Top 50 Highest Rated Korean Dramas Of All Time

 

There have been some amazing Korean dramas over the years, shows that have left us on the edge of our seats or curled up on the sofa with a box of tissues. No matter the occasion, there are some Korean dramas that stand out and hit a chord with audiences across the globe – and in Korea too.

With hotly contested TV ratings warring between different channels, the desire to hit the top spot of the k-drama mountain has never been more competitive.

Join us as we celebrate the top 50 highest rated Korean dramas. The ratings are compiled thanks to Nielsen and exclusively based on cable TV. At the time of writing, these figures are accurate and up to date.

To add some extra context to all this, we break down what each show is about, our thoughts on that drama, which network it aired on and also the final episode air date.

Of course, feel free to comment below and let us know what your favourite Korean drama is too!

 

Updated: 10th April 2021


50 – Mouse

Network – tvN

Rating – 6.672% (ongoing)

Final Episode Air Date – N/A

Mouse is a thriller all about serial killers. It’s a dark, twisty-turny thriller that’s as confusing and difficult to grasp as it is exciting. The show itself centers on a string of different serial murders – and killers – across various timelines. With 20 episodes to get through and some wild twists along the way, this one is definitely worth checking out.

The main characters here are Moo-Chi, a detective with a tragic backstory, and rookie police officer Ba-Reum. Together, they go on the hunt for various different psychopath murderers. With the show still ongoing, it’s unclear exactly how this one will play out going forward. It’s certainly made for some great TV and discussions online though!


49 – Sisyphus: The Myth

Network – JTBC

Rating – 6.677%

Final Episode Air Date – 8th April 2021

Still airing at the moment, Sisyphus: The Myth is another time travel-centric sci-fi straight out of Korea. With some breathtaking action set pieces, Sisyphus completely squanders its potential with a poorly written story full of more holes than Swiss Cheese.

With an awkwardly contrived romance and plenty of other sci-fi thrillers out there, Sisyphus is not one we’d recommend diving into.

You can read our thoughts on Sisyphus: The Myth in our full season review here!


48 – The Cursed

Network – tvN

Rating – 6.721%

Final Episode Air Date – 17th March 2020

While it would be easy to write off The Cursed as yet another horror series, the mystery and ideas presented in this one are enough to make it an engaging and absorbing watch throughout.

The main story revolves around Jin-Hee, a reporter who investigates a violent case involving Forest, the biggest IT company in South Korea. The chairman of said company happens to be a shamanist and unfortunately that also brings with it a spiritual consulting company mixed up in their affairs.

From here, the series manages to weave mystery and horror together beautifully but also has a knack for being quite slow paced at times. If you can go in with a bit of patience however, this one delivers an intriguing story worth checking out.


47 – Live Up to Your Name

Network – tvN

Rating – 6.907%

Final Episode Air Date – 1st October 2017

Live Up To Your Name is a 2017 Korean drama that combines fantasy, romance and light bites of comedy. The time traveling in question comes in the form of the best acupuncturist of Joseon, Heo Im, who inexplicably finds himself traveling forward 400 years into the future.

There, he meets Choi Yeon Kyung who happens to be a doctor in a modern hospital. Though initially impressed, differences in methods and priorities inevitably lead the two to clash.

Choi Yeon Kyung in particular is outstanding in this drama, really putting in a great performance while somehow helping to make this heady blend of medical drama, fantasy and romance an enjoyable watch.


46 – A Korean Odyssey

Network – tvN

Rating – 6.942%

Final Episode Air Date – 4th March 2018

If you’re looking for a good old fashioned fantasy drama, you can’t go wrong with A Korean Odyssey.

The story here takes place in 2017 with Son Oh-Gong and Woo Ma-Wang in conflict with each other. Oh-Gong is bound to his protective role towards a little girl called Seon-Mi whom he met years before. Having made a contract with her, entitling the girl to seek help whenever she needs it, the two meet again in a fateful encounter.

The story is well written, with compelling characters that boast some great chemistry which helps drive this one forward. Much like Blue Sea, this is another 20 episode thriller worth checking out.


45 – Voice 2

Network – OCN

Rating – 7.086%

Final Episode Air Date – 16th September 2018

The second season to this thrilling Korean drama, Voice revolves around a man named Moo Jin-Hyuk. A popular detective who solved major cases, after his wife was murdered by a serial killer, his life spiraled out of control.

Filled with guilt that he wasn’t able to protect his wife, Jin-Hyuk’s story eventually converges with that of young graduate Kang Kwon-Joo. When she begins working at an emergency 112 call center, a brutal murder case takes place that sees them chase after this serial killer. This thrilling OCN drama perfectly blends together thriller and drama aspects but does so at the expense of plot consistency and detective work.

Connoisseurs of this genre will undoubtedly come away annoyed at the lack of detective work, making for a much more polarizing show than one may expect.


44 – Cheese in the Trap

Network – tvN

Rating – 7.102%

Final Episode Air Date – 1st March 2016

Cheese in the Trap is an interesting little Korean drama, managing to sidestep the traps so many other romcoms of its kind tend to fall into. It’s certainly not your typical K-drama offering and has a delightful central cast that are easy to warm to.

