Not all K-drama fans are into romance and comedy; some are into crime thriller series. Such Korean dramas are well-known for their action-packed scenes and plot twists that can send chills to the bones. If you are more into the heart-stopping and blood-rising genres that give you the absolute adrenaline rush while on your seat, below are K-drama suggestions that will suit your taste. We rounded up eight action-filled K-dramas that are like the hit series Vagabond. They are absolutely worthy of binge-watching, and you can play Sherlock all throughout each show.
City Hunter (2011)
Based on a Japanese manga series of the same name written and illustrated by Tsukasa Hojo, this action-filled political drama, starring Lee Min-ho (The King: Eternal Monarch) and Park Min-young (When the Weather Is Fine), delved deeper into the political reality and social injustice in the system. After a top secret mission of elite agents in 1983 goes successful, they are annihilated on their way home, not by the enemy but by their same people, as secretly ordered by some of their high-ranking officials. The whole team dies, except for one, who vows revenge on every official who took part in his team’s annihilation. He kidnaps a teammate’s newly born son and raises him as his own as he trains him to be highly skilled in combat and defense. The boy then grows up and carries on the revenge plan, infiltrating the Blue House as an IT expert. There, he meets a female bodyguard who has the same goals as him, and inevitably, falls for her. They eventually team up to uncover and expose the corruption of the high-ranking officials responsible for the slaughter of the elite team years ago. City Hunter is filled with plot twists and unforeseen revelations, and it was well received by viewers for its eye-opening scenes that depict the society’s reality.
7th Grade Civil Servant (2013)
Growing up watching James Bond films inspires one boy, played by Joo Won (My Sassy Girl), to be an international agent. On his way to fulfilling his dream, he meets a bubbly and strong-willed rookie agent like him, played by Choi Kang-hee (Good Casting), and they both train and become National Intelligence Service agents together. But when love arises, they realize personal relationship gets in the way of their obligations. Both must stick to their sworn responsibility, even when it means sacrificing their happiness. 7th Grade Civil Servant is an action-filled romantic comedy series about love and espionage, and what lies between love and duty. It is a remake of the film My Girlfriend Is an Agent, which aired back in 2009. The series was well received by international fans and aired in different Asian countries such as Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and Singapore.
Bad Guys (2014)
Starring Kim Sang-joong (The Banker), Park Hae-jin (Kkondae Intern), Jo Dong-hyuk (Rugal), Ma Dong-seok (Squad 38), and Kang Ye-won (Man Who Dies to Live), the crime thriller drama portrays exquisite storytelling through its gripping and heart-stopping action scenes and unexpected plot twists that leave viewers on the edge of their seats. The cast was also praised for their performance, pointing out the impressive character development throughout the show. The series follows a persistent and determined detective who often goes overboard in his line of duty just to catch the criminals, which results in his frequent suspension. He then recruits and forms a team of elite criminals to hunt down criminals for him. His team consists of a psychopath serial killer with a high IQ and doctorate degrees, a mob boss on top of the gangster chain and top dog of the prison, and a highly skilled and meticulous hit man who voluntarily surrendered to the police. Bad Guys received positive feedback, prompting a spin-off season in 2017–2018 and a spin-off movie in 2019.
Heartless City (2013)
Heartless City is known for its complex plot that focused on timely issues in the underlying section of society, paired with its equally complex characters and story development. This crime thriller action drama centers on an undercover infiltration of a notorious drug ring. When her dear friend whom she considers as a sister gets murdered in the criminal underworld while following a lead on a drug kingpin known as “The Doctor’s Son,” Nam Gyu-ri‘s (Different Dreams) character goes undercover to investigate her death, picking up where her dead friend left tracks. However, love knows no rules and no boundaries, and so she unexpectedly falls for the prime suspect behind her friend’s murder, played by Jung Kyung-ho (Hospital Playlist). The lead characters were recognized for their onscreen chemistry, and the show was praised for its overall brilliance and realistic take on the genres, even with the tragic and tear-jerking ending.
God’s Gift: 14 Days (2014)
Nobody is braver and fiercer than a mother on a mission to save her child. After her daughter is kidnapped and murdered, one mother is given the miraculous ability to travel back in time and stop the perpetrator from killing her daughter all over again. Determined to expose the criminal in order to save her child, she teams up with a private investigator on his quest to prove his mentally challenged brother’s innocence, who was wrongly accused of murder. As both embark on a dangerous mission to save their loved ones, they inevitably uncover far more dangerous secrets and crimes that they have never imagined. Starring Lee Bo-young (When My Love Blooms), Cho Seung-woo (Life), Kim Yoo-bin (Stardust), Kim Tae-woo (The Tale of Nokdu), and Jung Gyu-woon (You Are Too Much), God’s Gift: 14 Days highlights more than just a mother’s love but the untold tales of man’s crimes and wickedness. It was adapted into an American remake called Somewhere Between in 2017 in Vancouver, Canada.
Kill It (2019)
Starring Jang Ki-yong (Born Again) and Nana (Justice), the action thriller series boasts of its spine-chilling and suspense-filled episodes. Aside from its crime thriller genre, Kill It also showcased romance and an emotional bond between the characters. It centers on a highly skilled and in-demand criminal who top organizations from around the world hire. Using his profession as a veterinarian to hide his secret identity, he continues to be one of the world’s most lethal men, considered as the epitome of skill, success rate, and anonymity. He eventually meets a tough and persistent detective, played by Nana, whose case lead her to him. With a chilling discovery from investigating his identity, the two inevitably team up to investigate a mystery that connects both of their pasts.
Man to Man (2017)
Man to Man follows the story of a celebrity who hires a bodyguard, unaware of the man’s identity as an elite National Intelligence Service black ops agent, highly skilled in special investigations. With a hidden agenda up his sleeve, he uses his facade as a bodyguard to achieve his true goals. In a twist of events, he gets romantically linked with the celebrity’s manager. Starring Park Hae-jin (Kkondae Intern), Kim Min-jung (My Fellow Citizens), Park Sung-woong (Rugal), Chae Jung-an (Legal High), and Yeon Jung-hoon (Possessed), the action-packed series also highlights the budding bromance between the two lead male characters and one man’s tenacity to do his job well. The show’s screenwriter, Kim Won-seok, was actually part of the pool of writers for the KBS hit series Descendants of the Sun (also referred to as DOTS). Thus, Man to Man‘s first episode contained a parody of the drama’s famous scenes. Two of the DOTS actors, David Lee McInnis (Kill It) and Song Joong-ki (Arthdal Chronicles), also made cameo appearances in the show.
Less Than Evil (2018–2019)
If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, serial killers, good and bad detectives, and the unspoken line between justice and morals, this series is for you. Less Than Evil is most recommended for its narrative of the psychological battle between a strong-willed, stubborn, and justice-driven chief detective and a brilliant and cunning psychopathic killer. When a lone, veteran detective focused on solving cases crosses path with a psychopath, his lonely days are turned into an everyday battle of wits and tricks with a notorious killer. Based on the British TV series Luther, the show stars Shin Ha-kyun (Soul Mechanic/Fix You), Lee Seol (When the Devil Calls Your Name), Kim Gun-woo (Catch the Ghost), and Park Ho-san (Extracurricular). While the story line can be a bit slow in some parts, it instantly turns into a full blown climax in the next second, which hooked viewers into every episode. It is also known for its progressive story line that tries to depict what happens inside a mind of a psychopath.