The K-dramas to Look Forward to in 2021

Updated: Feb 10

K-drama viewership has skyrocketed in the last few years, turning an often-overlooked genre into a mainstream behemoth with no signs of slowing down.

This year, despite difficulties in production and shooting, Korea is still set to raise the bar even higher by offering not only the standard historicals and rom-coms, but also a lot more sci-fi and big-budget crowd pleasers. It also doesn’t hurt that a handful of major Hallyu stars are coming back to the small screen.


Take a look at what's coming soon:


1. The Silent Sea (Netflix)

Sci-fi


2021 is going to be known as the year k-drama seriously waded into sci-fi. Its biggest gamble yet is the upcoming The Silent Sea, a sci-fi thriller that casts two of Hallyu’s biggest stars, Gong Yoo (Train to Busan) and Bae Doo-na (Kingdom, Sense8), and is set in a future where the Earth is a dystopian wasteland. Gong Yoo plays the exploration team leader who takes on the risky mission of retrieving a mysterious sample from a lunar research station, while Bae Doo-na is cast as a doctor who assists him.


The sci-fi drama has some serious weight behind the camera as well. Veteran A-list actor Jung Woo-sung serves as its executive producer, while the story is penned by Park Eun-kyo, the award-winning script writer of Mother (a 2009 film directed by Bong Joon-ho).


*No specific date of release

2. Kingdom 3: Ashin of the North (Netflix)

Zombie/thriller


The third installation in the hugely successful zombie-historical Netflix series, Ashin of the North continues the tale of zombie terror and introduces an intriguing new villain (played by Jun Ji-hyun of My Sassy Girl fame). This time, the series will reveal the other secrets of the resurrection plant. We expect the old cast to be back, and let’s hope they all survive one more season.


*No specific date of release

3. Hellbound (Netflix)

Horror/fantasy


Based on the popular webtoon Ji-ok, Hellbound will star critics’ favorite Yoo Ah-in (Burning,2018) as a zealous cult leader. It’s a fantasy k-drama that revolves around the lives of angels who condemn people to hell. Expectations are justifiably high for this series, as it’s helmed by none other than Train to Busan and Peninsula director Yeon Sang-ho.


*No specific date of release

4. Mount Jiri (tvN)

Thriller


It's not every day that you get to see such a stellar cast assembled for the small screen: Jun Ji-hyun (My Love from the Star), Ju Ji-hoon (Kingdom), Sung Dong-il (Reply 1988), and Oh Jung-se (It's Okay to Not be Okay). Mount Jiri, penned by Kingdom writer Kim Eun-hye, will show the lives of the park rangers as they go about working on Korea's second highest peak. The full plot hasn't been disclosed yet, but you can bet that everyone will be watching this for the gorgeous mountain shots and scenery. It may be the k-drama we need if we ever get locked down again.


*No specific date of release

5. Vincenzo (tvN)

Rom-com/crime


Song Joong-ki (Descendants of the Sun) stars as a lawyer who works for the Italian Mafia. When trouble breaks out between mafia groups, he returns to South Korea and unexpectedly finds himself falling for another lawyer. Vincenzo is billeted as a romantic comedy with a touch of crime.


Airs in February 2021










6. Hospital Playlist 2 (Netflix)

Slice of life/comedy


After becoming one of the highest-rated cable dramas in Korea and on Netflix, our favorite doctor barkada is back for a second season. What will happen to lifelong friends Ik-jun and Song-hwa? What about Seok-hyeong and his ex-wife? Will Jun-wan and Ik-sun be able to continue their long-distance romance? And finally, what’s going to happen to our "Winter Garden" couple? We can’t wait for all these questions to be resolved, and thankfully, tvN has kept the same director (Shin Won-ho) to helm the series again. If Won-ho can duplicate the success he's had with his Reply k-drama franchise, we can expect even more laughter, tears, food, and cool retro music this time around.


Tentatively scheduled for April

7. Red Sky (SBS)

Historical


From the writer of Sungkyunkwan Scandal and The Moon Embracing the Sun comes another Joseon-era romance between an astrologer who loses his eyesight (Ahn Hyo-seop of Dr. Romantic 2) and a painter (Kim Yoo-jung of Love in the Moonlight).


Airs in the 2nd half of 2021












8. D.P. (Netflix)

Crime/military


Yet another webtoon adaptation, D. P. (short for “deserter pursuit”) is about the lives of a military police unit responsible for tracking down soldiers who have gone AWOL. It's told from the perspective of Ahn Joon-ho, a young army private who becomes a desertion arrest officer and gets entangled in the difficulties young men go through to escape military duty. The webtoon, with its unflinching focus on the issues surrounding the military, was a huge hit in Korea.


