Summer is the time to unwind, to head off to new adventures, and also the beginning of new possibilities. As you soak in the summer sun and embrace the warm weather, the best way to cool down is to catch up or revisit your favorite K-dramas. Here are 18 K-dramas, a mix of some golden oldies and a few recent ones, to add to your summer watch list.
Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) is a spunky young girl, hustling between many jobs, which include being a delivery girl to a taekwondo instructor. Eun Chan is always mistaken for a boy, given her boyish and lithe figure. She meets Han Gyul (Gong Yoo), a handsome and laidback rich man, who asks Eun Chan to pose as his gay partner in a bid to avoid his grandmother’s constant matchmaking efforts. The two strike a warm friendship, and Eun Chan starts working at Han Gyul’s cafe “Coffee Prince.” But things get comically complicated when Han Gyul develops feelings for Eun Chan, even questioning his sexual orientation.
An all-time classic, “Coffee Prince” continues to retain a timeless appeal as one of the best gender-bender dramas to date. Apart from being a romantic comedy, it raises several questions on same-sex relationships and issues on gender stereotypes as well as societal mindsets. Yoon Eun Hye as Go Eun Chan is absolutely uninhibited, giving the most convincing performance. She also made the most believable tomboy in K-dramas to date. And Gong Yoo as the drop-dead gorgeous Han Gyul is swoon-worthy, with his confusion and conflicted feelings easily articulated.
Start watching “Coffee Prince”:
“Our Beloved Summer”
Choi Woong (Choi Woo Shik) is an average and nonchalant student. He is teamed up with the bright and standoffish Guk Yeon Su (Kim Da Mi) for a high school documentary. During the course of filming, the initial disdain on Yeon Su’s part turns into friendship, which smoothly transitions to a cute high school romance. Years later after a bitter breakup, the two, who have sworn never to meet again, are thrust back into each other’s worlds. Yeon Su wants to commission Woong, now a brilliant yet reclusive artist, for a project. He wants nothing to do with her, but fate has other plans. The high school documentary the two had shot has gone viral, and the viewers and producers want a follow up. The two, now very different from their school personalities, are yet similar in so many ways. As they once again come face-to-face, is it time for closure or restart where they had left?
As it unhurriedly moves between the past and present, the storytelling in this drama is languorous, as if savoring the memories and hesitant to dive back again into the present. And Choi Woo Shik and Kim Da Mi left an indelible mark in their portrayals of Woong and Yeon Su.
Kim Sam Soon (Kim Sun Ah) is nearing 30, she is self-conscious about her weight, and she doesn’t really like her rather old-fashioned name. An excellent baker, her dream is to pursue her passion for making dessert. But life gives her a bitter dose when she is dumped by her cheating boyfriend and ends up losing her job on the same day. Jin Hyeon (Hyun Bin), a restaurant owner, witnesses her humiliation. Aware of her talent, he gives her a job at his restaurant. They cannot stand the sight of each other until Sam Soon offers to pose as Jin Hyeon’s girlfriend so that he can avoid his mother’s matchmaking efforts. The inevitable happens as Jin Hyeon and Sam Soon find themselves attracted to each other and fall in love. But there are misunderstandings, estrangement, and lots of uncertainty.
“My Lovely Sam Soon” is a golden oldie which continues to remain relevant. There is romance, drama, laughter, and lots of food to bite into. The effortlessly charming Kim Sun Ah and Hyun Bin make this one totally worth your while.
Start watching “My Lovely Sam Soon”:
The famous five of Ssangmundong have been best friends forever. On the threshold of adulthood, they live a leisurely existence, looking forward towards what lies ahead. The slacker yet spirited Deok Sun (Hyeri) is the only girl in the gang of five. There is the hardworking model student and conscientious son Sun Woo (Go Kyung Pyo), the stoic and very reserved Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol), the goofball Dong Ryong (Lee Dong Hwi), and the unassuming and shy genius Go player Choi Taek (Park Bo Gum). This quintet is inseparable and shares an unbreakable bond.
Set against the backdrop of the Seoul Olympics and being at the cusp of a new decade, this coming-of-age drama is an ode to those wonder days gone by. Celebrating family ties, friendships, and memories of a simpler time, there are some dramas which retain a timeless appeal, and the “Reply” series remains on top of the list with a high recall value.
