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What to Watch After "Thirty-Nine"

Thirty-Nine is a celebration of love and friendship and all the heavy things in between, portrayed by a top-tier cast.

The female-centric melodrama starring Son Ye-jin, Jeon Mi-do, and Kim Ji-hyun as lifelong best friends aired to its highest ratings on March 31 (which just so happened to be the real-life wedding day of Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin!), becoming one of JTBC’s top 10 dramas of all time.

While celebrating love and friendship, Thirty-Nine also explored such heavy themes as adoption, infidelity, terminal illness, and death, showcasing its lead cast’s top-tier acting talent.

If you want more of this talented cast or similarly-themed dramas, here are our recommendations for your next k-drama.

If you want more of Son Ye Jin...

Crash Landing On You (2019-20)

In case you're one of the few people left who hasn’t seen the highest-rated tvN drama of all time, well, what are you waiting for?

Now real-life married couple Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin star as a North Korean soldier and a South Korean heiress whose stars cross when she literally crash lands on him after a freak paragliding accident. As the stoic military captain helps the feisty businesswoman get back to Seoul, the pair of course fall in love in what is one of the most globally successful k-dramas ever.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix.

Something in the Rain (2018)

Coffee franchise supervisor Yoon Jin-ah (Son Ye-jin) unexpectedly falls in love with her best friend's much younger brother, Seo Joon-hee (Jung Hae-in) in this slow-burn noona romance.

Beyond exploring the complications that may come with a gender-reversed age difference, Something in the Rain also portrays the everyday struggles of South Korean women against workplace politics and sexual harassment.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix.

Alone in Love (2006)

Son Ye-jin was only 24 years old when she took on the role of Yoo Eun-ho, a young divorcee, in this drama co-starring Kam Woo-sung, earning her the Baeksang Best Actress award.

In what is considered a masterpiece by many Koreans, Alone In Love (Yeonae Sidae/Love Generation, literal title) is a quiet slice-of-life drama that was ahead of its time. Based on the Japanese novel Renai Jidai, Alone in Love is completely devoid of any tropes, opting instead to realistically portray the feelings that may linger and the struggle to find one's footing after divorce.

16 episodes. Available on other streaming sites.

The Last Princess (2016)

This award-winning movie is an account of how Princess Deok-hye (Son Ye-jin), who was exiled by the Japanese when she was only 13, struggles to remain a steadfast symbol of pride for her country while abroad and in captivity.

Before she is finally allowed to go home to Korea some 38 years later, she has to endure a forced marriage, residence in an asylum, many deep betrayals, and accept the worst fate of any royal: the pain of watching one's country suffer from afar. Read our full review here.

127 minutes. Available on Netflix

Be With You (2018)

Seventeen years after playing siblings in the drama Delicious Proposal, Son Ye-jin and So Ji-sub reunite in this family-oriented movie, a remake of a 2004 Japanese film by the same name.

Son Ye-jin stars as Soo-ah, a young mother who mysteriously returns to visit her family after she passes away. Make sure to have a box of tissues handy when you watch this tearjerker!

131 minutes. Available on Netflix.


If you want more of Jeon Mido...

Hospital Playlist 1 and 2 (2020-2021)

A multiple award-winning musical theater veteran, Jeon Mi-do landed her first major television role in this medical slice-of-life drama. Devoid of real villainy and makjang, Hospital Playlist reminds its viewers that the everyday experiences of common folk—the highs and lows of the workplace, the ups and downs of romances, and the solid, well-worn relationships of family and friends—are more than enough drama to entertain and enlighten.

At the heart of the series are the highly enviable and surprisingly relatable love and friendship of the ‘99ers, a moniker for the five surgeons at Yulje Hospital who all happen to be medical school friends and bandmates. Jo Jung-suk, Yoo Yeon-seok, Jung Kyung-ho, Kim Dae-myung, and Jeon Mi-do and their equally lovable co-stars have wonderful and palpable onscreen chemistry that will surely make this (and its first season) a fan favorite for years to come. Check out our blog post on why we love these characters so much.

Mother (2018)

Jeon Mi-do's first television role is in the Baeksang Arts Award Best Drama winner Mother, starring Lee Bo-young and child acting phenomenon Heo Yool.

In this suspense drama about a substitute teacher who goes on the run with one of her students after realizing the child is being abused at home, Jeon Mi-do plays the small but pivotal role of a woman with links to the child's abuser. Read our full review of this masterpiece here.

