Highest-Rated Korean dramas (cable) of all time [UPDATED]

This ranking of the highest-rated Korean dramas of all time (in cable TV) is updated every time a new drama breaks a record and unseats another series. Take note that this ranking is based on the sum of the average and peak nationwide TV ratings of the series from Nielsen Korea, and thus reflects the popularity of the shows during their broadcast (SUM = AVERAGE + PEAK).

For a similar ranking based only on peak ratings, go to this page). For the most-watched or highest-rated Korean dramas in free-to-air TV (non-cable dramas), click here.

20. Strong Woman Do Bong-soon — 17.3% (7.6% + 9.7%)

Official poster of korean drama Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
  • TV Channel: JTBC
  • Broadcast Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Romantic Comedy, Fantasy
  • Director: Lee Hyung-min
  • Writer: Baek Mi-kyung

No. 20 on this ranking is JTBC’s highest-rated Korean drama in 2017 in terms of average ratings—Strong Woman Do Bong-soon. The titular character, played by Park Bo-young, is gifted with superhuman strength and works as a bodyguard to a chaebol heir portrayed by Park Hyung-sik. Written by the same screenwriter who penned another drama found on this list, this successful series became instrumental in boosting the popularity of Park Hyung-sik and controversial actor Ji Soo.

19. Memories of the Alhambra — 18.4% (8.4% + 10.0%)

Memories of the Alhambra Poster
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Saturdays & Sundays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Director: Ahn Gil-ho
  • Writer: Song Jae-jung

Memories of the Alhambra (2018-2019) boasts a highly fresh and interesting concept that comes from the writer of W-Two Worlds. Fans became interested in it knowing that the PD behind the award-winning thriller Secret Forest would lead the project and A-list actors Hyun Bin and Park Shin-hye signed up to play the main characters. It follows an investment company CEO (Hyun) who travels abroad to meet the creator of an innovative augmented reality (AR). He then finds himself entangled in a series of mysterious events after a high-ranking official of his company’s rival is found dead a few hours after their meeting.

18. Reply 1994 — 18.64% (7.13% + 11.51%)

Reply 1994 Poster 1
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 21
  • Genre: Romance, Comedy
  • Director: Shin Won-ho
  • Writer: Lee Woo-jung

The second installment of the Reply/Answer Me series follows six university students from the countryside who live together in a boarding house in Seoul and the boarding house owner’s daughter, played by Go Ara (Miss Hammurabi). The characters and their relationships are the shining jewels crowning this show, which got at least 6 nominations from the 50th Baeksang Arts Awards, including Best Drama, Director, and Screenplay. Reply 1994 (2013) is a sleeper hit which premiered with only 2.6% viewership but achieved a peak rating of 11.5 percent on its finale.

17. The Lady in Dignity — 18.66% (6.59% + 12.07%)

Woman of Dignity Poster 3
  • TV Channel: JTBC
  • Broadcast Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 20
  • Genre: Drama, Mystery
  • Director: Kim Yoon-chul
  • Writer: Baek Mi-kyung

Kim Hee-sun plays a wealthy daughter-in-law who enjoys luxury because of her husband’s family. But when the family’s finances sink and her husband commits adultery, her life starts falling part, especially after a mysterious caregiver, played by Kim Sun-ah, arrives in the family to bring them more hardship. With the elements of family drama, mystery, greed, and power tripping, The Lady in Dignity (2017), also known as Woman of Dignity, easily recorded a peak episode rating of 12.1% and became one of JTBC’s highest rated dramas.

16. Prison Playbook — 18.75% (7.56% + 11.19%)

Wise Prison Life Poster 3
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Wednesdays & Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Black Comedy
  • Director: Shin Won-ho
  • Writer: Jung Bo-hoon

Prison Playbook (2017-2018) 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 is forced 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 the 54th Baeksang Arts Awards and won Best Drama at the 12th Korean Cable TV Awards.

