entertainment

29 Must-Watch K-Dramas From 2020 That You Should Totally Check Out If You Haven't Already

If you tak sempat watch last year, now's the perfect time to catch up!

Cover image via Viki & Viu / The Straits Times

1. The Penthouse: War in Life

Image via Viki

Hera Palace, a luxury apartment building, is home to wealthy and prestigious families who are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their money, power, and status. Follow the lives of these residents with many secrets and hidden ambitions as they resort to extreme measures to protect themselves and their children.

Main cast: Lee Ji Ah, Kim So Yeon, Eugene, Um Ki Joon, Park Eun Seok, Yoon Jong Hoon, Shin Eun Kyung, Bong Tae Kyu, and Yoon Joo Hee

Episode count: 21 (Season 1). Seasons 2 and 3 are set to be 12 episodes each, and will air in 2021.

Watch it if you like:
- K-dramas like SKY Castle, The World of the Married, or The Last Empress
- Thrillers
- Mystery
- Drama
- Family
- Makjang (dramas with ridiculously over-the-top elements)

2. Kairos

Image via Soompi

Connected through a phone that only allows them to contact each other for a minute each day, a desperate man and woman living in different points in time work together to save their respective loved ones from a tragic fate.

Main cast: Shin Sung Rok, Lee Se Young, Ahn Bo Hyun, Nam Gyu Ri, and Kang Seung Yoon

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- K-dramas like Signal
- Drama
- Mystery and suspense
- Thrillers
- Action
- Time altering / Different timelines

3. Flower of Evil

Image via Soompi

When a homicide detective is assigned to a murder case related to a string of killings from 15 years ago, she starts to suspect that her perfect, loving husband may be hiding a dark secret from her.

Main cast: Lee Joon Gi and Moon Chae Won

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Dark thrillers
- Plot twists
- Psychological elements
- Action
- Crime and crime-solving
- Mystery and suspense

4. True Beauty

Image via Spoiler Guy

Based on the Line Webtoon of the same name, True Beauty centres around a high school girl. Sick of being bullied and looked down on for being perceived as ugly, she rises to fame after mastering the art of makeup and transforming herself into a gorgeous "goddess".

Main cast: Moon Ga Young, Cha Eun Woo, Hwang In Yeop, and Park Yoo Na

Episode count: 16 (still airing at the time of writing)

Watch it if you like:
- The True Beauty webtoon
- Romance
- Comedy
- High-school settings
- Love triangles

5. Mr. Queen

Image via MyDramaList

Based on Go Princess Go, a Chinese web drama, Mr. Queen tells the story of a modern-day male chef whose soul somehow ends up trapped in the body of a queen in the Joseon era.

Main cast: Shin Hye Sun and Kim Jung Hyun

Episode count: 20 (still airing at the time of writing)

Watch it if you like:
- Historical fiction / Sageuk dramas
- Palace politics
- Comedy
- Romance
- Body swaps
- Strong female leads
- Fantasy and time travel elements

6. Tale of the Nine Tailed

An immortal gumiho (mythical nine-tailed fox) has been roaming the human world for centuries, in search of the reincarnation of his lost first love. His path crosses with a spunky television producer, who is trying to unravel the mystery of her parents' disappearance.

Main cast: Lee Dong Wook, Jo Bo Ah, and Kim Bum

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Plots similar to Inuyasha or My Girlfriend is a Gumiho
- Fantasy / Magic / Myths
- Strong female leads
- Snarky characters and witty dialogue
- Romance
- Mystery and suspense
- Bromance and family feels

7. The School Nurse Files

A nurse and a Chinese language teacher use their special abilities to get to the bottom of the mysterious events taking place at their school. At the same time, they do their best to protect their students from dangerous, jelly-like monsters.

Main cast: Jung Yu Mi and Nam Joo Hyuk

Episode count: 6

Watch it if you like:
- Comedy
- Fantasy
- Supernatural elements

8. The World of the Married

Image via Wild and Sassy

The seemingly perfect and idyllic life of a successful doctor is shattered when she discovers that not only has her husband been having an affair, even their mutual friends have been helping him conceal it. Follow this story of betrayal, revenge, grief, forgiveness, and healing.

Main cast: Kim Hee Ae, Park Hae Joon, and Han So Hee

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- K-dramas like SKY Castle and The Penthouse: War in Life
- Romance
- Drama
- Family
- Revenge
- Melodrama

9. Dr. Romantic 2

Image via Soompi

Set three years after the events of Dr. Romantic, this sequel once again follows Teacher Kim. To solve a manpower shortage at Doldam Hospital, he goes to Geosan University Hospital, where he meets two doctors who resemble his former students, but seem much more lacking. Will Teacher Kim be able to run Doldam Hospital with these two?

Main cast: Han Suk Kyu, Ahn Hyo Seop, Lee Sung Kyung, and Kim Joo Hun

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- The original Dr. Romantic
- Romance
- Medical dramas

10. Alice

Image via MyDramaList

A detective born without the ability to feel or express emotions discovers the existence of time travellers while investigating a mysterious case. He teams up with a genius physicist to unravel the secrets of time travel, discovering things about himself and his past along the way.