The story essentially takes the simple love triangle arc and enhances that with three relatable characters that grow and evolve over time. Those characters in question happen to be female university student Hong Seol and her senior Yoo Jung. Hong-Seol works part-time due to her family’s poor background while Yoo Jung is good looking, gets good grades and has a kind personality. However he also has a dark side too.

Rounding out this trio happens to be In-Ho, who many people will undoubtedly feel a serious second lead syndrome for.

While some will come away disappointed by the ending, there’s no doubt that this show made quite the impact when it dropped back in 2016.


43 – Second 20s

Network – tvN

Rating – 7.233%

Final Episode Air Date – 17th October 2015

Second 20’s is a romantic comedy, centering on lovable protagonist Ha No-Ra. When she unexpectedly became pregnant at the age of 19, she quit school and ended up getting married. Fast forward 20years and No-Ra finds herself on the brink of divorce. Diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and with a six-month prognosis, she decides to head back to school and experience college for the first time.

Among those in attendance though is her own son, Kim Min-Soo and his girlfriend, Oh Hye-Mi. To complicate matters further, her husband Kim Woo-Chul recently accepted a job teaching psychology at that very same university! And if all that wasn’t enough, it turns out No-Ra’s theater arts professor happens to be Cha Hyun-Seok, a man who had a crush on No-Ra back in school.

Despite a slow start, this well meaning drama finishes strongly, with an inspiring tone and some really great themes at its core.


42 – Something in the Rain

Network – JTBC

Rating – 7.281%

Final Episode Air Date – 19th May 2018

Slow paced and incredibly romantic, Something in the Rain will undoubtedly have grown in popularity since Ye-Jin’s role in Crash Landing On You. Well, this drama sees Ye-Jin play the role of Yoon Jin-A, a single woman in her 30’s. She works as a supervisor at a coffee company and is generally an easy-going person. Only, she feels empty and incomplete inside.

Step forward Seo Joon-Hee. Serving as the younger brother of Jin-A’s best friend Kyung-Sun, Joon-Hee returns to South Korea after finishing work abroad. He’s very different from the guy she remembered all those years ago. Will romance blossom between the two?

The answer to that should, of course, be obvious to anyone who watches a lot of Korean drama. It is a little simplistic – perhaps to a fault – but undoubtedly has a really compelling romantic core to it.


41 – Oh My Ghost

Network – tvN

Rating – 7.337%

Final Episode Air Date – 16th September 2018

Another romantic comedy, Oh My Ghost combines romance with a more supernatural edge that helps this one stand out as slightly unique.

The main protagonist here is Na Bong-Sun who works as an assistant chef. With no close friends and constant berating from her boss, arrogant star chef Kang Sun-Woo, Bong-Sun’s life certainly isn’t perfect. To make matters worse, she occasionally finds herself being able to see ghosts, thanks to her shaman grandmother.

One day, Bong-Sun winds up possessed by the lustful virgin ghost Shin Soon-Ae, who decides to use Bon-Sun’s body as a vessel to seduce as many men as possible. One of those men happens to be Sun-Woo, who begins to take a shining to him.

With a mystery gluing everything together, Oh My Ghost combines this with a romantic-sliced drama nicely to make for a really enjoyable watch.


40 – It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Network – tvN

Rating – 7.348%

Final Episode Air Date – 9th August 2020

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay certainly doesn’t shy away from portraying important mental health issues and it does so in a very natural way. From emotional and physical abuse to learning difficulties, the drama tackles these perfectly with one message in mind. Just like the title itself, it is okay to not be okay and to seek help, whether professionally or from the support of friends and family.

The story revolves around brothers Moon Kang-Tae and Moon Sang-Tae. They have lived alone since they were very young. After their mother passed away, Kang-Tae has been doing the best he can, protecting and looking after his older brother.

The series has an original and heartwarming premise with excellent character progression and interesting themes. It’s not easy to portray mental health issues but this drama does a great job depicting this in its rawest form, helped along by some impressive acting from the entire cast.

You can read our thoughts on It’s Okay to Not Be Okay in our full season review here!


39 – My Mister

Network – tvN

Rating – 7.352%

Final Episode Air Date – 17th May 2018

My Mister is a classic healing drama, one that essentially revolves around three middle aged men and a strong cold woman named Lee Ji-An.

The story itself predominantly revolves around married man Dong-Hun whose world is turned upside down when his wife Yoon-Hee (who’s secretly having an affair with a senior executive at Dong-Hun’s work) wants a divorce. Even worse, she wants to marry this man, Joon-Young.

As Dong-Hun grapples with this reality, his jobless oldest brother, Sang-Hoon, is also separated from his wife. Meanwhile, youngest brother Gi-Hoon has dreams of becoming a movie director. Together, all these characters come together where drama obviously ensues.

Throughout the series the reasoning behind Yoon-Hee’s affair soon becomes clear while IU’s acting as the cold Ji-An really helps ignite this drama.


38 – The Good Detective

Network – JTBC

Rating – 7.609%

Final Episode Air Date – 25th August 2020

Although perhaps a little slow for some, this police-centric series excels through its great chemistry between actors. And that’s just as well because when you actually examine the plot then it does feel a bit messy compared to others in its field.

Specifically, the series centers on Do-Chang, who has worked as a detective for the past 18 years. He was born and raised in Incheon, using his knowledge and experience to investigate cases.