Wise Camping Life/Camping Playlist feat. The Game Caterers (Mar. 2021)

For at least a few more hours, you can spend some extra time with the ‘99ers, this time outside of their scrubs and characters as they go camping for two days/one night. Watch them set up camp (Yoo Yeon-seok is definitely a pro at this), discuss their meals, and then get unceremoniously interrupted by PD Na Young-suk.

It’s Na-ception as the popular producer brings the variety show The Game Caterers to five unsuspecting actors. A few games are played, and lots of laughter ensue. Then, it’s back to the camping life. The series of healing and heartwarming episodes might soften the blow of having no new episodes of Hospital Playlist to look forward to for the foreseeable future. (Or, it might make you miss them more.)

Click here for the full playlist.

Three Meals a Day: Doctors (2021)

As a gift to Hospital Playlist fans for their love and support, the cast and production staff came up with a spin-off of the popular variety show Three Meals a Day featuring the beloved TV doctors.

Three Meals a Day: Doctors takes the whole gang of ‘99ers on a getaway to scenic Jungseon in the mountains of Gangwon Province, where they have to prepare their own meals using vegetables they harvest from nearby farms. Other cast members, including Kim Hae-sook (Rosa) and Shin Hyun-been (Dr. Jang Gyeo-ul), visit them as special guests.


If you want more of Yeon Woo-jin...

I Wanna Hear Your Song / Let Me Hear Your Song (2019)*

What can a tone-deaf pianist do outside of an orchestra? He can apparently put an insomniac to sleep. Of course, the pianist could only be Jang Do-hoon (Yeon Woo-jin), and the insomniac Hong Yi-young (Kim Se-jeong, The Uncanny Counter, Business Proposal). Yi-young also happens to be a timpanist involved in a murder case but has lost her memory.

Do-hoon, meanwhile, attempts to find the truth about the crime. Could Yi-young be the key or a distraction? Song Jae-rim (Moon Embracing the Sun, How to Be Thirty) joins the duo as Nam Joo-wan, a charming conductor of the orchestra in this KBS2 mystery rom-com (though Yi-young insists "this is not a love story").

32 episodes. Available on Viu

*Trigger Warning: Self-Harm, Suicide, Murder

My Shy Boss / Introverted Boss (2017)*

If you're an introvert, have you ever felt misunderstood? If yes, then this show is for you. Yeon Woo-jin makes introverts feel seen in his role as the shy Eun Hwan-ki, co-CEO of Brain, a public relations firm. Nicknamed the "Silent Monster," (also "Phantom of the Opera" and Elsa of Frozen) Hwan-ki comes off as aloof to his subordinates, even impossible to deal with.

In reality, he is caring, choosing his words and actions carefully to the point of overthinking. He falls in love with his employee Chae Ro-woon (Park Hye-soo, Hello, My Twenties!, Swing Kids), who starts to work for Brain to uncover the mystery surrounding her sister. While tvN tags My Shy Boss as a rom-com, it starts off (the first two minutes of the first episode) tragically and the workplace dynamics of the series could prove to be more interesting than the romance.

16 episodes. Available on Viu

*Trigger Warning: Self-Harm, Suicide

Queen for 7 Days (2017)

There’s no room for love in a Joseon royal court, especially not when two brothers vie for the throne and the same woman. Yeon Woo-jin stars as the prince married to Shin Chae-kyung played by Park Min-young in this 2017 drama based on a historical legend of the real Queen Dangyeong who was queen consort for only seven days.

The prince finds himself in the middle of a power struggle with his brother the king (Lee Dong-gun) and realizes he must make the ultimate sacrifice for the throne. While the prince is clearly in love with his wife, he cannot escape the machinations of the royal court that wants to use him as a pawn. Although the tragic end is fated from the beginning, this melodramatic sageuk will surely tug at your romantic heart strings.

20 episodes. Available on Netflix and Viu.


If you want more female friendships...

Hello, My Twenties! / Age of Youth Seasons 1 and 2 (2016, 2017)*

Hello, My Twenties! walks us through the lives of a group of young women who live in Belle Epoque. The drama depicts typical growing pains, such as transitioning to college life, facing financial struggles, and—yes, everyone's favorite—dealing with romantic relationships.

On paper, it sounds like any other barkada drama, but if viewers were to look beyond the tropey plot points and character descriptions, they will find serious discussions on social justice and women's rights. Hello, My Twenties! uses trippy cut scenes and hilarious commentary to point out society's expectations on women: "Women should keep quiet about their struggles. They should always smile through hardships.”

As we get to know more about these women, including their fears and struggles (such as workplace harassment and toxic relationships), we realize that this drama is more than your typical slice-of-life barkada show. It's actually a realistic depiction of women who are learning to "adult". A fair warning though, there are definitely plot holes ahead and a confusing change of cast in season 2 that will trip viewers out.

