If the Christians have Hollow’s Eve and All Souls’ Day to remind them of the inevitability of the afterlife, Buddhists and Taoists have the Ghost Festival. The celebration of the Ghost Festival is rooted in the Chinese belief that on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar (August in the Gregorian or solar calendar), ancestors from the lower realm visit their relatives. This celebration is practiced in many countries in Asia. Although not celebrated in South Korea, the belief in ghosts and the afterlife abounds in all its supernatural glory. With k-drama ghost stories, however, viewers get more than just the scare factor. Some of them, are in fact, heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. More often than not, stories about those who haven't "crossed over" to the afterlife reveal more about the complex lives of those of us left behind. We look at some of our favorite k-drama ghost stories below.
Sell Your Haunted House (2021)
Real Estate is complicated enough as it is...but when you add in unrested spirits and possible bloodshed? It gets even more grueling to sell your property. So Daebak Realty offers these poor unfortunate souls their service! The owner and mudang (practitioner of shamanism) in charge, Hong Ji-Ah (Jang Na-ra, The Last Empress) continues to send unrested spirits to the afterlife in her quest to give the same reprieve to the unrested spirit of her mother. To do so, she must find a strong psychic to help her. Enter Conman Extraordinaire Oh In-beom (CNBLUE's Jung Yong-hwa, The Package), who makes his living by pretending to be a paranormal detective and scientist. Constantly on the move to forget his tragic past that stemmed from his strong psychic abilities, Oh In-Beom's path crosses with Hong Ji-ah during an exorcism. Slowly, Ji-ah and In-beom realize that the memories that haunt them are one and the same. If you love supernatural/mudang dramas and movies, action-packed scenes, and good visual effects, then this one should be right up your alley.
Available on Viu. Read the full review here.
Oh My Ghost (2015)
Despite being made in 2015, Oh My Ghost still endures as one of the more memorable comedies about death and the afterlife. A huge part of the drama's appeal is the effervescent Park Bo-young, who plays a psychic who reluctantly allows a feisty spirit to use her body to settle some unfinished business. As Na Bong-soon, she is a shy cook who will never admit to having a massive crush on her boss. But when possessed by a flirtatious (and horny) ghost... well, the expected hilarity ensues. Jo Jung-suk stars as her boss and perpetually befuddled love interest trying to understand where the real Bong-soon ends and the flirty one begins. Expect a lot of laughter, some tears, and a whole lot of cooking.
Available on Netflix.
The Possessed (2019)
A supernatural k-drama that will definitely play with your emotions, Possessed tells the story of Detective Kang Pil-sung (Song Sae-byeok) as he tracks down a prolific copycat serial killer. He is shocked to find that the copycat serial killer is really an evil spirit trying to gain more power. To stop this evil spirit, Kang Pil-sung seeks the help of Hong Seo-jung (Go Joon-hee), a strong mudang (shaman) descendant. This series boasts of a good storyline, lovable supporting characters, and capable artists. Though not big-name stars, Song Sae-byeok and Go Joon-hee carry their roles with aplomb and will definitely make viewers root for their love story. A fair warning to viewers: expect your emotions to be tossed about.
Available on Netflix.
Bring It On Ghost (2016)
Based on a webtoon of the same name, Bring It on, Ghost gives the musogin (people who practice shamanism) romance with a sprinkling of action and comedy on the side. While the lead character, Park Bong-pal (Ok Taec-yeon) is not a baksu (a male shaman), he has the ability to feel and see ghosts. He uses this ability to make money by fighting weak spirits. In an attempt to fight stronger spirits, Park Bong-pal seeks the help of Kim Hyun-ji (Kim So-hyun), a maiden spirit trying to find her memories. In pursuit of their goals, Park Bong-pal and Kim Hyun-ji take on ghosts together! While not the best of its genre, Bring It on, Ghost is a good watch for those who want to explore supernatural k-dramas but still want the romance-heavy feels.
Available on Netflix, Viu, and iQIYI.
The Master’s Sun (2013)
The talented Gong Hyo-jin does what she does best in this k-drama. She plays Tae Gong-shi, a perpetually terrified woman who sees ghosts around her. However, when she’s with chaebol Joo Joong-won (played by the debonair So Ji-sub), the dead people magically disappear. This prompts Gong-shi to hang on to Joong-won for dear life. Both leads adeptly maneuver the heavy themes of death and dying along with the levity of their banter and obvious chemistry as they come to terms with the skeletons in their closet and the ghosts of their past. This fun and heartwarming series is one of the best series of the famous writing duo, the Hong Sisters.
Available on Netflix.
The Ghost Detective (2018)
Choi Daniel (School 2013) is back on the small screen playing the role of Lee Da-il, a smart, taciturn, and righteous private investigator who would rather keep a low profile by doing small investigative jobs in his neighborhood. However, his plan to live an uncomplicated life goes awry as he finds himself suddenly dead and locked in a battle of power and wit against a strong evil spirit clad in red named Seon Woo-hye (Lee Ji-ah, Penthouse S1 - 3) who has been responsible for numerous mysterious deaths in his neighborhood. Two of these deaths lead Lee Da-il to cross paths with Jung Yeo-wool (Park Eun-bin, Hot Stove League), a street-smart girl searching for answers to her sister's mysterious suicide. Lee Da-il and Jung Yeo-wool must now work together to put a stop to the Lady in Red's destructive and deathly hobby and finally find the answers they have both been looking for in years.
Available on Rakuten Viki
Hi Bye, Mama! (2020)
As Kim Tae-hee’s comeback drama, Hi Bye, Mama! was the perfect project for the actress, allowing her to channel all the maternal emotions she developed during her five-year hiatus. In this tvN series, she plays a woman who becomes a ghost lingering around her daughter and remarried husband after an accident kills her when she was nine months pregnant. The gods give her 49 days to spend as a human to regain her place as a wife and mother, but if she fails to do so, she has to leave Earth and reincarnate. Aside from the story’s central arc, Kim Tae-hee’s character spends her human days helping other ghosts and the families they left behind find closure in one healing story after another, so be prepared to shed a substantial amount of tears.
Available on Netflix.
Hotel de Luna (2019)
In one of her most iconic roles, Lee Ji-eun (IU) plays the cold and mysterious Jang Man-wol, the cursed CEO of a strange and curious hotel in Seoul, visible only to departed souls en route to the afterlife. Hired to help her run the place is hotelier Koo Chan-sung (Yeo Jin-goo), a perfectionist who takes time to warm up to his cold clientele. Beneath its overarching theme of cosmic atonement, this show delivers heart-tugging tales of love and loss, regret and forgiveness, and—yes— epic romance.
Available on Viu.