Recently, the Korean drama industry has experienced an unprecedented increase in terms of viewership and also the revenue generated. As a result, K-dramas and television shows have produced a wave of entertainment that is difficult to miss, with Squid Game season 1 (2021) holding the title of the most-watched show of all time on Netflix.
The global appetite for Korean dramas has skyrocketed, leading to an influx of captivating series that have captured the hearts of viewers around the world. This trend continues in 2023, with a remarkable lineup of K-dramas on platforms like Netflix, Disney+Hotstar, and others. The Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has even announced a significant investment in supporting streaming content production to capitalize on this growing popularity. This article aims to highlight some of the most talked-about K-dramas of 2023, including those that debuted in 2021 and are still in high demand.
From romance and revenge in “Call It Love” to political unrest in “Oasis,” these series showcase some of the industry’s best talent and explore a variety of unique themes. With top-notch acting and compelling storytelling, K-dramas like “Delivery Man,” “The Glory, Part 2,” and “Twenty-Five Twenty-One” have garnered impressive IMDb ratings and a dedicated global fanbase.
This year, they have also started relatively high, with some outstanding titles reaching Netflix, Disney+Hotstar, and other notable television channels.
With the popularity of Korean content around the world, even the nation’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism 2022 “announced a four-year plan to spend a total of 4.8 trillion won ($3.66 billion) in financially supporting the production of streaming content,” according to The Korea Herald. These captivating drama series offer viewers some of the most well-known figures worldwide and excellent actors exploring unexplored territories and topics.
In reality, the list of these fantastic series is extensive because even some that debuted in 2021 are still in demand. After all, people are captivated by the story and have repeatedly watched it. Therefore, out of the endless supply of these great episodes, this article aims to highlight a few of the trendy TV shows in 2023.
Table of Contents
Call It Love (Disney+Hotstar)
Release date: 22 February
Directed by: Lee Kwang-young
Cast: Harrison Xu, Kim Young-kwang and Lee Sung-kyoung
IMDb rating: 8.2
Call It Love, one of the most adored K-dramas of 2023, centers on the hapless Sim Woo-joo (Lee) who, after her father’s passing, is expelled from her own home by his lover. Sim walks up to Han Dong-jin (Kim), the son of her father’s former mistress, and makes a vow to exact retribution. Workaholic and lonely by nature, Han has always been. However, life changes dramatically when the two people unexpectedly meet.
Pandora: Beneath The Paradise (Disney+Hotstar)
Release date: 11 March
Directed by: Choi Hyeong-Hun
Cast: Lee Ji-ah, Lee Sang-yoon, Jang Hee-jin, Park Ki-woong, Bong Tae-gyu
IMDb rating: 8.1
Her devoted husband, Pyo Jae-hyun (Lee Sang-Yoon), and their young daughter, Hong Tae-ra (Lee), live a happy and contented life. However, even though everything appears to be going well for them, Tae-ra has no recall of her history until one day when she remembers those upsetting events. She must now assume the role of the first lady of Korea to defend her family and exact revenge on those who caused her suffering in the past.
Oasis (Rakuten Viki)
Release date: 6 March
Directed by: Han Hee
Cast: Jang Dong-yoon, Seol In-a, Choo Yeong-woo, Do Sang-woo, Seunghee
IMDb rating: 8.7
Oasis, one of the top Korean dramas of 2023, is set in the 1980s and 1990s, a time of political unrest in the nation. The drama centers on Lee Du-hak (Jang) and Choi Cheol-woong (Choo), two former classmates who are now adversaries. The former comes from a modest background and is instructed not to overshadow the latter, who is relatively affluent. Although Cheol-Wong initially doesn’t mind that his friend performs better than him, there is fierce competition soon. Lee develops affection for Oh Jung-shin (Seol), a new transfer student, but things get worse when Cheol-woong also starts to feel attracted to the same person.
Delivery Man (Rakuten Viki)
Release date: 1 March
Directed by: Kang Sol and Park Dae-hee
Cast: Yoon Chan-young, Bang Min-ah, Kim Min-suk
IMDb rating: 8
This Genie TV original K-drama from 2023 follows a young cab driver named Seo Young-min (Yoon), who can sense ghosts, giving the fantasy subgenre a comedic and romantic twist. As luck would have it, he ends himself transporting ghosts and assisting them in achieving their final request. He once picks up Kang Ji-Hyun (Bang), a female ghost with no memories of her life as a mortal. She is mysteriously unable to exit the cab, so she joins Seo in his quest to grant wishes, and they both hunt for a serial killer.
