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My Top 5 K-Dramas on Netflix for Beginners

Have you run out of shows to watch on Netflix? Or maybe you just want to know what everyone was tweeting about? Perhaps, you have looked at the k-drama tab on Netflix and wanted to give it a try but don’t know where to start. Netflix has a relatively diverse selection of K-dramas to watch so it may be overwhelming but this article is a great place to start and offers some of my personal favorites. WARNING: You are at risk of some spoilers while reading this article! 

1.Crash Landing on You (2020)

Crash Landing on You focuses on Yoon Se Ri, a CEO of her own fashion/lifestyle company in Seoul, who “crash lands” into North Korea while paragliding in harsh winds. She gets picked up by Ri Jeong Heyok, a captain in the North Korean military who tries to hide her. This drama is both funny, romantic, heartbreaking, and dramatic. The show actually consulted with North Korean defectors so it is relatively accurate to the real conditions in North Korea. Of course, there are some discrepancies due to the dramatized nature of the show, but many defectors praised the show’s three-dimensional perspective of North Korean people in a BBC article (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51526625). Not only is Crash Landing on You engaging and enjoyable to watch, but the show raises pressing questions about the dynamics of North and South Korea. Bonus: the actors that played Yoon Se Ri and Captain Ri are dating in real life! (As of March 2021).

2.It’s Okay to Not be Okay (2020)

This drama follows Moon Gang Tae, a hospital worker in the psych ward, and Ko Moon Yeong, a famous children’s book author who happens to be Gang Tae’s autistic older brother’s favorite author. After Gang Tae and Moon Yeong’s tumultuous first encounter, their lives become interestingly intertwined throughout the series. It’s Okay to Not be Okay focuses not only on the relationship between Gang Tae and Moon Yeong but also on the relationship between the two and Sang Tae, Gang Tae’s older brother. This drama has a relatively unique plot that follows some of the typical K-drama tropes but also touches on serious topics such as mental health, autism, bipolar disorder, PTSD, abusive relationships, and addiction. This drama gets a high ranking from me due to the wholesome ‘found family’ narrative and discussion of mental health throughout the drama which unfortunately is sometimes a rarity in K-dramas. Also watch this drama if you just want to see some of the incredible and chic outfits that Moon Yeong pulls off! 

3.Boys Over Flowers (2009)

Based on a Japanese manga, Boys Over Flowers is a classic Korean drama released in 2009 that is referenced frequently in Korean pop culture even today. The story follows Geum Jan Di, a scholarship student whose family runs a dry-cleaning business who starts school at an extremely prestigious high school in South Korea. On her first day at school, Jan Di gets entangled with Gu Jun Pyo, the head of the school’s most popular “clique” F4, after she stands up to his bullying. These two have an intense love-hate relationship that will keep you laughing and crying throughout the series. Boys Over Flowers is a lengthier drama as there are 25 hour-long episodes in the series, but this drama is truly a classic that will expose you to many of the typical K-Drama tropes and plots throughout the series. 

4.Rookie Historian: Goo Hae Ryung (2019)

Rookie Historian: Goo Hae Ryung, follows Goo Hae Ryung, who runs away from her wedding to become a female historian in the palace. Her duties as a historian include recording the lives of the King and some members of the royal family in order to provide a time capsule for future generations. At the palace, Hae Ryung develops a friendship with Prince Dowon, who lives isolated from court and secretly writes romance novels in his free time. If you are looking for a historical drama with a badass career-motivated woman who fights for what is right, this drama is for you. Although this drama is more of a reimagined feminist version of Joseon since there actually no female historians in the Joseon period. Rookie Historian does have a lot of historical inaccuracies but it does touch on some historical topics in Joseon such as the smallpox epidemic, sexism, censorship, and religious persecution. 

5.Kingdom (2019)

If you are reading this, looking for something a little less rom-com, I have the drama for you! Kingdom is basically just World War Z meets the Joseon period. This drama follows the Crown Prince Lee Chang as he comes across a plague that resembles what we would classify as a zombie apocalypse. Chang tries to balance this growing supernatural sickness with the political conspiracies and turmoil that dictates the royal court. I have only watched the first season of the show, but Netflix has released a second season so this show is great if you want a more long-term commitment. If you are looking for a darker drama or if you just want to know what would happen in a zombie apocalypse in Joseon, Kingdom is the show for you!

Julianna Grimson

Vanderbilt '24

Currently a freshman at Vanderbilt but originally from outside of Washington, D.C. Undecided in major but leaning towards Political Science or Environmental Sociology. Loves fashion, reading and watching TV. Passionate about the environment, sustainable living, and women's empowerment.
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