Alongside him is elite detective, Ji-Hyeok who has 9 years of experience. Unlike Do-Chang, he investigates cases using evidence and insight into the criminal’s psyche. Due to trauma from his childhood, he’s pretty cold and distant.

Rounding out this trio is newspaper reporter Seo-Kyung who’s passionate about her work and a veteran in her field.

Undoubtedly enjoyable though, The Good Detective certainly gained popularity over the weeks.


37 – Arthdal Chronicles

Network – tvN

Rating – 7.705%

Final Episode Air Date – 22nd September 2019

Dubbed as the Korean Game Of Thrones, Arthdal Chronicles leans much heavier into its high fantasy concepts and mixes that in with a health dose of complicated political drama.

The story is admittedly pretty convoluted and will punish you if you’re not paying attention during every minute of its episodes.

Set in the fictional land of Arthdal during Ancient times, the story sees a military force led by Tagon rise up and seize control of the land. Prophesied to bring balance back to the world, Eunseom and Tanya front the Wahan Tribe, a peaceful colony, find themselves on the brink of extinction.

All of this builds up to quite the dramatic conclusion to round things out with. Given a second season has already been green-lit, this isn’t the last we’ll see of this Korean drama!

You can read our thoughts on Arthdal Chronicles in our full season review here!


36 – Live

Network – tvN

Rating – 7.730%

Final Episode Air Date – 6th May 2018

South Korean police drama Live is a well written, emotionally charged series following a handful of police officers as they struggle to balance their personal lives with the stresses that come with being a civil servant.

The story predominantly revolves around a handful of hopeful police cadets as they start their new lives as officers under the watchful eye of their Captain,  Oh Yang-chon. As the series progresses, we also meet other key characters, including feisty Han Jung-oh who plays the empowering female officer. 

With a blend of impressively shot drama, a sprinkling of well written comedy and some believable character development, Live does well to fill its run-time with entertaining moments.

You can read our thoughts on Live in our full season review here!


35 – Dear My Friends

Network – tvN

Rating – 8.087%

Final Episode Air Date – 2nd July 2016

Dear My Friends borrows elements from Hospital Playlist and the Reply series, depicting a slice of life drama but leaning into the melodrama along the way. Writing out who everyone is and what their connections are would prompt several lengthy paragraphs but suffice to say, be prepared to go into this one with a box of tissues.

There are some pretty sad moments along the way and the relationships formed and broken between these different men and women really helps this one stand out.  While it’s not necessarily underrated in the conventional sense (the Network ratings speak volumes) it is one that usually flies under the radar.


34 – Lie After Lie

Network – Channel A

Rating – 8.203%

Final Episode Air Date – 24th October 2020

Lie After Lie is a classic makjang drama that gets the right balance between soapy melodrama and more subdued moments of quiet reflection.

The story revolves around Ji Eun-Soo, the daughter-in-law of a chaebol family who appears to have everything. Unfortunately her own life takes a turn for the worst when she’s accused of murdering her abusive husband and sentenced to ten years in prison. While there, she gives birth to a baby girl but is heartbreakingly forced to give her up.

Suspecting foul play in this case, Eun-Soo and her Father reach out to journalist Kang Ji-Min to get to the bottom of what’s happened. As the plot thickens, Eun-Soo is killed in a hit and run accident.

This is one crazy drama and to give much more away would be a disservice to the twists and turns along the way. Suffice to say, this is one makjang you should definitely check out.


33 – Familiar Wife

Network – tvN

Rating – 8.210%

Final Episode Air Date – 20th September 2018

Familiar Wife aims to answer a very simple question. If we could go back in time and change your romantic fate, what differences could that bring?

Thanks to two magical coins, our protagonist Joo-Hyuk finds himself thrust back in time and married to Hye-Won instead of his actual wife Woo-Jin.

There’s a lot of lessons interwoven through the episodes about married life and the Back To The Future vibes in this one work really well to keep things engaging.

The cast are great too and the more serious tone is nicely balanced with a few light bites of comedy. This one is definitely worth a watch!


32 – Misaeng: Incomplete Life

Network – tvN

Rating – 8.240%

Final Episode Air Date – 20th December 2014

Misaeng: Incomplete Life revolves around the board game “Go”, and specifically how Jang Geu-Rae has dedicated his life to this game. When he fails to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a professional player, Geu-Rae is forced to leave his isolated existence and enter the real world.

With nothing but a high school equivalency exam to his name, he catches a break when he’s hired as an intern at One International, a large trading company.

There, Gue-Rae meets a colourful cast of characters and begins to use what he’s learned in Go to better himself navigate the volatile world of the everyday workplace.

This cleverly written, inspirational drama works pretty well although at times it does have a tendency to drag out its story a bit.


31 – Misty

Network – JTBC

Rating – 8.452%

Final Episode Air Date – 24th March 2018

Misty is a show that will forever be judged by its ending, which does leave things open rather than resolving everything with a neat bow.

However, the story itself is engaging and revolves around Go Hye-Ran, a popular anchorwoman for a prime time news show. Despite working hard and being good at her job, one day she becomes the suspect in a murder case. Her husband, Kang Tae-Wook, is forced to try and defend his wife, which causes the pair to begin falling in love all over again.

The story works well for the most part but this is definitely a dramedy and may not please everyone.


