entertainment

24 Intense K-Dramas You Should Watch If You're Bored Of Cheesy Romances

For when you're in the mood for something different.

Cover image via Asian Movies & Dramas Kdramabuzz Hellokpop

1. 'White Christmas' (2011)

Image via Dramabeans

Eight students each receive the same hauntingly cryptic letter that predicts someone's death. To unravel the mystery behind the letter, they all choose to stay at their prestigious private school over Christmas break. All alone in a deep isolated mountain area, they'll face situations that force them to question who they really are.

Main cast: Sung Joon, Lee Soo Hyuk, Kim Woo Bin, Baek Sung Hyun, Esom, Kim Young Kwang, Hong Jong Hyun, and Kwak Jung Wook

Episode count: 8

Watch this if you like:
- Dark psychological thrillers
- Strong ensemble cast
- Questioning human nature

2. 'Gakistal' / 'Bridal Mask' (2012)

Image via Korea Bizwire

Based on a popular Korean manhwa (comic book), the story is set in 1930s Seoul during the Japanese colonial era. It explores the journey of an ambitious Korean police officer who works for the Japanese colonists.

An unexpected turn of events leads him to cross paths with The Bridal Mask, a Zorro-like hero of the people, forever changing both his own fate and the future of the nation.

Main cast: Joo Won, Jin Se Yeon, Park Ki Woong, Han Chae Ah, and Shin Hyun Joon

Episode count: 28

Watch it if you like:
- Historical fiction
- Period dramas
- Hero stories à la Zorro and Robin Hood

3. 'Gap-Dong' (2014)

Image via JustWatch

This drama is inspired by the real life Hwaseong serial murders, which took place from 1986 to 1991 in the Taean neighbourhood of Hwaseong, South Korea. During this time, 10 women were raped and murdered.

This fictional version follows a police officer who is determined to bring a brutal serial killer to justice when he resurfaces after the statute of limitations for his crimes expires.

Main cast: Yoon Sang Hyun, Sung Dong Il, Kim Ming Jung, Kim Ji Won, and Lee Joon

Episode count: 20

Watch it if you like:
- Crime and crime-solving
- Smart villains
- Cat-and-mouse chase

4. 'Nightmare High' / 'Night Teacher' (2016)

Image via Kdramabuzz

When a new teacher arrives at Yosan Private High School, mysterious things start to happen. Suddenly, the students find their most desperate wishes coming true, but at a dark price.

Who is this teacher and what are the forces he wields? Class president Ye Rim will have to solve the mystery and save her classmates before it's too late.

Main cast: Uhm Ki Joon, Kim So Hyun, and Lee Min Hyuk

Episode count: 12

Watch if you like:
- Mystery
- Supernatural thrillers
- "Be careful what you wish for" stories
- Teen drama

5. 'Misaeng: Incomplete Life' (2014)

Image via Kdramalove

Based on a webtoon series of the same title, Misaeng explores the cold reality of the corporate world through the eyes of Jang Geu Rae. Thrown into the real world after he fails to become a professional Go player, he must learn to navigate the harsh and competitive working environment as an intern at a trading company.

Main cast: Im Shi Wan, Lee Sung Min, Kang So Ra, Kang Ha Neul, Byun Yo Han, and Kim Dae Myung

Episode count: 20

Watch it if you like:
- Corporate drama
- Slice of life
- Underdog stories

6. 'Bad Guys' (2014)

Image via K holic

To combat the rising rate of violent crimes, the Police Chief tasks a suspended police detective with putting together a team of convicts. Consisting of a mob boss, a serial killer with extraordinary intelligence, a contract killer, plus a female police inspector, the team will work on cases and hunt down other criminals together.

Main cast: Kim Sang Joong, Park Hae Jin, Jo Dong Hyuk, Ma Dong Seok, and Kang Ye Won

Episode count: 11

Watch it if you like:
- Crime and crime-solving
- Anti-heroes

7. 'Liar Game' (2014)

Image via Viki

Contestants take part in a reality game show called Liar Game, which is a psychological survival game in which participants trick each other in order to win the grand prize of 10 billion won.

Tempted by the chance to pay off her debts, naive college student Da Jung inadvertently finds herself becoming a contestant. With genius ex-con swindler and former psychology professor Ha Woo Jin helping her, can she win the game and uncover the secrets behind it?

