I’m basically watching kdramas as soon as I get home after work; on weekends when I don’t have plans that involve me leaving the house; or sometimes, when I’m on the train to work, the shuttle back home, or wherever possible. I admit to watching dramas at work, when things are not as hectic. I’m churning out reports right now and I’m watching the most recent episode of Trot Lovers bit by bit on the side. I’m more than halfway through. Ha.
I’m ecstatic that you’re asking for recommendations, but scared as well because… how do I limit my answer to just a handful of dramas??? Also, there’s always that worry that other people won’t enjoy something that once gave me so much joy.
Let me just do a run down of all my favorite dramas, in chronological order.
Full House (2004) - Really cute, if formulaic, rom-com starring Rain and Song Hye-kyo. My first foray into contract marriages and forced co-habitation as tropes. I love these tropes.
Delightful Girl Chun-hyang (2005) - A modern retelling of the classic Korean folktale The Tale of Chun-hyang, this was my first foray into the wonderful world of dramas written by the Hong Sisters. Funny, endearing, and witty, I must’ve seen this a handful of times by now.
Que Sera Sera (2007) - This drama will not suit everyone’s taste. It’s a passionate, emotional, and twisted drama that’s more character driven than plot driven, and it unapologetically demonstrates unadulterated emotional abuse in relationships. All the characters are flawed beyond the realms of dramaland, in that they’re all so realistically broken. It’s so easy to hate all of them, even the two leads. But damn if the chemistry between Eric Mun and Jung Yumi was not scorching hot.
Coffee Prince (2007) - Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun-hye being super cute while breaking your heart into teeny, tiny pieces… And then gluing it back together in the end. What’s that Korean saying? He gives the disease and then gives the medicine? Yeah, that’s what this drama is. Also, my first experience with gender-bending Korean drama.
You’re Beautiful (2009) - "I will promise youuuu…" I have to admit, this was the drama that got me addicted. It might not have been my first, but its significance in my drama-watching history is great. Jang Geun-suk, Lee Hong-ki, Jung Yong-hwa, and Park Shin-hye will always have special places in my heart. "Hyung-nim!" My second gender-bending drama, but A.N.JELL and the awesome OST takes center stage for me.
Secret Garden (2010)- Not exactly the best out there… But I do admit that it was laugh-out-loud funny when it wanted to be, and wrought tears when it had to. Clumsy writing aside, this is a kdrama “modern” classic. This drama propelled several pop culture references: foam kisses, sit-up kisses, and "Kim suhanmoo keobugiwa durumi…"
Dream High (2011) - Nothing’s better than a handful of misfit underdogs trying to prove to the world that they can be winners. Bring that premise to a performing arts school where beautiful idol kids roam, plus a wonderful soundtrack, not to mention amazing performances from Kim Soo-hyun and JYP himself… well, DRAMA GOLD.
White Christmas (2011) - This is a wonderful whodunit-slash-murder-mystery-slash-psycho-thriller mini-series that propelled the acting careers of most of our favorite new generation male models: Lee Soo-hyuk, Sung Joon, Hong Jong-hyun, Kim Young-kwang, and Kim Woo-bin.
City Hunter (2011)- Still my favorite Lee Min-ho drama to date. It’s action-packed, yet cute and romantic. It takes a while to pick up steam, but when it does… it’ll prove difficult to turn off the drama at every cliffhanger ending.
Shut Up Flower Boy Band (2011) - This was probably my favorite of tvN’s Flower Boy series. Awesome music, gorgeous men, and the wonderful cameo by Lee Min-ki - what more can you ask for?
The King 2 Hearts (2012) - With all around amazing performances from Lee Seung-gi, Ha Ji-won, Jo Jung-suk, and Lee Yoon-ji, this drama supposes a South Korea still ruled by its monarchy and the attempts to reunify the Korean archipelago by marrying off its arrogant prince to the tough daughter of a North Korean general. Comedy and heartbreak ensues.
Reply 1997 (2012) - A coming-of-age drama that recounts the teenage years of a group of friends in Busan. Set in the 90’s, the joys and woes of friendship, family, and love is set to the background of boybands, silly hairdos, and 90’s Korean pop music.
For the more recent surge of kdramas, you can always refer to the kdrama tag on my blog.