Underrated Korean Dramas with Huge International Success
September 6, 2018
My Top 6
As you become more acquainted with the Korean dramas, you will eventually notice that some of the dramas you most appreciate had little if any success when they first broadcasted. This is due to several different reasons:
The different taste and interests of the Korean public.
The drama was not sufficiently advertised (so the public was not anticipating its broadcast)
The drama might have faced strong competition in its time slot.
Some of dramas regained recognition nationally after its original broadcast due to the waves they caused abroad, while other became hits only internationally. Here is a short list with some of the most underrated dramas in Korea that are greatly appreciated abroad.
“Healer” competed with and lost to “Punch” during its broadcast. But “Healer” gained an unchallenged spot in the top 10 best Korean dramas of all time within the international community, while barely anyone talks about “Punch” nowadays.
By night, the male protagonist is a martial arts expert and a “night currier” who accepts all types of contracts from his clients for money. He would do anything required to complete the task except murder. By day he takes the persona of a shy and coward journalist in order to get close to one of his targets. She will end up becoming the person he protects from his previous clients.
Light and delightful moments of comedy are sprinkled all throughout this action drama, as the hero tries to handle the two identities without getting caught. The love story feels natural, but it will not hesitate to pull the strings of your heart. This drama makes it into almost every top 10 list out there; it is one of the most loved Korean dramas.
Moon Lovers, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2017)
Time-travel, Historical, Drama, Romance
“Moon Lovers” faced a similar situation to “Healer”. It competed with “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds” that had the advantage to have started airing a couple of weeks prior to “Moon Lovers”. However most would agree this is one of the best Korean Dramas together with dramas such as Goblin or Healer.
The female protagonist accidentally falls into the water during an eclipse. She is transported centuries into the past into the body of a noble young lady who suffered a mysterious accident that led to her death. Well aware of the unfolding of the historical events, she tries not to interfere in the events, to no avail. She becomes entangled with the royal family and the candidates to the throne, especially the 4th Prince who takes an interest in her and who went down in history as one of the cruelest and most unscrupulous monarchs in history.
“Moon Lovers” gained the recognition it deserved with the international audience. Fans are still waiting for the second season (which is something almost unheard of). I have to agree with the general sentiment surrounding this drama: by far one of the best Korean dramas.
I Am Not a Robot (2018)
I was very surprised to learn that the Korean public was fairly uninterested in “I Am Not a Robot”. It is one of the most heartwarming dramas in recent years. Luckily, the drama gained much recognition abroad.
The protagonist became an orphan at an early age. Being the sole heir of his parents’ fortune, he grew up surrounded by greedy legal guardians his whole life. As a result of traumatic events, he developed a psychological illness that causes him a life-threatening allergy-like reaction when he comes in contact with other human beings. When he discovers that one of the projects his company is financing is aiming to build an android, he becomes personally involved in the project. He asks to test the robot before deciding to continue investing. Unaware of his potentially deadly conditions, the researchers, deceive him by sending him a real human who pretends to be a robot. It follows a heart-aching, yet sweet romantic comedy.
Are You Human Too? (2018)
The ratings for this drama dropped as its schedule conflicted with the World Cup events. After a promising start, the public lost interest, despite the fact that it is one of the highest budget dramas of all times. But the series had a huge and well-deserved success internationally and among the online drama lover community.
The protagonist of the story is a robot who was created by a robotics engineer, as a way to cope with being separated from her son. After surviving an assassination attempt, her son falls into a coma; thus, she sends the robot to replace her son until he wakes up. “Are You Human Too” is a beautiful story that will talk to your soul and will make you reflect about what is it that makes you live up to the name of “human”. For my full review on this drama, click here.
Chicago Typewriter (2017)
Action, Romance, Reincarnation
Although it is not one of my favorite dramas, I completely understand its appeal. It is a story about karma, reward and punishment. The protagonists were freedom fighters in their previous life during the Japanese occupation. Today, one is a successful writer who writes about the life of a resistance fighter, without realizing he is writing about his own life. The other one is his number one fan who realizes she has memories/dreams related to the topic of his books. The puzzle is completed with the presence of their friend who did not reincarnate after his death. He remained trapped in a Chicago typewriter and has his memories intact. He helps the main characters shed light on the mystery of their previous life and the role the three of them played in the Resistance. It is one of the most appreciated Korean dramas of 2017, despite its modest ratings in Korea.
It is a fairly good drama, though it would probably not make my top 20. Nevertheless, you should give it a chance; it might be your type of drama. The international fans love this drama. It was so well received that it created something similar to a cult following around it. As the title suggests, the protagonist is a young woman who is a professional weightlifter. She is involved in a sweet and warm love story with a professional swimmer who is head-over-heals in love with her. The story follows their innocent and feel-good love story through the struggles of every-day life.
If you are one of those rare “unicorns” who hasn’t watched some of these dramas, I strongly recommend you give them a try. Chances are you will feel the same as do millions of international Korean dramas fans.
In one of my future articles I will try to offer an interpretation of the ever growing success Korean drama phenomenon has internationally and the West’s fascination with the Asian drama-world in general.
The international public has the advantage of watching the series on their own time and at their own pace, after consulting reviews and forums related to the drama. Furthermore, they bring the dramas they love to the social media and share it on different platforms. Moreover, some fans dedicate social media accounts entirely to a specific drama and assiduously share them online. Therefore, some Korean dramas become nothing short of a cultural phenomena within the international online community.