Main cast: Lee Sang Yoon, Kim So Eun, and Shin Sung Rok

Episode count: 12

Watch it if you like:
- Strategy and cons
- Outsmarting people
- Psychological thrillers

8. 'Kingdom' (2019)

Image via Hellokpop

Set in Korea's Joseon period, the drama follows Crown Prince Lee Chang as he tries to figure out what happened to his father. Along the way, he discovers and fights against a mysterious undead plague that has started to spread throughout the country, leaving the entire nation at risk.

Main cast: Joo Ji Hoon, Ryu Seung Ryong, Bae Doo Na, and Kim Sung Gyu

Episode count: 6

Watch it if you like:
- Zombies
- Period dramas
- Historical fiction
- Supernatural thrillers

9. 'Two Weeks' (2013)

Framed for muder, small-time gangster turned fugitive on the run Jang Tae San must evade the law as well as the powerful people who want him dead. His desperate struggle is all to remain alive for two weeks, until the life-saving bone marrow transplant for his daughter, as he is the only matching donor.

Main cast: Lee Joon Gi, Jo Min Ki, Park Ha Sun, Kim So Yeon, and Ryu Soo Young

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Race against time
- Conspiracies and cover ups
- Political intrigue
- Family bond

10. 'Avengers Social Club' / 'Buam-dong Revengers' (2017)

Image via Chosun

Three women from different walks of life who find their lives intertwined come together to form a social club. The unlikely trio join forces to take revenge on those who have wronged them, finding true friendship in each other along the way.

Main cast: Lee Yo Won, Ra Mi Ran, Myung Se Bin, and Jun

Episode count: 12

Watch it if you like:
- Strong female leads
- Family and friendship feels
- Revenge
- Healing from trauma

11. 'God's Gift: 14 Days' (2014)

Image via fanpop

A grieving mother gets the miraculous chance to go back in time to 14 days before the kidnapping and subsequent murder of her daughter. Desperate to prevent the horrible crime from happening all over again, she teams up with a former cop turned private investigator who is out to prove the innocence of his mentally challenged brother.

Main cast: Lee Bo Young, Jo Seung Woo, Kim Tae Woo, Kim Yoo Bin, and Jung Gyu Woon

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Strong female lead
- Mother-daughter bond
- Time travel
- Crime and crime solving

12. 'Duel' (2017)

Image via Hellokpop

When the chief of a crime squad's daughter gets kidnapped, he ends up becoming involved in a shocking case involving human cloning, eventually meeting clones who may be the key to getting his daughter back.

Main cast: Jung Jae Young, Kim Jung Eun, Yang Se Jong, and Seo Eun Soo

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Sci-fi
- Action thrillers and suspense
- Crime and crime solving
- Father-daughter bond

13. 'SKY Castle' (2018)

Image via Soompi

This intense drama takes a deep dive into the materialistic desires of upper-class parents in Korea. Revolving around the lives of wealthy housewives living in a luxurious residential area called SKY Castle, it shows how these parents are willing to do anything to further their social standing. Particularly, when it comes to their children's education, there's no such thing as "going too far".

Main cast: Yeom Jung Ah, Lee Tae Ran, Yoon Se Ah, Oh Na Ra, and Kim Seo Hyung

Episode count: 20

Watch it if you like:
- Strong female leads
- Family bonds
- Social problems
- Strong ensemble cast
- Satirical drama

14. 'Mother' (2018)

Image via HallyuVibe

When a temporary teacher at an elementary school realises that one of her students is being brutally abused at home, she makes an impulsive decision to save the young girl by kidnapping her and becoming her surrogate mother.

Main cast: Lee Bo Young, Heo Yool, Lee Hye Young, and Go Sung Hee

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Strong female leads
- Mother-daughter bond
- Survival and healing from trauma

15. 'Children of Nobody' / 'Red Moon Blue Sun' (2019)

Image via Viki

A child counselor's seemingly perfect life is changed forever by an unfortunate accident. In the aftermath, she finds her life slowly unraveling as she searches for the truth about the incident, with a mysterious child only she can see guiding her and cryptic poems as clues.

Main cast: Kim Sun Ah, Lee Yi Kyung, Nam Gyu Ri, and Cha Hak Yeon (N)

Episode count: 32

Watch it if you like:
- Mystery and suspense
- Thrillers

16. 'Six Flying Dragons' (2015)

Image via AsianWiki

A historical fiction drama that details the rise and fall of both real and fictional characters. The story is mainly based on Yi Bang Won, the third king of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea and father of King Sejong the Great, and the people around him.

