When you first approach the The Asian Drama Universe you might find it difficult to navigate through the multitude of information available. Here is a quick guide to the 10 Korean Dramas I would recommend to beginners.
This is not the top 10 best dramas (I will write a separate list in the near future), but simply the ones that are more easily enjoyed by someone who is just starting the Asian drama adventure. In no particular order:
Secret Garden (2010)
The male protagonist, a wealthy CEO, is arrogant and cold. He falls in love with a stunt-woman (played by Ha Ji-Won), but he does not believe in love; thus he asks her to be his “temporary” girlfriend, only to be rejected time after time. After a series of events, they lose their way in a forest during night time. They are received in a cottage by a mysterious old lady who hands them a strange potion. After drinking it, the two swap bodies.
This series is considered a classic and one of the most influential Korean dramas of all times. It is a romantic drama with delightful elements of comedy and a heart-wrecking plotline. The first part of the drama is light and the comedic element is prevalent. In the second part the characters learn through hardships the meaning of love, trust and self-sacrifice. Secret Garden is one of the best love stories to date and is a must-watch for any Korean dramas lover.
My Love from the Star (2013)
This drama is a gem of its own kind. It tells the story of an alien who got stranded on Earth 400 years ago and is waiting for the right planet alignment to return home. “My Love from the Star” has everything in it: an immortal being, aliens, superpowers, reincarnation, romance, comedy and action. It has an amazing cast, great acting, and original story, matched by a memorable soundtrack. This drama took Asia by storm: it influenced the fashion, the make-up industry, the publishing industry and even the eating habits of their viewers.
Descendants of the Sun (2016)
This is a very successful drama in Korea and overseas, especially in Mainland China. Its overwhelming commercial success broke the rating records “My Love from the Star” held for three years. Every product that appeared in the drama became an instant hit. “Descendants of the Sun” is the love story between Yoo Shi-Jin, a Special Forces Captain and a beautiful doctor. They meet in Korea and start to have feeling for each other but they soon separate as they hold different values. A year later they are reunited in a war zone. The two main actors in this drama fell in love on the set and got married a year later.
Mask is a thriller drama that explores the dark side of the human nature. Byun Ji-Sook is a well-educated woman who works in a department store and struggles to pay the loan her family took from a vicious loan-shark. One day she is shocked to meet her doppelgänger who is the heiress of a wealthy family and the fiancé of the main male character. Soon after, the look-alike dies and the loan shark threatens Ji-Sook’s life in order to force her to take on the identity of the heiress. She eventually agrees; but as time goes by she becomes less concerned with her own survival and more distressed for deceiving her husband who is wary of her but with whom she is slowly falling in love. Mask is a drama that will carry you from the heights of joy to the pits of sorrow and back.
Although it is not a supernatural series, “Healer” has some undeniable “Superman” vibes. The hero of the story is skilled fighter during night-time who disguises himself as a shy and coward journalist during the day, in order to be close to the girl he is protecting. The drama won several awards and it features some of the most prominent rising stars in the Korean entertainment industry.
Man to Man (2017)
Man to Man is the story of Kim Seol-Woo, a spy who operates undercover missions around the globe on behalf of the Korean government. After completing his last mission abroad, he is ordered to become the bodyguard of a famous Korean actor with the task to spy on the foreign nationals who come in contact with the celebrity. However, he does not seem to have much success convincing the female manager of his target. She is rather suspicious of him. In order to ensure the success of his mission, Seol-Woo resorts to his go-to modus operandi: make the female manager fall in love with him. But, soon enough, he will learn that she is not an easy target and, actually, he might be the one at risk of falling in love with her instead.
The drama revolves around a 14th century Goryeo warrior and a modern day doctor. In order to save the life of the Queen, General Choi travels to the future and brings back with him a surgeon who remains trapped into the past, surrounded by people who possess magical powers. Faith is an enticing action drama with a very beautiful love story.
I Am Not a Robot (2018)
This drama precedes “Are You Human Too?” and the presence of a robot is the only thing the two dramas have in common. Unlike “Are you Human Too”, in this series we don’t have a robot pretending to be human, but a human who is trying to convince others that she is a robot. Humor ensues as the female protagonist (in an attempt to help her researcher friend) agrees to act as a robot in order to gain the trust and resources of an important investor. The problem arises when the investor decides to test the abilities of the robot himself and asks for the robot to be delivered to his mansion for a trial run. A sweet (yet bitter) love story begins.
Strong Woman Do Bong-Soon (2017)
Do Bong-Soon was born into a family where the daughters inherit (on the maternal line) superhuman strength. The legend has it that, centuries ago, God gifted a woman with super strength in order to help the people who were being oppressed by the powerful. However, she (and her female descendants) can only use the strength for good. Do Bong-Soon tries to hide her abilities posing as a weak and vulnerable young girl. The most comic scenes in the drama arise from the contrast between her fragile appearance and her superhuman strength. One day, Ahn Min-Hyuk (the CEO of a gaming company) witnesses Do Bong-Soon fighting off a group of gangsters and decides to hire her as his personal bodyguard. The plot thickens when a serial killer appears, targeting young and vulnerable women.
Liar Game (2014)
This is a 12 episode psychological thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat the whole time. The protagonists are participating in a reality TV show. They must play cunning mind tricks and deceive the other contestants in order to win the 10 million dollars prize. The female lead, chased by loan-sharks and desperate to win the money, asks for the help of a university psychology professor who joins her in the game.
This list is just a sample of what awaits you in this (new) adventure. Enjoy!