The Glory, Part 2 (Netflix)
Release date: 10 March
Directed by: Ahn Gil Ho
Cast: Song Hye-Kyo, Lim Ji-Yeon, Lee Do-hyun
IMDb rating: 8.1
As Moon Dong-eun (Song) carefully plans her life after high school to avenge her bullies, she becomes even darker. Back then, Moon was tortured both mentally and physically by Park Yeon-jin (Lim) and her friends, but they didn’t seem to feel bad about it. Now that she is back to exact retribution, Moon is utterly cruel. She is mainly after Yeon-jin but also keeps an eye out for other bullies. Unfortunately, nobody has a clue who will come after them.
Release date: 7 January
Directed by: Lee Chang-min
Cast: Lee Bo-young, Jo Sung-ha, Son Na-Eun, Han Jun-woo, Jeon Hye-jin
IMDb rating: 8
Go A-in (Lee) puts a lot of effort into becoming the agency’s first female executive. Different facets of office politics are shown in the intriguing office drama. One of the top K-dramas of 2023, it emphasizes her ascent up the corporate ladder by using her peers and lowly upbringing as a significant backdrop.
Our Blooming Youth (TvN)
Release date: 6 February
Directed by: Lee Jong-jae
Cast: Park Hyung-sik, Jeon So-nee, Pyo Ye-jin, Yoon Jong-seok, Lee Tae-sun
IMDb rating: 8
This K-drama centers on Min Jae-yi (Jeon), a young girl with poise who comes from a wealthy aristocratic family and is accused of killing members of her own family. Amid this confusion, she encounters Crown Prince Lee Hwan (Park), afflicted by an odd curse. Although the road ahead is paved with difficulties, a budding romance emerges as both parties agree to support one another.
Love To Hate You (Netflix)
Release Date: 10 February
Directed by: Kim Jeong-Kwon and Choi Soo-young
Cast: Kim Ok-vin, Yoo Teo, Kim Ji-hun, Go Won-hee
IMDb rating: 7.9
Yeo Mi-ran (Kim) is a skilled and tenacious lawyer with the Gilmu Law Firm, which primarily handles matters pertaining to the nation’s entertainment industry. She has little interest in dating because she is focused on her profession. The most well-known and appealing actor, Nam Gang-Ho (Yoo), shares her disbelief in Love and has problems putting his trust in women. What happens to their beliefs when two of these people get close?
Divorce Attorney Shin (Netflix+Hotstar)
Release date: 4 March
Directed by: Lee Jae-hoon
Cast: Cho Seung-woo, Han Hye-jin, Kim Sung-kyun, Jung Moon-sung
IMDb rating: 7.6
The webcomic Shinsunghan, Yihon (2019) by Kang Tae-Kyung inspires Divorce Attorney Shin. It follows Shin Sung-Han (Cho), a German university music professor, on his journey. However, he is a skilled divorce attorney in South Korea who represents eccentric clients for whom he seeks justice. It’s fascinating to see and understand why he came to Korea and his ultimate objectives.
Crash Course in Romance (Netflix)
Release date: 14 January
Directed by: Yoo Jae-Won
Cast: Jeon Do-yeon, Jung Kyung-ho
IMDb rating: 7.9
Former national-level athlete Nam Haeng-Sun (Jeon) is a mother and owner of a side-dish shop. She radiates positivity and is quite optimistic. She joins the private education industry to support her daughter’s academic success. Choi Chi-Yeol (Jung), regarded as the most well-liked teacher in the educational sphere, starkly contrasts her. Despite his notoriety and reputation, he can occasionally be haughty towards his students and peers. One of the top-rated Korean dramas of 2023 is Crash Course in Romance, which focuses on the two as they negotiate their personal and romantic lives.
Twenty-Five Twenty-One (Netflix+TvN)
Release date: 12 February – 3 April 2022
Directed by: Jung Ji-Hyun
Cast: Kim Tae-ri, Nam Joo-hyuk, Kim Ji-yeon, Choi Hyun-Wook, and Lee Joo-Myung.
IMDb rating: 8.6
A young fencer follows her heart and meets a man striving to repair his life at a time when teenage ideals appear unattainable. Twenty-One Twenty-Five, a drama written by Kwon Do-eun, has one of the highest ratings in the annals of Korean cable television.
My Name (Netflix + Disney)
Release date: 15 October 2021
Directed by: Kim Jin-min
Cast: Han So-hee, Park Hee-soon, and Ahn Bo-hyun.
IMDb rating: 7.9
In My Name, a lady seeking vengeance for her father’s death confides in a formidable criminal leader. The story centers on a lady who joins a gang to exact revenge on her father’s killer and then infiltrates the police force as the gang’s snitch.
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (Netflix +TvN)
Release date: 28 August – 17 October 2021
Directed by: Yoo Je-Won
Cast: Shin Min-a, Kim Seon-ho, and Lee Sang-Yi.
IMDb rating: 8.4
The feel-good television show Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha follows a dentist as she settles in a beach town and meets a handyperson who wants to help his neighbors. It has been hailed as one of the most-watched K-dramas in recent years for giving fans a “dreamy and laid-back take on life away from the city.”