Main cast: Joo Won and Kim Hee Sun

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Mystery
- Drama
- Sci-fi
- Time travel
- Crime and crime-solving
- Action

11. Start-Up

Set in one of the world’s most advanced tech sectors, follow the journey of four unique people whose lives become intertwined: Seo Dal Mi, a woman who has dreams of becoming an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs, Nam Do San, the founder of a start-up who is struggling to expand his company, Han Ji Pyeong, a successful advisor in the start-up world, and Won In Jae, a woman who wants to prove herself in a male-dominated industry.

Main cast: Bae Suzy, Nam Joo Hyuk, Kim Seon Ho, and Kang Han Na

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- The tech scene
- Entrepreneurs / Business / Start-ups
- Romance
- Drama

12. It's Okay To Not Be Okay

Image via Soompi

When a selfless caretaker who works at a psychiatric ward meets a children's book writer suffering from an antisocial personality disorder, a story of romance and emotional healing begins to unfold.

Main cast: Kim Soo Hyun, Seo Yea Ji, and Oh Jung Se

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Psychological elements
- Themes surrounding mental health
- Romance
- Drama
- Strong female leads
- Family and friendship feels

13. 18 Again

Image via MyDramaList

Based on the Hollywood movie 17 Again (yes, the one starring Zac Efron), a 37-year-old divorcee is granted the chance to re-do his life and try to fix his past mistakes when he is miraculously transformed into his 18-year-old self.

Main cast: Kim Ha Neul, Yoon Sang Hyun, and Lee Do Hyun

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Movies like 17 Again
- Comedy
- Romance
- Slight fantasy elements

14. Run On

Image via Hellokpop

A once-popular sprinter for the national team meets a subtitle translator, and a university art major enters the life of the CEO of a sports agency. Could love be in the air for these two couples?

Main cast: Im Si Wan, Shin Se Kyung, Choi Soo Young, and Kang Tae Oh

Episode count: 16 (still airing at the time of writing)

Watch it if you like:
- Romance
- Drama
- Sports

15. SF8

Image via Viki

Eight filmmakers came together to create this science fiction anthology series. It consists of eight stand-alone episodes, each featuring a different story and characters. The episodes share a theme, as they all revolve around people who dream of a perfect society. The series explores themes such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, robots, games, fantasy, horror, superpowers, and disasters.

Main cast:
- Episode 1: Lee Yoo Young, Ye Soo Jung, and Yum Hye Ran
- Episode 2: Lee Yeon Hee, Lee Dong Hwi, Nam Myung Ryul, and Seo Hyun Woo
- Episode 3: Kim Bo Ra, Choi Sung Eun, Yoon Jung Hoon, and Kim Joo Ryung
- Episode 4: Lee Si Young, Ha Jun, and Lee Jun Hyeok
- Episode 5: Lee David, Shin Eun Soo, Hwang Jung Min, and Bae Hae Sun
- Episode 6: Hani, Lee Se Hee, and Shin So Yul
- Episode 7: Choi Si Won, Uee, Ahn Se Ha, and Kim Han Na
- Episode 8: Moon So Ri and Jang Yoo Sang

Episode count: 8

Watch it if you like:
- Shows like Black Mirror
- Sci-fi

16. Memorist

Image via MyDramaList

A detective with the power to read people's memories works together with a genius criminal profiler to investigate a string of serial murders. But little do they know that the culprit behind it all has abilities far more powerful than theirs, and is also the key to unearthing the truth about their respective troubled pasts.

Main cast: Yoo Seung Ho, Lee Se Young, and Jo Sung Ha

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Crime and crime solving
- Mystery and suspense
- Thrillers
- Supernatural elements

17. Do You Like Brahms?

Image via SBS / Kpopmap

Students of classical music at a prestigious institution get tangled in a complicated web of romance as they try to pursue their dreams and find their own happiness.

Main cast: Park Eun Bin, Kim Min Jae, Kim Sung Cheol, Park Ji Hyun, Lee Yoo Jin, and Bae Da Bin

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Classical music
- Romance
- Melodrama
- Friendship

18. Mystic Pop-up Bar

Image via KDramaStars

On a mission to settle the grudges of 100,000 souls, the proprietor and employees of a mysterious pojangmacha (outdoor pop-up bar) visit their customers in their dreams to help them resolve their problems.

Main cast: Hwang Jung Eum, Yook Sung Jae, and Choi Won Young

Episode count: 12

Watch it if you like:
- Comedy
- Mystery
- Drama
- Fantasy and/or supernatural elements

19. Record of Youth

In a generation where dreams have become a luxury, follow the lives of three young people—two actors and a makeup artist—in the contemporary fashion industry, as they strive to achieve their dreams and love without despair.