15. Encounter — 18.8% (8.5% + 10.3%)

Encounter Poster 1
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Wednesdays & Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Romance
  • Director: Park Shin-woo
  • Writer: Yoo Young-ah

With immensely popular actors playing its lead characters, Encounter (2018-2019) was undeniably one of the most highly anticipated dramas of 2018. Well, the numbers attest to that. It enjoyed a double-digit viewership right off the bat, hitting 10% during its second episode. Although the ratings gradually decreased in the following weeks, they remained decent and averaged out to nearly nine percent. Song Hye-kyo is starring as a hotel CEO who has everything in life but the freedom to do the things that give her genuine happiness. Everything changes for her when she meets a free-spirited and ordinary young man (Park Bo-gum) while traveling abroad.

14. The Uncanny Counter — 18.9% (7.9% + 11.0%)

The Uncanny Poster featuring main cast Jo Byung-gyu, Yu Jun-sang, Kim Se-jeong, and Yum Hye-ran
  • TV Channel: OCN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Saturdays & Sundays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Fantasy, Action
  • Director: Yoo Seon-dong
  • Writers: Yeo Ji-na, Kim Sae-bong

In The Uncanny Counter (2020-2021), Jo Byung-gyuYoo Jun-sangKim Se-jeong and Yeom Hye-ran play a team of demon hunters who fight evil spirits that prey on humans. To hide themselves among mortals, they operate a noodle restaurant when they are not conducting their operations. The webtoon-based fantasy action series is currently the highest rated Korean drama in OCN history. It was so successful that it had been confirmed for a second season.

13. The Crowned Clown — 19.3% (8.4% + 10.8%)

The Crowned Clown Poster
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Mondays & Tuesdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Historical Drama
  • Director: Kim Hee-won
  • Writers: Kim Sun-deok & Shin Ha-eun

2019 is a great year for Yeo Jin-goo because two of his three dramas in that year are on this list! In The Crowned Clown (2019), he played a Joseon King who puts his doppelganger on the throne amid power struggles that threaten his life. In terms of average ratings, this is the 2nd highest-rated cable K-drama in 2019. And it’s not hard to understand why. The cast delivered brilliant performances, with Yeo Jin-goo earning a Best Actor nomination at the 2019 Baeksang Arts Awards for his portrayal. He got nominated along with veteran and award-winning actors Lee Byung-hun, Kim Nam-gil, Lee Sun-kyun, Hyun Bin, and that is no mean feat! He’s one of the youngest actors in history to be nominated for the prestigious award.

12. Hotel del Luna — 20.9% (8.9% + 12.0%)

Hotel del Luna Poster
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Saturdays & Sundays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Fantasy Drama
  • Director: Oh Choong-hwan
  • Writers: Hong Jung-Eun & Hong Mi-Ran (a.k.a. Hong Sisters)

Hotel del Luna (2019) is Yeo Jin-goo‘s second drama on this list. This time he’s starring as a hotel manager who’s got an impressive educational background but ends up working for a hotel that caters only to very special guests—ghosts! With IU as the female lead actress and the Hong sisters as the screenwriter, the fantasy romance series easily became the highest-rated cable drama that premiered and concluded in 2019. If you enjoy a horror romance story and a kickass female lead, this series is for you.

11. Signal — 21.4% (8.8% + 12.5%)

Signal poster
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Crime Thriller
  • Director: Kim Won-seok
  • Writer: Kim Eun-hee

Signal (2016) is so good because it properly exploits the mystery and thrill aspect so profoundly, giving the viewers an emotionally gripping experience that would leave them in awe at certain scenes. It centers on a modern-day criminal profiler (Lee Je-hoon) who solves cold cases with the help of a detective (Cho Jin-woong) 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.

10. 100 Days My Prince — 23.4% (9.0% +14.4%)

100 Days My Prince Poster 1
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Mondays & Tuesdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Historical Drama, Romance
  • Director: Lee Jong-jae
  • Writer: No Ji-sul

Rounding out the top 10 highest-rated Korean dramas in cable TV is 100 Days My Prince (2018). It stars singer-turned-actor D.O. as a Joseon prince who wakes up one day a pauper, with no memory of his past as a member of the royal family. A commoner (Nam Ji-hyun) quickly becomes his friend and later his wife after they end up marrying each other in accordance with a law he himself previously created. She often lashes out at him for being a useless husband who can’t even do the simplest household chores, but she soon develops genuine feelings for him. Their happiness and romance are interrupted when he regains his memory and needs to act as the rightful crown prince again.

