Highest-Rated Kdramas from 2008 to 2017

Here I am again with another listicle, one which lists the 10 highest-rated Kdramas from 2008 to 2017 (over the past decade). Viewership ratings play a significant role for me in choosing a series to watch, so when I asked myself lately which relatively old dramas (those which were broadcast from 2008 to 2012) to binge-watch next, I ended up looking at the numbers. I was looking for a series which recorded an average rating of 20 % or above when the thought of ranking dramas from the past 10 years randomly came to mind. The ranking is not comprehensive though, as it reveals only the top-rated weeknight shows from the top 3 big networks (yes, no cable shows—for now).

10. Big Thing (2010) — 24.4 %

Big Thing Poster 1

  • Network: SBS
  • Schedule: Wednesdays & Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 24
  • Genre: Political Drama
  • Director: Oh Jong-rok & Jo Hyun-tak
  • Writer: Yoo Dong-yoon

The only SBS drama included on this list, Big Thing (aka Daemul) is a top-rated TV show that occupied the number one spot on its time slot for 11 consecutive weeks, achieving a peak rating of 27.5 percent. The series is based on manhwa artist Park In-kwon’s comic titled Daemul. It stars Go Hyun-jung (Return) as an anchorwoman who gets fired and becomes the first woman president of South Korea. The story of the series revolves around the crisis and the challenges that face her administration. Big Thing gained massive popularity thanks to its controversial political themes.

9. East of Eden (2008-2009) — 24.8 %

East of Eden Poster 1

  • Network: MBC
  • Schedule: Mondays & Tuesdays
  • No. of Episodes: 56
  • Genre: Action & Romance
  • Director: So Won-young
  • Writer: Na Yeon-sook & Lee Hong-ku

The production team of this drama had no regret spending a whopping 25 billion won (roughly $23 million) budget for the show as the series turned out an epic show that captivated millions of viewers, both locally and abroad. The drama has a sizable cast, led by Song Seung-heon (The Player) and Yeon Jung-hoon (Bravo My Life) whose characters have a bitter rivalry between each other. Wow, the fact that it managed to sustain a double-digit viewership over 20 percent and achieve a peak rating of 32.3 percent given that it has 56 episodes is amazing.

8. Boys Over Flowers (2009) — 25.7 %

Boys Over Flowers Poster 1

  • Network: KBS2
  • Schedule: Mondays & Tuesdays
  • No. of Episodes: 25
  • Genre: Romance
  • Director: Jeon Ki-sang
  • Writer: Yoon Ji-ryun

Korea’s version of Meteor Garden is the 8th highest-rated Kdrama from 2008 to 2017. The series, led by Lee Min-ho (Legend of the Blue Sea) and Ku Hye-sun (Blood), attracted high viewership ratings and buzz throughout South Korea (and later, throughout Asia) during its broadcast. It became so popular that broadcast rights for the series were sold to at least 25 countries around the world. Indeed, this series ended up a top-rated show that reached a peak rating of 32.9 percent.

7. Lee San (2007-2008) — 26.4 %

Lee San Poster 1

  • Network: MBC
  • Schedule: Mondays & Tuesdays
  • No. of Episodes: 77
  • Genre: Historical
  • Director: Lee Byung-hoon & Kim Geun-hong
  • Writer: Kim Yi-young

From the PD of Dae Jang Geum (aka Jewel In the Palace), Lee San is a period drama that tells the life story of King Jeongjo—played by Lee Seo-jin (Marriage Contract)—the 22nd ruler of the Joseon Dynasty who is remembered in Korean history as one of Korea’s greatest kings and one who loved the people and reigned for the commoner. The directing of this drama is particularly superb, with PD Lee winning the Best Director prize at Baeksang Arts Awards. This is the longest drama on this list, with 77 episodes that managed to attain impressive viewership ratings, the peak of which stands at 35.3 percent.

6. Iris (2009) — 28.4 %

Iris Poster 1

  • Network: KBS2
  • Schedule: Wednesdays & Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 20
  • Genre: Action, Thriller, & Romance
  • Director: Kim Kyu-tae & Yang Yun-ho
  • Writer: Choi Wan-kyu

This award-winning (Best Drama, Baeksang Arts Awards) action-filled drama centers on two military men, played by Lee Byung-hun (Mr. Sunshine) and Jung Joon-ho (The Flower in Prison), who are recruited into a secret South Korean black ops agency known as the National Security Service and whose friendship is tested as they find themselves at the center of an international conspiracy. The drama went on to become one of the most critically and commercially successful series in 2009, hitting a peak rating of 35.5 percent. It is the first South Korean drama that was broadcast in a Japanese television during primetime.