30 – Graceful Family

Network – MBN

Rating – 8.478%

Final Episode Air Date – 17th October 2019

Graceful Family is a suspenseful melodrama revolving around a large company called MC Group. At the heart of this is beautiful Seok-Hee, who’s the only child to her Father who runs the company. While she appears arrogant, she hides a softer core as she continues to be haunted by the memories of her Mother who was killed 15 years before.

This eventually comes to the surface when she meets Yoon-Do, a lawyer who solves problems for neighborhood residents at a restaurant. When Yoon-Do is headhunted to join MC Group, Seok-Hee and Yoon-Do wind up working together to reveal the truth about what happened to Seok-Hee’s Mother.

There’s some great moments peppered in this one and the acting between the cast is ultimately what helps this one stand out the most.


29 – What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim

Network – tvN

Rating – 8.665%

Final Episode Air Date – 26th July 2018

Based on the webtoon remake of the novel “Kimbiseoga Wae Geureolgga”, on paper What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim has little in the way of redeeming or original features. It feels very much like a simple romantic comedy on paper, playing out in formulaic fashion.

What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim is the perfect example of why you should never judge a book by its cover. Between the glimpses of our lead character’s dark past, the real kicker with Secretary Kim comes from the characters.

Sometimes a group of actors come together and just have that X-factor to produce something magical and this is one such example. The main characters are incredibly likable, there’s some wonderful humour and both leads have excellent chemistry that help elevate this simple rom-com into something so much more profound and enjoyable than it otherwise would be.


28 – Record Of Youth

Network – tvN

Rating – 8.740%

Final Episode Air Date – 27th October 2020

After the success of the Reply series and Itaewon Class, it was perhaps inevitable that a Korean drama would come along and try to merge the two together. While there are some high points to this 16 episode series, ultimately it’s the lows that this one will be remembered for.

Split between four distinct protagonists, this coming of age drama splits its run-time between three friends and a wildcard love interest in Jeong-Ha. Each of these characters have a very distinct familial structure and big dreams for the future.

Hye-Jun is our lead though and an established model. Only, he wants to break free from these shackles and pursue a career as an actor. After leaving his company for greener pastures, Hye-Jun turns to the inexperienced but ever-loyal Min-Jae to manage his acting career.

Already well on his way to fame, Hye-Jun’s best friend Hae-Hyo is already making waves in the industry.

The third friend is Jin-U who dabbles with the idea of opening his own studio but mostly sticks to the background for large stretches of the show. All in all, this is a light, breezy show that, while enjoyable in the moment, isn’t one you’ll be likely to stick around with for the long haul.

You can read our thoughts on Record of Youth in our full season review here!


27 – Lawless Lawyer

Network – tvN

Rating – 8.740%

Final Episode Air Date – 27th October 2020

At first glance, you’d be forgiven for writing off Lawless Lawyer as another Korean law drama. However, under the hood this action-driven romp features a fair amount of action and some decent mixed martial arts too. At its core, the show revolves around a gangster lawyer called Bong Sang-Pil. He doesn’t trust the law and takes matters into his own hands, using his fists and feet to do the talking.

Unlike other K-dramas of its kind, Lawless Lawyer doesn’t get bogged down in big romances and contrived love triangles and instead, focuses much more on its action and drama, to the credit of this series.


26 – Stranger 2

Network – tvN

Rating – 9.408%

Final Episode Air Date – 4th October 2020

The sequel to 2017’s smash hit, Stranger 2 had a tough mountain to climb before it even came on-air. In many ways, this sequel fails to match the brilliance of the first but it’s not for the want of trying. Some of those issues stem from our two protagonists, Hwang Si-Mok and Han Yeo-Jin spending an awful lot of time on opposite sides of the conflict.

While the second half of the drama does improve a fair amount, the show never quite steps out the shadow of its predecessor. The mystery is intriguing no doubt but the story can be incredibly confusing at times, with a lot of politically charged references and ideas. Still, there’s a reason this one is rated so highly and the ending seems to hint we’ll be getting a third season at some point.

You can read our thoughts on Stranger 2 in our episode recaps here!


25 – Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce)

Network – TV Chosun

Rating – 9.656%

Final Episode Air Date – 14th March 2021

Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce) is a makjang in every sense of word but devoid of much drama. While that sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, that’s because it is. The main drama here stems from three couples split across three different age groups. All three men are cheating on their respective partners and look set to divorce their partners.

The latter end of the drama then slows things right down as it jumps back in time to fill in the blanks over who these mistresses are and what drove the husbands to see them. These later episodes in particular have absolutely no drama or tension, simply working to fill in the blanks and waste time.

It’s undoubtedly one of those shows that’s going to draw an audience but it’s also a show that’s unlikely to rank very highly by the end of 2021.

You can read our thoughts on Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce) in our episode recaps here!


24 – Strong Girl Bong-soon

Network – JTBC

Rating – 9.668%

Final Episode Air Date –  15th April 2017

Part-fantasy, part comedic drama, Strong Girl Bong-Soon gives no illusions about its premise. It’s a drama about a strong woman called Bong-Soon who was born with superhuman strength. Putting her abilities to good use, she’s hired by the CEO of a gaming company to be his bodyguard. It’s a simple premise on paper but one that’s propped up by a thick layer of comedy and romance.