Main cast: Yoo Ah In, Kim Myung Min, Shin Se Kyung, Byun Yo Han, Yoon Gyun Sang, and Chun Ho Jin

Episode count: 50

Watch it if you like:
- Historical fiction
- Period dramas
- Political intrigue
- Action

17. 'Save Me' (2017)

Image via Amino Apps

New to the small suburban town of Muji-gun, Sang Mi and her family end up getting sucked into a pseudo-religious cult. As the only one not taken in by the teachings and beliefs of the sinister cult, it's up to Sang Mi to save her family and expose the cult. Her only allies are four young men who try to help her from the outside.

Main cast: Seo Ye Ji, Ok Taec Yeon, Woo Do Hwan, and Jo Sung Ha

Episode count: 16

Watch this if you like:
- Mystery and suspense
- Thillers
- Psychological themes
- Strong female lead

18. 'Solomon's Perjury' (2016)

Image via LewatMana

Hunted by the media and frustrated by the lack of answers after the death of their classmate, the students of an elite high school decide to hold their own school trial. Determined to get to the bottom of things and fight for the truth, each student takes on a different role in the trial and start to uncover ugly secrets about the case.

Main cast: Kim Hyun Soo, Jang Dong Yoon, Seo Ji Hoon, Seo Yong Joo, and Jo Jae Hyun

Episode count: 12

Watch it if you like:
- Legal drama
- Court trials
- Mystery and suspense
- Crime and crime solving
- Teen drama

19. 'The Guest' (2018)

Image via Pinterest

A young psychic born into a shaman family, a young boy from a religious Catholic family, and the daughter of a policewoman fatefully meet as children when their families are killed by a powerful demon. 20 years later, they join forces to try stop the demon for good when it starts killing again.

Main cast: Kim Dong Wook, Kim Jae Wook, and Jung Eun Chae

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Supernatural thrillers
- Horror
- Mystery and suspense

20. 'The Village: Achiara's Secret' (2015)

The peace of a seemingly idyllic village is shattered when a buried corpse is discovered. As a new-to-town English teacher and a rookie policeman work together in an attempt to uncover the truth, the village's ugliness and dark secrets start to come to light.

Main cast: Moon Geun Young, Yook Sung Jae, Shin Eun Kyung, Ohn Joo Wan, and Jang Hee Jin

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Mystery and suspense
- Thrillers

21. 'Signal' (2016)

A detective in the year 2000 and a cold case profiler from 2015 are able to use a mysterious walkie talkie to communicate through time. Through this, they are able to help each other both solve cold cases as well as prevent horrific crimes from ever taking place.

Main cast: Lee Je Hoon, Kim Hye Soo, Jo Jin Woong

Episode count: 16

Watch this if you like:
- Crime and crime solving
- Time travel
- Mystery and suspense

22. 'The Lady in Dignity' / 'Woman of Dignity' (2017)

Image via The Korea Times

The luxurious life of Woo Ah Jin is turned upside down with the appearance of Park Bok Ja. Initially joining the family as a caregiver for Ah Jin's father-in-law, the seemingly old-fashioned and plain woman quickly shows her true colours and cunningly takes over the wealthy household.

Main cast: Kim Hee Sun, Kim Sun Ah, Jung Sang Hoon, Lee Tae Im, and Lee Ki Woo

Episode count: 20

Watch this if you like:
- Family drama
- Strong female leads
- Battle of wits

23. 'Vagabond' (2019)

Image via Dramabeans

In their investigation into a tragic plane crash that killed 211 civilians, a stuntman whose nephew is one of the victims and a covert operative for the National Intelligence Service end up discovering a tangled web of corruption and a sinister conspiracy.

Main cast: Lee Seung Gi, Bae Suzy, and Shin Sung Rok

Episode count: 16

Watch it if you like:
- Spies
- Action thrillers
- Conspiracies

24. 'Arthdal Chronicles' (2019)

Set in a mythical land called Arth, this epic drama follows the lives of the inhabitants of this ancient city, focusing on four characters whose destinies are intertwined. A gripping tale of love, ambition, tragedy, and fate will unfold as they go on their respective journeys and fight for what they want.

Main cast: Jang Dong Gun, Song Joong Ki, Kim Ji Won, and Kim Ok Bin

Episode count: 18

Watch this if you like:
- Fantasy and myths
- Stories set in ancient times
- Power struggles

Which one of these are you most excited to watch? Got any others you'd recommend? Let us know in the comments section!

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