Top 15 Historical K-Dramas to Binge in One Weekend
Whether you're a seasoned fan or new to the Hallyu wave, these historical series are sure to keep you busy this weekend.
Prepare for some historical epics that'll make your weekend feel like a minute.
1. "Damo" (2003)
Set in the Joseon era, "Damo" introduces us to Chae-Ok, a low-ranking female police officer who was abandoned as a child. She's not just any damsel; she kicks some serious butt and has more secret missions than you can shake a stick at. When Chae-Ok is assigned to infiltrate a band of rebels, things get messy. She ends up juggling political intrigue, a mysterious rebel leader, and some serious emotional entanglements, especially with her superior officer, Hwangbo.
2. "Tree With Deep Roots" (2011)
King Sejong, a wise and benevolent ruler, is on a mission to create Hangul, a new alphabet for his people. But this isn't just about literacy; it's a full-on political thriller. A secret society isn't thrilled about this democratization of knowledge and will do anything to stop it. Enter Kang Chae-yoon, our swashbuckling hero who starts off seeking revenge but ends up knee-deep in a conspiracy that could shake the kingdom to its core.
3. "Yi San" (2007)
This series follows the life of King Jeongjo, the 22nd ruler of Joseon. "Yi San" spans decades, following the young prince who would grow up to be a reform-minded leader. From the get-go, Yi San's got a lot on his plate: he's solving murder mysteries, pushing for policies, and rubbing shoulders with a colorful cast including Dae-Su, his trusty bodyguard, and Song-Yeon, his artistic love interest. But the path to the throne is like walking a tightrope over a shark tank – fraught with danger, betrayal, and a dash of forbidden romance.
4. "The Iron Empress" (2009)
The Iron Empress, aka Empress Cheonchu, is the granddaughter of Goryeo's founder and she's not here to play games. This series is a heavyweight saga that'll have you rooting for the empress as she defends her kingdom against all sorts of threats. The empress has to deal with treacherous relatives, power-hungry nobles, and invaders knocking at the gates. Her life is like a chess game with armies for pieces, and she's playing to win.
5. "Dong Yi" (2010)
"Dong Yi" introduces us to the Joseon Dynasty, where we meet a bright, lower-class girl who works in the royal palace. Think Cinderella, but with more detective work and less glass slipper. Dong Yi gets tangled in palace conspiracies but uses her smarts to clear her name and, in true underdog fashion, ends up catching the eye of King Sukjong. It's a classic rags-to-riches tale but with some crime-solving, heart-wrenching drama, and enough royal politics to make your head spin.
6. "The Duo" (2011)
"The Duo" spins the yarn of two boys switched at birth in the Joseon period, a plot twist that would have any telenovela nodding in approval. Gwi-dong, born to a noble family, and Chun-dong, a beggar's son, live each other's fates, unbeknownst to them. Gwi-dong becomes a Robin Hood-esque figure, while Chun-dong climbs the social ladder. Their lives intertwine in a beautiful mess of friendship, rivalry, and justice.
7. "Ballad of Seodong" (2005)
Ever heard of a love story sparking an entire city's creation? Welcome to "Ballad of Seodong," where we meet Seodong, a smarty-pants in Silla, one of Korea's ancient kingdoms. He falls head over heels for Princess Seonhwa of the rival Baekje kingdom. But it's not all roses and poetry; there's some serious political chess being played here. Seodong isn't just wooing a princess; he's got grander plans like social reform and building a whole new capital.
8. "The King's Dream" (2012)
"The King's Dream" chronicles the life of Kim Chunchu, the powerhouse who later becomes King Muyeol of Silla. His journey to the throne is no walk in the park. It's packed with political power plays, and he must outsmart rivals and navigate the treacherous waters of court life to unify the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The drama unfolds with heavyweight performances, sweeping battle scenes, and enough twists to keep you guessing.
9. "Jingbirok: A Memoir of Imjin War" (2015)
"Jingbirok" thrusts us into the chaos of the Japanese invasions of Korea in the late 16th century. This is the retelling of the memoirs of Ryu Seong-ryong, a scholar and official who witnessed the wars first-hand. It's a gritty play-by-play of his efforts to support the legendary Admiral Yi Sun-sin, as they fight against the odds to protect their nation. The politics are as sharp as a blade, and the warfare scenes? Spectacular.
10. "Goddess of Fire" (2013)
"Goddess of Fire" tells the story of Baek Pa-sun, Korea's first female potter and a genius with clay. Kidnapped to Japan during one of the many invasions, Baek must use her ceramic skills to survive and preserve her identity. It's a tale of resilience, artistry, and national pride. There are the love triangles and the fiery (pun intended) ambition that drives Baek to become a master of her craft.
11. "The King's Daughter, Soo Baek Hyang" (2013)
In "The King's Daughter, Soo Baek Hyang," we're dropped into the middle of a royal identity crisis. The show circles around Soo Baek Hyang, one of King Muryeong's daughters, who is concealed for her protection. While her sister lives a life of luxury, unaware of her true identity, Soo Baek Hyang grows up with the commoners, and she's as grounded as they come. The series follows her rise from obscurity to significance against the backdrop of political upheaval and familial betrayal.
12. "Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth" (2016)
"Hwarang" takes a detour into the flower-boy laden past of the Silla Kingdom. The story revolves around an elite group of young warriors known as the Hwarang, who are pretty much the ancient equivalent of a boy band with deadly skills. Amidst the eye candy, there's a quest for power, a secret prince, and enough intrigue to make you forget what century you're in.
13. "My Sassy Girl" (2017)
Set during the Joseon era, it's a playful series that reimagines the iconic 2001 film of the same name. The plot centers on a cold-hearted scholar and a feisty princess who can't seem to stay out of trouble – or off each other's nerves. Toss in a few royal mysteries and a power struggle, and you've got a recipe for historical hijinks. The banter is sharp, the chemistry is sizzling, and the costume department outdid themselves.
14. "Queen: Love And War" (2019)
"Queen: Love And War" is all about Kang Eun Bo's quest to become queen – not for power, but to discover the truth behind her twin sister's brutal murder. It's a high-stakes game of thrones as she dives headfirst into palace intrigue and power plays. The show is a chessboard of emotion, with each character being a pawn in the game. Historical accuracy takes a back seat to the drama, but honestly, who's complaining?
15. "King Maker: The Change of Destiny" (2020)
This drama blends historical events with a dash of fantasy, focusing on a face reader who can see the fate of people just by looking at their faces. He's the wild card in a political battle to install a new king. Tensions run high, stakes are through the roof, and the historical backdrop is just ripe for a tale of destiny and power struggles. Expect intense glares, heart-pounding showdowns, and a love that tries to defy fate itself.