Yes, the series includes all the usual tropes like slow-mo kissing and some cheesy dialogue, but it’s easy to look past in the wake of such a fun and lovable storyline. Like many others on this list, the chemistry between the two lead characters is ultimately what helps this stand out and if you haven’t already, this is definitely worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a classic Korean drama treasure.


23 – The Light in Your Eyes

Network – JTBC

Rating – 9.731%

Final Episode Air Date – 19th March 2019

The Light In Your Eyes is another JTBC time-manipulation drama, this time revolving around one specific incident. Kim Hye-Ma is our protagonist and using a special watch found at a beach as a child, realizes she can manipulate time. The only trouble is, it comes with a heavy price. Every time she uses the watch, she ages.

An incident forces Hye-Na’s hand and she becomes 70. Now old following her time manipulation, Hye-Ja bumps into her childhood friend Joon-ha again and the two cross paths. Of course, a lot has changed for them both.

While a little slow at times, The Light in Your Eyes is armed with a pretty shocking plot twist making it worth sticking with for the long haul.


22 – Another Miss Oh

Network – tvN

Rating – 9.991%

Final Episode Air Date – 28th June 2016

Another Miss Oh held the record for the highest audience rating for a tvN Monday-Tuesday show. The story, for the most part, works well and although it can feel a little slow at times, the drama delivers some memorable moments.

Sound director Do-Kyung is our main protagonist here and his life is turned upside down when his bride-to-be Hae-Young goes missing on their wedding day. One year after that incident, Do-Kyung is told that Hae-Young is getting married again. This time to a young entrepreneur named Han Tae-Jin.

Hearing this, Do-Kyung sets out to sabotage Tae-Jin’s business and get his revenge. Only, it turns out this woman just has the same name and the girl is actually just a stranger who happens to have the same name.

As fate would have it, Tae-Jin leaves Hae-Young and refuses to marry her, prompting Do-Kyung and this other Hae-Young to grow closer together. This is a romantic comedy in every sense of the word, with lots of laugh out loud moments peppered throughout the series.


21 – Memories of the Alhambra

Network – tvN

Rating – 10.025%

Final Episode Air Date – 20th January 2019

Split across 16 episodes, Memories Of The Alhambra is a highly engrossing sci-fi drama full of romance, mystery and action. Despite an overuse of flashbacks and a slow pace hanging over early parts of the series, this Korean drama is quite the rollercoaster ride.

Unfortunately that rollercoaster ends with a pretty devastating finale, leaving multiple threads open and a disappointing feel preventing re-watches. Why then is it on this list?

Well, to be fair parts of this drama are really compelling with a Sword Art Online vibe running throughout the story. The soundtrack is also incredible and Hyun-Bin completely owns his role.

Aside from the disappointing end, Memories Of The Alhambra is still an enjoyable ride worth taking if you haven’t already.

You can read our thoughts on Memories Of The Alhambra in our full season review here!


20 – Encounter

Network – tvN

Rating – 10.329%

Final Episode Air Date – 24th January 2019

Encounter is a romantic melodrama featuring some really memorable moments and some great drama along the way. The story revolves around the daughter of a politician, Soo-Hyun. After graduating, she was married to the son of a family who runs a large company. This marriage was made out of convenience rather than love. Even worse, her husband then had an affair and left Soo-Hyun as a disgraced divorcee.

Meanwhile, ordinary man Jin-Hyeok decides to take a trip to Cuba as a way of seeing out his 20’s. Only, there he meets Soo-Hyun and one things leads to another and the two wind up working together.

The show balanced more heartwarming moments with dramatic beats nicely, but it’s the chemistry between the two leads that make this such an enjoyable watch.


19 – My Kids Give Me a Headache

Network – JTBC

Rating – 10.715%

Final Episode Air Date – 17th March 2013

My Kids Give Me A Headache is a simple family drama, one that revolves around three generations of one family. That family in question happens to be the Ahn’s who all live in one house in the suburbs of Seoul. The series itself tackles societal discrimination, specifically around being a single Mother which is a bit of a taboo in Korea.

With 40 episodes, JTBC’s answer to the Reply series knocked Reply 1997 out the top spot and becoming the highest rated drama (at that time) on Korean cable. It’s a simple enough drama in truth and its ideas and concepts are enough to make this 40 episode romp well worth a watch.


18 – The Crowned Clown

Network – tvN

Rating – 10.851%

Final Episode Air Date – 4th March 2019

The Crowned Clown is a dramatic, politically charged series awash with tension, twists and turns. With a satisfying conclusion and impressive cinematography throughout, this Korean drama makes for quite the impressive showing.

Set in Joseon, the Royal family are in a state of disorder following a number of uprisings among the unhappy populous. A power struggle for the throne soon ensues, with the maniacal Lee Hun ruling with an iron fist while the Queen Dowager, along with close advisor Sin Chi-Soo, plot to overthrow the King and snatch the throne for themselves.

When an entertainer arrives in town bearing the exact same face as the King, Lee Hun switches places with the pretender as a way of avoiding any assassination attempts. Unprepared and in over his head, with the help of both Eunuch Jo and the Royal Secretary, Ha Sun takes the throne and tries to navigate the murky waters of deceit and deception while avoiding being found out as an imposter.