9. Hospital Playlist — 25.1% (11.0% + 41.1%)

Hospital Playlist Poster 2
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Thursdays
  • No. of Episodes: 12
  • Genre: Medical Drama, Slice of life
  • Director: Shin Won-ho
  • Writer: Lee Woo-jung

Hospital Playlist (2020) was the latest project from PD Shin Won-ho, who directed three other highest-rated Koran cable dramas on this list. It features an ensemble cast composed of Jo Jung-suk, Yoo Yeon-seok, Jung Kyung-ho, Kim Dae-myung, and Jeon Mi-do. They take on the roles of five best friends who attended the same medical school and now work together as doctors in one hospital. The story revolves around their daily lives as they maintain their unbreakable friendship and deal with other people at their workplace. Because of the high ratings and the overall success of the drama, it was renewed for a second season.

8. Itaewon Class — 28.4% (11.8% + 16.5%)

Itaewon Class Poster 4
  • TV Channel: JTBC
  • Broadcast Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Coming-of-age, Youth Drama
  • Director: Kim Sung-yoon
  • Writer: Jo Gwang-jin

Webtoon-based revenge drama Itaewon Class (2020) was one of the most popular series in the first quarter of 2020, thanks to its amazing cast, relatable characters, and writing that was penned by none other than the author of the original webtoon. Park Seo-joon (What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim) played an ex-convict who works hard to become a big name in the restaurant industry and take revenge on the people who sent him to prison. This is one of those shows where the female lead character literally kicks the bad guys’ asses, so you might want to check this out to see how Kim Da-mi nailed her character.

7. Mr. Queen — 30.0% (12.6% + 17.4%)

Mr. Queen Poster
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Saturdays & Sundays
  • No. of Episodes: 20
  • Genre: Historical, Comedy, Romance
  • Director: Yoon Sung-shik
  • Writers: Park Gye-ok, Choi Ah-il

Filled with hilarious delight, Mr. Queen (2020-2021) easily became a fan favorite of the year, thanks to Shin Hye-sun‘s brilliant and comedic antics and Kim Jung-hyun‘s equally amusing character, which throw the audience into laughter with each episode. The series follows a reputable Casanova and chef (Choi Jin-hyuk) at the Blue House who wakes up inside the body of a queen (Shin) in the Joseon period. There, she encounters many challenges and threats to her life, including her love and hate relationship with her husband, the King (Kim). It now holds the title as the highest-rated webtoon-based cable drama, unseating Itaewon Class from the top spot.

6. Mr. Sunshine — 31.08% (12.95% + 18.13%)

Mr. Sunshine Poster 6
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Saturdays & Sundays
  • No. of Episodes: 24
  • Genre: Historical Drama, Romance
  • Director: Lee Eung-bok
  • Writer: Kim Eun-sook

Interestingly, Mr. Sunshine (2018) was directed and penned by the same director-writer pair who produced Goblin and Descendants of the Sun, two of the most popular dramas from 2016 to 2017. This show centers around a man (Lee Byung-hun) who is taken to the US as a child and returns home as an American Marine Corps officer during the time when foreign forces are threatening to colonize the land. After his return to Joseon, he meets a noblewoman (Kim Tae-ri) and develop feelings for her. Praised for its history-rich plots and particularly strong female characters, the series received critical acclaim and positive reviews from both critics and ordinary viewers. It was Sky Castle‘s biggest rival in the 55th Baeksang Arts Awards.

5. Reply 1988 — 31.12% (12.31% + 18.80%)

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

Reply 1988 (2015-2016) lacks revenge arcs, convoluted revelations, or melodramatic romances that characterize many dramas out there. It simply tells the story of ordinary people living in the same neighborhood, showing realistic events surrounding the friendship, love, and family of the five major characters. It hit the headlines during its broadcast for its record viewership that set a new benchmark for cable drama ratings. Lee Hye-ri and Park Bo-gum are starring as a playful teenager and a professional Go player, respectively. The series received at least 8 nominations and won Best Director and Best New Actor at the 52nd Baeksang Arts Awards.

