Korean dramas about mental health


Mental health can be an abstract concept for those who are neurotypical, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to understand it. Korean dramas have been bringing up mental health issues and incorporating them into the everyday lives of its characters, allowing viewers to empathise.

We’ve compiled 21 Korean dramas about mental health issues, sorted into categories, so you can understand mental illnesses better as you watch the characters heal and grow.


– Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) –


1. Healer (2014)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Healer
Image credit:
KBS

Main cast:

  • Ji Chang-wook as Seo Jung-hoo/Park Bong-soo/Healer
  • Park Min-young as Chae Young-shin/Oh Ji-an
  • Yoo Ji-tae as Kim Mun-ho

Healer is centred on 3 individuals who are brought together due to a tragic incident that took place in 1992.

Ji Chang-wook plays an illegal “night courier”, codenamed “Healer”, and is known for his excellent fighting skills. Meanwhile, Chae Young-shin (Park Min-young) is a tabloid reporter who gets panic attacks whenever she sees violence due to the PTSD caused by her abusive childhood.

The two meet when Kim Mun-ho (Yoo Ji-tae), a famous journalist, hires Healer to locate and protect Ji-an – now known as Young-shin – from the people that want her dead due to the 1992 incident. While protecting Young-shin, he inadvertently falls in love with her.

Genre: Action, thriller, romance


2. Heart to Heart (2015)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Heart to Heart
Image credit:
TvN

Main cast:

  • Choi Kang-hee as Cha Hong-do/Oh Young-rae
  • Chun Jung-myung as Go Yi-seok
  • Lee Jae-yoon as Jang Doo-soo
  • Ahn So-hee as Go Se-ro
  • Joo Hyun as Go Sang-gyu
  • Kim Ki-bang as Detective Yang

In Heart to Heart, Cha Hong-do (Choi Kang-hee) suffers from severe social anxiety disorder, which makes her blush excessively whenever she looks into people’s eyes. Due to her condition, she quits high school and locks herself away from the world, only interacting with her grandmother.

After her grandmother’s passing, Hong-do is forced to go out into the world. She meets Go Yi-seok (Chun Jung-myung), a psychiatrist, and develops a desire to recover from her illness. Yi-seok, however, also has a lot on his plate – a mother who is bipolar and has depression and a sister who suffers from parental neglect.

Nevertheless, he decides to patiently help Hong-do overcome her anxiety, setting the two on a sweet journey of healing together.

Genre: Romance, comedy, medical


3. Rain or Shine (2017)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Rain or Shine
Image credit:
asianwiki.com

Main cast:

  • Lee Jun-ho as Lee Kang-doo
  • Won Jin-ah as Ha Moon-soo
  • Lee Ki-woo as Seo Joo-won
  • Kang Han-na as Jung Yoo-jin

Rain or Shine tells the story of two individuals who lost their loved ones in a tragic accident and had to suppress the pain of their loss in order to carry on with life.

After Lee Gang-doo (Lee Jun-ho) injures his leg and loses his father during a mall collapse incident, his dream of becoming a soccer player gets shattered, leaving him with PTSD and a lack of motivation for anything.

One day, Gang-doo meets Ha Moon-soo (Won Jin-ah), who suffers from PTSD-induced amnesia after losing her younger sibling in the same incident. As the two start to open up to each other, they fall in love and find new motivation in life through each other.

Genre: Romance, melodrama


4. Come and Hug Me (2018)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Come and Hug Me
Image credit:
asianwiki.com

Main cast:

  • Jang Ki-yong as Chae Do-jin
  • Jin Ki-joo as Han Jae-yi
  • Heo Joon-ho as Yoon Hee-jae

Chae Do-jin (Jang Ki-young), a cheerful rookie detective, lives life to the fullest but has never once forgotten his first and only love, Han Jae-yi (Jin Ki-joo). The two were torn apart when Do-jin’s father, a psychopathic serial killer, killed Jae-yi’s parents.

Due to the murder of her parents, Jae-yi suffers from a panic disorder. She strives to overcome it to fulfil her dream of becoming an actress, just like her mother. Fate brings the two together eventually and the couple chooses to overcome the dark tragedy between them.