With teasing glimpses of romance and lots of dramatic plot twists, The Crowned Clown constantly outdoes itself, playing host to a number of shocking revelations along the way.

You can read our thoughts on The Crowned Clown in our full season review here!


17 – The Uncanny Counter

Network – OCN

Rating – 10.999%

Final Episode Air Date – 24th January 2021

Based on the web comic Kyeongirowoon Somoon, The Uncanny Counter feels like a heady blend of Mystic Pop-Up Bar, Search and a special superhero team-up like The Avengers. The result is a drama that’s big on action, full of dramatic plot beats and with an intriguing enough story to keep you watching right through to the end.

The main story revolves around a group of Noodle Bar owners known as the Counters. They’ve been chosen by spirits within the realm of Yung to hunt down demonic forces on Earth and free the evil spirit dwelling within unsuspecting humans. When one of their own dies at the hands of a powerful level 3 known as Cheong-Shin, the Counters recruit a teenage boy called Mun to their ranks.

Blinded by emotion over his dead parents, Mun dives head-first into training and lets his emotions get the better of him. Mun soon sets out to find who was responsible for killing his parents but the truth is far more shocking than he could imagine.

With a second season already greenlit and lots of positives to take from this one, Uncanny Counter is easily one of the best Korean dramas of 2021 and well worth a watch.

You can read our thoughts on The Uncanny Counter in our full season review here!

 


16 – Vincenzo

Network – tvN

Rating -11.375% (ongoing)

Final Episode Air Date – N/A

Vincenzo is tvN’s latest comedy/thriller hybrid, taking parts of both genres and meshing them awkwardly together. It takes a while to get going but soon the show manages to strike the right balance between the two states. The opening scene in episode 1 is by far the best 10 minutes from any drama in 2021, with ruthless, unflinching action and tension.

The main story doesn’t come from a mafia feud or warring families though, instead turning to a simple court case and drama surrounding a building called Geumga Plaza. With lawyers on both sides of the conflict doing their utmost to gain the upper-hand, Vincenzo’s long (nearly 90 minutes!) episodes are packed full of shocking twists and slapstick comedy.

You can read our thoughts on Vincenzo in our episode recaps here!


15 -Prison Playbook

Network – tvN

Rating – 11.195%

Final Episode Air Date – 18th January 2018

There’s something endlessly fascinating about prison dramas. From Oz and Wentworth to Orange is the New Black, this genre certainly doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon. Never one to miss a trick, Prison Playbook is essentially the k-drama version of a conventional prison drama.

Instead of leaning in on the melodrama and soapy elements, Playbook instead doubles down on the comedy to give it much more of a campy real-world version of an anime.

There’s some really memorable characters introduced along the way and the script is chock full of memorable moments. Don’t be fooled by the comedy though, there’s some serious emotional hammer blows along the way too. Whether it be heartbreak, tension or dark comedy, Prison Playbook expertly moves between all three states across its 90+ minute long episodes. This is certainly not one to miss.


14 – Reply 1994

Network – tvN

Rating – 11.509%

Final Episode Air Date – 28th December 2013

The second part of the Reply trilogy, Reply 1994 whisks us back to Korea in 1994. Just like Reply 1988, 1994 follows all the cultural events of the time which are interwoven into the day to day lives of a cast of well written and interesting characters.

At the center of this is Dong-Il and his wife Il-Hwa. Together with their daughter Na-Jung, they live out their life in a typical residential neighbourhood in the middle of Seoul. Using their home as a boarding house for students, this 21 episode drama deliberates through a pretty slow, breezy pace with plenty of plot twists and dramatic moments along the way.

While not quite as absorbing or prolifically known as its follow-up, Reply 1994 is still a great drama nonetheless.


13 -Hotel del Luna

Network – tvN

Rating – 12.001%

Final Episode Air Date – 1st September 2019

Hotel Del Luna may not be the strongest drama on the list, nor does it do anything particularly outstanding with its story. However, it does pack one heck of an emotional punch and arguably trumps every other drama from 2018 for its soundtrack. It’s also another classic IU masterclass in acting.

Hotel Del Luna refers to a gateway hotel between the real world and the after life which this drama takes place in. Following a bright opening act, a lot of the middle episodes fall into an episodic format until the third act starts to ramp up the drama, light horror elements and emotion.

There are some truly emotional scenes peppered throughout and the finale is certainly one of the most gut-wrenching episodes of Korean TV in quite some time. The supernatural elements and world building are excellent throughout and the cinematography is really impressive too.

You can read our thoughts on Hotel Del Luna in our full season review here!


12 -The Lady in Dignity

Network – JTBC

Rating – 12.065%

Final Episode Air Date – 19th August 2017

Dark, dramatic and split across 20 episodes, The Lady In Dignity is another Korean drama cracker. The show follows Ah Jin, a beautiful woman who enjoys her luxurious life married into a rich family. Through her wits, she gains the truth of President Ahn, who happens to be her Father-in-law and the head of the house.

When the pair look for a caregiver, they stumble upon plain but cultured Bok-Ja, who seems like the perfect fit for her family. However, Bok-Ja has other plans and after seducing President Ahn, aims to take over the household.

With strong themes about power, it’s ultimately the dynamic between the characters that keeps this one so enthralling. The story itself is okay but the main draw here are the characters, who all do a great job in their respective roles.


