want to celebrate our cherished picks with fellow K-Drama followers.
The oldest drama that I saw was 1999’s Happy Together, the weep-fest series starring Lee Byung Hun, Kim Ha Neul, Song Seung Heon, Cha Tae Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun.
In early 2000, Korean dramas prevailing genre were melodramas. At that time, I was in constant bickering with my brother, who always complain about melodramas with heroines crying every episode. That appears to be true, my tear ducts were on a regular exercise during those years. Thankfully, period dramas and romantic comedies slowly joined the ruling drama roster so it provided alternative series to binge on.
Here are my favorite iconic dramas.
A Jewel in the Palace (2003)
Lee Young Ae painted an iconic character in the hit MBC series A Jewel In The Palace. Although period dramas are notoriously known for their lengthy run, this woman-empowering series will not bring you down.
I’m Sorry, I Love You (2004)
Slowly emerging as a dominating trend last year, healing dramas are conquering K-Drama landscape. 15 years ago, I’m Sorry, I Love You was an emotionally written masterpiece that ironically encourages.
Something Happened in Bali (2004)
Taking the archetypal route of Korean melodramas, if watched at this time, the Jo In Sung, So Ji Sub and Ha Ji Won love triangle series, would surely appear trite and something you have seen before. In a way, the rich-boy-poor-girl and problematic second-lead syndrome elements can be traced to this model tearjerker that refuses to make an apology to its brave ending.
Love Story in Harvard (2004)
Carving a memorable story amidst a strong K-Drama season, what made Love Story in Harvard remarkable for me is how it did not make me a blabbering mess. It honestly felt seeing a favorite romance novel of mine on television.
Full House (2004)
Aiding the boost to romantic-comedy stories, Rain and Song Hye Kyo’s starrer takes a cohabitation plot between a top star and a writer who eventually fall in love with each other.
Princess Hours (2006)
The arranged-marriage-turned-real love slow burns to an addictive high through Ju Ji Hoon and Yoon Eun Hye’s impeccable chemistry.
READ: Princess Hours Review
My Girl (2006)
As one of the forerunners of prototype rom-coms, Lee Dong Wook and Lee Da Hae’s My Girl is an enjoyable watch that would make you hug your pillow tight.
The Book of Three Han (2006-2007)
Admittedly, Jumong’s story pushed me to my K-Drama fan girl limit. With all the wars I cheered them for, as well as the royal family disputes that drown me. But it is not dubbed as one of the best period series without a reason. It really is a force to reckon.
The First Shop of Coffee Prince (2007)
Pretending to be a man, Yoon Eun Hye’s remarkable role in Coffee Prince with Gong Yoo easily slips to fans all-time favorite list.
READ: Coffee Prince Review
Worlds Within (2008)
Before the realistic romance stories in I Need Romance franchise, it was Worlds Within for me. The heartfelt traverse of a couple working in the drama production team portrayed by Hyun Bin and Song Hye Kyo is under-appreciated, but it is one that I first exclaimed, “Hey this story happens in real life!”
City Hall (2009)
Writer Kim Eun Sook’s illustrious career keeps growing but this Kim Sun Ah and Cha Seung Won darling remains a comforting pill for me during rainy days.
You’re Beautiful (2009)
If I want to go for sassy and cute, Hong sister’s You’re Beautiful is my go-to amusement party.
READ: You’re Beautiful Review
Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
Another lively treat not to be missed is Sungkyunkwan Scandal powered by Park Min Young, Park Yoo Chun, Yoo Ah In and Song Joong Ki. Those sweet scenes, even with its setting in Joseon era, had me giggle like a high school girl then and even now when I do reruns.
Secret Garden (2010)
Signaling the beginning of fantasy-romance genre trend, Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won had created a stunning drama portrait in their body-switching romance in Secret Garden.
Autumn in My Heart (2000)
The first installment of season-themed Endless Love series starring Song Seung Heon, Song Hye Kyo and Won Bin has a bittersweet love story and a tragic ending. I cried buckets of tears the first time I watched it, and whenever I feel like having a good cry, this is my go-to-drama.
Beautiful Days (2001)
A story about two sisters who grew up together at an orphanage and two brothers who detested each other. The characters’ lives get entangled through music and a twist of fate. This was the first Lee Byung Hun drama that I watched, and he blew me away. It seemed I was not the only one as the writers had to revise the script in the middle of filming. His stellar performance and great chemistry with Choi Ji Woo changed his character from the second lead to the guy who got the girl in the end!
Winter Sonata (2002)
Bae Yong Joon and Choi Ji Woo starred in this second installment of Endless Love series (there are four but only two made my favorite list). This one kept the theme of the entire series – childhood connection, first love, reunion and a tragedy or sickness threatening the relationships of its cast. However, contrary to Autumn in My Heart, this drama has a happier ending. The two main characters, constantly separated by circumstances and the tragic aftermath from an accident, still end up being together.
