10 Must Watch Netflix Korean Dramas With Powerful Scripts

After Parasite’s Oscar win, everyone is looking at South Korea in a new light. We are not going to connect South Korea with only fluffy dramas and Kpop. Though Kdramas as they are called often rely on unrealistic plots and characterization, not all of them are like that. These are some of the dramas on Netflix with amazing storytelling and brilliant acting.

Stranger

Hwang Shi-Mok is a prosecutor who has alexithymia (lack of emotions) due to a brain surgery, making him rational and cold. The drama begins with a murder which is linked to the corruption in the prosecution department. Hwang Shi-Mok being the uncorrupted prosecutor is handed the case and is joined by warm, upright cop Han Yeo Jin played by Bae Doona (sun Bak in sense8). It’s a whodunit situation with the suspense built up extremely well.  The script and acting in The Stranger is perfect.

Episodes: 16

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Reply 1988

Reply 1988 follows five friends (and their families) as they go through their teens. Set in the late 1980s the series gives a glimpse of South Korean life before they went through their economic transformation. This drama makes you want to be part of their stories as they humorously face the awkward challenges in their lives. Great ensemble cast, equally beautiful soundtrack and witty writing. And you will mostly experience the Korean bug called second lead syndrome (where you root for the second lead instead of the main lead).

Episodes: 20

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Signal

Park Hae Young is a criminal profiler who is looking into a cold case. He happens to find an old walkie-talkie which lets him talk to the police officer who was in charge of the case. But, here is the supernatural bit, the walkie-talkie lets him talk to the police officer in the past, that is fifteen years ago. There are separate timelines and these two police officers need to catch the killer before he commits his next murder. This thriller keeps you at the edge of the seat till the last episode. Flawless writing and acting in The Signal.

Episodes: 16

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Kingdom

There are only a few who can do the zombie genre as good as the South Koreans (Train to Busan anyone?). Set in the Joseon era (late 14 century) the story follows a young prince as he fights political rivals and the mysterious zombies on his journey to claim the throne of the Kingdom. You won't fail to notice the parallels between the political enemies and the zombies, one driven by the lust for riches and the other for blood. The series is brilliantly shot; every frame is meticulously planned. Every episode ending will leave you wanting more. Every season finale will leave you impatient for the next.

Episodes: 6 per season. 2 seasons done. 

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Live

Live tells the story of police officers at Hongil Patrol Division in Seoul. How they deal with their jobs, crimes, corruption, safety; to their personal lives and issues. It realistically shows the tough life of police officials we take for granted. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry.  The beauty of this drama is the ensemble cast. Character development is on point. Every character is given equal footing, you can pick your own hero. 

Episodes: 18

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Misaeng/Incomplete Life

Misaeng lets you experience the pressures and challenges of the South Korean corporate world. The protagonist, Jang Geu Rae, had always wanted to be a professional baduk player (Korean board game, something on the lines of chess) but due to circumstances ends up as a sales intern in a big company. The series is about Jang Gau Rae's and his colleagues' journey as they go through the office life grind and keep their sanity intact. Screenplay, acting, direction is brilliant. 

Episodes: 20

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Prison Playbook

Kim Je Hyuk is a star baseball player who gets convicted to one year in prison after assaulting a sexual predator. He is a very simple, quiet, kind hearted man whose life only revolved around baseball. Prison Playbook shows how Kim Je Hyuk adjusts to the prison life, the people he interacts with and their stories. And the support he gets from his best friend Lee Joon Ho who is a prison guard. The drama is a light take on a serious subject with references from Shawshank Redemption.

Episodes: 16

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Good Manager

Good Manager is a hilarious workplace comedy. Kim Sung-Ryong is an eccentric accountant with no moral principles. He joins a big company as a manager to embezzle money but ends up fighting with his team against corruption and saving the company from the bad guys. The humour is laugh out loud. The highlight is Kim Sung-Ryoung’s relationship with the financial head Seo Yul which is similar to Tom & Jerry. The chemistry between these actors was so good that they got the best onscreen pair award even though they played heterosexual male characters in this drama. 

Episodes: 20

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Argon

Lee Yeon Hwa is a rookie reporter who joins the investigative reporting TV program Argon. Through her eyes we see the working of the Argon team which is led by their anchor Kim Baek Jin who is an idealist and believes in ethical journalism. The drama shows the struggles of the team to survive the cut throat world of news media without compromising. Since it’s a miniseries, it's fast paced with good editing.

Episodes: 8 

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Coffee Prince

Coffee Prince is a 2007 romantic comedy drama which was way ahead of its times unlike the melodramas of that period. It’s still considered very progressive when you compare it to the regressive trend that’s creeping in nowadays. Go Eun Chan, who often gets mistaken for a boy, and is the sole breadwinner of her family. Choi Han Gyul played by Gong Yoo (Train to Busan) is an heir to a food company. Go Eun Chan ends up working for his café pretending to be a boy. Han Gyul falls in love with her personality but is conflicted because he thinks she’s a boy. Rest, watch to know. 

With inputs from Megha Vijayprakash.

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