The super bonkers loose adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women kept its ratings high throughout its 12-episode run and culminated in double-digit ratings in its final episode. The three Oh sisters played by Kim Go-eun, Nam Ji-hyun, and Park Ji-hu kept the audience on the edge of their seats as they tried to survive the machinations of a secret society. Now that it's over, you may want to fill the void left by the weekend episodes with some of our recos.
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Yumi’s Cells 1&2 (2021 and 2022)
“Exaggeratedly realistic,” “traumatic flashbacks,” and “hard relate”—these are some of the common viewer reactions to the plot of Yumi's Cells, which focuses on the ordinary and specific aspects of dating and relationships.
Based on a wildly popular webtoon, the three-season (we hope to see the third installment next year) slice-of-life romantic drama/comedy breaks new ground in combining live-action and 3D animation to portray the cute “cells” in Yumi's brain that discuss and argue their way to making her decisions. Read our Season 1 full review here.
14 episodes per season. Available on iQIYI (Season 1 only) and Viki (both seasons).
The King: Eternal Monarch (2020)
Penned by hit-maker Kim Eun-sook (Descendants of the Sun, Goblin), The King: Eternal Monarch was one of the most highly anticipated dramas when it first aired in 2020. Fans tuned in for the military comeback project of the always-dashing Lee Min-ho as he played a king in a Korean monarchy in a parallel universe. Kim Go-eun plays Jeong Tae-eul, a detective in the universe where the current Korea exists. The fantasy romance features an interesting story and good chemistry between its leads. Although the later episodes saw a decrease in viewership in its native Korea, Netflix helped make it an international hit in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore.
16 episodes. Available on Netflix.
The iconic fantasy drama that helped introduce a new generation of fans to the "second wave" of Hallyu, Goblin cemented Kim Go-eun as an A-list star with a reputation for serious talent.
As Ji Eun-tak, her life is eventually entwined with the immortal goblin Kim Shin (Gong Yoo) who has long desired to end it all. The supernatural romance went on to smash viewer ratings, and eventually reaped multiple awards for its cast, including the Daesang (Grand Prize) for its writer, Kim Eun-sook.
16 episodes. Available on Netflix.
Cheese in the Trap (2016)
Based on a longstanding hit Naver webtoon, Cheese in the Trap centers on put-upon college student Hong Seol (Kim Go-eun) and her relationship with Yoo Jung (Park Hae-jin), a popular and model student whom she suspects to have a more duplicitous, darker side. The story also features siblings Baek In-ho (Seo Kang-joon) and Baek In-ha (Lee Sung-kyung) who tangle themselves into the couple’s lives. The story goes beyond romance and dives into the harsh reality of college life (and the injustices of group work) and what happens when you are confronted with people’s expectations of how you should behave.
16 episodes. Available on Netflix.
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100 Days My Prince (2018)
In this sageuk (historical drama), Crown Prince Lee Yul (Do Kyung-soo) survives an assassination attempt but develops amnesia. Seeking to free herself from the royal decree that all single women of a marriageable age should wed, Yeon Hong-shim (Nam Ji-hyun must really like these amnesia stories!) takes advantage of Lee Yul’s amnesia and convinces him that he is her long-lost fiancé.
Yeon Hong-shim teaches the prince a thing or two about peasant life and gets him to fall in love with her in the process. But will this Joseon Cinderella end up with the prince or will her desire for independence get in the way of true love?
16 episodes. Available on Netflix.
Suspicious Partner (2017)
Nam Ji-hyun plays Eun Bong-hee, a former Taekwondo athlete who becomes a prosecutor trainee in this suspense drama. She trains under prosecutor Noh Ji-wook (played by Ji Chang-wook). Things get really complicated when she is accused of her ex-boyfriend’s murder.
There are several mysteries to be solved and cases to be closed in this nail-biting drama. Eun Bong-hee and Noh Ji-wook must sort out the truth about their past if they can ever have a future together.
20 episodes. Available on Netflix.
365: Repeat the Year (2020)
Shin Ga-hyun (Nam Ji-hyun) is a webtoon artist who attempts to alter an unfortunate event in her life by agreeing to go back in time with nine other people in 365: Repeat the Year (2020). The time travel sets off a series of murderous events that result in the death of each of the time travelers. Ga-hyun’s life is at stake and yet she refuses to play the victim in this highly suspenseful story. She doesn’t sit around waiting to be saved by the police detective (Lee Jyun-hyuk), and instead forms an equal alliance with him in order to solve the mystery. Using both intellect and intuition, she sets off on her own investigation, confronts the villain(s), and makes sacrifices when the need arises. Without resorting to guns or unusual physical strength, Ga-hyun shows that a woman is just as capable of saving the day.
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All of Us Are Dead (2021)
Ever since the genre-resurrecting Train to Busan, Korea has just kept on cashing in on their love for the zombie and the undead. All of Us Are Dead is Netflix's attempt, bringing together all the elements of a guaranteed commercial hit—and they made sure they won.