Genre: Melodrama, romance, mystery


5. Chocolate (2019)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Chocolate
Image credit:
blogasianwiki.com

Main cast:

  • Yoon Kye-sang as Lee Kang
  • Ha Ji-won as Moon Cha-yeong
  • Jang Seung-jo as Lee Joon
  • Teo Yoo as Kwon Min-seong
  • Min Jin-woong as Moon Tae-hyun

Chocolate revolves around Lee Kang (Yoon Kye-sang), who was pressured into becoming a neurosurgeon by his family, and Moon Cha-yeong (Ha Ji-won), who became a cook because of her childhood interactions with the former.

Cha-yeong suffers from depression and gets severe panic attacks due to PTSD from being abandoned by her mother at a department store, which later collapsed. She represses the memory of the traumatic event, but it resurfaces as she crosses path with Lee Kang again.

She eventually finds a way to come to terms with the traumatic incident with the support of Lee Kang, as well as chocolate-making, which is therapeutic for her.

Genre: Romance, medical


6. Be Melodramatic (2019)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Be Melodramatic
Image credit:
KoreanDrama.org

Main cast:

  • Chun Woo-hee as Lim Jin-joo
  • Jeon Yeo-bin as Lee Eun-jung
  • Han Ji-eun as Hwang Han-joo
  • Ahn Jae-hong as Son Beom-soo
  • Gong Myung as Chu Jae-hoon

Be Melodramatic tells the story of three 30-year-old best friends.

Lim Jin-joo (Chun Woo-hee) is a rookie drama screenwriter who broke up with her boyfriend after dating him for 7 years. Lee Eun-jung (Jeon Yeo-bin) is a documentary director who suffers from PTSD and hallucinates about her dead boyfriend. Hwang Han-joo (Han Ji-eun) is a single mother.

The three friends stand by each other through the trials and tribulations of life, helping each other overcome obstacles.

Genre: Romance, comedy


7. Forest (2020)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Forest
Image credit:
asianwiki.com

Main cast:

  • Park Hae-jin as Kang Sun-hyuk
  • Jo Bo-ah as Jung Young-jae
  • Jung Yun-joo as Oh Bo-mi
  • Noh Kwang-shik as Choi Chang

Kang San-hyeok (Park Hae-jin) is an intelligent and steadfast member of the 119 special rescue team but is marred by memory issues that leave him unable to remember his childhood. Meanwhile, Jung Young-jae (Jo Bo-ah) is an enthusiastic psychiatrist-turned-surgeon who switched paths due to the PTSD triggers she gets from treating patients with mental illness.

Young-jae gets posted to Miryeong Hospital, located within a mysterious forest, where she ends up meeting San-hyeok. The longer the two spend time together, the more they discover about their pasts and their connected fates.

Genre: Drama, romance


– Personality Disorders –


8. It’s Okay, That’s Love (2014)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - It's Okay, That's Love
Image credit:
MyDramaList

Main cast:

  • Jo In-sung as Jang Jae-yeol
  • Gong Hyo-jin as Ji Hae-soo
  • Sung Dong-il as Jo Dong-min
  • Lee Kwang-soo as Park Soo-kwang

Jang Jae-yeol (Jo In-sung), a popular mystery novel author and radio DJ, suffers from schizophreniahe has repeated instances of compulsions and obsessions, as well as episodes of auditory and visual hallucinations.

He was abused by his father when he was younger. When his mother accidentally kills his father, he falsely testifies that it was his brother’s doing. This causes him intense guilt that developed into an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Ji Hae-soo (Gong Hyo-jin) is a psychiatrist who suffers from genophobia due to her mother’s extramarital affairs, which traumatised her as a child. This causes her to have an irrational fear of sex.

When the two meet, their strong personalities clash. But soon, they start to fall in love and try to heal each other’s wounds.

