Be warned; you will fall hopelessly, irredeemably in love with the Korean dramas in this review. With the boom in K-pop, and now K-drama, K-beauty, and K-food, the whole world seems to be riding Hallyu or the Korean wave. Many Korean dramas have gone over the top this year with a slew of incredibly entertaining and captivating romance dramas. In 2023 alone, over 100 shows have been released and 60 out of those 100 are binge-watched daily all over the world. Shows that melt hearts with romantic storylines and on-screen chemistry that put smiles on the faces of special Kdrama fans. We have compiled 5 of the Best Romantic Korean Drama on Netflix and other platforms in 2023
Let’s dig into the top-rated K-dramas of the year with the cutest female leads and hottest Korean actors.
King The Land
Gu Won (Lee Jun-ho), a wealthy heir who shies away from human connections and the warmth of smiles meets smiley Cheon Sa-Rang(Lim Yoon-a), a normal girl whose childhood dream was to work in a hotel. Gu Won is often described as bold, with perhaps only one close friend who truly understands him. Yet, beneath his exterior, there’s more to Gu Won than meets the eye. He carries his own scars.
It is 2015, and a group of ambitious young individuals vie for a coveted one-month internship at the hotel. It’s an in-demand position, with a prerequisite of holding a four-year college degree. Nevertheless, Sa-rang who was one of the applicants throws her hat in the ring. When questioned by Gu Hwa-ran (Kim Seon-young), who oversees the hotel on behalf of her father, King Group chairman Gu Il-hoon (Son Byong-ho), Sa-rang’s responses are sharp and quick-witted.
Subsequently, we witness a figure in impeccable attire parachute out of an aircraft, landing gracefully on a neighboring building’s rooftop. We later learn he was meant to touch down at the King Hotel nearby. This individual is Gu Won (Lee Jun-ho), commencing his own internship within the hotel’s offices, all while concealing his true identity as the chairman’s son. He steps in to defend his fellow intern, Noh Sang-sik (Ahn Se-ha), during a scolding from their boss over a malfunctioning toner cartridge. In the process, he criticizes both the boss and the company, promptly leading to his dismissal. until his true status is discovered.
Naturally, Won’s father, Il-hoon, is dissatisfied. He had hoped for Won to grasp the business from the ground up, envisioning a future where he and Hwa-ran would contend to succeed him. Privately, Hwa-ran would prefer her brother to return to the UK, where he resided previously, and pave the way for her.
The story alternates between a past and present timeline and explores how Sa-rang’s tight-knit friends/roommates who also work at King Group navigates life and love. The trio Oh Pyung-hwa (Go Won-hee) a flight attendant, Gang Da-eul (Kim Ga-eun) a duty-free shop clerk, and Sa-rang who works at the hotel.
Fueled by her passion, she joins King Hotel as an intern and over seven years, becomes the hotel’s most outstanding employee. It’s almost second nature for her to wear a smile, even in the face of challenges—a byproduct of her dedication to her job. Sa-rang is coached to maintain her radiant 100-watt smile at all times. Despite her stern supervisors deeming the smile futile, Sa-rang persists in flashing her pearly whites. She crosses paths with Won, mistakenly identifying him as the man who sent her a room key and a proposition. She also engages with Hwa-ran, who promotes her to the lobby with a year-long contract.
Won returns to London, accompanied by his now-assistant Sang-sik. Eight years pass; Sa-rang ascends to the role of concierge, training others, earning accolades, and finally securing a salaried position. Upon receiving a package containing the resume of a woman named Han Mi-so (Nam Gi-ae)—who from the storyline we presume is his lost mother—Won returns to Korea with a determination to not let his sister take control of the company. After his father appoints him as the hotel’s general manager, he repeatedly encounters Sa-rang in the most unexpected of places and they must change the narrative of the love story that pushed Gu Won’s mother away to begin with. Undoubtedly one of the best romantic Korean drama on Netflix, this story was created by Cheon Sung-il and written by Choi Rom.
