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The Beginner’s Guide to Netflix K-Dramas

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

Picture this: You’ve scoured all you can on Netflix, you’ve found yourself scrolling aimlessly through the Netflix catalogue and there’s just nothing to watch anymore. 

In the words of Bong Joon-Ho (award-winning director of the film Parasite), “Once you overcome the 1-inch barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” 

To that effect, if you find yourself not able to find anything good to watch on Netflix lately, here’s an all-inclusive list of K-dramas on Netflix that are sure to grab your attention, pull at your heartstrings, make those butterflies in your stomach go crazy or even give you all those adrenaline filled thrills and scares. 

Not to be that person but there’s surely plenty of soothing for the eyes on-screen too!

I think most will have heard about romance K-dramas, arguably one of the most popular sub genres on Netflix but you’ll be pressed to learn that the worldwide phenomenon of a show – Squid Game can also be classed under the genre of K-drama. 

If you’re looking for something with the same sense of suspense with nods to societal discourse, maybe it’s time to add All of Us Are Dead to your watchlist. 

All Of Us Are Dead follows a group of high school students as they find themselves in the midst of a zombie apocalypse where their high school is now ground zero for the spread of the virus which is turning people into flesh-eating monsters. 

The show features an outstanding cast and a storyline that drags you in almost immediately. With excellently crafted action scenes coupled with plenty of heart wrenching emotional scenes, you’re sure to enjoy this one if you’re fond of things that have you sitting on the edge of your seat, close to tears and maybe just a little scared. This is definitely not a show for the faint of heart (for example: me) 

Away from suspense and action, on the entirely opposite end of the spectrum, if you love the cheesiness and clichés of a good romantic comedy, maybe the shows Business Proposal and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bokjoo are calling your name. 

Business Proposal reads like a typical Wattpad novel in the best way with all the tropes that we know and love, you know the super-rich CEO that’s ridiculously handsome that somehow finds himself entangled with a pretty average commoner but bonus points for the fake dating trope! 

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bokjoo finds itself subverting a commonplace trope you’d see in your typical romance comedy K-drama, by that I mean it features an adorable childhood best friend to lover’s trope with an unsuspecting female lead. She’s strong (obviously) and independent, a little rough around the edges if you will, who finds herself in a “he fell first” situation with a dreamy swoon boat athlete with all the golden retriever boyfriend energy. This show is a personal favourite for those days where I just need an easy watch that will make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts and remind me that maybe love actually exists. 

If you love things that are a bit more magical then I need to tell you about Tomorrow and W: Two Worlds. Two very different shows but all featuring fantasy aspects that are sure to draw you into a world of intrigue. 

Tomorrow is a bit more in the realism side, it touches on some very sensitive topics so I implore you to check the trigger warnings for before you watch. It addresses topics such as suicide and self-harm so please be cautious. The show revolves around grim reapers tasked with helping those at risk of suicide. While being very heavy content, the show deals with these topics very interestingly. It quickly became one of my personal favourite shows. 

W: Two Worlds is an older show but nevertheless it’s timeless, featuring one of my all-time favourite actors in the industry, Lee Jongsuk. The show revolves around a web-toon comic, specifically around how the female lead finds herself pulled into her favourite comic world. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

You would be surprised just how many problems this can cause for our female lead.

Finally, I think I have to mention my top two favourite K-dramas ever, Nevertheless and The King’s Affection. 

Nevertheless is definitely for an adult audience, specifically a young adult audience so people like my fellow university students that want just a little bit of realism with all the swoon-worthy moments and the frustrations and emotions that come with this specific age bracket. This show quickly became one of my comfort shows, I find myself re-watching it more than I’d like to admit to be honest. 

On the opposite end of the time spectrum, The King’s Affection is a historical drama with a little bit of everything for everyone in it. The show is filled with royal drama and politics but from the perspective of a woman who finds herself in the precarious position of pretending to be her twin brother– the crown prince. This particular drama was a hit with everyone in my family as much as it was a hit for me. 

And I hope that it’s going to be a hit for you too! 

Happy watching!

Nuhaa Isaacs is a Cape Town born and raised student at the University of Cape Town. She is currently studying toward a BA triple majoring in English Literary Studies, Media and Writing as well as Gender Studies. She has been a staff writer for Her Campus UCT since 2021, and a current member of the Social Media Sub-committee at Her Campus UCT. Sappy romantic fantasy novels and incredibly specific Spotify playlists are everything to her (as well as her three cats: Zuri, Shelley and Peanut). You can find her on Instagram (@nuhaa_i) or Tiktok (@nuhaaorwhatever) probably posting silly little outfit videos. Get in touch via email for any formal inquiries: nuhaa.isaacs@gmail.com.