In popular culture, K-Dramas are often in a miniseries format, with only one season that consists of 12 – 24 episodes. The more traditional, historical (sageuk) type of K-Dramas may be longer (50 – 200 episodes), but they also run for only one season.
With new episodes on only 2 nights per week, it’s understandable how K-Drama fans often feel like tearing their hair out from the anticipation. As Korean drama (K-Drama) fans ourselves, let us just put it out there that we feel the same pain that you do whenever we have to wait for a new episode after a cliffhanger ending.
The weekly suspense can get so unbearable that some fans forego it altogether by waiting for the new K-Drama to completely wrap up airing on TV before getting started on the series. It sounds like the perfect way to curb the weekly waiting game but there’s always the risk of accidentally reading/watching spoilers.
Our personal protip? Binge-watch the completed, slightly older K-Dramas while waiting for new episodes of a current K-Drama to fill the void. Especially if the said K-Drama stars the same actor/actress as the current K-Drama! Consider it “research”, or a whole new level of stalking.
Here are some completed K-Dramas that we highly recommend:
3 words: Lee Jong Suk (이종석).
The 20-episode K-Drama, which saw Lee Jong Suk take on the lead role alongside Park Shin Hye (박신혜), centers on young adults getting their first jobs as broadcast news reporters. The cast and storyline was very much adored by fans, culminating in Lee Jong Suk becoming the youngest actor in history to be awarded the Grimae Award for “Best Male Actor” for his performance in “Pinocchio”. He was 25 years old at that time.
The online broadcasting rights for “Pinocchio” were at a record price of USD280,000 per episode, making it the most expensive Korean drama ever to be sold in China. The record was previously held by “My Lovely Girl”, which had a price of USD200,000 per episode.
Psst. “Pinocchio” was also a good K-Drama to binge-watch while waiting for “Doctors”, which also starred Park Shin Hye.
Bride of the Century
We really had no other reason to watch this other than the fact that it starred F.T. Island‘s main vocalist, Lee Hong Gi (이홍기).
The 16-episode “Bride of the Century” (백년의 신부) is a fantasy/romance drama that revolves around a family curse that causes the first wife of the first born son to die. Lee Hong Gi plays the good-looking chaebol heir Choi Kang Joo, who is secretly harbouring pain from his childhood and therefore “closed up” and hard to read.
What’s interesting is that Lee Hong Gi’s leading lady in the K-Drama, Yang Jin Sung (양진성) plays dual roles – as Na Doo-rim, a sweet, homely girl who comes from a southern island village; and Jang Yi Kyung, a chic but cold woman who wants to marry into the Choi family. Doo-rim and Yi Kyung are doppelgängers.
Note: It does get a tad creepy at times so if you’re particularly afraid of ghosts. No spoilers, just brace yourself.
It’s Okay, That’s Love
Remember when we got to meet Jo In Sung (조인성) back in 2013? It was for the Southeast Asian leg of his “That Winter, The Wind Blows” (그 겨울, 바람이 분다) publicity tour, the K-Drama that marked his first television series in 7 years. A year after he wrapped up the tour, he made waves once again with the 16-episode “It’s Okay, That’s Love” (괜찮아, 사랑이야).
The 2014 fun, rom-com K-Drama also stars Gong Hyo Jin (공효진), Running Man’s Lee Kwang Soo (이광수) aka Girin, and EXO’s Do Kyung Soo (도경수) aka D.O, amongst others.
“It’s Okay, That’s Love” centers on the lives of the 2 leads – Jang Jae Yeol and Ji Hae Soo. Jang Jae Yeol is a mystery writer and radio DJ who suffers from obsessive–compulsive disorder. Ji Hae Soo, on the other hand, is a driven and ambitious doctor, but has a negative attitude towards love and relationships in her personal life. After she meets Jae Yeol, her life goes through big changes.
For his performance in the drama, Jo In Sung was nominated for and won the “Top 10 Stars” and “Best Couple Award” (with Gong Hyo Jin) at the 2014 SBS Drama Awards.
D.O., on the other hand, was nominated for the “Best New Actor” and “Male TV Popularity” awards at the 51st Baeksang Arts Awards. But where does D.O. fit in the cast’s equation? Watch the whole thing (without reading up on the K-Drama) for the unexpected, interesting twist at the very end!
