Romantic Korean dramas


Long-time fans of Korean dramas will definitely remember classic kiss scenes such as the milk foam and sit up kisses in Coffee Prince and Secret Garden respectively. Fast forward to 2020, and K-dramas have come a long way from the days of cringe-y scenes to include out-of-this-world cinematography and enthralling storylines. But one thing that remains the same is that we can’t help but swoon over the attractive leads.   

From highly-raved new releases such as Crash Landing On You and Itaewon Class to iconic hit dramas such as Goblin and Descendants of the Sun, here are 21 romantic Korean dramas you definitely have to add to your list of things to watch. 


Army


1. Crash Landing On You (2019)


Crash Landing On You
Image credit: IMDb

Main Cast: 

  • Hyun-bin as Ri Jeong-hyeok
  • Son Ye-jin as Yoon Se-ri
  • Kim Jung-hyun as Gu Seong-joon
  • Seo Ji-hye as Seo Dan 

This 2019 drama, also known as CLOY for short, needs no further introduction as it’s one of the most raved-about romantic Korean dramas to date. 

The leads’ encounter may seem absurd: Yoon Se-ri, an heiress from one of South Korea’s largest chaebols (conglomerates), lands in the North and meets Ri Jeong-hyeok – a North Korean military personnel – after her paragliding trip went wrong. But it’s exactly these impossible circumstances that keep viewers coming back for more.   


2. Descendants of the Sun (2016)


Descendants of the Sun
Image credit: KBS

Main cast:

  • Song Joong-ki as Yoo Si-jin
  • Song Hye-kyo as Kang Mo-yeon
  • Jin Goo as Seo Dae-young
  • Kim Ji-won as Yoon Myung-ju

Well, you know what they say about fiction being better than reality right? Descendants of the Sun, better known as DOTS, is a 2016 hit drama which resulted in the union of the Song-Song couple a year later. Their split in 2019 came as a shock to many, but let’s not focus on reality for now.

Yoo Si-jin, a captain of the special forces, and a doctor, Kang Mo-yeon, had a brief encounter at a hospital before being mobilised on the same overseas peacekeeping mission. Falling in love may be easy, but keeping the relationship going with the conflicting nature of their jobs – one having to load a gun to kill enemy forces and the other having to wield a scalpel to save lives – is what they have to overcome. 


Fantasy


3. Hotel Del Luna (2019)


Hotel Del Luna
Image credit: IMDb

Main cast:

  • Lee Ji-eun (IU) as Jang Man-wol
  • Yeo Jin-goo as Ku Chan-sung

2019 was a pretty great year in K-dramaland, with the release of popular dramas such as Hotel Del Luna, which comes with top-notch cinematography, excellent cast members, and unforgettable OSTs. But that’s not all, as the storyline is sure to captivate you as well. 

As punishment for killing the innocent out of anger, Jang Man-wol was cursed with immortality to manage Hotel Del Luna for life, or at least until the curse is lifted. While it looks like your usual grand and fancy hotel on the outside, Hotel Del Luna actually serves as a rest stop for lost souls before they move on to the afterlife. 

Although the hotel caters to ghosts and is largely run by their kind, it still requires a human staff to help with day-to-day administrative work such as filing for taxes. And this honour goes to Ku Chan-song, who not only manages the hotel guests but also acts as a personal assistant to his boss, Man-wol.  

From driving her around in her posh cars to accompanying her to her favourite restaurants, Chan-song has to stay by his boss’ side almost 24/7 – it’s no wonder a romantic relationship developed over the course of 16 episodes. 


4. Goblin (2016)


Goblin
Image credit: IMDb

Main cast:

  • Gong Yoo as Goblin (Kim Shin)
  • Kim Go-eun as Ji Eun-tak
  • Lee Dong-wook as Grim Reaper (Wang Yeo)
  • Yoo In-na as Sunny (Kim Sun)
  • Yook Sung-jae as Yoo Deok-hwa

If there’s one Korean actor that has stood the test of time, it’s Gong Yoo, with his acclaimed acting skills and attractive physique. On top of starring in Train to Busan, the highest-grossing Korean film in 2016, he also finished off the year with yet another unforgettable drama, Goblin

This drama follows Kim Shin, a well-respected Goryeo dynasty general who was accused of treason and subsequently executed. To atone for the number of people he has killed on the battlefield, the almighty cursed him with immortality, so that he will experience the pain of seeing his loved ones leaving his side time and time again. 

