It's no secret Korean pop culture is a global phenomenon. From Parasite's historic Best Picture win to the massive success of K-pop group BTS, it's clear South Korea's cultural impact is here to stay. But the country also has given us plenty of great TV shows to fall in love with, and better yet, many of them are easily available to stream on sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. So, if you're looking to expand your viewing habits and have a great time in the process, here are 10 inspirational K-dramas to watch right now.
From their intense plot twists to their sweet, heart-melting romances and their killer soundtracks, there are endless reasons to jump on the K-drama train — if you’re not already a happy passenger or enthusiastic conductor, that is. Given their poignant storylines, they're bound to lift your spirits, even if you have to go on an emotional rollercoaster along the way. Plus, there's truly a show for everyone. If you enjoy star-crossed, epic love stories, why not try Descendants of the Sun or Crash Landing on You? Or maybe you love coming-of-age dramas and will enjoy getting sucked into shows like Weight Lifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo. No matter what your preferences are, and how familiar you are with the genre, these K-dramas are well-worth a watch.
1. Crash Landing on You
Even if you're a newbie to K-dramas, there's a good chance you've at least heard of Crash Landing on You. In the hit series, South Korean heiress Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) accidentally crashes in North Korea during a paragliding accident and literally falls for North Korean Special Force captain Ri Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin). As their burgeoning romance progresses, he must help her hide her identity in hopes of making it back home.
It's easy to see why Crash Landing on You is the the third-highest-rated K-drama in Korean cable history. From the explosive chemistry between its two leads to its nuanced portrayal of North Korean life to its compelling cliffhangers, the show is truly one of a kind.
All episodes of Crash Landing on You are streaming on Netflix.
2. Descendants of the Sun
In Descendants of the Sun, hardened South Korean Special Forces captain Yoo Si Jin (Song Joong Ki) finds love with virtuous surgeon Dr. Kang Mo Yeon (Song Hye Kyo) after she tends to him in the emergency room. However, after he's deployed to the fictional, war-torn country of Uruk, they're torn between their relationship and their separate paths in life. Bring out the tissues!
All episodes of Descendants of the Sun are streaming on Netflix.
3. Hospital Playlist
If you're a hardcore Grey's Anatomy fan, Hospital Playlist is the K-drama for you. The series follows five close friends and doctors as they navigate drama both in and out of the hospital. They also all play in a band together to let loose, so this show is the best of both worlds.
All episodes of Hospital Playlist are streaming on Netflix.
4. Itaewon Class
What's more inspiring than watching a character get a second chance at improving their life? After serving three years in jail for nearly murdering his father's accidental killer, Park Sae Ro Yi (Park Seo Joon) opens a Seoul bar to get even with his nemesis but soon finds unexpected kinship with a group of fellow outsiders. Seoul's Itaewon district features a vibrant LGBTQ+ community and the show paints a picture of just how diverse and bustling the city is.
All episodes of Itaewon Class are streaming on Netflix.
5. It's Okay to Not Be Okay
Mental health can be a taboo subject among some communities in South Korea, which only makes It's Okay to Not Be Okay's heartfelt exploration of it all the more poignant. In the series, psychiatric hospital caretaker Moon Gang Tae (Kim Soo Hyun) and his autistic older brother Moon Sang Tae (Oh Jung Se) are struggling to heal after their mother's murder. Gang Tae soon crosses paths with Ko Moon Young (Seo Yea Ji), a popular children's book author with antisocial personality disorder and the two fall in love as the trio help each other heal.
All episodes of It's Okay to Not Be Okay are streaming on Netflix.
6. Romance is a Bonus Book
What if you had another chance with the one who got away? That's the premise of Romance is a Bonus Book, which opens as newlywed Kang Dan I (Lee Na Young) almost runs away with her longtime friend Cha Eun Ho (Lee Jong Suk) on her wedding day. Years later, she's a divorced single mom who takes a temp job at his publishing house and sparks fly. Of course, having effortlessly charming K-drama fan-favorite Lee around is an added bonus.
All episodes of Romance is a Bonus Book are streaming on Netflix.
7. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
This K-drama's titular protagonist (played by Park Bo Young) was born with super-human strength and uses her skills to search for her best friend after she becomes the latest victim of a serial kidnapper. Oh, and she's also torn between her childhood crush Guk Doo (Ji Soo) and her rich CEO boss Ahn Min Hyuk (former K-pop star Park Hyung Sik). Strong Woman Do Bong Soon balances its wholesome and gory sides well and features a particularly adorable core romance.
All episodes of Strong Woman Do Bong Soon are streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
8. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
There honestly aren't enough American shows about college life, but luckily, K-dramas have you covered. This series follows college weightlifting athlete Kim Bok Joo (Lee Sung Kyung) as she reconnects with campus swimmer Jung Joon Hung (Nam Joo Hyuk), who was her childhood bestie. Their puppy love eventually turns them into one of the most popular couples on campus, but their relatable coming-of-age struggles are bound to strike a chord with college students and young adults.
All episodes of Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo are streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
9. What's Wrong With Secretary Kim
Yes, boss and secretary romances can be a tired trope, but What's Wrong With Secretary Kim is a welcome exception. After arrogant businessman Lee Young Joon's (Park Seo Joon) longtime secretary Kim Mi So (Park Min Young) suddenly announces she's leaving after nearly a decade on the job, Young Joon does everything in his power to win her back. Along the way, they discover there's more to each other than it seems, and help each other process their traumatic pasts. And let's be real: Park's effortless leading man charm makes this show worth a watch all on its own.
All episodes of What's Wrong With Secretary Kim are streaming on Hulu.
10. When the Camellia Blooms
If you're searching for a series that balances rom-com sweetness with thrilling crime drama, When the Camellia Blooms is the show for you. The series tells the story of Oh Dong Baek (Gong Hyo Jin), a single mom who opens a bar in a new town and slowly falls for Hwang Yong Sik (Kang Ha Neul), a sweet-natured policeman who's developed feelings for her. But just when they seem to be working things out, a murderer marks Dong Baek as his next victim. Seriously, this show has it all.
All episodes of When the Camellia Blooms are streaming on Netflix.