Jung Hae-in (Something in the Rain), Koo Kyo-hwan (Peninsula, 2019), and Kim Sung-kyun (Reply 1988) are set to lead the drama. The series is directed by Han Jun-hee (Coin Locker Girl, 2015), and is written by himself and the original webtoon author, Kim Bo-tong.


*No specific date of release

9. Sisyphus: The Myth (JTBC)

Action/fantasy


More sci-fi in the mix! Cho Seung-woo (Stranger) plays yet another cerebral character, and this time, he’s a gifted engineer who needs to uncover the truth behind the death of his older brother. Helping him is an elite time-traveling warrior played by k-drama favorite Park Shin-hye.


Jin Hyuk, the director of City Hunter and Legend of the Blue Sea, helms this time-traveling bonanza. Expect an expensive production, as this series has been tagged as a special drama for JTBC’s 10th anniversary.


Airs in February 2021

10. Mouse (tvN)

Suspense/crime


If a child has been identified as a dangerous psychopath while still in the womb, should the mother still give birth? Choi Ran, the writer of the grim reaper drama Black, explores that ethical dilemma in this crime thriller. Lee Seung-gi (Vagabond) stars as a police officer who crosses paths with a serial killer.


Airs in February 2021




11. L.U.C.A. : The Beginning (tvN)

Sci-fi


Yet another sci-fi thriller enters the fray, this time with L.U.C.A. (which stands for “last universal common ancestor”), aptly taken from the famous Darwinian proposition. Not much is known about this series except it casts Kim Rae-won (Black Knight) as a man unaware of his own supernatural powers, and Lee Da-hee (Search: WWW) as a detective who crosses his path while she investigates the disappearance of her own parents.


Airs in February 2021

12. Beyond Evil (JTBC)

Psychological thriller


Hotel Del Luna’s favorite boy Yoo Jin-goo returns as a man in pursuit of a serial killer. Along with Shin Ha-kyun (Extreme Job, 2019), they work together to solve a decades-old case. But as they get to know each other, they find that the real evil may be closer than both of them thought.


Airs in February 2021





13. She Would Never Know (JTBC)

Rom-com


Based on the popular web novel Sunbae, Don’t Put on that Lipstick, this is a fluffy noona romance between a much younger man and his senior team leader. Won Jin-ah (Melting Me Softly) is cast as the pretty sunbae (“senior”) while SF9’s Ro-Woon (Extraordinary You) plays a straightforward, ambitious marketer who falls in love with her.


Airs on January 18











14. Times (OCN)

Fantasy


It’s not a k-drama year without OCN throwing something crazy into the mix. This time, the network offers a time-traveling political mystery that messes with the presidency itself. Lee Joo-young (Itaewon Class) and Lee Seo-jin (Trap) star as two figures that have to navigate the chaos of time travel before it destroys the country.


Airs in February 2021










15. Taxi Driver/Deluxe Taxi (SBS)

Crime


Adapted from yet another webtoon, Taxi Driver tells of a mysterious taxi service that helps victims take revenge on their abusers when the courts fail them. Lee Je-hoon (Time to Hunt, 2019) is cast as a driver who works for this taxi company, while Esom (Because This Is My First Life) is an attorney who gets involved in the said mystery.


Airs in April 2021




16. Imitation (KBS2)

Comedy/romance


Idols playing idols? Imitation is based on the webtoon that exposes the lives of idols in the entertainment industry. Expect stories of the usual idol teams--a boy group, a rookie girl group, and the lives of solo artists as well. This anticipated drama casts actual k-pop idols from U-KISS, SF9, ATEEZ, and PRISTIN.


Airs in the first half of 2021











17. Law School (JTBC)

Legal drama


Billed as the first k-drama about life in law school, it shows the struggles both students and professors go through in pursuit of their dreams. Ryu Hye-young (Reply 1988) and Kim Bum (Tale of the Nine-Tailed) star as freshman law students who find themselves embroiled in an unusual case that tests their naivete and idealism.


Airs in the first half of 2021




18. Snowdrop (JTBC)

Romance/melodrama


Blackpink's Ji Soo is set to debut her acting skills in this anticipated melodrama. Set in 1987, she plays the love interest of Jung Hae-in's (Something in the Rain) character, and both of them try to fight for their love in a dangerous time. Fans of SKY Castle will be happy to know that its director, Jo Hyun-taek, will be helming this.





Which of these dramas are you most excited about?

Let us know!


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