K-Drama 101: 10 Must-Watch Series for Beginners

K-Drama 101: 10 Must-Watch Series for Beginners
Image credit: SBS

Eager to get into K-drama, but not sure where to start? We've got you covered.

K-drama has grown massively in popularity, and with good reason. The writing is great, the characters are awesome, and the acting is incredible. South Korea has come up with some pretty unique story ideas, but even when they adapt concepts from Western series, they put their own spin on it to make it truly fresh and exciting.

Here are your 10 starter K-drama series to get you hooked.

1. Squid Game

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IMDB rating 8.0/10

Not the first K-drama by any means, but definitely the one that put the genre on the Western map. Hundreds of financially troubled strangers are gathered in a secret location to play deadly versions of children's games in the hopes of winning a massive cash prize. Be warned, this is not for the weak of stomach. It is gory, frightening and psychologically terrifying. But an absolute must if you can handle it, for the wonderful characters and brilliant performances in a story that will keep you guessing.

2. Crash Landing on You

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IMDB rating 8.7/10

If sadistic games are not your thing, then check this one out. A South Korean woman crash lands in North Korea and is quickly found by an army officer. He knows he has his duty to consider, but instead finds himself hiding and protecting the woman. As their feelings for each other begin to grow, things become even more perilous as he must fight to keep her safe.

3. Mr. Queen

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IMDB rating 8.6/10

This is a drama, but it is also non-stop fun. Based on the Chinese TV series Go Princess Go, a present-day man finds himself not only in the distant past of the Joseon era, but also in the body of a queen. Expect lots of laughs, chaos, and a wonderful story that is surprisingly touching.

4. Extraordinary Attorney Woo

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IMDB rating 8.6/10

Park Eun-bin delivers a stunning performance as the title character Woo Young-woo, a remarkably gifted young woman. Woo has a mind like no other, a massive IQ, a perfect memory, and unparalleled creative thought processes. It is these talents that see the autistic Woo graduate from law school at the top of her class. This show is funny, quirky and heartwarming.

5. Business Proposal

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IMDB rating 8.1/10

This is more of a comedy than a drama, but we still recommend it for its sheer brilliance. The writing is so clever, taking a simple yet hilarious premise and turning it into a truly wonderful series. A woman tries to scare off a blind date for her friend, but the blind date turns out to be her CEO. Instead of getting angry, he offers her a business proposal. And so the series is born.

6. While You Were Sleeping

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IMDB rating 8.3/10

A heartwarming story with a supernatural edge. A young woman has dreams that come true. The only problem is that they are dreams of horrible accidents. She teams up with a handsome prosecutor who tries to prevent the accidents she predicts in her dreams. There are tender moments and a few scares in this story, which makes for a great show.

7. Snowdrop

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IMDB rating 8.1/10

This one can be a tough watch, but as far as K-dramas go, it is one of the best and not to be missed. Set in 1987, during the Democracy Movement in South Korea, Snowdrop is based on the real-life notes taken by a man who was formerly a prisoner of a political prison camp in North Korea. After escaping, he makes his way home and finds things very different from when he left.

8. Hospital Playlist

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IMDB rating 8.8/10

Hospital Playlist is one of the ultimate, casual viewing K-dramas. It is perfect if you are after something light and entertaining, that provides wonderful characters and great stories without being too emotionally draining. It focuses on five doctors, who have been close friends since attending medical school together. There's drama, romance, laughs, and surprises at every turn.

9. Vagabond

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IMDB rating 8.1/10

If you love action, and crime thrillers, you need to check this one out. Vagabond is about a humble stuntman whose life is turned upside down when his nephew is killed in a plane crash. What follows is that he finds himself at the center of a massive cover-up. Evidence that the plane crash was no accident goes missing, and this ordinary man is thrust into a web of corruption and danger.

10. It's Okay to Not Be Okay

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IMDB rating 8.6/10

Lastly, we have one for the romantics out there who love journeys of self-discovery. A compassionate and caring psychiatric ward caretaker meets a self-absorbed and cold children's author. He is open, she is closed. Yet when they come together, they learn from and inspire each other so much, that the only answer is true love.

Have you seen all of our must-watch for beginners K-dramas?