The Top 15 Under-the-Radar K-Dramas of the Last Decade

The Top 15 Under-the-Radar K-Dramas of the Last Decade
Image credit: Netflix, tvN, MBC, JTBC, KBS, OCN

A mix of genres, great storytelling and twists crazy enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.

1. White Christmas (2011)

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Set in an isolated high school surrounded by blinding snow, eight students and a teacher stay behind during Christmas break. Suddenly, they receive a cryptic letter predicting someone will die. As they try to find out who's behind the threats, paranoia escalates, and a psychologist with a mysterious past arrives. The students start uncovering dark secrets about each other, but then one of them dies, followed by a harrowing revelation.

2. Heartless City (2013)

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In the gritty underworld of Seoul, we meet Jung Shi-hyun, a dedicated undercover cop known as 'Doctor's Son' in the drug syndicate. Shi-hyun's mission is to take down the drug lord, Scale. Things get complicated when his police superior and only ally is killed, leading to an internal investigation led by Han Soo-min, whose sister was destroyed by drugs. With Shi-hyun's identity at constant risk, his loyalties are tested.

3. Secret Love Affair (2014)

Oh Hye-Won, a sophisticated art foundation director in her 40s, finds herself irresistibly drawn to Lee Sun-Jae, a gifted 20-year-old pianist from a poor background. This affair shatters her monotonous life. As their secret relationship develops, Hye-Won's marriage and career are jeopardized. Hye-Won faces a harsh reality check when her corrupt business practices are exposed.

4. Last (2015)

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Jang Tae-Ho, a successful fund manager, plummets into despair after a stock market crash wipes out his finances, leading him into Seoul's underground society. Here, he encounters a brutal hierarchy of homeless people controlled by a kingpin, Kwak Heung-Sam. Tae-Ho starts at the bottom, determined to reclaim his life. Amidst betrayals and dirty politics, Tae-Ho befriends unlikely allies.

5. Awl (2015)

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Based on a true story, this series focuses on Lee Soo-In, an ordinary supermarket employee. When unjustly fired, Soo-In leads his coworkers in a legal battle against the company's exploitative practices. Their journey is fraught with setbacks, but Soo-In's unwavering determination galvanizes the group.

6. Solomon's Perjury (2016)

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A high school is shaken to its core by the death of a student, Lee So-woo. The official story? Suicide. But whispers of foul play lead to an illicit court formed by the students. Our lead, Go Seo-yeon, the Sherlock- in-skirts, determined to uncover the truth. As the student-led trial unfolds, secrets spill about bullying, corruption, and hidden relationships.

7. Circle: Two Worlds Connected (2017)

Sci-fi meets K-Drama in a story split between 2017 and 2037. In 2017, college student Kim Woo-jin grapples with his brother's mysterious disappearance and a series of bizarre deaths linked to an alien encounter. Fast forward to 2037, in a dystopian world split into the 'Normal Earth' and the 'Smart Earth' where emotions are controlled. Detective Lee Joon-hyuk investigates a string of suicides linked to Woo-jin's old research. The two timelines collide in a mind-bending revelation.

8. Rescue Me (2017)

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In a small, sleepy town, a religious cult takes hold, and Sang-mi's family, reeling from a tragedy, gets entangled in its web. Sang-mi, the beacon of sanity in a fog of fanaticism, signals for help. Enter four high school buddies, including the brooding Han Sang-hwan, whose paths cross with Sang-mi's. What starts as a simple rescue mission turns into a nail-biting battle against a cult leader with a Messiah complex.

9. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (2018)

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Kim Moo-young, a brewery worker with amnesia and a mysterious past, becomes entangled with Yoo Jin-kang, a woman with a heart as big as her secrets are deep. Their lives intertwine in a tapestry of tragedy, with Moo-young's quest for identity leading to dark revelations. Jin-kang's brother, a detective, distrusts Moo-young and uncovers his link to a murder.

10. A Piece of Your Mind (2020)

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The plot swirls around Ha Won, an AI programmer who develops a program to store human emotions. Enter Han Seo-woo, a classical recording engineer with a sunny disposition but a life as patchy as a quilt. Their worlds collide, and emotions run high as Ha Won's program seems to gain a mind of its own. As Ha Won and Seo-woo navigate their feelings, the AI program becomes a Pandora's box, unraveling their pasts and futures.

11. Nobody Knows (2020)

At the center of the series is Cha Young-jin, a detective haunted by the unsolved murder of her friend 19 years ago. The past crashes into the present when a serial killer begins mirroring the old crime. Young-jin, with a blend of dogged determination and haunting guilt, unravels clues that lead her to a seemingly normal teacher, Lee Sun-woo. As the investigation deepens, a group of children, including the enigmatic Go Eun-ho, become entangled in the case.

12. Kkondae Intern (2020)

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Ga Yeol-chan, now a successful manager, faces his worst nightmare: his new intern is Lee Man-sik, the former boss who once made his life miserable. What starts as a sweet revenge fantasy turns into a hilarious and heartwarming journey. Yeol-chan learns how to deal with his newfound power dynamics, while Man-sik, a kkondae (old-fashioned boss), tries to adapt to the modern corporate world. Throughout the series, flashbacks reveal the reasons behind Man-sik's rigid ways and Yeol-chan's past struggles: turns out, it's all justified.

13. Missing: The Other Side (2020)

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In a village invisible to the living world, the souls of missing, deceased people reside. Kim Wook, a con artist with a heart of gold, stumbles upon this mysterious village. He teams up with the stoic detective Shin Joon-ho and the village's guardian, Jang Pan-seok, to solve the mystery behind the missing souls. Each episode is like a case-of-the-week format, unravels the story of a different villager, but there's also the overarching plot about a conspiracy, linking the village to high-profile kidnappings.

14. Beyond Evil (2021)

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Lee Dong-sik, a once-competent detective now demoted to mundane tasks, crosses paths with the ambitious Han Joo-won as they investigate a series of eerie murders in a small town. These crimes eerily resemble an unsolved case from 20 years ago, in which Dong-sik's sister disappeared. Each revelation peels back layers of deceit and corruption within the police force and the town's elite.

15. Youth of May (2021)

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Set against the backdrop of the Gwangju Uprising in 1980, this series tells the star-crossed love story of medical student Hwang Hee-tae and nurse Kim Myung-hee. Their innocent romance quickly entangles with the turbulent political climate. Hee-tae, the son of a powerful government figure, and Myung-hee, a strong-willed nurse with humble beginnings, find themselves in a vortex of societal upheaval. As the uprising escalates, their love is tested by brutal realities and conflicting loyalties.