Here at Cactus Pop we cannot get enough of binge-watching dramas on Netflix. And following on from our telenovela addiction, comes our K-drama addiction! Korean dramas are practically perfect. They’re generally about 16 episodes long – perfect binge-watching length and don’t drag out the plot too much. They have the romance factor turned up to the maximum. And most have a pretty killer soundtrack. Plus if you’re into K-pop like we are, if there isn’t at least one K-pop star in the cast, you can bet there’s going to be one on the soundtrack. So, here’s our favourites so far!
Strong Girl Bong-Soon (2017)
Pinky-promise-with-a-stamp, this is our favourite K-drama on Netflix! It has everything – romance, action and comedy all wrapped up in 16 episodes of swoon-worthy goodness. Super-handsome CEO love interest, Ahn Min-hyeok (played by Park Hyung-shik) hires cute-as-a-button Do Bong-soon (played by Park Bo-young) as his security guard after an attempt is made on his life. Bong-soon is totally up to the challenge given she has super-strength – a superpower passed down through the women in her family. She’s also happy to play along since what she really wants is a job making computer games at Mr Ahn’s company, Ainsoft. But what’s really important is the off-the-charts chemistry between the two. And the fact that Mr Ahn wants nothing more than to protect Bong-soon, despite the fact she’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
It’s great to see such a strong girl-power element in a K-drama, and the mix of fight scenes coupled with romantic and tender moments between Bong-soon and Mr Ahn make it compulsive viewing. There’s a fantastic supporting cast that offer some truly laugh-out-loud moments – particularly Ainsoft’s Head of Development Planning, Mr Oh (played by comedian Kim Won-hae).
Something in the Rain (2018)
If you prefer your K-dramas to be romantic and emotional, but slightly less over-the-top, then Something in the Rain is for you. This one will hit you right in the feels and have you sobbing into a box of tissues (or at least, it did for me). Out of all the K-dramas I’ve watched so far, this one seemed to follow the most realistic storyline, which is perhaps why it continued to strike a chord with me episode after episode. It’s one of few K-dramas where the female protagonist, Jin-ah (Son Ye-jin) is older than her love interest Jun-hui (Jung Hae-in) – who also just happens to be the younger brother of her best friend.
I’d say there’s less big storylines in this drama – it’s really just about them navigating their everyday lives as a couple when they face criticism from those around them – particularly Jin-ah’s family. But it is beautifully filmed, the chemistry is amazing, Jun-hui is a dreamboat, and the soundtrack is fantastic! (Even if it does, for some inexplicable reason, feature Save the Last Dance for Me sung by Bruce Willis. Yes, Bruce Willis, you read that correctly.)
If you’d like to see a few familiar K-pop faces as you watch your K-drama, look no further than historical romance Hwarang. It’s led by an all-star cast including Park Hyung-shik, Go A-ra and Park Seo-joon and supported by BTS’s Kim Taehyung (V) and SHINee’s Choi Minho. It’s set during the Silla period and centered around the royal family at the time and the formation of an elite group of warriors. But that’s probably about as factual as it gets – don’t watch this expecting a historically accurate education.
If you’re watching this for the romance factor (aren’t we all?) then you’ll be rewarded with a juicy love triangle – between Sam Mek-jeong (the secret King of Silla, masquerading as a warrior in his own palace), Kim Ah-ro (a ‘half-breed’ and physician to the warriors) and Sun-woo (a peasant with no family – or does he? – who rises up to become a warrior). If you’re not watching for the romance, then the royal family storyline will suck you in. Will Sam Mek-jeong be able to reveal himself as King and take the throne from his mother? And who is Sun-woo, really? Plus there’s the bromance between the warriors that provides some funny, and also very sweet, moments.
For all the fellow BTS fans out there, you’ll know that V and Jin recorded a song for the soundtrack – It’s Definitely You – and it’s super catchy!
Noble, My Love (2015)
This is like … K-drama-lite. Originally a web series, the episodes are only about 15 minutes long so it’s a very binge-able introduction to K-dramas. It’s light on length, but heavy on the cheese-factor so you’ve been warned. The plot is a tried-and-true trope – girl signs contract to be seen as wealthy guy’s girlfriend to get his nagging family off his back. In this case the girl is sweet and cheerful Yoon Seo, a veterinarian, and the guy is snooty CEO Kang Hoon (played by one of our fave K-drama studs, Sung Hoon). This is an easy, breezy watch. Sung Hoon is very easy on the eye and it’s fun watching him navigate his ‘relationship’ with Yoon Seo who is his polar opposite.
PS. Sadly, Netflix has removed this from their catalogue (at least, in Australia anyway). But it’s worth tracking down if you can!
Oh My Venus (2015)
This took a few episodes to get going but once I was in, I WAS IN. This show is so good!! Joo-eun is our leading lady – once the ‘Venus of Daegu’ as a teen – she’s now an overweight and unhealthy lawyer. Young-ho is our leading man – a personal trainer to the stars and also semi-secret millionaire chaebol. The two meet through a series of swoon-worthy rescues. Yes, that’s right, he rescues her several times in the first couple of episodes). Shortly after, Joo-eun commissions Young-ho to help her lose weight and the rest is history.
Young-ho is a total stud and the chemistry he has with Joon-eun makes this K-drama very enjoyable to watch. One negative for me is the borderline inappropriate fat jokes. But if you can move past those, you’ll find this to be a very warm and endearing drama. There will be laughing and crying. Your emotions will go on a rollercoaster ride. And THEN there’s the proposal scene which has to be one of the best seen in a K-drama.
Don’t forget to check back in with us soon! We will be updating this post with more of our faves. But in the meantime, do you have a favourite K-drama on Netflix? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a comment below.
I realise I already said above that Strong Girl Bong-soon was my favourite k-drama. I even pinky promised with a stamp. But several months after seeing that, I watched She Was Pretty and it rocketed to the top of my list! OMO this drama is fantastic! If you like the sort of ‘Ugly Betty’-type drama trope then you’ll love this.
Hye-jin, our leading lady, and Sung-joon (played by our fave leading man Park Seo-joon) grew up as besties – practically each other’s first love, really. She was beautiful and popular, and he was a shy and chubby kid. Then, as fate (aka, k-drama writers) intervenes, Sung-joon moves overseas and eventually they lose touch. Hye-jin grows up to become ‘ugly’, and Sung-joon blossoms into a total heart throb. He ends up back in Korea and running a magazine that Hye-jin just happens to be working at and doesn’t recognise her! In fact, he’s pretty much a total jerk to her – which is heartbreaking to see since Hye-jin knows exactly who he is.
That forms the main plot line – watching Hye-jin navigate this new relationship with Sung-joon and grappling with coming clean about who she really is. There’s also Hye-jin’s best friend Ha-ri thrown into the mix, who for a while pretends to be Hye-jin. Then there’s the love triangle involving Hye-jin’s colleague played by none other than Choi Si-won from Super Junior. I can tell you, there’s major second-lead syndrome going on here. He’s a total stud and I was at a loss as to who I shipped more!
Anyway, She Was Pretty is fun and fluffy and completely heart-warming. It has some real laugh-out-loud moments, with a few teary scenes thrown into the mix. Plus, there’s a great cast of supporting characters, too. Well worth a watch!
Coming soon – Romance is a Bonus Book. In the meantime, you can check out our recap of episode 1 and 2.