Korean romantic dramas are my newfound happy place. They’re a little slice of heaven where your soulmate always turns up, a fake engagement can solve pretty much any problem, and Subway is the best—and only—sandwich shop around. (Yes, you read that last part right… Just go with it.) Real-life concerns mean nothing in K-drama land, and that’s exactly how I like it. If you could use a similar escape, rest assured that any one of these five series is more than capable of spiriting you away. They’re all so good, in fact, that you’ll barely even notice when they go from being “a nice distraction” to an honest-to-goodness obsession. But not to worry, because these soul-soothing shows will be here any time and every time you need their comfort.
Her Private Life
When you’re in the mood for pure rom-com fluffiness, you can’t go wrong with Her Private Life. The 2019 drama, streaming on Viki, centers on museum curator Sung Deok-mi, whose respectable dayjob is a cover for her true passion: Fangirling over K-pop idol Cha Shi An. She’s managed to keep her professional and private identities separate for years—until now. Suddenly a Big Misunderstanding involving Shi An, a trendy sports coat, and her new boss is threatening to derail her career. The simplest way to rectify the situation is for Deok-mi and said boss, interim museum director Ryan Gold, to pretend that they’re dating, because of course it is.
Not only do the pair bring plenty of heat to their fake-relationship shenanigans, but they catch very real feelings for each other. The best part is that, throughout their entire courtship, Ryan never displays any interest in Deok-mi giving up her fangirl ways. Far from it! This cinnamon roll of a man actually asks her to teach him how to be a fanboy and generally encourages his girlfriend to be fully herself. I cannot recommend this feel-good series highly enough.
Crash Landing on You
There are countless reasons to watch Crash Landing on You. One of them is that this first-in-class K-drama does not skimp on the fanservice. While only sixteen episodes, the 2020 Netflix series heroically packs in a pretend engagement, bed-sharing, mutual pining, and so much more tropey goodness. At its core, though, it is a forbidden love story between South Korean heiress Yoon Se-ri and North Korean soldier Ri Jeong-hyeok. The two meet by chance (or is it fate?) when a freak paragliding accident drops Se-ri into his less-than-hospital country. While initially reluctant to help her, Jeong-hyeok quickly becomes her fiercest protector. She falls in love with him just like we all would.
What’s the problem, then? Well, since their countries are technically still at war, Se-ri could face life in prison (or worse) for getting caught in North Korea. He would probably endure equally dire consequences for working to get her home. Talk about high stakes! The heart wants what the heart wants, however, and every moment the couple manage to steal together will reaffirm your belief in true love.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
If dark, slightly twisted fairytale retellings are your thing, you’ve gotta see Netflix’s 2020 drama It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (a.k.a. Psycho But It’s Okay). Each episode pulls from a different fairytale, including Beauty and the Beast, and the result is divine. Our Beast is an antisocial children’s book author named Ko Moon-young; Her Beauty is Moon Gang-tae, a caretaker at the OK Psychiatric Hospital who also looks out for his autistic older brother, Sang-tae.
When we meet Moon-young, who was raised in a “cursed castle” by cruel parents, she’s extremely volatile, prone to lashing out. She’s also hella lonely. That gnawing desire for warmth explains why she latches on to handsome, broody Gang-tae after a bloody altercation at his hospital. It doesn’t explain why he seems equally drawn to her, despite knowing she’s capable of turning his whole life upside-down. With its modern-day gothic aesthetic, electric performances, and a killer soundtrack, you will be powerless to resist this one.
Do you hold Twilight, Labyrinth, Buffy, Being Human, and/or Moonlight personally responsible for your taste in paranormal romance? Have you come to peace with the fact that you have A Thing for centuries-old immortal beings, at least when they look like Rob Pattinson or Alex O’Loughlin? Then pack your bags and join me in Goblin land!
Officially titled Guardian: The Lonely and Great God on Viki, Goblin is the story of Kim Shin, a warrior blessed/cursed with immortal life after taking a sword to the chest during Korea’s ancient Goryeo dynasty. (For someone who’s 939 years old, though, he doesn’t look a day over 35, FYI.) Only one person can send him to the afterlife: His long-prophesied “Goblin bride,” a 19-year-old student named Ji Eun-tak, who talks to ghosts. Is their age difference a little disturbing when you really think about it? Sure, which is why I don’t advise doing that math. Anyway, it’s not your fault they are literally destined to be together. This is paranormal romance, baby, not reality! To underscore this point, the show’s equally epic secondary romance is between a Grim Reaper and his reincarnated love.
Descendants of the Sun
Angst bunnies, I got you! Whenever you come across an elite soldier and a talented doctor falling in love on the TV screen, superior hurt/comfort scenarios cannot be far behind. Case in point, the 2016 drama Descendants of the Sun, which has strong Grey’s Anatomy vibes, only rarely gives its hero (Captain Yoo Si-jin) and heroine (Dr. Kang Mo-yeon) a moment of hard-won peace. Most of their time is spent surviving various near-death situations, including a car accident, earthquake, fatal virus, and shooting. There also may or may not also be a time when one of them spends MONTHS thinking the other has died.
I swear the show is not actually as dark as it sounds… Besides, a few cathartic crying jags never hurt anyone, and you will be rewarded with an HEA (or three!), so there’s that.
Which show are you planning to watch first? And do you have any recommended romantic series for me? As a newbie in the K-drama fandom, I am wide open to suggestions. Drop your top picks in the comments, please and thanks!