South Korea’s entertainment industry is currently one of the largest in the world, showing that language is no longer a barrier to worldwide success. Korean films and dramas are winning the world over as seen with Parasite, the first non-English language film to win Best Picture in the Academy Awards’ 92-year history.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen Korean filmmakers push the boundaries of what we know to be the quintessential K-drama or film. This has translated into stories that are rich in culture yet extremely captivating that resonate with people around the globe, even if they don’t necessarily identify as Korean show fans.
Here are some of the best Korean shows to watch if you want to ease yourself into the wave.
Time To Hunt is set in a time where the once glittering era of consumerism is diminished by a global financial crisis, leaving the Korean Won worthless and the streets of Seoul filled with gunshots and violence. A group of four friends pull off the heist of their lives in pursuit of retiring near the waters however things go sour when a relentless killer puts a target on their backs.
For director Yoon Sung-hyun, building a fictional but plausible Korean metropolis in decline was a challenge. Driving away from the usual picture perfect backdrop of many Korean films, the setting of this dystopian thriller is heavily influenced by the directors’ time in South America where gunshots can be heard from afar while driving. Time To Hunt promises a vividly gritty experience with stunning action sequences filled with thrill to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Writer Kim Eun-hee together with director duo Kim Seung-hun and Park In-je took viewers around the world by storm with none other than Kingdom, hailed by the New York Times as one of the ‘Top 10 International TV Shows of 2019’ on Netflix.
Before Kingdom, there haven’t been any Korean dramas that have successfully introduced a western concept like zombies in a more traditional setting like the Joseon period, as the backdrop for an epic story of hunger, royal blood lines and the quest for power. This blending of genres has helped to attract fans who wouldn’t usually consider Korean dramas as their preferred form of entertainment.
Love Alarm is another Korean drama that explores the concept of what ‘liking’ someone actually means, a universal emotion that can be felt regardless of age, race, and nationality. Love Alarm is a fictitious app that tells you if someone within a 10-meter radius has a crush on you, which quickly becomes a social phenomenon.
Adapted from a famous webtoon created by Chon Kye-young, Director Lee Na-jeong wanted to bring to life the wonderfully-constructed world from the original comic and portray the journey of finding love and growth in a coming-of-age story that focuses on the real emotions of the characters.
Director Lee Na-jeong carefully captures these emotions, from the need to be assured of being loved by someone to the desire to muster up the courage to profess love and the wish to hide one’s romantic feelings. The director and author even worked closely with app development specialists, designers and sound engineers to ensure a fully immersive experience for audiences when watching these characters’ emotions when they look at the screen of the Love Alarm app.
Director Kim Jin-min explores subject matters that aren’t addressed in your usual Korean shows in Extracurricular with its main protagonist, Jisoo, who may come off as a shy model student but is actually a criminal mastermind beyond the imagination of his fellow schoolmates.
The series adopts a common trope, a character leading a double life, however takes a different spin to how bad choices can come with irreversible consequences.
Fall in love with these boundary breaking Korean shows, only on Netflix.