5. Descendants of the Sun (2016) — 28.6 %

Descendants of the Sun Poster 1

  • Network: KBS2
  • Schedule: Wednesdays & Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Action, Melodrama, & Romance
  • Director: Lee Eung-bok & Baek Sang-hoon
  • Writer: Kim Eun-sook & Kim Won-seok

Ranking 5th on this list of the highest-rated Kdramas from 2008 to 2017 is the global hit series Descendants of the Sun, which took the world by storm with its elaborate screenplay and a beautiful love story that touched the hearts of many viewers. The success of this series helped revive the Hallyu wave that was in decline over recent years, boosting the Korean economy and spreading Korean culture across the globe. The drama tells the love story of a special forces soldier, played by Song Joong-ki, and a medical doctor played by Song Hye-kyo. It obtained a peak rating of 38.8 percent.

4. The Slave Hunters (2010) — 31.7 %

The Slave Hunters Poster 1

  • Network: KBS2
  • Schedule: Wednesdays & Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 24
  • Genre: Action & Historical
  • Director: Kwak Jung-hwan
  • Writer: Chun Sung-il

With a peak rating of 35.9 percent, The Slave Hunters (aka Chuno) is an epic and award-winning (Best Screenplay, Baeksang Arts Awards) drama starring Jang Hyuk (Wok of Love) as a determined slave hunter during the Joseon Dynasty. Aside from the gripping screenplay, the performance of the actors made this drama quite a badass one and appealing to the audience. In particular, Jang Hyuk’s performance is something to watch out for as his earnest portrayal of his character earned him a best actor nomination from the 2011 International Emmy Awards.

3. Moon Embracing the Sun (2012) — 33.0 %

Moon Embracing the Sun Poster 1

  • Network: MBC
  • Schedule: Wednesdays & Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 20
  • Genre: Romance & Historical
  • Director: Kim Do-hoon & Lee Seong-jun
  • Writer: Jin Soo-wan

Moon Embracing the Sun shocked South Korea in 2012 when it surpassed the 40 percent-mark in viewership, obtaining a solid peak record of 42.4 percent. The series, which won Best Actor and Best Drama at the 48th Baeksang Arts Awards, tells the poignant love story of a fictional King, played by Kim Soo-hyun (The Producers), and a female shaman played by Han Ga-in (The Mistress). Its screenplay was adapted from a novel of the same title written by Jung Eun-gwol.

2. Queen Seondeok (2009) — 33.6 %

Queen Seondeok Poster 1

  • Network: MBC
  • Schedule: Mondays & Tuesdays
  • No. of Episodes: 62
  • Genre: Historical
  • Director: Kim Geun-hong & Park Hong-kyun
  • Writer: Kim Young-hyun & Park Sang-yeon

The fourth and last sageuk on this list, Queen Seondeok tells the life story of Queen Seondeok of Silla (one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea) who has to give up her love to save the people. Starring in the series are Lee Yo-won (Avengers Social Club) and Go Hyun-jung (Return) who bagged the Grand Prize at the 46th Baeksang Arts Awards. The emotionally riveting and heart-wrenching show achieved a peak rating of 43.6 percent, notwithstanding its lengthy broadcast.

1. The Baker King (2010) — 36.4 %

The Baker King Poster 1

  • Network: KBS2
  • Schedule: Wednesdays & Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 30
  • Genre: Slice-of-life, Melodrama, & Romance
  • Director: Lee Jung-sub
  • Writer: Kang Eun-kyung

The highest-rated Kdrama from 2008 to 2017 is The Baker King (aka King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo), about a determined young baker—played by Yoon Shi-yoon (Your Honor)—who overcomes many challenges on his road to becoming the best baker in South Korea. The series catapulted actor Yoon to immense popularity and earned him a commendation for his sincere acting. The drama is the most searched word item on Naver in 2010. Its viewership skyrocketed to as high as 49.3 percent, outshining all the other TV programs and creating a boom in bakery sales at that time.

Note on the ranking:

  • Only Mon-Tue and Wed-Thu dramas from KBS2, MBC, and SBS were ranked to come up with the list above.
  • Viewership rating values of 6 out of the 10 dramas above were computed based on data from Nielsen Korea. Data for The Slave Hunters, Lee San, East of Eden, and Big Thing came from TNMS. The ranking holds true under the assumption that the difference between Nielsen Korea and TNMS ratings is close to 0 percent.
  • For questions about how the ranking was made, please contact us.


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.