Nope, I’m not gonna recommend Mr. Sunshine or Crash Landing On You because this article is all about the relatively not-so-popular Korean dramas on Netflix that you might have missed out on but deserve your attention. They’re the ones that generally received positive reviews but didn’t generate buzz as much as let’s say, Hotel del Luna or When The Camellia Blooms, did.
The following 12 Korean dramas are available on Netflix in at least two countries*—the US and the Philippines. (This updated article originally listed seven dramas.)
1. Because This Is My First Life (Romantic Comedy)
I went into this drama without expectations since I’m not a fan of both leads and the writer. But the first episode blew me away, so I ended up loving the show to pieces. Starring Lee Min-ki (The Lies Within) and Jung So-min (Hundred Million Stars From the Sky), Because This Is My First Life (2017) revolves around two thirty-something individuals who end up living together in one house and getting married for financial convenience. What started as a simple symbiotic relationship between the two becomes complicated when they begin to have feelings for each other. Dramabeans gave the series an honorable mention in the Best Drama category of its 2017 Editors’ Picks.
2. Chicago Typewriter (Fantasy Period Drama)
If you’re looking for an underrated drama right now, Chicago Typewriter (2017) is a choice you won’t regret making. It tells the story of three independence fighters who lived during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s and are reincarnated into the present time as a famous writer in a career slump, a ghostwriter, and a veterinarian—played by Yoo Ah-in, Go Kyung-pyo (Cross), and Im Soo-jung (Search: WWW), respectively. I watched this almost three years ago, so I couldn’t exactly remember what transpired in the story but trust me, it’s a great drama (numerous comments online also say it’s one of the best of 2017). And as always, Yoo Ah-in gave an amazing portrayal of his character!
3. Chocolate (Melodrama)
IndoorEnthusiast: This show generated little to no hype in K-drama circles, but I’m glad that deter me from watching it. When powerhouses like Yoon Kye-sang (The Good Wife) and Ha Ji-won (Hospital Ship) star together, you pay attention. Chocolate (2019-2020) is a love story between a chef and a neurosurgeon who met as kids and touched each others’ lives, before running into one tragedy after the other. I won’t lie, this is a sad show, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it—there is also humor, hope, and wholesome chemistry between the leads. At its heart, this is the story of the human spirit surviving against all odds and finding love.
4. Designated Survivor: 60 Days (Political Thriller)
IndoorEnthusiast: Korean remakes of Western shows tend to be a hit or miss, but Designated Survivor: 60 Days (2019) was a hit all the way through. Ji Jin-hee (Misty) leads as the clueless but morally upright Acting President of South Korea when a bomb blast takes out the country’s leadership. The rest of the show is full of political intrigue and clever twists, making for a very satisfying watch if you like your thrillers to be detailed. Aside from Ji Jin-hee’s stunning performance, the rest of the cast—including Kang Han-na (Start-Up), Heo Joon-ho (Kingdom), Lee Joon-hyuk (Stranger 2), and Son Seok-gu (Be Melodramatic), and Bae Jong-ok (Mr. Queen)—all deliver exceptional performances and keep you guessing.
5. Flower of Evil (Thriller Melodrama)
IndoorEnthusiast: Flower of Evil (2020) began with a mind-blowing twist – what if you found out that your lover of 10 years has been lying about his identity throughout? What began as an engaging thriller then turned into a beautiful meditation on the value of family and love. This drama balances the mystery and melodrama elements equally well, making it an engaging watch from beginning to end. Lee Joon-gi (Lawless Lawyer) is a revelation in his role as a family man turned into a hunted murder suspect. Watch this one for the thrilling plot twists and amazing performances by the lead cast. It is on our list of the best Korean dramas of 2020. *Not available on Netflix US
6. Hello, My Twenties! (Youth Romance)
IndoorEnthusiast: If I had to describe Hello, My Twenties! (2016) in a single word, I’d say – fun. A slice-of-life story about five girls who share a house and become friends as they navigate work, college, and adulthood. This is one of those dramas that get left out of all the best-of lists but achieve cult following among seasoned K-drama watchers. It is also one of the few good series featuring college goers, a demographic I wish more K-dramas explore. The cast is relatively lesser known—Han Ye-ri (My Unfamiliar Family), KARA’s Han Seung-yeon (Twelve Nights), T-ARA’s Ryu Hwa-young (The Beauty Inside, 2018), Park Hye-su (Introverted Boss), and Park Eun-bin (Do You Like Brahms)—but packs a punch.