The only way to undo this curse is to have his destined wife, Ji Eun-tak, remove the sword that’s still in his chest. But they realise that they have to do more than that to guarantee a happily ever after.


5. Legend of the Blue Sea (2016)


Legend of the Blue Sea
Image credit: IMDb

Main Cast:

  • Jun Ji-hyun as Shim Cheong
  • Lee Min-ho as Heo Joon-jae

In this fantasy drama, a pair of ill-fated lovers in the Joseon era find themselves reincarnated and reunited in the present. 

Heo Joon-jae, the heir of a rich businessman-turned-conman, was hiding out in Spain when he came across a mermaid whose name was inspired by Shim Cheong, a character from a Korean legend.  

As she tries to adapt to a new way of life on land while living with Joon-jae, a romantic relationship starts to take off and they once again have to overcome the same fate which tore them apart in their past lives. 


6. My Love from Another Star (2013)


My Love from Another Star
Image credit: IMDb

Main Cast:

  • Jun Ji-hyun as Cheon Song-yi
  • Kim Soo-hyun as Do Min-joon
  • Park Hae-jin as Lee Hee-kyung 
  • Yoo In-na as Yoo Se-min

Romantic Korean dramas are sure to get us feeling all warm and fuzzy, but for those who prefer one that’s packed with funny moments, this drama will give you the best of both worlds. 

Do Min-joon is an alien with a flawless appearance and possesses superpowers such as teleportation and enhanced vision, just to name a few. He has been stranded on Earth since the Joseon era as he missed his trip back to space after trying to protect a girl from a mishap. 

Not long before his long-awaited return, his life takes a detour as Cheon Song-yi, a Hallyu star, moves into his apartment building and becomes his neighbour. As feelings start to blossom between both, Min-joon’s return is met with delays. 


7. Extraordinary You (2019)


Extraordinary You
Image credit: MBC

Main Cast:

  • Kim Hye-yoon as Eun Dan-oh
  • Rowoon as Ha-ru, Number 13
  • Lee Jae-wook as Baek Kyung 

Extraordinary You follows a bunch of high school students who are characters in a comic book called Secret. While playing an extra in the comic book, the female lead of the drama, Eun Dan-oh, realises that they’re trapped in a comic and seeks to alter her fate, which has been predestined by the writer. 

The urge to change her plight intensifies as she falls in love with a nameless character, Number 13, and wishes to end things with her scripted partner, Baek Kyung. They soon realise that changing their fates comes at a price. 


8. While You Were Sleeping (2017)


While You Were Sleeping
Image credit: SBS

Main Cast:

  • Lee Jong-suk as Jung Jae-chan
  • Bae Suzy as Nam Hong-joo 

Those who prefer a bit of suspense and action amidst all the lovey-dovey scenes that come with romantic Korean dramas should check out While You Were Sleeping

Nam Hong-joo dreams about people’s deaths, but she doesn’t know when these deaths will actually take place. While she goes out of her way to save these people, such as telling a man that he shouldn’t smoke because she dreamt of him dropping a lighter onto gasoline, resulting in his death, she rarely succeeds. 

Meanwhile, rookie prosecutor Jung Jae-chan moves in as her neighbour. A series of events unravel and leads to them working together on future cases. But keep a lookout as their working chemistry unknowingly turns into a romantic one. 


9. The Beauty Inside (2018)


Beauty Inside
Image credit: JTBC

Main Cast:

  • Seo Hyun-jin as Han Se-gye
  • Lee Min-ki as Seo Do-jae

Han Se-gye, a top actress who’s well-known for creating trouble, is actually hiding a secret: every month, she turns into a different person for a week, literally. 

On the other hand, Seo Do-jae is an executive director of T-way – a fictional South Korean airline company – who suffers from face blindness. As he recognises her beyond her looks, they’re able to connect on a deeper level and eventually fall in love.

Here’s a heads up though: bingeing on this drama will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride as it’s jam-packed with both heartwarming and heartbreaking scenes. 


Workplace


 10. What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim (2018)


What's Wrong with Secretary Kim?
Image credit: IMDb

Main Cast:

  • Park Seo-joon as Lee Young-joon
  • Park Min-young as Kim Mi-so 

Lee Young-joon is a successful but arrogant vice-president of his family-run business. But when his highly competent secretary, Kim Mi-so, decides to call it quits, he finds it hard to fathom why she would choose to leave the side of a perfect man like him.