Genre: Romance, medical, melodrama, comedy


9. Kill Me, Heal Me (2015)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Kill Me, Heal Me
Image credit:
MBC

Main cast:

  • Ji Sung as Cha Do-hyun/Cha Joon-young/Shin Se-gi/Perry Park/Ahn Yo-seob/Ahn Yo-na/Na-na/Mr. X
  • Hwang Jung-eum as Oh Ri-jin/Cha Do-hyun
  • Park Seo-joon as Oh Ri-on/Omega/Oh Hwi
  • Oh Min-suk as Cha Ki-joon
  • Kim Yoo-ri as Han Chae-yeon

Kill Me, Heal Me depicts the healing journey of Cha Do-hyun (Ji Sung), a chaebol who has dissociative identity disorder due to a traumatic childhood experience. This causes him to live with 7 different personalities.

Despite undergoing years of therapy, his symptoms do not improve. His existence gets threatened when one of his stronger and violent personalities, Shin Se-gi, constantly takes over his consciousness.

Cha Do-hyun meets Oh Ri-jin (Hwang Jung-eum), a resident psychiatrist, and realises that the latter can control Shin Se-gi. He hires her to be his personal psychiatrist to help him recover his lost childhood memories, but little did he know that she is also part of his childhood trauma.

Genre: Romance, comedy, suspense, medical


10. Hyde, Jekyll, Me (2015)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Hyde, Jekyll, Me
Image credit:
Wikipedia

Main cast:

  • Hyun Bin as Goo Seo-jin/Robin
  • Han Ji-min as Jang Ha-na
  • Sung Joon as Yoon Tae-joo/Lee Soo-hyun
  • Lee Hye-ri as Min Woo-jung

Gu Seo-jin (Hyun Bin) is a rich CEO of an amusement park. But while it seems like he has it all, he struggles with dissociative identity disorder caused by a traumatic event from 15 years ago.

His cold personality changes whenever his heart rate increases and he becomes Robin, a kind-hearted and gentle person. Instead of trying to heal from the trauma, he simply decides to not trigger his condition by ensuring that his heart rate does not rise.

When Seo-jin meets Jang Ha-na (Han Ji-min), he realises that she could just be the key to fixing his condition. With her help, he tries to face his past trauma and heal. And of course, the two slowly start to fall in love with each other in the process.

Genre: Romance, comedy, drama


11. Madame Antoine (2016)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Madame Antoine
Image credit:
HanCinema

Main cast:

  • Han Ye-seul as Go Hye-rim
  • Sung Joon as Choi Soo-hyun
  • Jeong Jin-woon as Choi Seung-chan
  • Lee Joo-hyung as Won Ji-ho
  • Hwang Seung-eon as Go Yoo-rim
  • Jang Mi-hee as Bae Mi-ran
  • Byun Hee-bong as President Kim

Go Hye-rim (Han Ye-seul), a fortune teller and café owner, goes by the name of Madame Antoine as she claims to be spiritually connected to the famous French queen, Marie Antoinette. However, she merely relies on her eye for details and accurate hunches when “reading” fortunes.

Her peaceful life is disrupted by Choi Soo-hyun (Sung Joon), a psychotherapist who specialises in women’s psychology. He decides to open a psychology centre above Go Hye-rim’s café to counsel clients while testing his hypothesis that true love does not exist.

As Soo-hyun counsels people with mental illnesses, such as a woman with dissociative identity disorder and a rich old man with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he also tricks Hye-rim into being part of his love experiment with him.

Genre: Romance, comedy


12. Cheese In The Trap (2016)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Cheese In The Trap
Image credit:
IMDb

Main cast:

  • Park Hae-jin as Yoo Jung
  • Kim Go-eun as Hong Seol
  • Seo Kang-joon as Baek In-ho
  • Lee Sung-kyung as Baek In-ha

Cheese In The Trap depicts a relationship between Hong Seol (Kim Go-eun), a poor university student, and her senior, Yoo Jung (Park Hae-jin).

Although Yoo Jung is a model student, he is cold, manipulative, and shows symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. When Yoo Jung treats Hong Seol nicely, she becomes suspicious of his intentions. He eventually grows on her, putting the two on a journey of love and healing.

