Streaming services such as Netflix have added a number of K-Dramas to their inventory. graphic by Theresa Lam

Top five K-Dramas for beginners

“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” said Bong Joon Ho during his acceptance speech for his Oscar award-winning film “Parasite,” which also broke history for being the first foreign film to win Best Picture. Too often do people, especially in the U.S., overlook amazing foreign TV shows and films simply because of subtitles.

“They take the fun out of watching shows” or “they’re a hassle to read” are common excuses I would hear when asked why they haven’t watched a particular foreign film. Although it’s understandable that the main point of watching a film is to watch a film, there is more to it than just to simply watch. To read while the story is visually happening in front of you is like a two-in-one deal; not only are you brushing up the speed of your reading, but you also get to feel what the actors feel in their own language. Better than films that are horribly dubbed, right? As the popularity of Korean Dramas begin to rise in the West, here are some of my top five K-Dramas to help you get started on the trend:

5. “Oh My Venus” (2015)
As a 33-year-old lawyer who appears as a workaholic in her field, Kang Joo Eun once had a slim figure and was considered Daegu’s Venus in her city. Due to late nights at the office, unhealthy diet and constant stress, she became overweight and lost confidence in herself. After collapsing in an airplane, she’s greeted by a famous professional trainer named Kim Young Ho, who helps resuscitate her back to life. After learning of his profession, she desperately asks him to bring her back to her glory days by becoming her personal fitness trainer. Throughout the drama, secrets begin to spill and love fills the air.

4. “Uncontrollably Fond” (2016)
Shin Joon Young is a famous South Korean actor who happens to have an illness that must be kept a secret from the media. Coincidentally during an interview, he runs into a producer named Noh Eul, who happens to be his ex-lover from high school. Due to certain circumstances, they separated, but thanks to this interview, they finally began to reconnect. Together, they attempt to find out who hit Noh Eul’s father in a hit-and-run-accident. Many twists and shocking secrets are revealed as the investigation rolls out, including complications with Shin Joon Young’s illness

3. “The Heirs” (2013)
Cho Eun Sang is a student who works part-time jobs to financially help her family after her older sister had moved to the U.S. She enrolls into a prestigious high school under a welfare scholarship, where her classmates are heirs of their family’s businesses and are competitive when it comes to obtaining their family fortune. During her time here, she meets a cold-hearted boy named Kim Tan, who is very popular for being known as the “second son of an illegitimate wife” (meaning he’s unable to become an heir of his father’s business). Their connection then becomes a love triangle with a school bully named Choi Young Do, and drama and fighting ensues

2. “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo” (2016)
A historical drama set during the Goryeo Dynasty, Scarlet Heart discusses a 25-year-old woman named Go Ha Jin who got transported back in time during a Solar Eclipse. She wakes up in the body of Lady Hae Soo and finds herself amongst the ruling princes of the Wang family. Eight of these princes all find interest in her for her charismatic personality, and two of them begin to compete for her. The drama follows this love triangle and the brothers’ fight to become the next king.

1. “True Beauty” (2021)
Based off of a popular Korean webtoon, “True Beauty” highlights the difficulties that Lim Ju Kyung, a female high school student, goes through with ugly facial features. Because of the constant bullying at her old high school and family issues, Ju Kyung was forced to transfer to a different high school. During her transition, she learned how to apply makeup and promised no one outside of school would see her without makeup. While making new friends at her new school, Ju Kyung becomes close with Lee Soo Ho and Han Seo Jun, who end up both liking her for her charismatic personality. The love triangle fumes into flames as both of them try to fight their way to her heart.

Although there are simply five dramas listed here, this is only a fraction of all the wonderful Korean dramas that I’ve watched. Recently, Netflix has incorporated more Korean movies and dramas for Westerners to enjoy, and I believe this is a first step to cultural immersion. Do not fear those one-inch subtitles, and happy watching!

Post Author: Theresa Lam