The Highest-Rated K-Dramas of 2021

Of the over 100 dramas that aired in 2021, here are the series that captivated the Korean television audience. While exclusively online streaming platforms such as Netflix and TVING pushed the envelope with more daring content, TV networks struck gold with two genres that have always performed well with the domestic market: majkangs and sageuks (historical dramas).


SBS' over-the-top makjang Penthouse about the lives of Hera Place's despicable nouveau riche proved to be a ratings juggernaut, spawning two extra seasons, while TV Chosun's infidelity drama Love ft. Marriage and Divorce was successful enough to merit a second season.


Proving Korea's unending love for dramatic takes on its history, sageuks made up half of the top 10 for free-to-air channels, with the recently concluded historical romance The Red Sleeve leading the pack. The gender-bender fusion sageuk Mr. Queen and the Joseon-era romance Bossam: Steal the Fate also placed within the top 10 on cable channels.


These are the k-dramas that reigned supreme in 2021.


(Note: This list is based on AGB Nielsen Korea nationwide data and does not include daily and weekend family dramas.)



Single-Episode High

Free-to-air (Mini-series)


  1. Penthouse 2 (SBS) - 29.2%

  2. Penthouse 3 (SBS) - 19.5%

  3. One the Woman (SBS) - 17.8%

  4. The Red Sleeve (MBC) - 17.4%

  5. Taxi Driver (SBS) - 15.5%

  6. Royal Secret Agent (KBS2) - 14.0%

  7. The King’s Affection (KBS2) - 12.1%

  8. Lovers of the Red Sky (SBS) - 10.4%

  9. River Where the Moon Rises (KBS2) - 10.0%

  10. The Veil (MBC) - 9.8%

 

Cable


  1. Mr. Queen (tvN) - 17.3%

  2. Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce) 2 (TV Chosun) - 16.5%

  3. Vincenzo (tvN) - 14.6%

  4. Hospital Playlist 2 (tvN) - 14.0%

  5. Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (tvN) - 12.6%

  6. The Uncanny Counter (OCN) - 10.8%

  7. Jirisan (tvN) - 10.6%

  8. Mine (tvN) - 10.5%

  9. Bossam: Steal the Fate (MBN) - 9.7%

  10. Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce) (TV Chosun) - 9.6%


 

Average Ratings

With the exception of tvN's dystopian legal drama The Devil Judge replacing Bossam: Steal the Fate, the same titles occupy the Top 10 for free-to-air and cable channels. However, there is a slight difference in ranking based on average ratings.


Free-to-air (Mini-series)

  1. Penthouse 2 (SBS) - 22.2%

  2. Penthouse 3 (SBS) - 17.1%

  3. One the Woman (SBS) - 13.5%

  4. Taxi Driver (SBS) - 12.6%

  5. The Red Sleeve (MBC) - 11.0%

  6. Lovers of the Red Sky (SBS) - 9.0%

  7. The Veil (MBC) - 8.3%

  8. Royal Secret Agent (KBS2) - 8.1%

  9. The King’s Affection (KBS2) - 7.9%

  10. River Where the Moon Rises (KBS2) - 7.6%

Cable

  1. Mr. Queen (tvN) - 12.5%

  2. Hospital Playlist 2 (tvN) - 12.0%

  3. Vincenzo (tvN) - 10.4%

  4. Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (tvN) - 9.5%

  5. Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce) (TV Chosun) - 8.7%

  6. Jirisan (tvN) - 8.3%

  7. Mine (tvN) - 8.2%

  8. The Uncanny Counter (OCN) - 7.8%

  9. Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce) 2 (TV Chosun) - 7.6%

  10. The Devil Judge - 6.1%

 

Did you catch most of these top-rated dramas?

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