Highly amusing and hilarious, women will definitely relate to these young ladies as they make amends with their past and bravely live out their youth in the present moment.

Season 1 has 12 episodes, while Season 2 has 14. Both are available on Netflix.

*Trigger Warning: Violence against Women, Sexual Abuse on Minors, Mental Health Issues

Be Melodramatic (2019)

Jeon Yeo-been (Vincenzo), Chun Woo-hee (Argon), and Han Ji-eun (Bad and Crazy) star as three college best friends who end up living together as they turn 30.

Aside from the truly heartwarming relationship between the three women, this witty slice-of-life/rom-com drama offers a fun and in-depth behind-the-scenes look into how k-dramas get made: from script development to making sure PPL (product placement) makes it to the screen! After watching Be Melodramatic, you'll never quite see k-dramas they same way again.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix.

Work Later, Drink Now (2021)

Based on the webcomic Drinking City Women, Work Later, this show was such a surprise hit that it increased the number of TVING's paying subscribers by nearly 3,000%!

The show didn’t need an elaborate plot, expensive production values, or any big Hallyu name to break audience records. It turns out, all TVING needed for a breakout hit were three Seoulite women (Lee Sun-bin, Han Sun-hwa, and Jung Eun-ji) in their 30s hilariously navigating the minefield of their families, careers, and men with a little help from each other... and a LOT of alcohol. Read our full review here.

12 episodes. Available on other sites.

Search: WWW (2017)

South Korea may have one of the lowest ratios of female executives among industrialized countries, but not in the world of Search: WWW.

Our three heroines in this k-drama are rich and successful directors who control the country's two biggest web portals—the websites that people access every day to search for all types of information. But their power extends beyond the companies they work in. In their roles, Bae Ta-mi (Lim Soo-jung), Cha Hyun (Lee Da-hee), and Song Ka-kyung (Jeon Hye-jin) are in a unique position to influence the national conversation.

Over 16 episodes, we watch the three women brainstorm and execute innovative business tactics to outwit each other and increase their market shares, with the sort of corporate maneuvering often just seen among men. Along the way, they also struggle with the unusual power they hold to shape narratives, while balancing dating, cheating boyfriends and a controlling mother-in-law. Yes, our heroines do have relationships, too. But in the world of Search: WWW, men are just supporting characters designed to aid our three strong leads as they find their place and their voice in corporate Korea.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix and Viu.

Avengers Social Club (2017)

When youth has passed and all that remain are responsibilities, are women expected to just grin and bear it? Hell no! At least, according to the women (and man) of the Avengers' Social Club.

The viewers are introduced to three women (and their token handsome young man) of different social statuses who are all living in quiet desperation due to different circumstances (mostly men and money) in their life. Unhappy with her husband's decision to let his illegitimate son live in their house, Kim Jung-Hye (Lee Yo-won) brings together fishmonger Hong Do-hee (Ra Mi-ran) and housewife Lee Mi-sook (Myung Se-bin) to form a revenge club called BJ club (BJ meaning Bok-ja, the hangul term for revenge).

Along the way, Kim Jung-hye's stepson, Lee Soo-gyum (Lee Jun-young) joins their little club. Together, these four band together to make their husbands and tormentors pay for their wrongdoings, and—as a bonus—form meaningful bonds with each other. They eventually become what Kim Jung-hye aptly describes as "strangers that are closer than family."

Avengers' Social Club is a hilarious commentary on what middle-aged women have to endure to protect their families from society...and from their own families.

16 episodes. Available on other streaming sites.

Dear My Friends (2016)

Penned by Noh Hee-kyung (It’s Okay, That’s Love), another master of the slice-of-life genre, Dear My Friends features a powerhouse ensemble composed of some of the most awarded and beloved senior actors in Korea, acting as lifelong friends.

Park Wan (Go Hyun-jung), a 30-something translator, reluctantly keeps getting roped into the drama of her headstrong mother Jang Nan-hee (Go Doo-shim) and her fellow senior-citizen friends (Youn Yuh-jung, Kim Hye-ja, Na Moon-hee, Park Won-sook, and Shin Goo) and gives in to their requests to document their life stories.

Along the way, she learns valuable life lessons. Incredibly poignant, surprisingly funny, and featuring the beautiful sights of Slovenia and Croatia, Dear My Friends is a healing, life-affirming celebration of friends who have become family, and the beauty of growing old with them by your side.

16 episodes. Available on Netflix.


Which of these will you be watching next?

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