While most romantic Korean dramas require you to be emotionally invested, this light-hearted romance drama is a perfect feel-good option for those in need of a break. 


11. Dr. Romantic 2 (2020)


Dr. Romantic 2Image credit: VIKI 

Main Cast:

  • Han Suk-kyu as Master Kim
  • Ahn Hyo-seop as Seo Woo-jin
  • Lee Sung-Kyung as Cha Eun-jae

A sequel to 2016’s Dr Romantic, this drama follows the story of Master Kim, who heads the medical team at Doldam Hospital, a countryside hospital with minimal medical facilities and staff. 

In need of an extra helping hand around the hospital, he heads to Geosan University Hospital in search of a general surgeon and comes across Seo Woo-jin, a doctor disliked by his colleagues for whistleblowing his senior’s misconduct. 

Woo-jin takes up Master Kim’s offer and heads to Doldam Hospital, only to meet Cha Eun-jae, a top medical school graduate who was recently suspended from her duties at Geosan University Hospital. 

Follow this medical team led by Master Kim as they serve in the frontline to help patients caught in life and death situations. 


12. Clean with Passion for Now (2018)


Clean with Passion for NowImage credit: JTBC

Main Cast:

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

Gil Oh-sol works for a cleaning company run by Jang Seon-kyul, who happens to suffer from an obsessive cleaning disorder. 

As both characters are very different when it comes to the standards of their personal hygiene, this often leads to onscreen squabbles that are sure to keep you invested to see how their relationship eventually unfolds. 


13. Her Private Life (2019)


Her Private Life
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast:

  • Park Min-young as Sung Deok-mi
  • Kim Jae-wook as Ryan Gold
  • Jung Jae-won as Cha Shi-an 

Sung Deok-mi is a jack of all trades. Outside of her full-time job as a curator at an art museum, she’s also a fansite manager. 

When the director of the art museum gets embroiled in an embezzlement scandal, Ryan Gold – a well-known artist – takes up the newly-vacated role. When Deok-mi gets caught in a dating scandal with her idol, Cha Shi-an, she and Ryan decide to fake-date to keep reporters away. 


14. Touch Your Heart (2019)


Touch Your Heart
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast:

  • Yoo In-na as Oh Yoon-seo
  • Lee Dong-wook as Kwon Jung-rok

Viewers of Goblin couldn’t help but feel heartbroken for both Lee Dong-wook and Yoo In-na as their ill-fated onscreen relationship didn’t have a happy ending at the end of the drama. But here’s a piece of good news – their fate might take a turn for the better in Touch Your Heart.

Once a top actress, Oh Yoon-seo gets caught up in a drug scandal and finds herself not landing any roles for two years. In an attempt to stand out and get herself a role in an upcoming drama, she agrees to join a law firm to gain experience and becomes Kwon Jung-rok’s secretary. 

Although office relationships are highly discouraged in real-life, you can’t help but root for Lee Dong-wook and Yoo In-na’s characters – they just look so good together. 


15. Oh My Ghost (2015)


Oh My Ghost
Image credit: IMDb

Main Cast:

  • Park Bo-young as Na Bong-sun
  • Jo Jung-suk as Kang Sun-woo
  • Kim Seul-gi as Shin Soon-ae 

While most dramas involving ghosts or anything supernatural tend to be spooky, Oh My Ghost is nothing of that sort. Instead, you can expect this romantic drama to leave you crying and laughing. 

Na Bong-sun works as an assistant chef at a restaurant owned by Kang Sun-woo, who is also the head chef. She’s usually quiet and reserved, but this changes when she gets possessed by the lusty ghost of Shin Soon-ae. 

Soon-ae’s daring and outgoing personality catches Sun-woo’s attention, and he begins to feel an attraction towards the possessed Bong-sun. Be sure to watch till the end to find out who Sun-woo’s heart belongs to – the possessed or the real Bong-sun. 


16. Strong Woman Do Bong-soon (2017)


Strong Woman Do Bong-Soon
Image credit: JTBC

Main Cast:

  • Park Bo-young as Do Bong-soon
  • Park Hyung-sik as An Min-hyuk
  • Ji Soo as In Kook-doo

Yes, another drama with Park Bo-young as the female lead with a similar name. But unlike her role in Oh My Ghost where she’s a soft spoken and reserved assistant chef, Do Bong-soon in Strong Woman Do Bong-soon is not only outgoing but also physically strong with her inherited superhuman strength. 