11 -Signal

Network – tvN

Rating – 12.544%

Final Episode Air Date – 12th March 2016

Based loosely on true events that took place in Korea, Signal is quite simply an incredible thrill-ride. This police procedural blends a shocking string of crimes with a time-bending idea that sees a walkie-talkie able to communicate with the past. 1989 to be precise.

With both Hae-Young and Soo-Hyun working together, they team up with Jae-Han from the past and together set out to catch the killer. With the gift of hindsight and foresight at their disposal, they work to try and prevent these atrocious crimes from ever taking place.

While not an outright sci-fi proposition, the crime drama elements work really well with the timelines to make for a really engaging watch.


10 -Hospital Playlist

Network – tvN

Rating – 14.142%

Final Episode Air Date – 28th May 2020

Hospital Playlist brings a simplicity back to the medical drama genre, serving up an enjoyable story which manages to strike a great balance between feeling grounded in realism but dramatic enough not to steer into unbelievable melodrama.

The series focuses on the heartwarming dedication of five surgeons and their different methods toward their patients, while we follow their lives and relationships unfold across the twelve episodes.

Kim Jun-Wan is a heart surgeon who sometimes acts coldly towards his patients while Ahn Jeong-Won is a very caring paediatric surgeon, with alternate plans to become a priest. Rounding out the quintet is gentle Yang Seok-Hyeong who is a divorced obstetrician and cares deeply about his mother.

The series follows these five as they start working in the same hospital, sharing their days together and interacting with the other doctors and students. They deal with many different medical cases across the episodes while blowing off steam after work by rehearsing for their fun musical band. It’s a well written series and also looks set to have a follow-up second season at some point too.

You can read our thoughts on Hospital Playlist in our full season review here!


9 – 100 Days My Prince

Network – tvN

Rating – 14.412%

Final Episode Air Date – 30th October 2018

100 Days My Prince is an intriguing Korean drama and while it doesn’t necessarily do anything outstanding, it does tick all the usual boxes one would expect from a period drama.

The story here begins with crown prince Lee Yool falling off a cliff and nearly dying in an attempted assassination. Amnesia-stricken, Lee Yool wanders around for 100 days under a new name and personality. During this period, he meets Hong Sim, head of the first detective agency in Joseon.

What ensues is a period drama that blends comedy, romance and history together into a bubbling pot of goodness. The mystery is engaging and the chemistry between actors is really good too.


8 – Itaewon Class

Network – JTBC

Rating – 16.458%

Final Episode Air Date – 21st March 2020

While it could be argued that some of the middle chapters run out of steam before picking up toward the end, this conventional 16 episode Korean drama combined important themes around acceptance, belief and racism when it aired earlier this year.

The story revolves around rebellious high school student Sae-Ro-Yi, who finds himself entangled in a blood feud with a bully named Geun-Won following the shocking death of his Father.

Consumed by rage and thrown in prison, Sae-Ro-Yi finds himself antagonized by the Chairman of Jangga. What follows is a revenge-fueled redemption story that sees Sae-Ro-Yi team up with the eccentric Yi-Seo to open a pub in the bustling tourist area of Itaewon in a bid to usurp the Chairman and Jangga Co.

The main plot line is engaging, well written and this one is also armed with an incredible soundtrack too.

You can read our thoughts on Itaewon Class in our full season review here!


7 -Mr. Queen

Network – tvN

Rating – 17.371%

Final Episode Air Date – 14th February 2021

Mr Queen is a hilarious, well written body swap comedy, set deep in the heart of the Joseon Era. Despite a polarizing ending and a couple of misfires along the way, this historical drama is undoubtedly a really solid and enjoyable watch.

The story revolves around Bong-Hwan, an arrogant chef who finds himself suffering from a head injury which tumbles him back through time. When he awakens, he’s trapped inside the body of the new Queen, So-Yong. With political powers conspiring to thwart her at any moment, Bong-Hwan does his best to play up his role while desperately searching for a way back to the present.

Shin Hye-Sun and Kim Jung-Hyun absolutely carry this show, with some absolutely electric scenes when they share the spotlight. This one is certainly worth a watch.

You can read our thoughts on Mr Queen in our full season review here!


6 – Mr. Sunshine

Network – tvN

Rating – 18.129%

Final Episode Air Date – 30th September 2018

Another heavy hitting tvN drama, Mr Sunshine is an epic period piece that combines impressive visuals with a really well written story. Exceptionally well written infact. Coupled with some brilliant casting, this is one Korean drama not to be missed.

Set during the Joseon period in 1871, Mr Sunshine begins with a brief glimpse of the past as a Korean boy boards an American warship and grows up in the US as an American. Only, when he returns to his hometown again, it’s as an American soldier causing plenty of inner turmoil and conflict. To spoil much more would be a disservice to this drama but suffice to say when it dropped back in 2018, it was easily one of the best shows of the year.

The story is brilliantly paced, even across the extended 24 episode run, and the show backs up its solid writing with some excellent production design and set pieces. Given this one is available to watch on Netflix, Mr Sunshine is another must-watch.

You can read our thoughts on Mr Sunshine in our full season review here!