Genre: Romance


13. Clean with Passion for Now (2018)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Clean with Passion for Now
Image credit:
asianwiki.com

Main cast:

  • Kim Yoo-jung as Gil Oh-sol
  • Yoon Kyun-sang as Jang Seon-kyul
  • Song Jae-rim as Choi Ha-in/Daniel Choi

Gil Oh-sol (Kim Yoo-jung) is a cheerful and hardworking girl who’s very messy, while Jang Seon-gyul (Yoon Kyun-sang), the CEO of a cleaning company, lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests as severe mysophobia.

When the two meet, Seon-gyul is extremely disgusted by Oh-sol’s untidiness, but as the two spend more time together, he starts to fall in love with her while becoming more open to managing his condition.

Genre: Romance, comedy


14. Itaewon Class (2020)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Itaewon Class
Image credit:
Wikipedia

Main cast:

  • Park Seo-joon as Park Sae-royi
  • Kim Da-mi as Jo Yi-seo
  • Yoo Jae-myung as Jang Dae-hee
  • Kwon Na-ra as Oh Soo-ah

Itaewon Class tells the story of Park Sae-royi (Park Seo-joon), who gets jailed after getting back at the person who caused his father’s death. After his release from prison, he opens a bar-restaurant called DanBam (Honey Night) in Itaewon and strives to be successful, battling against a food conglomerate.

Jo Yi-seo (Kim Da-mi) is a smart and talented girl with an IQ of 162. However, she has antisocial personality disorder, which causes her to have a lack of regard for others. Her apathetic behaviour and sharp tongue tend to hurt others, but as she spends more time working at the restaurant, she grows and learns how to care for others.

Genre: Romance, drama


15. Extracurricular (2020)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Extracurricular
Image credit:
asianwiki.com

Main cast:

  • Kim Dong-hee as Oh Ji-soo
  • Jung Da-bin as Seo Min-hee
  • Park Joo-hyun as Bae Gyu-ri
  • Nam Yoon-soo as Kwak Ki-tae
  • Choi Min-soo as Lee Wang-chul
  • Park Hyuk-kwon as Cho Jin-woo
  • Kim Yeo-jin as Lee Hae-gyoung

Extracurricular captivates audiences with its complex plot and moral debates.

Oh Ji-soo (Kim Dong-Hee), a model high school student, takes on an illegal side hustle to save up for his university tuition fees. He creates an app for women who want to make extra cash by going on paid dates. The app also includes extra services, such as a personal security line, in case a date gets dangerous.

All goes smoothly until Bae Gyu-ri (Park Joo-hyun), a classmate who has sociopathic tendencies, catches on and tries to interfere in his side business. The two end up working together but things become complicated when they get in trouble with the law.

Genre: Crime, teen


16. Soul Mechanic (2020)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Soul Mechanic
Image credit:
asianwiki.com

Main cast:

  • Shin Ha-kyoon as Lee Si-joon
  • Jung So-min as Han Woo-joo
  • Tae In-ho as In Dong-hyuk
  • Park Ye-jin as Ji Young-won
  • Joo Min-kyung as Kong Ji-sun 

Soul Mechanic is about a psychiatrist, Lee Si-joon (Shin Ha-kyoon), who is passionate about his work and helps patients heal in unique ways. He meets Han Woo-joo (Jung So-min), a musical actress with borderline personality disorder it causes her to have emotional breakdowns from time to time.

Lee Si-joon decides to help her heal despite struggling with PTSD after a patient took their own life. The two overcome their differences and go on a journey of healing together.

Genre: Romance


17. Dinner Mate (2020)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Dinner Mate
Image credit:
MyDramaList

Main cast:

  • Song Seung-heon as Kim Hae-kyung
  • Seo Ji-hye as Woo Do-hee
  • Lee Ji-hoon as Jeong Jae-hyeok
  • Son Na-eun as Jin No-eul

Woo Do-hee (Seo Ji-hye), a producer at a digital content company, meets Kim Hae-kyung (Song Seung-heon), a psychiatrist, on Jeju Island. Their chance encounter then leads to them frequently crossing paths, and they eventually decide to become “dinner mates”.

