The Most Bingeworthy K-Dramas in 2021

K-Culture took the world by storm in 2020, with BTS beating out American artists on Billboard and even being nominated for a Grammy. K-Dramas also have risen in popularity, partially due to their increased presence on Netflix. After watching my first K-Drama early last year (My First First Love), I was hooked on the innocent, happy, and colorful world they portrayed. So, here are four of my favorite K-Dramas I’ve discovered, sure to make you laugh, cry, and find out what the K-Culture hype is all about.   

  1. The Bride of Habaek (하백의 신부) 

The Bride of Habaek combines romance, fantasy, and action into a fast-paced story about Habaek (Nam Joo Hyuk), the water god, and his time on Earth as he searches for the divine stones which had been entrusted into the care of minor gods sent to live on Earth until he should come and claim them. On Earth, he meets Yoon So Ah (Shin Se Kyung), whose family was tasked with serving the gods for generations. She helps him on his quest, along with the two minor gods, Moo Ra (Krystal Jung) and Bi Ryum (Gong Myung). As the two begin to develop feelings for each other, they wonder if a mortal and a god can really have a future together. The Bride of Habaek can be watched on Rakuten VIKI, an online streaming service, for free. 

  1. True Beauty (여신강림)

My current binge watch, True Beauty, tells the story of Im Joo Kyung (Moon Ga Young), a high schooler who, after being mercilessly bullied over her looks, transfers schools and becomes one of the prettiest girls in school (aka a ‘goddess’) due to her newfound makeup skills. No one at her new school has seen her without her makeup, and she is fearful that if she is seen without it, her popularity and acceptance will disappear. After a series of fated meetings with her classmate, Lee Su Ho (Cha Eun Woo), he discovers her secret, but promises that he won’t reveal the truth to the school. The two bond over their shared experiences and, as time goes on, learn more about each other’s secrets. True Beauty is based on a long running web-cartoon by Yaongyi, and can be streamed on Rakuten VIKI under the VIKIPASS Standard subscription, which is $3.99/month for students.   

  1. Start-Up (스타트업)

Start-Up is a great romantic comedy about young entrepreneurs trying to get in on Korea’s high-tech industry (think Silicon Valley). The story follows Seo Dal Mi (Bae Suzy) who joins in as a business partner with Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk) and his start-up company, Samsan Tech. The two share a complicated and intertwined past which morphs into something more as the two work through the pressures and stress of trying to keep their business afloat. I really like this K-Drama, because while many of them present unrealistic situations or predictable plot-twists, this series is very organic and presents realistic challenges for the characters to overcome. The relationships feel real and raw, and watching the ups and downs of their lives and business ventures helps connect the viewer to the story. Start-Up is available to stream on Netflix. 

  1. Tale of the Nine-Tailed (구미호뎐) 

If you’re a fantasy buff and love mythic creatures and legend, Tale of the Nine-Tailed is for you. Nam Ji Ah (Jo Bo Ah), a lover of the unusual and unexplainable, believes the old legends of Gumihos (nine-tailed foxes), and eventually meets one in the human form of Lee Yeon (Lee Dong Wook). As she gets closer to him, she also comes to learn how many of the old legends and supernatural beings are real. This series thrives off of its intense action scenes and fanciful themes, plus its engaging character development and relationships. You’ll find yourself rooting for unlikely characters as the story goes on, and there’s a lot of moments of redemption for characters, giving the whole show a very satisfactory and hopeful ending.