5 – Guardian: The Lonely and Great God

Network – tvN

Rating – 18.680%

Final Episode Air Date – 21st January 2017

Guardian: The Lonely & Great God is quite simply one of the best Korean dramas ever made. Armed with excellent cinematography, crackling chemistry between its main cast and one of the best soundtracks in this medium, Guardian (often referred to as Goblin) is a wonderful journey from start to finish and a must-watch for fantasy fans.

At the heart of this one lies Dokkaebi (Kim Shin), a 939-year-old immortal who happens to be best friends with a Grim Reaper and a student called Eun-Tak with a tragic past.  As fate would have it, Eun-Tak happens to be his bride who’s destined to break Shin’s immortal curse.

The story takes many twists and turns along the way but manages to nail every single part of its production. When it comes to gold-standard K-Dramas, this one sets a very high bar.

You can read our thoughts on Goblin in our full season review here!


4 – Reply 1988

Network – tvN

Rating – 18.803%

Final Episode Air Date – 16th January 2016

Highly regarded as one of the best slice of life Korean dramas, Reply 1988 is a real trip down memory lane – and perfect to wash down the bitter trip that is Penthouse. Nestling itself in nicely alongside other dramas of its kind, Reply 1988 adopts a light, breezy tone but finds strength in its characters who are all well written and have lots of dramatic moments.

There are some surreal and hilarious moments here too (“Aigoo Kim Sajang!”) mixed in with more heartfelt and touching segments across this expansive story.

Split across four different families and praised as one of the more accurate depictions of Korean life, this 20 episode series is split into feature-length episodes as we follow a dozen or so characters from 1988 up to 1994. There’s a blend of romance, comedy and drama here too, meaning fans of Firefly Lane should love this one.

You can read our thoughts on Reply 1988 in our full season review here!


3 – Crash Landing on You

Network – tvN

Rating – 21.683%

Final Episode Air Date – 16th February 2020

Who knew an innocent paragliding incident would cause such a stir in the world of K-Dramas. Crash Landing On You has been dubbed by many as 2020’s crowning jewel. It’s also arguably the gateway drama that attracted a whole new crowd of people to experience Korean dramas thanks to Netflix’s desire to showcase more of these wonderful shows. Crash Landing On You manages to effortlessly blend romance, action and comedy together into one heady cocktail of delight.

It’s a show that manages to constantly surprise with every episode, featuring twists and turns that leave you speechless, in tears, elated or even all three! While some may bemoan the ending and long for a second season, this K-Drama successfully crash lands onto our list for all the right reasons. It’s also one of the must-watch shows of 2020.

You can read our thoughts on Crash Landing On You in our full season review here!


2 -Sky Castle

Network – JTBC

Rating – 23.779%

Final Episode Air Date – 1st February 2019

Sky Castle boasts one of the highest network ratings and held that accolade for a long time until it was beaten to the post in 2020. It’s a remarkable feat, especially when you look back and see the drama hit a measly 1% with its opening episode.

This satirical drama revolves around four housewives residing in an exclusive residential area, desperate to get their kids into university no matter the cost.

While simple in theory, Sky Castle’s examination of class and culture is partly why the show works as well as it does. Alongside this are numerous thought provoking discussions around the parental pressure of excelling at school. All of this combines to make Sky Castle one of the best Korean dramas out there and a must-watch for any K-drama lover!


1 -The World of the Married

Network – JTBC

Rating – 28.371%

Final Episode Air Date – 16th May 2020

The World of the Married is the highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history. And for good reason too. The show is an excellent Korean adaptation of the British series Doctor Foster and manages to balance well written characters with an evolving plot over time.

With a steamy affair taking centre stage, The World Of The Married only grows from strength to strength over the episodes. The story here basically revolves around a married couple whose betrayal of one another leads to a whirlwind of revenge, grief, forgiveness and healing.

It’s also worth noting that the lead actress – Kim Hee-ae – won Best Actress at the Baeksang Arts Awards, and the show bagged itself the Best Director award too. It’s certainly one of the best Korean dramas of 2020 and well worth watching if you haven’t already.


So there we have it! The top 50 highest rated Korean dramas of all time. Of course, we’ll be sure to update this list over time as the ratings change.

Were you surprised by any entries here? Which Korean drama is your favourite? Which do you think are under-rated hits? Let us know in the comments below!


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7 thoughts on “Top 50 Highest Rated Korean Dramas Of All Time”

  1. Yeah, where’s Penthouse in all of this. I would say the list is inaccurate if that show wasn’t on here

  2. Some on the list deserve a mention but glaring omissions are:
    Six Flying Dragons (best k-drama ever)
    Moon Lovers Scarlet Heart
    Money Flower
    Black Night
    A Gentleman’s Dignity
    My Golden Life
    Hwarang
    My Country
    It’s Okay not to be Okay

  3. Hey Dita, you’re absolutely right. The final episode came in at a crazy 38.8% but the only trouble is it was shown on KBS2 which is a public broadcast channel. This list was based exclusively on cable TV because ironically, Descendants of the Sun still wouldn’t make it in the top 50 if this list included the public broadcast offerings as well!

    However, we did give it some love in our ‘Best Korean Dramas Of All Time’ post, which you’re welcome to read here: https://www.thereviewgeek.com/best-kdramas-alltime/

    Thanks for commenting!

    -Greg W

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