Successful Story of a Bright Girl (2002)
Whenever people ask me about a list about k-dramas, this one always takes a spot. This was the very first K-drama I watched, and I’m hooked ever since. Jang Na Ra and Jang Hyuk were simply so cute in this classic Korean drama. It contains all the rom-com elements that makes this an enjoyable watch.
Stairway to Heaven (2003)
Another Choi Ji Woo tear-jerker, but this time, she starred opposite Kwon Sang Woo. Although it did not have a happy ending, the journey of the two leads to finding their way back to each other was worth all the tears and heartaches. Seeing Kim Tae Hee as a baddie in this drama was an added bonus. There were times I wanted to pull her out of the screen, and gave her a piece of my mind, that’s how effective she was as a villain.
Miss Mermaid (2002)
Talk about revenge plot, Miss Mermaid is the drama that easily comes to my mind. Jang Seo Hee’s primary motivation was hate. And the things she did ensured the person who caused her misery (aka her father) suffered the most. However, no matter how much hate blinded her, love had found a way to change her. It made her realized there was more to life than taking revenge.
My Name is Kim Sam Soon (My Lovely Sam Soon – 2005)
This Kim Sun Ah and Hyun Bin drama had me laughing for the most part because of Sam Soon’s antics. They were hilarious, and Kim Sun Ah portrayed her character so well (she even gained weight for this drama). For that dedication and relatability, Sam Soon becomes one of my all-time favorites.
Brilliant Legacy (Shining Inheritance – 2009)
Lee Seung Gi and Han Hyo Joo made a brilliant pair in this top-rating drama. Although their characters started off on the wrong foot, in the end, both managed to find comfort and love with each other. I love how the female lead made it, after all the things she went through.
Apart from surviving her struggles, I also love how her character made a positive impact on the spoiled male lead, which changed him for the better. This drama also taught me that even if everything may seem to be against you, you can never go wrong with kindness and compassion.
Kim Jae Won and Kim Ha Neul fall in love during a festival. Later on, they find out that they’re both in the same school — she’s his teacher! Will love help them defy the odds?
My Love Patzzi (2002)
Hot-tempered Jang Nara gets into trouble often because of her mischievous attitude. Kim Rae Won is in love with Jang Nara’s friend, but begins to see her in a new light after an accident.
Attic Cat (2003)
Circumstances force Kim Rae Won and Jung Da Bin (+) to live together.
Lovers in Paris (2004)
Park Shin Young and Lee Dong Gun compete for the love and affection of Kim Jung Eun. From Paris to South Korea, this drama kept viewers at the edge of their seat with romantic scenes and breathtaking scenery.
Little Bride (2004)
To 18 year old Han Ji Hye, public prosecutor Lee Dong Gun was her dream come true. However, Lee Dong Gun’s sophisticated and mature feels otherwise for the spunky and obnoxious high school student. They are forced to marry by the patriarchs of their family.
Wonderful Life (2005)
Kim Jae Won and Eugene get more than what they expected after a one night stand during a vacation – when Eugene’s character gets pregnant. Two college students juggling school and reality makes for a heartwarming and hilarious drama.
Princess Lulu (2005)
Rich and sheltered Kim Jung Eun’s world opens up when she meets Jung Joon Ho, popular playboy and businessman.
Boys Over Flowers (2009)
Lee Min Ho’s popularity exploded with this drama. Together with Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Bom and Kim Jun they formed Korea’s version of F4. Lee Min Ho defies all odds and falls in love with ordinary girl Goo Hye Sun.
Mary Stayed Out All Night (2010)
Moon Geun Young is charming and spunky as she volleys between Jang Geun Suk and Kim Jae Wook in this hilarious fake marriage scenario. Bonus points for awesome rock performances by Jang Keun Suk.
Personal Preference (2010)
Lee Min Ho wasn’t the big star he is now in this drama but he isn’t any less charming as he pretends to be a gay man to be able to live with Son Ye Jin. Their cohabitation scenes were hilarious and endearing and Lee Min Ho was already the talented actor he is today.
Mischievous Kiss (2010)
Airhead and not-so-smart Jung So Min is head over heels for brainy but cold-hearted Kim Hyun Joong. Their families end up living together, so as these two end up falling in love.
No matter how many reruns you have made, there will always be those few special Korean dramas which never fails to make you happy.
We hope you enjoyed the nostalgic trip to these perennial classic Korean drama favorites. We share your sentiments of not wanting to be judged, because we still smile and feel excited no matter how many times we watched it.
How about you? Is there any classic K-drama (s) that would first come to your mind after reading our recommendation? We hope our piece may trigger one or two for you as a fellow K-drama fan, for it’s always those unforgettable feelings of moments that count in what we watch.