My descent into the Korean Drama world happened rather swiftly. One moment I was watching Instagram reels. In between the travel and dance tik-toks, K-drama reels took over. The next thing I know, they were like a sugar rush to my brain. I am addicted.
Next I went on Netflix and found a buffet of Korean rom-coms, thrillers and fantasy. Around 16 episodes long, I dipped into a few. A miss here and there but watching the others were as blissful as digging into a bowl of instant noodles. Today, I’m so deep inside this rabbit hole that I know my Lees, not just Bruce but Lee Dong Wook and Lee Joon Gi.
So whether you are a newbie to this genre or simply curious, sharing my list to falling in love with K-dramas.
Only 6 episodes long (the shortest one I’ve seen till now), D.P. comes highly recommended. Well, it deserves all the praise and a Season 2. A phenomenal show, don’t let the name put you off. D.P. is an acronym for Deserter Pursuit, a unit of the military police.
Serious and gritty, it follows the young men who enlist for their two years of mandatory service in the army. As expected, military training is never a bed of roses but this series sugarcoats nothing. One is never prepared to see the kind of physical, mental, sexual abuse in this setup. The bullying is chilling and the rigid hierarchy system is crushing. So many trainees bolt. The D.P. unit is tasked with the responsibility of bringing them back safely.
This is a story of two such soldiers doing their job and how it affects them. Let’s face it, the rot exists. They know it too. So is a band aid enough?
Available on Netflix, I watched it in English. Gripping from the word go, it opens a window to a world we seldom see.
2) Flower of Evil
This was the first series I saw that swung the votes in the favour of K-drama hype.
The plot was unusual, the storyline, unpredictable. A loving couple and their child share an uneasy equation with the husband’s family. The husband himself is a gifted craftsman and a homemaker. The wife is a brilliant police detective. She begins investigating a cold case which connects to her husband who may be harbouring secrets of his own. So begins the cat and mouse chase. The wife may be clueless in the beginning but not for long. Will the husband be able to deflect attention from himself successfully? That’s a million dollar question.
This series has romance, episodes ending on cliffhanger and baffling surprises that I dare you not to google. I did it and regret it to this day.
Flower of Evil is available on Netflix.
3) Strangers from Hell
A compelling psychological thriller with a twisted plotline. Watching this show planted me firmly in the K- corner.
Only 10 episodes long, I binged on it. Dark and disturbing, this series may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Unlike the happy ones, this series showcases the sinister side.
So the story begins innocently enough with the hero shifting to Seoul to be closer to his girlfriend. He has bagged a job at his friend’s firm. His hunt for cheap lodging brings him to the Eden Boarding house perched on a hill. Unlike its biblical namesake, Eden turns out to be a hellhole. Long, dimly lit narrow corridors lined with tiny, dingy rooms that fuel claustrophobia. The other boarders are weird and creepy. Office politics, lack of emotional support from his girl friend and our hero is floundering. The impending sense of doom never really goes away.
Enter the charismatic dentist who strikes friendship with our lost soul. He of course has his own nefarious reasons but it is fascinating to see their dynamics together. Most of the jaw dropping horror elements are implied but it still catches you by surprise. Oh! It uses the unreliable narrator troupe brilliantly.
Strangers from Hell is available on both Netflix and Amazon Prime.
4) Midnight Runners
Technically not a TV series because it is a movie. Only an hour and a half long, I didn’t want it to end. I liked it so much.
Two cadets in the police academy, on an outing, accidentally witness a kidnapping. They report the crime but the police doesn’t take any action. So the dynamic duo decide to investigate the case themselves. Using the lessons they have picked during their training in the academy, they are determined to rescue the victim.
And the running commences. The bromance between the lead pair is unbelievably fantastic, the laughs are easy, the action is believable and the pace never falters. In short, a roller coaster of an entertaining film.
Midnight Runners is available on You Tube.
5) Romantic-comedies (genre)
K-dramas are synonymous with romance but they have a downside too. Most of them have plots that are either flimsy, whimsy or plain weird. Also they are high on comic elements that are loud and cringe. Last but not the least, 16 episodes, an hour long each, demand a huge time investment. Doesn’t work if your attention is wandering.
So why do I watch? For the cute little moments between the lead pair, the palpable chemistry and the swoon worthy romance.
I’ve seen around four complete dramas. Each time the story wanted me to suspend belief and overlook the glaring loopholes. I did it because they nailed the romantic portions.
I recently finished What’s wrong with Secretary Kim? Again a slow buildup. Had to wait for the wooing to begin in earnest by an over achiever, narcissist boss who’d do anything to stop his super efficient secretary from resigning.
Hard to believe that this is the same series I had put in cold storage after the second episode. Picked it once again and became so obsessed that I even downloaded Netflix on my phone for it. Go figure.
Well, that’s a wrap!
So have I sparked your interest in K-drama? Do you have any recommendations for me? I don’t mind non K-series too. I’m on my summer break and my calendar for summer viewing is absolutely clear.
Till next time, in a sunshine state of mind.