4. Goblin — 31.5% (12.8% + 18.7%)

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

Goblin (2016-2017), also known as Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, is a global hit series that received critical acclaim and became a cultural phenomenon in South Korea. Starring Gong Yoo and Kim Go-eun, it is an interesting series with a fresh and unique story woven beautifully throughout each episode, about a goblin who seeks to end his cursed immortal life and the 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 her show. Writer Kim Eun-sook won the Grand Prize at the 53rd Baeksang Arts Awards for this drama, while Gong Yoo took home the Best Actor award.

3. Crash Landing on You — 34.1% (12.4% + 21.7%)

Crash Landing On You Poster
  • TV Channel: tvN
  • Broadcast Schedule: Saturdays & Sundays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Romance
  • Director: Lee Jung-hyo
  • Writer: Park Ji-eun

When Crash Landing on You (2019-2020) was first announced, people couldn’t help but comment on its seemingly silly plot—a South Korean heiress lands on North Korean soil after a paragliding accident. But it turned out to be the most-watched drama in the first two months of 2020, with many viewers having gone gaga over its lead actors Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin. The story unfolds when a North Korean soldier (Hyun) crosses paths with the heiress (Son) in the forest after the accident. He promises to help her return home, only to fall for her and make things even more complicated. You can see action, romance, comedy, and melodrama in this highly-recommended show.

2. Sky Castle — 36.3% (12.5% + 23.8%)

  • TV Channel: JTBC
  • Broadcast Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 20
  • Genre: Satire
  • Director: Jo Hyun-tak
  • Writer: Yoo Hyun-mi

Runner-up Sky Castle (2018-2019) is probably the biggest sleeper hit in Korean cable TV history. It started its broadcast with a poor viewership of 1.7% but this figure increased 14-fold to 23.8% during its finale. The series stars Yum Jung-ah,  Lee Tae-ranYoon Se-ahOh Na-ra, and Kim Seo-hyung and focuses on a group of rich families’ fight for power, influence, and recognition. Aside from their exclusive neighborhood and affluent background, another thing they have in common with each other is their desperate desire to send their kids to the best medical school in the country. Sky Castle deals with a very serious issue in Korean society—the overly competitive education and the wealthy elite families’ obsession with having their children study in the most prestigious universities.

1. The World of the Married — 47.20 % (18.8% + 28.4%)

The World of the Married Poster
  • TV Channel: JTBC
  • Broadcast Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays
  • No. of Episodes: 16
  • Genre: Romantic Melodrama
  • Director: Mo Wan-il
  • Writer: Joo Hyun

The World of the Married (2020 kicked off its broadcast with a bang when it became the highest-rated drama premiere of JTBC. Its second episode saw a jump in ratings to 10 percent, making it the first-ever JTBC series to hit double-digit ratings on the second episode. It capped off its broadcast with a remarkable finale that remains the highest-rated cable drama episode of all time. The series stars Baeksang-winning actress Kim Hee-ae as a respected doctor whose seemingly perfect life starts to fall apart after she spirals down into a web of hate, shame, and revenge following her husband’s (Park Hae-joon) adulterous affair and her friends’ betrayal.

Find actor jobs or acting opportunities at Jooble

InternJang

InternJang manages a team of writers to publish and promote content for Kdramapal every day. He began watching Korean dramas in 2014 and fell in love deeply with his all-time favorites Signal, Reply 1988, and Misaeng. His affinity for writing led him to start a blog and, later on, spearhead efforts to establish KDP as one of the most dependable sources of K-drama information online.

77 Comments

  • Krishna

    July 10, 2020 - 1:46 pm

    Can anyone clarify why Dr Romantic Teacher Kim 2 isn’t on this list. According to its wikipedia page it has also got the same rating as world of married, they why isn’t it included in this list????

