Trying to get your dad, brother, friend, colleague, boyfriend or husband to watch k-dramas with you, but not sure where to start? The GwenchaNoonas asked some of our male friends to talk about their favorite k-dramas that they'd recommend.
JJ, 48, Consultant
Jewel in the Palace (2003) was one of the first k-dramas I watched, and the only long one (54 episodes!) I finished. It was my gateway to everything Korean. I enjoyed the food and plating, costume and set design, the medical practices of the time, and the exciting storylines. If you’re not a fan of in-your-face romance but like to see a man support a strong, independent, intelligent woman moving up the career ladder (while being attacked from all sides professionally and personally), this’ll be your cup of tea.
Stranger (2017), or as it’s sometimes called Secret Forest, is one of my all-time favorites, admittedly because I’ve been following Bae Doona since she came out in the 2005 Japanese film Linda Linda Linda. I didn’t even know she was Korean till much later. If you love police procedurals, political drama, and a good mystery that grips you until the very end, do watch this k-drama! Fans of Breaking Bad, True Detective, and Mindhunter will enjoy this drama for sure.
Joboy, 27, Missionary
Hot Stove League (2020) is a refreshing non-romantic sports k-drama centered around a losing team, the new general manager, and their attempt to grab the championship. As the players and coaching staff undergo profound character development, they share nuggets of wisdom and motivate us to improve ourselves as well—a must-see k-drama even for non-baseball followers.
Edward, 30, HR Practitioner
For those starting to build up their k-drama watchlist, Another Miss Oh (2016) is not one to miss. It was one of the highest-rated k-dramas in recent cable TV history, and all for the right reasons. From well-crafted multi-dimensional characters, heartwarming family interactions, some romance, and enviable friendships, each episode will probably make you laugh for a second or bawl your eyes out in some parts.
The story starts when Oh Hae-young (Seo Hyun-jin) gets dumped the day before their wedding. What she doesn't know is that all the entanglements around her are actually because of the heartbroken Park Do-kyung (Eric), a famous sound engineer who was supposed to marry another Oh Hae-Young (Jeon Hye-bin).
Devoid of k-drama cute-meet tropes, this k-drama clearly portrays love, intimacy, and all other tumultuous stages of life after losing a love. It covers all the steps, from denying oneself the right to mourn, then coming around to know one's worth, and finally taking a shot at love again. This show is even more remarkable because of its delicate use of noise (pink, white, brown, and even black), an effective device in the storytelling process. Ultimately, you will fall for the show's sensitive and conscientious characters and passionately root for them until the very end.
With its bold yet respectful narrative of the dead and how it imparts crucial lessons to the living, Move to Heaven (2021) is a k-drama that delivers more than what you can usually expect from the genre. This poignant masterpiece steers clear of old tropes and is filled with so much heart and soul. It tackles pressing contemporary issues of the aging population vis-à-vis declining filial piety culture, the LGBTQIA, domestic violence, euthanasia, and even the problems of Korean adoptees in the US.
The series sheds light on ‘trauma cleaners’ whose work involves collecting and disposing of the belongings of the dead. It is loosely based on a South Korean essay detailing the procedural yet spiritual business of cleaning up after the deceased. It is beautifully subtle as it is quiet. This series is for the ones who lost loved ones who know too well the depths of pain that only comes from the silence that welcomes you home – that one sacred place that now boasts of someone’s absence. Suffice to say, there will be some emotional wreckage ahead. Move to Heaven is a palate cleanser to help you navigate through slumps in the k-drama world.
Adam, 40, Test Analyst
I think I took the long way around in getting into k-dramas as I was actively trying to avoid jumping onto the newest fad. In the end, I found myself drawn into it, nonetheless. So, if you are a fan of Anime or Manga, I would recommend Playful Kiss (2010). It’s a faithful adaptation of the Japanese manga Itazura Na Kiss, keeping the humor and cute love story.
For something a bit unconventional, I would go for Coffee Prince (2007). Yoon Eun-hye really drew me in because of how committed she was to the role and charmed me all the way. If you want espionage, go for IRIS (2009). This kept me guessing, and they make some very bold choices in this drama. Please stick to the end, I implore you. A very left-field recommendation, if just for something different, check out Dramaworld (2016), an examination of k-drama through a Westerner’s character viewpoint.
Kingdom (2019) is a brilliant horror series that’s visceral and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. My second favorite series, Still 17 (2018) , will make you laugh, cry and cheer Shin Hye-sun as she goes on her journey. And finally, Crash Landing On You (2020). It’s still the best end-to-end watch I have had. I may have rewatched it several times, just because. The only problem I have is that it has become the measuring stick for any k-drama I watch moving forward.
Jorel, Music Producer
The first thing on my mind is Lovestruck in the City (2021) because it's such an easy watch and feels more Western, but Asian. It has a good looking cast, decent story, good cinematography, etc. (as good as it can be). Plus, the episodes are short.
My Mister (2018) is your classic format drama that's outstanding. Not sure if My Mister can be the first drama to watch for someone, but if I were to recommend one drama to fully see how awesome it can be, this would be it.
Eli, 40, Operations Manager
Itaewon Class (2020) is a good k-drama that explores the struggles and success of the male lead Park Sae-royi (Park Seo-joon).
Being a science nerd, I’m also interested in medical dramas, especially Hospital Playlist 1 (2020). It also helps that the patient stories are interesting.
Reply 1988 (2015) is super nostalgic. I could relate to the stories during my younger days.
It's refreshing to see mental health tackled as a central theme in a drama such as It's Okay to Not Be Okay (2020). The chain of who really needs whom is presented so well. Creating children’s books that blend seamlessly with each episode is impressive.
Vic, 31, Consultant
I always say a great show to watch since everyone has seen it during the pandemic is Crash Landing On You (2019) starring Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin. But one that every guy would like I think is What's Wrong with Secretary Kim (2018), with Park Seo-joon and Park Min-young. They’re both not too heavy but still grounded.
Carlo, 49, one-time oppa now just abeoji and ahjusshi
Annyeong! My recommendations for must-watch dramas are those I enjoyed but aren't that well known. The first is the medical drama Dr. Romantic (2016). Although there is a love angle in the show that's not the reason for the title. Rather the drama revolves around a charismatic and extremely talented surgeon with a romantic view of medicine. What differentiates the series from others is its focus on the medical procedures. With Dr. Romantic you'll be familiar with Bovies and Metzenbaums in no time. Cut!
The second series is Strong Girl Bong-soon (2017). I admit that this isn't an obscure drama. It was quite popular in South Korea but it doesn't seem to get as much attention elsewhere. Bong-soon is a cute tiny girl with superhuman strength who ends up as a bodyguard of a CEO after he sees her demolish a gang of thugs. This show is a favorite because it really puts the com in romcom. It's wildly funny and its leads, Park Bo-young and Park Hyung-sik, are adorable. Oh, did I mention it has a great soundtrack too? Him-eul nae Super Power Girl!
My final choice is My Mister (2018). To say this drama is serious would be an understatement. The series portrays the difficulties experienced by three middle-aged men led by versatile actor Lee Sun-gyun. While they face sadness, uncertainty and pain, they also lean on each other for love and support. My Mister can be painful to watch at times but it leaves you with the feeling of hope. This drama has a lot of heart.
These are my must-watch dramas. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Ddo bwayo!