Over the years, we have seen popular Korean dramas remade for the Western audience. Similarly, there are also hit Western TV series that have been adapted for Korean viewers. At present, the most popular Korean remake from a Western show is The World of the Married, which broke the record as the highest-rated cable drama of all time, in terms of viewership ratings.
Below are some K-drama remakes of popular Western TV shows. How many of these have you watched or are familiar with?
The Good Wife (2016)
The award-winning American legal and political drama is no stranger to the Korean audience. The Good Wife graced Korean television with a domestic adaptation, becoming the first ever US series to be remade in Korea. It was also highly anticipated as it marked the comeback of one of Korea’s top actresses, Jeon Do-yeon, to TV projects after 11 years of doing solely film projects. She is known for starring in the hit romance drama Lovers in Prague, which also became her last official drama project before The Good Wife. Actors Yoo Ji-tae (When My Love Blooms) and Yoon Kye-sang (Chocolate) starred alongside her in the drama. It follows a career woman who goes back to being a lawyer after a fifteen-year hiatus when her husband gets jailed for a political scandal.
Starring Cho Jin-woong (Signal), Seo Kang-joon (When the Weather Is Fine), Park Jung-min (Valid Love), Lee Kwang-soo (Live), and Lee Dong-hwi (Pegasus Market), the black comedy drama centers on a movie star and his buddies as they navigate their way in the entertainment industry. Entourage is based on the award-winning HBO series of the same title that aired for seven years. Even with the star-studded cast, the Korean drama recorded low viewership ratings, which critics associated with the series’ somewhat Western vibe and black humor that is not the usual K-drama feel.
Criminal Minds (2017)
Starring Lee Joon-gi (Flower of Evil), Son Hyun-joo (The Good Detective), Moon Chae-won (Flower of Evil), Lee Sun-bin (Team Bulldog: Off-duty Investigation), Yoo Sun (Mother of Mine), and Go Yoon (Selection: The War Between Women), the crime thriller series centers on a team of highly trained profilers of the National Criminal Investigation (NCI). Their job is to track down criminals and crack their cases. It is based on an American television series with the same title. Despite some big names in the cast, the series’ audience ratings were consistently low all throughout its broadcast. Criminal Minds was initially set to be a KBS2 production but was transferred to tvN for broadcast.
Life on Mars (2018)
When a modern-day forensic scientist gets into an accident, he wakes up to find himself transported back to the year 1988 and is now a detective working at a police station located in a small city. His only key to going back to the present day is a serial murder case. Life on Mars is based on the UK series of the same title and stars Jung Kyung-ho (Hospital Playlist), Park Sung-woong (Rugal), Go Ah-sung (Radiant Office), Oh Dae-hwan (Once Again), and Noh Jong-hyun (Kkondae Intern). Prior to the drama, Jung Kyung-ho has worked with the series’ director, Lee Jung-hyo, in JTBC’s Heartless City.
Based on the UK series Mistresses that aired for two years, the mystery and crime thriller follows four women in their 30s as they become involved in a series of murders, opening a path for each of them towards self-discovery. It stars Han Ga-in (The Moon Embracing the Sun), Shin Hyun-bin (Hospital Playlist), Choi Hee-seo (Big Forest, Stranger 2) and Goo Jae-yee (The Gentlemen of Wolgyesu Tailor Shop). Aside from the South Korean version Mistress, the series also had American and Japanese remakes.
Starring Jang Dong-gun (Arthdal Chronicles) and Park Hyung-sik (Strong Woman Do Bong-soon), Suits centers on a skilled and distinguished lawyer from a prestigious law firm who recruits a young man with a photographic memory and impressive comprehension skills who dreams to be a lawyer. With his license and reputation on the line, they must keep his recruit’s secret, no matter what it takes. The legal drama marked Jang Dong-gun’s return to the small-screen after six years. It is based on the American TV series of the same title that ran for eight years, becoming USA Network’s longest running show to date.
Less Than Evil (2018–2019)
Starring Shin Ha-kyun (Soul Mechanic), Lee Seol (When the Devil Calls Your Name), Park Ho-san (Dinner Mate), and Kim Gun-woo (Catch the Ghost), the psychological crime thriller follows a lonely detective who only focuses on arresting criminals and solving cases. He meets a brilliant psychopathic murderer who ends up helping him crack cases. The series is based on the British series Luther, which aired on BBC One for nine years. Aside from the South Korean adaptation, the drama also has American and Russian remakes. Less than Evil‘s lead actress Lee Seol reportedly beat 300 other actresses who auditioned for the role.
Designated Survivor: 60 Days (2019)
Based on the American television series Designated Survivor that ran for three years (2016–2019), the Korean remake Designated Survivor: 60 Days stars Ji Jin-hee (Misty), Heo Joon-ho (Missing: The Other Side), Lee Joon-hyuk (Stranger 2), Kang Han-na (Familiar Wife), and Bae Jong-ok (Graceful Family). The political thriller drama follows a former chemistry professor who becomes a public official as the Minister of Environment. When a bombing takes place during the president’s State of the Union address, killing all government officials present except him, the minister finds himself as the acting president for 60 days, even when he does not want the position. During his term, he starts to investigate the bombing and track down the culprit.
The World of the Married (2020)
Based on the BBC One series Doctor Foster, The World of the Married was a huge hit locally and internationally, recording the highest average rating of all time for cable dramas. It dethroned its sister show SKY Castle from the same broadcasting company, JTBC. It also claimed the number one spot in the buzz ratings the whole time it aired, as each episode consistently sparked discussions and topics online. Starring Kim Hee-ae (Second to Last Love), Park Hae-joon (Arthdal Chronicles), and Han So-hee (Abyss), the series tells the story of a successful doctor, with her perfect life and family, and how her husband’s extramarital affair slowly becomes her downfall. Bent on hate and revenge, she goes to seek vengeance and ruin her husband’s life.