The show is one of the most viewed Netflix shows globally, thanks to a cast of attractive teens, hundreds of terrifying zombies, and an abundance of action sequences that stretch the limits of both fancy camerawork and your own ability to hold your breath. But true to k-drama form, the series also pulls emotional strings every now and then, and its focus on the various relationships between teens and their parents gives the show some unexpected depth amid the bloody frenzy.
As Nam On-ju, Park Ji-hu breaks from her indie roots and dives into the mainstream Netflix limelight. As a thoughtful classmate in Class 2-5, her quiet and supportive ways help her fellow survivors of the zombie outbreak make it from chaotic dusk to uncertain dawn.
12 episodes. Available on Netflix.
House of Hummingbird (film, 2019)
In this beautifully crafted ode to coming-of-age indie film, Park Ji-hu stars as the quiet 14-year-old Eun-hee who is navigating her adolescent years in 1994 Seoul. It seems that her Chinese teacher, Miss Kim (Kim Sae-byuk), is the only adult she can trust. As Eun-hee’s life starts falling apart—from her family imploding to her need for immediate surgery—she desperately clings to a few friends and her teacher for comfort and guidance, and comes out stronger and more mature.
It took three years for director Kim Bo-ra to find the girl who would play Eun-hee, and when she discovered Park Ji-hoo, she said the young actress was “everything I was hoping for.”
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Bad and Crazy (2022)
In Bad and Crazy, Wi Ha-joon plays "K"—a violent, unstoppable punisher of sorts—who turns the life of violence-averse and morally ambiguous detective Ryu Su-yeol (Lee Dong-wook) upside-down. K's appearance as Su-yeol attempts to solve a particularly difficult drug case causes the great-haired detective, who doesn’t exactly have a clean record despite being a member of the police anti-corruption division, to reconsider the choices he’s made in his life. Bad and Crazy is a fun, fast, and entertaining watch from beginning to end. Read our full review here.
12 episodes. Available on iQIYI and Netflix.
Squid Game (2021)
There was no escaping Squid Game in 2021, and for a good reason: this nine-episode survival-game drama is so well-made and so emotionally resonant that it has now become a global pop culture iconoclast and launched its cast to international stardom.
It is bloody and gory for sure, yet for all its sadistic children’s games, the show's true brutality—and genius—lies in how the stories cut through our cognitive defenses and go straight to our gut. It makes no complicated intellectual discourse about the disadvantages of capitalism; it just shows us what true evil is and how it transforms us into the beasts we are, given the right price and the right opportunity. Wi Ha-joon plays Hwang Jun-ho, a police officer who disguises himself as a guard in the hopes of finding his brother. Read our full review here.
9 episodes. Available on Netflix.
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The Red Sleeve (2021)
Before landing the role of "Korean Laurie," Kang Hoon made a strong impression and won his first major acting trophy as the scheming right-hand man of Crown Prince Yi San/King Jeongo (Lee Jun-ho) in this popular historical drama.
Based on the true story of King Jeongjo and court lady Sung Deok-im (Lee Se-young), The Red Sleeve chronicles the imperial court romance as well as the harsh realities of 18th-century palace life as seen from the perspective of its women—from court ladies whose stories we almost never hear, to members of the royal family. Palpable chemistry between its leads, a solid cast of veteran actors, top-tier production values, seamless storytelling, and incredible attention to details make The Red Sleeve arguably the best sageuk (historical series) of 2021.
17 episodes. Available on Viki and Viu.
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Penthouse (3 seasons, 2020-2021)
Welcome to the chaotic lives of the residents of Hera Palace. Infidelity, cheating, gaslighting, corruption, and murder seem to perpetually hound its high-society members, and there's so much campiness and insanity that you'll enter "so-bad-it's-good" territory by the end of the first episode alone. One of Korea's best onscreen bad guys, Uhm Ki-joon plays a gluttonous tycoon who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. If you decide to tune into this infamous makjang drama, remember to take your blood pressure meds!
3 seasons. Available on Netflix and Viu.
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Birthcare Center (2020)
Uhm Ji-won plays Oh Hyun-jin, a highly successful career woman who unexpectedly finds out she’s pregnant with her first child right after getting a long-awaited promotion. After giving birth, she checks into a sanhujoliwon, an upscale postnatal care center popular among Seoul’s upper class, and her inexperience as a first-time mother makes her doubt whether she’s cut out for motherhood at all.
Birthcare Center is a satirical, sometimes dark, yet also heartwarming take on the struggles of being a mother to a newborn, as well as the challenges of trying to achieve some semblance of work-life balance and keeping romance alive in a marriage once children are in the picture.
8 episodes. Available on Viu.
Work Later, Drink Now (2021)
If you're looking for something completely different from Little Women, you might want to try Work Later, Drink Now. Based on the webcomic Drinking City Women, Work Later, Drink Now is a 12-episode series with only 25 to 45-minute episodes, making it the perfect weekend binge. Three 30-something women—nearly alcoholic by any standard—try to get through their work, family, and men problems by discussing everything over incredible food and copious amounts of lukewarm soju. Read the full review here.