Start watching “Reply 1988”:
Rewind back to the year that is synonymous with the rise of the first generation K-pop group Seo Taiji and the Boys as well as to the birth of the Korean Basketball League. Sung Na Jung’s (Go Ara’s) family operates a boarding house which hosts six friends. But the spotlight is on Trash (Jung Woo), a medical student, and Chil Bong (Yoo Yeon Seok), a star baseball player. Both of them have affection for Na Jung, but who does she choose? This is the pertinent question which had viewers hooked.
Like the other “Reply” series seasons, this slice-of-life drama also celebrates friendship and shows how these friends which are like family sometimes form deeper bonds.
This awesome show about the ’90s is set in a time when pop stars became the idols and heartthrobs sought after by many a teen fangirl. Sung Shi Won (Jung Eun Ji) is a gregarious and devoted H.O.T. and Tony Ahn fan. Her world revolves around the group, and everything else pales insignificance. Her best friend Yoon Yoon Jae (Seo In Guk) adores her, but she is oblivious to his devotion. As they both tread the path of friendship and love, they realize that real life is way more complicated. The show also very sensitively handles same-sex love, giving insight into how relationships cannot be boxed.
This show ticks all the boxes when it comes to its emotive storytelling, character arc, and performances. Taking a look back at the unfettered summer days of youth, the bonhomie of friendship, and the journey to self discovery, the show reminisces through the sepia tint lens of of nostalgia and makes for a perfect summer binge.
Start watching “Reply 1997”:
Yumi (Kim Go Eun) is an office worker who once aspired to be a writer. Yumi is shy and lacks confidence, which makes her a cautious sort. She has blocked off love and leads a very routine life. When Yumi meets Woong (Ahn Bo Hyun), a video game creator, the two develop a relationship and eventually fall in love. However, they go their separate ways as Woong wants to establish himself and struggles with his relationship with Yumi. But love comes knocking once again, and this time in the form of her co-worker from the marketing team Yoo Babi (Jinyoung). A much more confident Yumi willingly opens herself to new love and is also encouraged by Babi to pursue her passion of writing.
A cleverly executed drama, both seasons of “Yumi’s Cells” blend live action with 3D animation. Narrated through the perspective of her cells, which control her many thoughts, actions, and emotions, it strikes a chord. After all, are we not all slaves to our emotions? Kim Go Eun is very relatable as Yumi, and Ahn Bo Hyun and Jinyoung fit their characters well.
Start watching “Yumi’s Cells”:
Conman Heo Jun Jae (Lee Min Ho) meets Shim Chung (Jun Ji Hyun) in Spain and finds her rather weird. Shim Chung seems totally new to everything happening around her, but what Jun Jae does not realize is that she is actually a mermaid, and he has a deep connection with her since a previous lifetime. Shim Chung follows him to Seoul, and though his memories of their meeting in Spain have been wiped out, he is deeply affected and drawn towards her.
A fairytale set in the modern context, “The Legend of the Blue Sea” is worth taking a deep dive into. The show palette of white, silver, and shades of aqua is bewitching. Jun Ji Hyun is stellar in her performance as Shim Chung, but it is her innate comic timing which steals the show. And Lee Min Ho charms as the mischievous and sharp Jun Jae.
Start watching “Legend of the Blue Sea”:
“Twenty Five, Twenty One”
The long forgotten summers of youth and first love tend to bring up a rush of bittersweet memories. When teenage girl Min Chae starts to read her mother Na Hee Do’s (Kim Tae Ri’s) journals, she is taken back in time when her mom was a sprightly teenager and a national fencer with several medals to her credit. However, she is surprised to find the constant presence of Baek Yi Jin (Nam Joo Hyuk), who was very close and dear to Hee Do. As Min Chae continues to read on, she sees her mother in a new light from her commitment toward fencing to her love-hate relationship with her idol-turned-rival Yu Rim (Bona). But it is Yi Jin who intrigues Min Chae the most, and she continues to pry about him.
Hee Do and Yi Jin’s bittersweet journey as friends and then lovers as well as the commitment to root for each other even when not together form the core of the story. “Twenty Five, Twenty One” is one of those emotive dramas which continues to linger and tug your heartstrings, drawing you deep into the life of its two characters.