Main cast: Park Bo Gum, Park So Dam, Byeon Woo Seok, and Kwon Soo Hyun

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- The fashion industry
- Relatable youth dramas
- Friendship / Romance / Family

20. Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol

Image via MyDramaList

This romantic comedy is centred around the people of La La Land, a small piano institute in the countryside. Each have their own secrets, pain, and stories to tell, especially when it comes to a particular pair: Goo Ra Ra, an energetic, down-on-her-luck pianist, and Sunwoo Joon, a warm-hearted and free-spirted part-time worker.

Main cast: Go Ara, Lee Jae Wook, and Kim Joo Hun

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Music (especially piano)
- Comedy
- Romance
- Melodrama

21. Zombie Detective

Image via Hellokpop

After waking up as a zombie with no memories of his past, a man does his best to look and act as human-like as possible. He ends up opening a private detective agency, and teams up with a former investigative journalist to solve crimes and discover the secret behind the existence of zombies.

Main cast: Choi Jin Hyuk and Park Ju Hyun

Episode count: 12

Watch it if you like:
- Zombies
- Comedy
- Drama
- Crimes and crime-solving

22. Train

Image via Kdrama Kisses

A relentless, determined detective's life is thrown into chaos when he mysteriously becomes able to move between parallel universes. But life in both worlds isn't easy, and he'll need all the help he can get to undo past wrongs in one reality, while simultaneously trying to protect the people he cares about in another reality.

Main cast: Yoon Shi Yoon, Kyung Soo Jin, and Shin So Yul

Episode count: 12

Watch it if you like:
- Sci-fi
- Parallel worlds
- Thriller
- Mystery and suspense
- Crime and crime-solving

23. Find Me in Your Memory

Image via MyDramaList

A man with hyperthymesia, a condition that gives people the ability to remember practically every second of their life in vivid detail, encounters a woman who has forgotten the most important moments of her life. Will this unlikely couple be able to overcome their struggles and find love, comfort, and understanding in each other?

Main cast: Kim Dong Wook and Moon Ga Young

Episode count: 32

Watch it if you like:
- Romance
- Melodrama
- Emotional scars/trauma and healing

24. Chip In

Image via Soompi

A terminally-ill painter is discovered dead in his bed the morning after his 58th birthday celebration, during which he was supposed to announce the contents of his will. Was his death due to natural causes, or could it have been caused by one of his greedy family members?

Main cast: Kim Hye Joon, Oh Na Ra, Kim Jung Young, Nam Moon Chul, Han Soo Hyun, Choi Kyu Jin, Kim Shi Eun, Lee Yoon Hee, and Nam Mi Jung

Episode count: 8

Watch it if you like:
- Whodunnit mysteries like Knives Out
- Family drama
- Suspense

25. Extracurricular

Image via Forbes

To pay for his university tuition fee, a top high school student turns to a life of crime and starts running an illegal business. Some of his other classmates wind up getting involved too, and as a result, they face unpredictable dangers.

Main cast: Kim Dong Hee, Jung Da Bin, Park Ju Hyun, and Nam Yoon Soo

Episode count: 10

Watch it if you like:
- Dark crime thrillers
- High school settings (though tbh, this ain't your typical high school drama at all)
- Youth drama

26. Royal Secret Agent

Image via MyDramaList

Set in the Joseon dynasty, the top scorer in the state examinations gets caught gambling and is re-assigned as punishment. His new role is that of a secret royal inspector, whose job is to investigate the corrupt practices of public officers.

Main cast: Kim Myung Soo, Kwon Nara, and Lee Yi Kyung

Episode count: 16 (still airing at the time of writing)

Watch it if you like:
- Historical fiction / Sageuk dramas
- Comedy
- Drama

27. The Game: Towards Zero

Image via MyDramaList

When he looks into someone's eyes, Tae Pyung is able to see the moments right before their death. This prophet-like ability gets him involved in a kidnapping case, during which he meets detective Joon Young, the first person whose death he cannot foresee.

Main cast: Ok Taec Yeon, Lee Yeon Hee, and Lim Ju Hwan

Episode count: 32

Watch it if you like:
- Superpowers
- Crime and crime-solving
- Mystery and suspense
- Psychological elements
- Thrillers
- Romance

28. When I Was Most Beautiful

Image via Kpopmap

Ye Ji, an art student with a pure heart and relentless optimism, dreams of becoming a ceramic artist and finding ordinary happiness. How will she cope when a cruel twist of fate gets her caught in a love triangle with two brothers?

Main cast: Im Soo Hyang, Ji Soo, Ha Seok Jin, and Hwang Seung Eon

Episode count: 32

Watch it if you like:
- Romance
- Melodrama
- Love triangles

29. 365: Repeat the Year

Image via Viki

10 people who dream of a perfect life are given the chance to travel back in time to a year ago. They are able to reset their lives, but mysterious events soon start happening to the group. Can they work together to get to the bottom of things, or is it one of their own who is behind it all?

Main cast: Lee Joon Hyuk, Nam Ji Hyun, and Kim Ji Soo

Episode count: 24

Watch it if you like:
- Time travel
- Mystery and suspense
- Thrillers
- Drama

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