The Best K-Dramas for Learning Korean

By OptiLingo • 9 minutes read

watch the best korean dramas

Watching TV is not generally considered a productive activity. But, you can easily make it an incredible language learning resource. Watching the best Korean dramas is an excellent way to learn more Korean faster. And to help you narrow down your search, we compiled a list of the best Korean dramas to enjoy. 

But before you start to worry about whether or not this is a good use of your time, remember: You deserve a break every once in a while. Watching the best Korean dramas can be a fun way to chill while still immersing yourself in Korean culture and language. You’ll hear the sounds, and understand the logic of Korean. And you’ll get an amazing look at how the language works.

Not to mention, you’ll quickly see your Korean vocabulary expand…

Best Korean Dramas to Watch

Korean dramas cover a wide variety of topics. These TV shows feature rags-to-riches stories, forbidden love, and family feuds. Romance, action, comedy, and sci-fi are all common subgenres of the best Korean dramas. It’s everything you need to keep you entertained on a rainy (or even a sunny) day.

*Warning* Don’t watch them all in one sitting…unless you have snacks.

Descendants of the Sun

This was one of the best Korean dramas of 2016. This one-season TV show is about the love between a special forces officer and a surgeon. Their relationship starts with exciting circumstances. After all, being in love in a war-torn country has its own challenges. Still, action, romance, and even comedy find its place in this highly popular Korean drama series. And excellent ratings and exceptional reviews earned it international fame in Asia. Plus, several adaptations of the story have been produced since its premiere.

Gourmet

This is a really fun TV show about Korean cuisine and its traditions. Two up-and-coming chefs and lifelong friends compete for ownership of a restaurant. Pitted against each other, the friends navigate family secrets, squabbles, and recipes to become the top chef.

Coffee Prince

This popular TV show is about love, deception, and family obligations. A rich playboy is pressured by his grandmother to take over the family business. Reluctant to continue her coffee empire, he makes every effort to disobey. In order to stop the blind dates his grandmother tries to set him up with, he hires a boy to pretend to by his gay lover. Little does he know that the boy is actually a poor girl in disguise. Their friendship blooms and their attraction is undeniable. How will the rich playboy navigate his family’s expectations while questioning his sexuality?

Drinking Solo

If you want to know how young Korean people speak, Drinking Solo is a great example. This Korean drama depicts the lives of students preparing for a civil service exam called Noryangjin. Struggles of teachers and adventures of students collide in this acclaimed series. You can learn a lot of vocabulary and slang from this show. 

Judge vs. Judge

Feminism in the justice system is a rare sight on the screen. Yet in “Judge vs. Judge” the main character is a tough woman. This legal drama tells the story of Judge Lee Jung-Joo, who fights to free her wrongly convicted brother. This show features a lot of legal jargon. If you’re up for the challenge to learn some serious vocabulary, this is a great start.

Familiar Wife

A married couple’s boring life is turned upside down when they travel back in time. But, this didn’t make things better. Capable of experiencing their youth once again, they question their marriage and future. Would they make the same choices again? 

Signal

Crime doesn’t have a time limit in this popular Korean drama. A cold case profiler from 2015 works with a detective in 1989 through a mysterious walkie talkie. They solve a series of murders. The show won awards and gained critical acclaim for its writing and acting. 

Reply 1988

If Korean dramas with revenge stories, melodramatic romances, and complicated plots aren’t for you, you’ll enjoy Reply 1988. This simple story of a neighborhood and the people who live in it redefines Korean drama expectations. 80s nostalgia mixed with the streets of Seoul gives you an accurate view of Korean culture in the past. This show won several awards and became the fourth highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history.

Guardian: The Lonely and Great God

Also known as Goblin, this science fiction show is highly acclaimed. Winning awards for its original plot and acting, Goblin became one of the best Korean dramas in Korean television history. A military general is cursed with immortality. He becomes a goblin, watching over the people in his past life. Romance and betrayal make this show suspenseful and successful.

Mr. Sunshine

This Netflix original is not as bright and upbeat as the name suggests. This period drama tells a story set in the Joseon Dynasty era. It’s exciting, grim, and historically accurate. A Korean man (Lee Byung-hun) raised in the US returns home as a Marine Corps officer. He immediately finds love, but this love is jeopardized by war conflict and social pressures. Mr. Sunshine received critical acclaim and great reviews.

Critics especially praised the show’s strong writing of female characters. Made by the creators of Goblin, and Descendants of the Sun, it became the best Korean Drama of 2018

The World of the Married

This 2020 TV show is the best current Korean drama. Its instant success turned into the second-highest-rated show in the history of Korean cable television. A husband’s betrayal makes a well-respected doctor’s life fall apart. The show is based on BBC One’s Doctor Foster. This is an excellent resource if you’re looking to learn Korean with quality TV shows. 

Before You Start Watching Korean Dramas

Before you dive into some serious binging, there are some steps you need to take to maximize your Korean learning success. It’s not enough to just watch and enjoy, you also need to pay attention to the language.

And to help with that, here are some tips you should consider:

best korean dramas are on netflix

  1. Learn to Read Hangul: Reading and writing Hangul well is crucial for Korean fluency. To read Korean subtitles well, you need a good grasp of the alphabet. Don’t worry, Hangul is very easy to learn.
  2. Pick Korean Dramas You Like: Watching something you enjoy will not only improve your mood. You’ll also associate the fun with language learning and that will benefit you even more. 
  3. Actively Watch: It’s not enough to have the TV on as background noise. Put your phone down, and pay attention to what the characters say and how they say it. Write down unfamiliar words so you can translate them later. It’s best to treat it like a lesson, so make sure you stay focused.
  4. Keep the English Subtitles Off: Watching Korean dramas with English subtitles once to understand the story is fine. But, as tempting as it is, keeping the English subtitles on won’t improve your Korean skills.
  5. Turn the Korean Subtitles On: Having Korean subtitles on has many benefits when you’re watching Korean dramas. You’ll understand what the actor’s saying. You’ll improve your reading skills. And you can meet new vocabulary more organically. 
  6. Read Korean Subtitles Outloud: If you want to practice your pronunciation, you can read the Korean subtitles out loud. This will help you form the sounds and give you guidance at the same time.

Online Sources For the Best Korean Dramas to Learn Korean

Netflix

Yes, this popular streaming giant features Korean dramas on its website. Its algorithm finds content for you which you’ll enjoy based on previous preferences. Although there aren’t a ton of options for Korean dramas on Netflix (yet), you may find something that you’ll thoroughly enjoy.

Asian Crush

Asian Crush is a great website for high-quality Korean dramas and films. Although it’s primarily for North American audiences, it can be very useful for your Korean studies. Their subtitles are especially great.

Viki

This streaming service has all the best Korean dramas you need to learn Korean. It features a wide variety of genres over 1300 pieces of content. A community of volunteers operates this service who are passionate about spreading knowledge of Korean culture. This website will surely get your Korean language knowledge to fluency in no time.

best korean dramas to watch

Reach Fluency with More than the Best Korean Dramas

Watching Korean dramas gives you an excellent insight into the culture. And it can also improve your Korean drastically. Hearing the sounds of the language and reading the subtitles can be an intensive language learning method. But, you need a good foundation of Korean if you want to understand the plot well.

You can learn Korean quickly with OptiLingo. Using scientifically-proven methods, OptiLingo helps you reach fluency effectively. With comprehensible input and spaced repetition, you’ll never have to cram or memorize. And you can learn at your own pace, thanks to the stress-free structure of OptiLingo. Bring your Korean knowledge up to speed with OptiLingo, so you can enjoy the best Korean dramas effortlessly.

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