One day, she comes across a group of thugs and easily deals with them without breaking a sweat. The scene is witnessed by Ahn Min-hyuk, the boss of a gaming company known as Ainsoft. He’s impressed by her fighting skills and decides to hire her as his bodyguard since he’s often exposed to threats. 


17. Itaewon Class (2020)


Itaewon Class
Image credit: JTBC

Main Cast:

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

If you’ve been browsing Netflix recently, you’ve probably come across Itaewon Class at least once. For those who wanted to see more of Park Seo-joon after watching the award-winning movie Parasite, here’s your chance to catch him in action for 16 episodes. 

Park Sae-ro-yi is an upright man who can’t stand injustice. When he lands himself behind bars after throwing punches at an ex-schoolmate for causing his father’s death, he’s determined to build his life back up by opening a bar in Itaewon upon his release. 

Follow Sae-ro-yi and his friends as they navigate their way through obstacles in life to eventually run a successful business. 


School 


18. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo (2016)


Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo
Image credit: IMDb

Main Cast:

  • Lee Sung-kyung as Kim Bok-joo
  • Nam Joo-hyuk as Jung Joon-hyung

A collegiate weightlifter, Kim Bok-joo, and a collegiate swimmer, Jung Joon-hyung, used to be childhood friends, but neither of them recognised each other when they meet again at Haneul Sport University.

However, after a few incidents and misunderstandings, the pair reunites and finds love in each other. 

While K-dramas tend to have actors and actresses who adhere to strict K-beauty standards, this drama sets out to break such conventions. Instead of the usual slender figure and sharp jawline, Lee Sung-kyung plays a bulky weightlifter who proves that she’s worthy of being loved. 


19. Love Alarm (2019)



Image credit: Netflix

Main Cast:

  • Kim So-hyun as Kim Jo-jo
  • Song Kang as Hwang Sun-oh
  • Jung Ga-ram as Lee Hye-young 

Joalarm is a mobile app that pings when an admirer is within a 10-metre radius of you. It shows the number of people who’re interested in you, but does not reveal any of their personal details. 

The launch of the app sparks a lot of commotion around school, and the leads soon find themselves caught in a complicated love triangle which they have to resolve on their own. 

Don’t forget to set a reminder for yourself as the second season of this drama is scheduled to premiere in August 2020. 


Historical


20. Love in the Moonlight (2016)


Love in the Moonlight
Image credit: KBS

Main cast:

  • Park Bo-gum as Lee Young
  • Kim You-jung as Hong Ra-on

In this historical drama, Hong Ra-on crossdresses as a man and makes a living by providing love advice to her clients. While writing a love letter for one of her clients, she comes across the Crown Prince, Lee Young. 

After a series of events, Ra-on finds herself passing off as a eunuch-to-be in the palace, and a forbidden love story begins to unfold between the prince and the eunuch.


21. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)


Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart RyeoImage credit: SBS

Main Cast:

  • Lee Joon-gi as Wang So
  • Lee Ji-eun (IU) as Go Ha-jin/Hae Soo
  • Kang Ha-neul as Wang Wook 

If you ever wondered why fans were squealing with excitement when Lee Joon-gi made a special cameo in Hotel Del Luna, it’s because Joon-gi and IU’s relationship goes way back to 2016, when they co-starred in this drama together. 

When a total solar eclipse happens in the present, Go Ha-jin gets transported back to the Goryeo dynasty, where she takes on the identity of Hae Soo. 

Unlike the 4th prince Wang So (Lee Joon-gi), who has people fearing the sight of him, the 8th prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha-neul) is kind-hearted and caring, which explains why Hae Soo falls in love with him at first. As the plot unfolds, Hae Soo has a change of heart and finds herself caught in the middle as the two princes fight over the throne.  


Romantic Korean dramas worth bingeing on


Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re spending too much time watching television, because there’s really no reason not when there are so many good romantic Korean dramas out there. Plus, no matter what themes you’re into – be it the army, workplace, or school – there’s bound to be at least one drama that’s up your alley. 

Here are things you can check out in Korea:


Cover image adapted from (left to right): IMDb, IMDb and IMDb