See You in My 19th Life
We’re not surprised this show is the most-watched and best Korean drama on Netflix because it deserves it and more. See You In My 19th Life is written by Choi Young-lim and based on the webtoon of the same name featuring supernatural themes.
Meet Ban Ji-eum, played by Shin Hye-sun, who discovered she was on her 19th recollection in life when a flood of memories from her past lives hit her at just 9 years old. One particular memory—her 18th life as Yoon Ju-won, portrayed by Kim Si-a, where she promised never to leave Mun Seo-ha (Jung Hyeon-jun). Now, she’s determined to find out if he’s still alive.
However, Ji-eum’s current reality is far from idyllic. She’s stuck in a life of poverty with an abusive, gambling-addicted father. To make ends meet, she showcases her vast knowledge acquired over her previous lives, including talents like flamenco dancing and Japanese history, on TV talent shows. Though she earns appearance fees, her father always takes the money.
In a desperate escape, Ji-eum stumbles upon Kim Ae-kyung (Cha Chung-hwa), a restaurant owner. She convinces Ae-kyung that she’s her long-lost Uncle Kim Jung-ho (Lee Jae-kyoon) and that she holds vivid memories of her past lives. From there, Ji-eum begins to unfold her extraordinary tale.
Her encounter with Seo-ha in 1997, when she was a 12-year-old Ju-won, was a turning point. He was the most captivating person she’d met in a century. Ju-won had recollected memories from her previous 17 lives and no longer acted like a child. Her mother even told Seo-ha’s mother, Lee Sang-a (Lee Bo-young), that the other kids at school treated Ju-won like a teacher.
Their bond deepened, and Ju-won’s affection for Seo-ha grew. Unfortunately, Sang-a’s health began to deteriorate. At the mansion’s pool, where Seo-ha resided (his mother being the CEO of a hotel chain), he shared a whimsical belief – he claimed to have been a turtle in a past life, inspired by the ones he observed in a hotel fish tank. Ju-won assured him she’d always be by his side.
Tragically, their story took a grim turn. A violent car accident claimed Sang-a’s life and left Seo-ha with damaged hearing, while Ju-won succumbed to her injuries. In her final moments, she silently prayed for a 19th life, determined to reunite with Seo-ha. Previously, she’d always prayed for an end to her cycle of reincarnation.
Now reborn as Ji-eum, she’s resolute in her quest to find Seo-ha. In 2007, she locates him on his way to high school and continues to shadow him, only to discover he’s left the country. Over the years, Ju-won excels academically and strategically joins the company owned by Seo-ha’s family, working in its automotive division. She learns that Seo-ha, now in his 30s, is stationed in Germany, prompting her to seek a transfer.
Before she can make it happen, Seo-ha returns to Korea, determined to restore the hotel his mother once managed to its former glory. Naturally, Ji-eum applies for a transfer to work at the hotel.
Love to Hate You
Netflix’s newest release and perhaps one of the most addictive Korean dramas in 2023 if you ask us. The narrative of the show centers around Nam Kang-ho, an actor harboring a strong aversion towards women. His discomfort in their presence is palpable.
Enter the eccentric Lee Mi-ran, a lawyer with an equal disdain for men. Mi-ran’s exceptional combat skills prove invaluable when Kang-ho, known for his romantic comedy roles, must transform into a street fighter for an upcoming film.
Chaos ensues as the two polar opposites collide. Mi-ran soon realizes Kang-ho isn’t the villain she initially perceived, while Kang-ho discovers there’s more to Mi-ran than her combat prowess. The show wastes no time diving headfirst into the tumult, endearing viewers to the characters instantly.
Kang-ho, affable in his own right, is eclipsed by the irresistible force that is Mi-ran and her unapologetic demeanor. While the plot may share similarities with past K-dramas, Kang-ho’s aversion to women infuses “Love To Hate You” with a unique and enjoyable twist.