“Queen of the Game”
Handsome, intelligent, and very dangerous, Lee Shin Jeon’s (Joo Jin Mo’s) sole aim is to destroy and bring down Kang Jae Ho (Han Jin Hee). Jae Ho, a one time associate of Shin Jeon’s father, had not only betrayed him but also his mother with whom he had an affair. After his father’s tragic death and seeing his heartbroken mother turn into an alcoholic, Shin Jeon swears revenge. He makes his moves on Jae Ho’s daughter Eun Seol (Lee Bo Young). He charms her, making her fall hopelessly in love with him. But as Shin Jeon sets plans for Jae Ho’s downfall, he realizes that he has become the pawn in his game of revenge. He has fallen deeply in love with Eun Seol and is willing to sacrifice himself for her. But is too late for him to make amends?
Love, revenge, retribution, and redemption, “Queen of the Game” is that one drama that wraps you into its world from the first scene. Joo Jin Mo as the broodingly charming Lee Shin Jeon is a scene stealer, and his chemistry with Lee Bo Young is palpable. For all those die-hard romantics out there, this one is for you.
Cha Soo Hyun (Song Hye Kyo) is the beautiful and very reserved CEO of Dong Hwa Hotel. Her life has not been easy or a happy one. The daughter of a prominent politician, Soo Hyun for the most part of her life has been treated like a viable asset to be pawned and manipulated. She is caught in a tug of war between her overly ambitious mother and calculating mother-in-law and their vested interests. After walking out on her marriage of convenience, Soo Hyun immerses herself in work, building the Dong Hwa Hotel. A work trip to Havana and a chance encounter with a free-spirited man named Kim Jin Hyuk (Park Bo Gum) bring lightness to her uptight life. When Jin Hyuk lands up at her hotel in the PR department, things take a turn for the good and the bad. On one hand, there is this strong pull of attraction between the two, but on the other hand, there’s the constant spotlight on Soo Hyun which she cannot escape. As Jin Hyuk empowers Soo Hyun and gives her the support to break the shackles which bind her, she feels liberated for the first time.
Song Hye Kyo charms as the reserved Soo Hyun, giving a restrained performance, and Park Bo Gum has this charismatic appeal as the romantic hero, which comes to the fore. And the chemistry between Song Hye Kyo and Park Bo Gum is simply delightful.
Start watching “Encounter”:
Cha Jin Wook (Sung Hoon) is an heir to a successful business, and Lee Yoo Mi (Song Ji Eun) is looking for a job. The two have a steamy one night stand in a seaside resort. Three years later, they meet again in very different circumstances. Yoo Mi is working as a nutritionist at Jin Wook’s company, and Jin Wook’s personality has undergone a change for the better. Though he is not very welcoming toward Yoo Mi, the spark of attraction ignites the flame of passion once again. But is Yoo Mi hiding something from him?
“My Secret Romance” is one of those heady romantic dramas, which is a perfect summer watch. The leads have fiery chemistry and will give you several toe curling moments.
Start watching “My Secret Romance”:
Kim Young Ho (So Ji Sub) is a personal trainer to Hollywood stars but is back home after a scandal. He helps a young woman named Kang Joo Eun (Shin Min Ah) after she passes out on a flight. Joo Eun is a lawyer who has been so immersed in work. After she’s dumped by her boyfriend, she is on a mission to get her life back, and losing weight is the main priority. She approaches Young Ho, who agrees to become her trainer. They cutely transition from trainer-client to friends and then lovers. Of course, there are Young Ho’s past issues with health and his estrangement from his wealthy family, but he no longer feels alone.
“Oh My Venus” is one of those shows that has you invested in from the very first episode. The tingling chemistry between So Ji Sub and Shin Min Ah is intense and scorches the screen. From the cutesy one-liners to sweet gestures, this delightful love story is a perfect show to unwind with. If you suddenly see yourself working out and eating healthy after watching this drama, I cannot blame you.
Start watching “Oh My Venus”:
“Lovestruck in the City”
A scorching summer romance turns cold and leaves Jae Won (Ji Chang Wook), an architect, very lovesick. The man is so heartbroken and has been pining for the free-spirited Eun Oh (Kim Ji Won), who left him high and dry soon after their exciting romantic rendezvous. It seems Eun Oh had led Jae Won on, giving him a false name and contact. Jae Won relentlessly looks around for her, not realizing his cousin Choi Kyung Joon (Kim Min Seok) and his girlfriend Suh Rin Yi (So Ju Yeon) would well have the key to Eun Oh’s whereabouts.
