Highest-Rated Korean dramas (cable) of all time

Yes, this is a ranking of cable Korean dramas of all time—but not really “of all time.” A better self-explanatory title would be “Highest-rated Korean dramas (cable) of all time, up to the year 2017.” The point is, all but 2018 cable Kdramas were included in the ranking, for the simple reason that 2018 is still ongoing. This is the second part of our post the Highest-Rated Kdramas from 2008 to 2017. It is only fair to have a list for cable dramas, and please take note that we can’t come up with a ranking for both free-to-air and cable shows for the obvious reason—the base of viewers for the two categories differ from each other, with the free-to-air series having a wider reach of audience (and hence, having higher ratings) as compared with their cable counterparts. And maybe you’re wondering why we have ranked nearly all cable dramas, while only those free-to-air shows which aired from 2008 onwards were included in the ranking. This is because the cable networks began broadcasting many Korean dramas only in 2010, while free-to-air networks have been airing those shows as early as in the 1980s. It’s just impossible to rank all free-to-air Kdramas given the lack of viewership data and other considerations for making the ranking. (Note: All rating values are based on data from Nielsen Korea. If you have questions regarding the ranking process, please contact us.)

10. Cheese In The Trap (2016) — 6.0 %

Cheese In The Trap Poster 1

  • Network: tvN
  • Schedule: Mondays & Tuesdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Romance
  • Director: Lee Yoon-jung
  • Writer: Kim Nam-hee & Go Sun-hee

This highly popular drama of tvN could have ended up a perfect series if the controversy (shortening of lead actor’s screentime and undue focus on the second male lead in the latter half of the show) didn’t happen. But still, no one could deny the fact that Cheese is a commercial success as far as viewership is concerned, with a peak rating of 7.1 percent. The series was so popular that it was sold to China for $125,000 per episode, becoming the most expensive cable series at that time. Based on a webtoon of the same name, the drama tells the life and love story of university students played by Park Hae-jin (Man to Man) and Kim Go-eun (Goblin).

9. Childless Comfort (2012-2013) — 6.3 %

Childless Comfort Poster 1

  • Network: JTBC
  • Schedule: Saturdays & Sundays
  • No. of Episodes: 40
  • Genre: Family Drama
  • Director: Jung Eul-young
  • Writer: Kim Soo-hyun

Record-breaking series Childless Comfort unseated Reply 1997 from having the highest-rated drama episode on cable television in 2013. It went on to become the first ever cable drama to record a double-digit viewership (with a peak of 10.7 percent), so imagine how gripping the plot must have been to get those viewers excited over the drama. This heart-warming family series revolves around how a family in the suburb of Seoul deal with societal discrimination when their very smart and highly educated granddaughter becomes pregnant and ends up a single mother.

8. Woman of Dignity (2017) — 6.5 %

Woman of Dignity Poster 3

  • Network: JTBC
  • Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 20
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Kim Yoon-chul
  • Writer: Baek Mi-kyung

Woman of Dignity centers on a corporate heir’s wife, played by Kim Hee-sun (Room No. 9), who hires a female caregiver for her ailing and very wealthy father-in-law and ends up finding her luxurious life overturned by that woman, played by Kim Sun-ah. A “social drama” where the confrontation of two women symbolizes the power and class structures in the society, Woman of Dignity achieved a peak nationwide audience share of 12.1 percent, becoming the cable drama on JTBC with the highest-rated episode.

7. Another Oh Hae-young (2016) — 6.9 %

Another Oh Hae-young Poster 1

  • Network: tvN
  • Schedule: Mondays & Tuesdays
  • No. of Episodes: 18
  • Genre: Romantic Comedy
  • Director: Song Hyun-wook & Lee Jong-jae
  • Writer: Park Hae-young & Wi So-young

Another Oh Hae-young is a mistaken identity romance drama about two women, one is played by Seo Hyun-jin (The Beauty Inside), with the same name who went to school together and work at the same company and a man, played by Eric Mun, who gets tangled up with them. The series enjoyed great popularity among local and international fans, garnering a peak audience rating of 10.0 percent. It has a unique story which earned a best screenplay nomination from Baeksang Arts Awards plus it boasts of an impressive performance from its cast, especially from Seo Hyun-jin who took home the Best Actress prize at the 53rd Baeksang Arts Awards.