As love starts to bloom between them, Jeong Jae-hyeok (Lee Ji-hoon), Do-hee’s ex-boyfriend, vows to patch things up with her but things get complicated when symptoms of his dependent personality disorder surfaces.

Genre: Romance, comedy


18. Flower of Evil (2020)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Flower of Evil
Image credit:
MyDramaList

Main cast:

  • Lee Joon-gi as Baek Hee-sung/Do Hyun-soo
  • Moon Chae-won as Cha Ji-won
  • Jang Hee-jin as Do Hae-soo
  • Seo Hyun-woo as Kim Moo-jin

Flower of Evil is centred on the mysterious Baek Hee-sung (Lee Joon-gi) who is married to detective Cha Ji-won (Moon Chae-won). While Hee-Sung seems like a committed husband and father, he deceived his wife with a new identity and hides his callous past and his antisocial personality disorder from her.

As Cha Ji-won begins investigating a series of unexplained murders, she realises that her husband is possibly linked to them, prompting her to dig into his past.

Genre: Melodrama, suspense


– Autism Spectrum Disorder –


19. Brilliant Legacy (2009)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Brilliant Legacy
Image credit:
MyDramaList

Main cast:

  • Han Hyo-joo as Go Eun-sung
  • Lee Seung-gi as Sun Woo-hwan
  • Bae Soo-bin as Park Joon-se
  • Moon Chae-won as Yoo Seung-mi

Go Eun-sung (Han Hyo-joo) returns from New York in order to bring her autistic brother to the United States to study music. When she arrives in Korea, her luggage gets swapped with Sun Woo-hwan’s (Lee Seung-gi) upon arrival, making their first meeting an unfortunate one.

Eun-sung’s life takes a dramatic turn when her father is mistakenly identified as dead and his second wife runs away with his life insurance money. She also loses her brother, who goes missing not long after

She decides to start selling dumplings while looking for her brother. Woo-hwan’s grandmother chances upon Eun-sung. Seeing her positive attitude, she decides to invite Eun-sung to live with her and compete against Woo-hwan to succeed the company.

Genre: Romance, family


20. Good Doctor (2013)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - Good Doctor
Image credit:
asianwiki.com

Main cast:

  • Joo Won as Park Shi-on
  • Moon Chae-won as Cha Yoon-seo
  • Joo Sang-wook as Kim Do-han
  • Kim Min-seo as Yoo Chae-kyung

Good Doctor revolves around the life of Park Shi-on (Joo Won), who has savant syndrome. Although he has the mental age of a 10-year-old due to a developmental disability, he also has near-photographic memory and good spatial skills.

Shi-on works towards his goal of becoming a doctor but is faced with discrimination from both his patients and colleagues. However, Cha Yoon-seo (Moon Chae-won) constantly looks out for him whenever he gets bullied, and this eventually causes Si-on to develop feelings for her.

Genre: Medical, romance, comedy 


21. It’s Okay To Not Be Okay (2020)


Mental Health Korean Dramas - It's Okay To Not Be Okay
Image credit:
MyDramaList

Main cast:

  • Kim Soo-hyun as Moon Gang-tae
  • Seo Ye-ji as Ko Moon-young
  • Oh Jung-se as Moon Sang-tae
  • Park Kyu-young as Nam Ju-ri

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay revolves around Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun), a community health worker at a psychiatric ward, and Ko Moon-young (Seo Ye-ji), a successful children’s book author who is cold to others.

Taking care of his autistic brother, Moon Sang-tae (Oh Jung-se), leaves Gang-tae with no time for personal relationships. Meanwhile, Moon-young is constantly haunted by her emotional scars.

The two slowly begin to heal each other’s emotional wounds stemming from their intertwining pasts.

Sang-tae plays an important role in the healing of both Gang-tae and Moon-young, and he’s an innocent figure who remains impartial and truthful when conflict arises between the two.

Genre: Romance, drama


Mental health issues in Korean dramas


These Korean dramas that bring up mental health issues will help us gain a clearer picture of how mental illnesses affect everyday life and remind us not to judge or stigmatise these conditions.

Check out other K-drama articles:

Cover image adapted from (left to right): MyDramaList, asianwiki.com, and asianwiki.com