If you love Park Bo Gum in “Love in the Moonlight” (구르미 그린 달빛), then you need to watch “Reply 1988” (응답하라 1988).
“Reply 1988” is the 3rd installment of tvN’s “Reply” series, set of 3 K-Dramas produced from 2012 to 2016. But unlike the previous “Reply series”, the 20-episode “Reply 1988” focused more on family bond than romantic love among characters.
Set in the year 1988, “Reply 1988” is about 5 families living in the same neighbourhood of Ssangmun-dong, Dobong District, Northern Seoul. Park Bo Gum (박보검) plays Choi Taek, a genius baduk (an abstract strategy board game) player known as God who is mostly quiet and struggles with simple day-to-day tasks. Taek is friends with Deok Sun (played by Lee Hyeri), Jung Hwan (played by Ryoo Joon Yeol), Sun Woo (played by Go Gyung Pyo), and Dong Ryong (played by Lee Dong Hwi) since they were little kids, and they always hang around Taek’s room and spend time together.
The K-Drama received both critical and audience acclaim with its finale episode recording an 18.8% audience share, making it the highest rated drama in Korean cable television history. Park Bo Gum won the 4th Annual DramaFever Awards’ “Best Rising Star” title and was nominated “Popularity Award in TV” at the 52nd Baeksang Arts Awards for his role in the K-Drama.
“Reply 1988” also has a remarkable OST, which consists of remakes of old songs, just like its predecessors.
Boys Over Flowers
You didn’t think that we’d forget about “Boys Over Flowers” (꽃보다 남자), did you? Based on the Japanese shōjo manga series “Boys Over Flowers” (花より男子) written by Yoko Kamio, the K-Drama is the 5th television adaptation of the manga following the Taiwanese “Meteor Garden” and its sequel “Meteor Garden II”.
2009’s 25-episode “Boys Over Flowers” spins the modern-day Cinderella tale of a poor schoolgirl at an exclusive academy who attracts the interest of the 4 ultra-rich and ultra-handsome “princes” of the school known as F4. It also boasts a stellar cast – Lee Min Ho (이민호), Gu Hye Sun (구혜선), Kim Hyun Joong (김현중), Kim Sang Bum aka Kim Bum (김상범), and Kim Joon (Hangul 김준) – that shot to stardom overnight.
The K-Drama attracted such high ratings and buzz during its broadcast that it created another Hallyu (Korean Wave) throughout Asia. In fact, the show is credited with launching the career Lee Min Ho, who had previously appeared in a small number of low-budget high school dramas.
Can you believe that it has been 7 whole years since the K-Drama was released? Them cheesy hairstyles, explained 😀
Scholar Who Walks The Night
“Sageuk” K-Dramas are all the rage these days, what with “Love in the Moonlight” (구르미 그린 달빛) and “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo” (달의 연인 – 보보경심 려) fighting for the top spot these days because they share the same 2-day slots.
But before Lee Joon Gi (이준기) took on his princely role in “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo”, he was in another sageuk-style television series last year, titled “Scholar Who Walks at Night” (밤을 걷는 선비).
The 20-episode fantasy K-Drama, based on the manhwa (South Korean comics) of the same name, is set in an alternate Joseon dynasty, and centers on vampires and a cross-dressing bookseller (played by Lee Yu Bi). Lee Joon Gi plays handsome and mysterious scholar Kim Sung Yeol. A vampire, he is haunted by the long-ago death of his first love, Lee Myung Hee (played by Kim So Eun), especially when he meets Myung Hee’s present-day doppelgänger Choi Hye-ryung.
Let’s not forget that it also stars drop dead gorgeous (pun totally intended) South Korean model-turned-actor Lee Soo Hyuk (이수혁) as evil vampire Gwi.
All 3 leads – Lee Joon Gi, Lee Yu Bi, Lee Soo Hyuk – emerged winners at the 2015 MBC Drama Awards for their roles in the K-Drama. Lee Soo Hyuk bagged “Best New Actor” while Lee Yu Bi won “Best New Actress”, and Lee Joon Gi swept the “Top 10 Stars” award.