6. Reply 1994 (2013) — 7.4 %

Reply 1994 Poster 1

  • Network: tvN
  • Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 21
  • Genre: Romance & Comedy
  • Director: Shin Won-ho
  • Writer: Lee Woo-jung

The second installment of the Reply series from PD Shin Won-ho is the 6th highest-rated Korean drama (cable) of all time, up to the year 2017. The series follows the lives of six university students from various provincial areas who live together in a boarding house in Seoul and the boarding house owner’s daughter, played by Go Ara (Black). Man, this drama got at least 6 nominations from Baeksang Arts Awards, including Best Drama, Director, and Screenplay. The characters and their relationships are the shining jewels crowning this show. Reply 1994 obtained a peak rating of 11.5 percent.

5. Prison Playbook (2017) — 7.56 %

Wise Prison Life Poster 3

  • Network: tvN
  • Schedule: Wednesdays & Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Black Comedy
  • Director: Shin Won-ho
  • Writer: Jung Bo-hoon

The second PD Shin’s drama on this list, Prison Playbook presents an unconventional and unique plot that focuses on life in prison. It follows the story of a star baseball player, played by Park Hae-soo, who becomes a criminal overnight and has to live life in prison as a consequence. The series became a commercial success, achieving a peak rating of 11.2 percent and solidifying PD Shin’s status as a star director. It received five nominations (including Best Director and Screenplay) from Baeksang Arts Awards and won Best Drama at the 12th Korean Cable TV Awards.

4. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017) — 7.65 %

Official poster of korean drama Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

  • Network: JTBC
  • Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Fantasy & Romantic Comedy
  • Director: Lee Hyung-min
  • Writer: Baek Mi-kyung

JTBC’s highest-rated Korean drama of all time (up to the year 2017) is Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, about a woman—played by Park Bo-younggifted with superhuman strength who becomes a bodyguard to a chaebol heir played by Park Hyung-sik (Suits). Written by the same screenwriter who penned Woman of Dignity, the drama became a commercial hit with a peak viewer rating of 9.7 percent. The series is enjoyable to watch and quite romantic, with darker crime elements that balance the funny and serious scenes.

3. Signal (2016) — 8.8 %

Signal poster

  • Network: tvN
  • Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Crime Thriller
  • Director: Kim Won-seok
  • Writer: Kim Eun-hee

Signal is so good because it properly exploits the mystery and thrill aspect so profoundly and gives the viewers an emotionally gripping and genuinely thrilling experience that leaves them in awe of the happenings in certain scenes. The series centers on a modern-day criminal profiler, played by Lee Je-hoon (Where Stars Land) who solves cold cases with the help of a detective, played by Cho Jin-woong (Entourage), from the past with whom he communicates through a mysterious walkie-talkie. The series received critical acclaim for its superb plot, solid acting, and sophisticated direction. It won Best Drama, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress at the 2016 Baeksang Arts Awards. It pulled in a peak rating of 12.5 percent.

2. Reply 1988 (2015-2016) — 12.4 %

  • Network: tvN
  • Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 20
  • Genre: Family, Comedy, & Romance
  • Director: Shin Won-ho
  • Writer: Lee Woo-jung

The third and last drama from PD Shin Won-ho on this list, Reply 1988 is the third installment of the Reply series. The drama lacks revenge arcs, convoluted revelations, or melodramatic romances that characterize many dramas out there; instead, it simply tells a story depicting the ordinary lives of ordinary people living in the same neighborhood. Starring in the drama are Lee Hye-ri (Entertainer) and Park Bo-gum (Love In the Moonlight). The series received at least 8 nominations and won Best Director and Best New Actor at the prestigious Baeksang Arts Awards. It may not be the highest-rated Korean drama (cable) in terms of average ratings, but it holds the record of having the highest-rated episode for any cable drama, which stands at 18.8 percent.

1. Goblin (2016-2017) — 12.9 %

poster of Goblin

  • Network: tvN
  • Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Fantasy & Romance
  • Director: Lee Eung-bok
  • Writer: Kim Eun-sook

The highest-rated Korean drama (cable) title goes to Goblin, a global hit series that received critical acclaim and became a cultural phenomenon in South Korea. Starring Gong Yoo and Kim Go-eun, it tells the story of a goblin who seeks to end his cursed immortal life and his human bride who can stop his immortality. The drama’s success is attributed to its creative plot and screenwriter who has a particular way of wooing the viewers into watching the series. Writer Kim Eun-sook won the Grand Prize at the 53rd Baeksang Arts Awards, while Gong Yoo took home the Best Actor award. An epic tale with a story that spans centuries, Goblin is an interesting series with a fresh and unique story woven beautifully throughout each episode. The drama recorded a peak rating of 18.7 percent.

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gdhunter

Me? Just an ordinary lad with an extraordinary (says this something called 'stereotype') habit of watching Korean dramas. It started with action-filled City Hunter and the rest, as they say, is history.