7. Mystic Pop-Up Bar (Fantasy)
IndoorEnthusiast: I won’t lie, I started watching this for Guardian: The Lonely and Great God’s Yook Sung-jae. But I stayed for a lot more. Leading lady Hwang Jung-eum (Men Are Men) is a revelation as a woman who has the ability to get inside people’s dreams. Her sins have led her to be cursed to resolve the grudges of 100,000 people. On this journey, she partners with a part-time worker whose touch prompts people to spill their hearts and a detective from the spirit world. The world-building in this show is so much fun! Despite a light and humorous tone throughout, there are some genuinely heartwarming moments. This show is a surprise at every turn.
8. Prison Playbook (Black Comedy)
Prison Playbook (2017-2018) is one of the highest-rated Korean dramas in 2017 but in terms of popularity, it pales into insignificance compared to Reply 1988. The two dramas were directed by the same PD, so his signature directorial style is apparent in both works. Unfortunately, Prison Playbook being a black comedy set in a correctional facility is probably one reason why it didn’t become as famous as Reply 1988. But it did deliver and gave everyone a satisfying experience just as Reply did. The drama follows the everyday prison life of a star baseball player, played by Park Hae-soo, who ends up in jail after attacking a man who tried to sexually assault his sister.
9. The Sound Of Your Heart (Comedy)
The Sound Of Your Heart (2016) is a perfect choice when you want to relax and just have fun while watching a series. Based on a popular webtoon, it centers on a cartoonist, played by Lee Kwang-soo (Live), as he goes about his daily life with his family and girlfriend, played by Jung So-min (Hundred Million Stars From The Sky). The show is quite hilarious, which is why so many fans loved it and wanted a sequel. KBS2 did broadcast a reboot, which is also on Netflix, but it features a different cast and has been criticized for being “not even half as funny as the first season” (well, this is just a random viewer’s opinion I read online).
10. That Winter, The Wind Blows (Romantic Melodrama)
I couldn’t believe a love story involving a blind person could be successfully told on screen for 16 hours, but That Winter, The Wind Blows (2013) happened. Song Hye-kyo (Encounter) took on the role of a visually impaired heiress who lives alone in her mansion after her parents got divorced when she was a child. She also got separated from her elder brother named Oh Soo and didn’t hear from him for a long time. When she decides to find and meet him, she ends up crossing paths with another man also named Oh Soo, played by Ju In-sung (Dear My Friends). A high-stakes gambler, this man ends up pretending to be the real Oh Soo for the sake of the money. I can’t drop spoilers here, so watch the show to find out what happens next when they fall for each other. The series was penned by award-winning screenwriter No Hee-kyung, who also wrote Live, Dear My Friends, and It’s Okay That’s Love.
11. Tomorrow With You (Fantasy Romance)
Tomorrow With You (2017) centers on a CEO of a real estate company, played by Lee Je-hoon (Where Stars Land), who can travel through time via a subway—a special ability that has helped him succeed in his business. One day, after foreseeing that he will die soon, he decides to marry an amateur photographer, portrayed by Shin Min-ah (Chief Of Staff 2), thinking it’s the only way he could save himself. However, their marriage seems to be not the answer to his problem and he becomes desperate to defy his fate when he falls in love with her. The director of this series also helmed Oh My Ghost, Hundred Million Stars From The Sky, Abyss, and most recently, Hi Bye, Mama!
12. Tunnel (Fantasy Crime Thriller)
OCN is home to most of the crime thrillers in K-dramaland so there’s really a lot to choose from when you’re in the mood to indulge yourself in this genre. Tunnel (2017) is one of those that stood out, telling the story of a detective, played by Choi Jin-hyuk (Justice), who mysteriously disappeared in 1986 and appears in 2016 while chasing after a serial killer. After learning that the killer hasn’t been caught yet even after 30 years, he sets out to put an end to the case and hopes that by doing so, he can also return to where he came from. Yoon Hyun-min (My Holo Love) and Lee Yoo-young (The Lies Within) also star in the series as a detective and a criminal psychology professor, respectively.
Not quite what you’re looking for? I’m sure you can find something on our very useful New Netflix Korean Dramas and Movies page.