My Lovely Girl
In the interest of taking this back to the K-Pop fandom side of things, let’s talk about 2014’s “My Lovely Girl” (내겐 너무 사랑스러운 그녀), which stars starring Jung Ji-hoon (정지훈) aka Rain, INFINITE’s Kim Myung Soo (김명수) aka L, and f(x)’s Krystal Jung (크리스탈 정).
Produced not long after Rain completed 21 months of mandatory military service, “My Lovely Girl” marked Rain’s return to the entertainment industry.
In the K-Drama, he plays composer-producer Lee Hyun Wook, the seemingly cold and indifferent CEO of a talent agency that scouts and trains idols. A “tortured soul”, Hyun Wook is unable to let go of his ex-girlfriend who died in an accident that he witnessed firsthand 3 years prior. But that soon changes when he meets his ex-girlfriend’s sister, Yoon Se Na (played by Krystal Jung), who moves to Seoul to pursue her music-composing career.
With the K-Pop world as the backdrop, “My Lovely Girl” shows how 2 pained individuals (Hyun Wook and Se Na) eventually find healing and love through music.
We can’t go without at least talking about one of 2013’s most popular K-Dramas, the multiple award-winning “The Heirs” (왕관을 쓰려는 자, 그 무게를 견뎌라 – 상속자들).
The K-Drama stars a pretty impressive cast that includes Lee Min Ho (이민호), Park Shin Hye (박신혜), Kim Woo Bin (김우빈), CNBlue drummer Kang Min Hyuk (강민혁), f(x)’s Krystal Jung (크리스탈 정), ZE:A’s Park Hyungsik (박형식), and “Descendants of the Sun” actress Kim Ji Won (김지원 ).
The series follows a group of rich, privileged, and elite high school students as they are groomed to take over their families’ business empires. They have everything under control – except their love lives. Kim Tan (played by Lee Min Ho) is a handsome and wealthy heir to a large Korean conglomerate who is studying in the US. While in the US, Kim Tan meets Cha Eun Sang (played by Park Shin Hye), but Kim Tan is engaged to Rachel Yoo (played by Kim Ji Won). Rachel’s future stepbrother and Kim Tan’s former best friend, Choi Young-do (played by Kim Woo Bin), who also attends the same school as Kim Tan and Eun Sang, starts falling for Eun Sang as well. Let’s just say that it gets complicated when the heirs realise the differences between money and the real world.
“The Heirs” was so mad popular that international broadcasting rights were sold to 13 countries, with the highest selling price in Japan among all the 2013 K-Dramas. It even went on to bag accolades for 2 years in a row from various award shows including China’s 8th Anhui TV Drama Awards, China’s Baidu Fei Dian (“The Hottest”) Awards, 2013 SBS Drama Awards, 50th Baeksang Arts Awards, 2nd Asia Rainbow TV Awards, 9th Seoul International Drama Awards, and the 3rd APAN Star Awards.
The Innocent Man
It is without a doubt that this year’s “Descendants of the Sun” (태양의 후예) was a major hit across Asia. The K-Drama, which marked lead actor Song Joong Ki’s (송중기) comeback after serving 2 years in South Korea’s mandatory military service, was so immensely popular that KBS aired 3 additional special episodes after the finale.
And yes, the wait to see what happens next to South Korean Special Forces unit captain Yoo Si Jin aka “Big Boss” (played by Song Joong Ki) and Dr. Kang Mo Yeon (played by Song Hye Kyo) aka “the Song-Song couple” each week was intense.
Cue: “IIII looooveee youuuuu..“
To curb the anticipation, we binge-watched 2012’s “The Innocent Man” (세상 어디에도 없는 착한 남자), dark melodrama involving betrayal and romance. The 20-episode K-Drama was Song Joong Ki’s first TV leading role, and it also stars beautiful actresses Park Si Yeon (박시연) and Moon Chae Won (문채원). No spoilers here, but we will say this much: it’ll make you look at Song Joong Ki in a whole new light.
That’s all we’ve got for now! Of course, by diligently binge-watching the K-Dramas in the above list, you may just run into this risk:
But really, who’s complaining? 😉
Are there any K-Dramas that you think should’ve been added to the above list? What were some of your personal favourites? Leave a comment in the box below because we’d love to check them out!