“Lovestruck in the City” is an interesting experiment. It’s kind of a mockumentary as singles in various age groups depicted by the characters share their views on love, marriage, and dating. It’s a trippy rom-com and a breezy watch. Plus, who can resist Ji Chang Wook at his romantic best?
“A Business Proposal”
There are some dramas which instantly perk you up. “A Business Proposal” hits that sweet spot, bringing in all the possible romantic tropes in an utterly irresistible scenario. Shin Ha Ri (Kim Sejeong), a food researcher, helps her bestie Young Seo (Seol In Ah), an heiress, by stepping in as a blind date on her behalf. The date in question is Kang Tae Moo (Ahn Hyo Seop), one of the most eligible bachelors in town and also the CEO of Go Food where Ha Ri works. Tae Moo is flippant when it comes to love, dating, and marriage but is constantly badgered by his grandfather to settle down. Tae Moo and Ha Ri enter into a contractual relationship, but the sparks and attraction are so strong that they fall head-over-heels in love. And unfolding along with their story is another toe curling love story between Young Seo and Tae Moo’s best friend and secretary Sung Hoon (Kim Min Kyu).
This is a drama that has everything, from misadventures in love to steamy chemistry and ladles of laugher. “A Business Proposal” is a wholesome entertainer and one that can be recalled and revisited anytime.
Shin Woo Yeo (Jang Ki Yong) is a 999-year-old gumiho inhabiting the earth. He is a writer of books on history—after all, who would know it better than him, having lived through centuries? He needs to fill his fox bead with human energy before he turns 1,000 years old. One day, 22-year-old Lee Dam (Hyeri) accidentally swallows Woo Yeo’s fox bead, on which rests his fate of turning human. He makes Lee Dam move into his house so as to keep an eye on the bead, which is basically a pretext to being close to her. What follows are plenty of misadventures between the human and the gumiho as their worlds collide. Lee Dam falls in love with Woo Yeo, who himself is conflicted between his love for her and safety.
“My Roommate Is a Gumiho” is a romantic comedy drama, and Hyeri’s infectious energy and her uninhibited approach towards her character is a delight to watch. Jang Ki Yong as the silent and awkward Woo Yeo is also cute, and if you need the laughs, some magic, and romance, then switch this one on.
Start watching “My Roommate Is a Gumiho”:
Park Do Kyung (Eric Mun) is a sound director who is dumped by his fiancée Oh Hae Young (Jeon Hye Bin) on the eve of their wedding, He has never been able to forget her and learns that Oh Hae Young (Seo Hyun Jin) is getting married. Unaware that it is not his ex but just another woman who shares the same name as her, he is so consumed by hurt and rage that he ruins the business of the other Hae Young’s fiancé. This results in the other Oh Hae Young being jilted right before her wedding. Things get further complicated when Do Kyung sees visions of the future, which are entwined with the other Hae Young.
“Another Oh Hae Young” takes time to build with the initial confusion, but it is quite an engrossing show. The show balances a cute romance, heavy emotions, and humor. And Eric Mun and Seo Hyun Jin are pretty good in bringing out the emotional intensity of the two characters who share a similar fate and get entwined together.
Start watching “Another Oh Hae Young”:
Min Woo (Song Seung Heon) lost his first love Eun Hye (Shin Ae) in a tragic accident. Heartbroken and unable to cope with her loss, he moves to Italy to study. Unknown to him, Eun Hye’s parents had donated her organs soon after her demise. Hye Won (Son Ye Jin), who has a fatal heart disease, becomes the recipient of Eun Hye’s heart. Fate works in strange ways, making Min Woo and Hye Won meet. Hye Won, though engaged to another, finds herself drawn towards Min Woo and he to her. But can Min Woo and Hye Won find everlasting love and happiness?
“Summer Scent” is a true blast from the past of ill-fated lovers, and the trials and tribulations in love come with some teary moments. Song Seung Heon and Son Ye Jin make a handsome romantic couple as they take you on this emotional rollercoaster.
Start watching “Summer Scent”:
Hey Soompiers, which one of these shows is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Yoo Tae Oh and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min Ho, Gong Yoo, Cha Eun Woo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram.
Currently watching: “The Good Bad Mother” and “Dr. Romantic 3”