  • Dee

    July 17, 2020 - 10:23 am

    I have observed the arguments, comments, responses on which are the best kdrama between the fans. Everyone seems to claim the kdramas that they have watched and loved should be among the best kdramas….and the list are so varied. These showed that each kdramas is very special and has special appeal to each individual. After finish watching the dramas we became so attached to it(cannot move on syndrome) and recommend to all our friends to watch the same kdramas.
    I myself attached to TKEM so much eventhough it has bad rating.
    To conclude most of kdramas are good and enjoyable to watch despite the cliches or what not due to great scripts, acting, directing etc etc.
    It gains popularity throughout the world even in western countries.
    So just enjoy…….Them.

  • manamina

    August 2, 2020 - 10:09 pm

    It feels more like this list is the spark current viewership based on ratings over the past 5 or so years. My Love from Another Star had a viewership average of 24% for its entire series but was left out. Let’s not forget the behemoth that is Boys Over Flowers. I feel like this may be geared more towards newer interests rather than all time ratings.

    • InternJang

      August 3, 2020 - 8:24 am

      HI manamina, thanks for commenting! The dramas you mentioned are NON-cable series, so they can’t be seen on this article. 🙂

  • Norma

    August 18, 2020 - 6:11 am

    My favorite one is Crash Landing on you

  • Sakura

    September 16, 2020 - 4:53 pm

    But where is Descendants of the sun???

  • Love

    September 17, 2020 - 1:08 am
  • aman

    November 6, 2020 - 6:19 pm

    Tale OF the Nine-Tailed Explained👉 https://youtu.be/8VS-1cxa_po

  • nandita

    November 13, 2020 - 6:10 pm

    My most favorite Reply 1988, sow me that lack of villain drama is still addictive and interesting. the developing of each character is impeccable. It is crazy that in one episode the drama makes you laugh and cry. Such a masterpiece!

  • Rakc

    December 31, 2020 - 6:40 pm

    Who made this list is an complete Idiot ! All Worst and FLOP dramas are in this list. Don’t waste your time by watching all these dramas. Only few are good.

    • Taeil

      March 7, 2021 - 10:30 pm

      This list wasnt made according to anyone’s opinion. It was made according to nationwide viewership ratings -_-

  • sathish

    January 22, 2021 - 7:15 pm

    crash landing on you – nothing can beat this

    • Marina Thomas

      March 18, 2021 - 7:07 pm

      agree. Crash landing on you is my all time favourite series. Loved so many of the characters. Suffering withdrawal symptoms. I want another season.

  • alex

    April 21, 2021 - 10:11 am

    I thought “My Husband Got a Family” was at 52 by the final. Much less many others. Thxs

  • Antipatika

    April 23, 2021 - 1:24 am

    True beauty and rookie historian. They also are nice especially Chan Eun Woo

  • Danny

    April 30, 2021 - 1:56 am

    Why isn’t Penthouse 1 and 2 on this list? That show was number 1 in the ratings categories from start to finish!

  • daisy-ssi

    May 1, 2021 - 9:34 am

    Hey everyone! For those asking why specific dramas are not on this list, it’s because this list is for CABLE DRAMAS, which are aired on tvN, JTBC, and OCN. These are the cable networks in South Korea. So if you’re looking for the dramas from SBS (Penthouse 1 & 2), KBS2, and MBC, they’re on another article for non-cable dramas, and you can find them here https://www.kdramapal.com/highest-rated-korean-dramas-free-air-tv-since-2008-updated/. Thanks and stay well.

  • Random guy

    May 21, 2021 - 12:05 am

    Where is vincenzo

  • ZINART JONAH

    June 12, 2021 - 4:19 pm

    It hurts me to see that the drama ***it’s okay not to be okay*** I can’t find it anywhere here yet it was the most interesting of all those I watched wc are even included here

  • Wuxia

    June 12, 2021 - 9:02 pm

    my favorite is the world of the married.
    Omg, i even have never heard the title of ranks fifth
    Penthouse will be number 2 if that one also airred on cable

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