Written by Khushi Parikh and Mesalenuo Tsurho.
- Extracurricular (2020)
Genre: crime, dark, high school, thriller
Oh Ji-soo is a model high school student, or so it may seem. He leads a double life, anonymously running a security service for sex workers using a throwaway phone to earn tuition for college. But a series of unexpected events leads to him losing the phone and money, revealing himself to fellow classmate Bae Gyu-ri and upending his careful life. This is just the beginning of an adventure that gets darker and more thrilling with each passing episode. Their crimes begin getting larger and harder to conceal. The students deal with sensitive issues and make questionable choices, challenging their own — but also the viewers’ — sense of morality.
The chemistry between the cast is out of this world. All of the characters are brilliantly fleshed out. The main leads are unscrupulous antiheroes but you still root for them. The plot is unpredictable. Every moment is a climax, or perhaps there is none. It’s mind-blowing and compelling — you’ll be on the edge of your seat throughout. You’ll crave for more after it’s over, but it’s also so unique that there’s nothing out there like this one.
Trigger Warnings: Violence, self-harm, abuse, sexual assault, torture
- Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022)
This drama created the popular 2022 TikTok/Reels audio “woo to the young to the woo” and started a whole trend for over three months. Just like the audio, the show is playful and wholesome, starring Park Eun-Bin as Woo Young-Woo, our main character. The series surrounds Young Woo, a lawyer with Asperger’s Syndrome, as she navigates through her workplace, love life, and society in general. The show balances comedy against a range of subjects from divorce and drama with empathy. It is an all-rounder that pushes quirky actions just enough that it isn’t cringey, but rather, endearing.
- Hospital Playlist (2021)
Genre: Slice of life, medical, wholesome romance, friendship
A perfect watch for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Hospital Playlist is a light-hearted drama that follows the lives of five doctors in their forties who become friends during medical school and share a love for music. They have a band of their own! How cool is that?)The epitome of #FriendshipGoals, I couldn’t stop smiling while watching it. It’s funny, unpredictable, iconic and each character is lovable. There are no hospital politics, no unnecessary emergencies or panic — it is a refreshingly realistic take on adulthood, exploring the lives of the doctors in the context of, but also beyond, their profession.
- Reply 1988 (2016)
Genre: Family, period drama
This 2015 K-Drama stole the hearts of viewers worldwide for both its iconic comedic scenes and for the heartwarming messages in every episode. Reply 1988 is part of the Reply series that are basically flashbacks to a time period in the lives of some adults. This particular series is set in a neighborhood with very unique (at times annoying) characters. From the Go (Baduk) champion to our happy-go-lucky Deok-sun who struggles academically, the drama follows the stories and conflicts of the five families that live in the neighborhood. It tackles academic pressure, love, a parent’s sacrifice, insecurity, and at a certain level, politics. Reply 1988 is a must watch for any new viewer getting into K-Dramas. It ticks all the right boxes with comedy and drama and the ability to make us, the viewers, relate and empathize with all the characters.
- The Glory (2022)
Genre: Revenge / Bullying
Bullies. Drama. Fame. Revenge. The present as vengeance for the past. The show follows Moon Dong-Eun’s meticulous decade-long plan to get revenge on a group of individuals that bullied her in high school. The show isn’t your typical K-Drama with a side romance recurring every 5 minutes. It focuses on Dong-Eun, the past, and the plan unraveling in the present. The title, however, is still open to interpretation as the end of Season 1 left everyone at the edge of their seats. Does Dong-Eun get her revenge and bask in the glory of her success? Or do the bullies finally get rid of her for good and revel in the glory of their final win?
Trigger Warning : This show deals with some very heavy topics such as bullying, assault, S/A, and more. There are also explicit scenes of bullying and blood. Viewer discretion is advised.
- The Heirs (alternative title: The Inheritors) (2013)
Genre: cliché romance, melodramatic, coming-of-age
A classic. The main leads, Kim Tan, the heir of a large conglomerate, and Cha Eun-Sang, the daughter of a mute housekeeper, have a chance encounter in LA. Later, they reunite at an exclusive high school for the super-rich. This coming-of-age love story has it all: a heart-fluttering romance, a bad-boy romantic rival, estranged brothers, teenage angst, broken friendships, toxic parents, complicated family dynamics, corporate politics, and unlikely allies. But beneath all that, it is the story of a group of teenagers who stand up for each other when push comes to shove. Despite the large star cast, the writers managed to write three-dimensional characters, develop a scene-stealing supporting cast, and maintain a decent pace. The tenacity of the characters and heart-tugging moments offset the predictability, transforming the stale Cinderella plot into a must-watch.
Also, although this was a list of Korean dramas to watch, we absolutely HAD to recommend these too, out of our good conscience.
2gether : The Series (2020)
Country of Origin: Thailand
Genre: Boy Love, Rom-com, College
Where to watch: It’s on Netflix in only select countries so you might need to use a VPN.
This series is a Thai BL (Boy love) that took the internet by a storm. It stars actors Bright Chivaree and Metawin (Win) who play two college boys that start a fake relationship. But as we’ve seen this trope before, the two end up falling in love through a series of hilarious and adorable events. The jokes, side character romances, and overall theme of the drama makes it a binge-worthy fan favorite.
Nirvana in Fire
Country of Origin: China
Genre: Palace intrigue, historical/costume drama, bromance, revenge, politics
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten viki
Hands down THE. BEST. DRAMA. EVER. Nirvana in Fire is an absolute masterpiece. Powerful General Lin Xie is framed by a political rival while in battle, and his entire army of 70,000 Chiyan soldiers are massacred. His son, Lin Shu, barely survives and returns to the capital after twelve years using an alias to restore justice. Layered. Nuanced. Subtle. Engrossing. The drama is a careful game of chess. Slowly, step-by-step — almost clerically — Lin Shu eliminates corruption and immorality from the imperial court, shakes up the monarchy, and helps his childhood friend, the stubborn and unfavoured Prince Xiao Jingyan to the throne.
Nirvana in Fire boasts magnificent cinematography, spot-on casting, and stellar acting from every single member of its sprawling ensemble. The writing is extremely intricate and detail-oriented; each action, each word spoken, each shot in every scene is there for a reason. All of the storylines come together completely cohesively at the end. Plus, the dialogue is brilliant because all the major characters are smart and consistently try to outwit each other. I can go on and on about it…. once you’ve watched, you’ll regret not watching it sooner.