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The five K-dramas you absolutely must watch on Netflix

July 3rd, 2021 at 6:58 PM
Best Korean dramas on Netflix

Let’s go ahead and cut to the chase. If you have any interest whatsoever in K-dramas — and you should, because so many of them come close to TV perfection — Netflix is increasingly the place to turn to. The biggest streamer in the world has already made clear it will spend around half a billion dollars this year on Korean content alone. That’s to continue investing in a Korean content slate that’s helped Netflix garner almost 4 million users in the country. It even built a pair of production facilities in South Korea and has been releasing a steady stream of original Korean shows and movies. Which ultimately begs the question: Which ones, exactly, are the best Korean dramas on Netflix to stream right now?

Since “best” is subjective, a good way to answer this is by identifying a certain kind of Netflix K-drama. Below, you’ll find our recommendations for original Netflix Korean fare that a connoisseur of the genre would identify as “must watches.” We can argue about which ones of these are the best. But all of them, most definitely, need to at least be seen. There are five shows in all below. And at least some of them also deserve to be on the year-end best TV of 2021 lists. Furthermore, you don’t have to take our word for this, either. Ask any hardcore K-drama fan, and they will point to some and maybe even all of these shows as among the best of what Netflix has to offer. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

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Best Korean dramas on Netflix

If you need a one-stop-shop place to start, Netflix’s K-drama landing page is a good entry point into the category. These are all grouped the same way Netflix content on your main page is. The K-drama categories here include everything from “Soapy TV Shows” to “Popular,” “Sci-fi” and more.

Let’s start with a recent addition to Netflix’s library, one that debuted in February and which I just finished, myself.

Vincenzo

Vincenzo is a perfect example of something I’ve encountered during the coronavirus pandemic. Stuck at home, I’ve found myself gravitating to international streaming fare, including Korean shows like this one. And it feels like so many  K-dramas, including Vincenzo, try to bombard you with anything and everything you could possibly like. Vincenzo, especially, encompasses comedy, drama, action, corporate espionage and intrigue, a little romance — something, in other words, for everyone.

A quick summary of the plot: Vincenzo Cassano is a lawyer and consigliere for the Italian mafia. He returns to his homeland of Korea, and quickly locks horns with a corrupt CEO and his minions. Vincenzo lays the smack down on bad guys the way you’d expect from a stylish Mafioso. He also sticks up for a coterie of small business owners, who form the heart of the show. There are way too many twists in Vincenzo to count, so you’ll never get bored. There’s only one season (again, something of a hallmark of K-dramas), so you don’t have to make a huge investment here. It’s pure escapist TV, of a sort that translates across any language.

Crash Landing on You

Crash Landing on You gets my vote for the #1, absolutely best Korean drama on Netflix.

The plot: A filthy rich South Korean heiress goes hang gliding and gets swept across the border in a storm. She lands in a North Korean forest. In a tree, where she crash lands into the arms of a handsome, elite North Korean soldier.

You can probably guess where this one’s going.

Same as with Vincenzo, CLoY (the acronym by which fans refer to the show) is chock-a-block with everything from romance to comedy, drama, action sequences, big-budget set pieces, an ensemble bromance, and spy action, along with much more. Be warned: You will literally fall in love with all of these characters, and you might be ready to march outside of Netflix’s headquarters in protest once you’ve finished this one. That’s because there’s not going to be a Season 2. Just try it, though. You’ll see what we mean (But you WILL be satisfied, overall, because this one is absolutely the best of the best).

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

From Netflix’s official description of It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: “Desperate to escape from his emotional baggage and the heavy responsibility he’s had all his life, a psychiatric ward worker begins to heal with help from the unexpected.” The unexpected being “a woman who writes fairy tales, but doesn’t believe in them.”

There’s an element of bravery in this show that I haven’t seen a TV drama tackle to this same degree in a long time. It beautifully grapples with issues of mental health and what it means to heal from trauma. Every character in the show has some baggage, of sorts, along these lines. From depression to PTSD. No less than The New York Times praised this show as one of the best international series of 2020.

Two honorable mentions

Reply 1988

This one sort of feels like The Wonder Years — but transported to Seoul, in the 1980s. That should tell you all you need to know about Reply 1988, which follows the lives of five families who all live on the same street in a Seoul neighborhood called Ssangmun-dong. It will remind you of a certain time in your life, when you were growing up, and it really underscores the universality of the best Korean dramas on Netflix.

Hospital Playlist

“Every day is extraordinary for five doctors and their patients inside a hospital, where birth, death and everything in between coexist,” reads the official Netflix description for Hospital Playlist.

This one reminds me of Scrubs, in terms of the mixing of tones. The characters practice medicine. There’s also the normal bond we see between friends. And they’re also all in a band together. Hospital Playlist is another fan favorite. It’s on all of the “Best Korean drama” lists, and fans of the genre should definitely check it out.

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Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.




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