The central characters’ evolution, as they confront their reservations about the opposite sex, is skillfully portrayed. Supporting roles, like Soo-jin, an actress navigating post-divorce turmoil, and Na-eun, burdened by the consequences of her romantic choices, add depth to the narrative. Won-jun, the CEO of an entertainment company, abstains from relationships due to a perceived professional inadequacy, rounding out the ensemble.
With a deeper look into Kang-ho’s emotional scars and Mi-ran’s propensity for overthinking, it becomes clear why they harbor such strong aversions towards the opposite sex. Kang-ho’s heartbreak at the hands of a materialistic woman has colored his perception of all women with a similar brush. When he encounters Mi-ran, a woman who bucks the trend and dislikes a soft girl lifestyle Kang-ho finds it hard to contain his emotions.
On the other hand, Mi-ran’s history with men has been riddled with disappointment, leading her to prioritize financial independence and personal enjoyment. Anyone who obstructs her path quickly learns the importance of not crossing her.
From start to finish, the show was insanely sweet and ticked all of our boxes. While the circumstances that brought Kang-ho and Mi-ran together in “Love To Hate You” may seem rather unnatural, the charisma of Kim Ok-vin in the role of Mi-ran changes the whole narrative and makes it even more cute.
Crash Course In Romance
Crash Course in Romance is a whirlwind of a show and one of the best Korean dramas. A classic enemies-to-lovers tale, where the unavoidable union of the lead couple is a foregone conclusion. This charming and light-hearted comedy is about a celebrity math tutor Choi Chi-Yeol (Jung Kyung-Ho) who falls for a single mother Nam Haeng-Seon (Jeon Do-Yeon). Yet, the narrative of a haunted man pursuing stressed-out students somewhat disrupts the harmony.
Our central character is Haeng-seon, a retired national athlete who now runs her own side dish store. She goes above and beyond for her niece Hae-e, whom she’s taken in as her own daughter. As she endeavors to get Hae-e enrolled in a prestigious academy, Haeng-seon inevitably crosses paths with the charismatic and highly sought-after math tutor, Choi Chi-yeol.
The duo strikes up a friendship, with subtle hints of romance lingering in the air. However, various forces conspire against them, including meddling mothers at the school, societal expectations within the education field, and a mysterious threat known as the metal ball killer.
The initial encounters, banter, and misunderstandings between the couple are a breeze, especially since they are refreshing characters in their early forties. With stellar performances from Do-Yeon and Kyung-Ho, there’s never a dip in energy, and it almost feels like a friendly competition between the actors. When they hit the right notes in emotional scenes, the chemistry between them is palpable and delightful.
However, as mentioned earlier, their romance isn’t the sole focal point of the K-Drama. Competitive mothers, the pressure of high school academics, envious classmates, parental trauma, conniving professional rivals, a barrage of scandals, AND a menacing psychopath on the loose all jockey for attention. Not all of these elements seamlessly come together. Haeng-seon’s shop is situated in an academic hub, surrounded by tutoring academies that high school students and their parents flock to in droves.
It’s a world where mothers queue up in front of The Pride Academy not only to register their kids for Chi-Yeol’s math classes but also to secure them a spot at the front of the class. Writer Yang Hee-Seung adeptly establishes this world for the audience, vividly portraying the extent of academic pressure and the system that students teetering on the edge of university admission, along with their parents, are trying to navigate.
The mothers, in particular, have risen to the challenge, often resorting to their most deplorable tactics in this cutthroat battle for college entrance exams. Jang Seo-Jin, a workaholic attorney (Jang Young-Nam), who drove her first son to an academic pressure-induced breakdown, is now solely focused on ensuring her second son Lee Sun-Jae (Lee Chae-Min) doesn’t falter. Then there’s Su-Hee (Kim Sun-Young), a social media influencer in the realm of high school academics, obsessed with her daughter’s studies and seemingly oblivious to her struggles with mental health, as well as her cheating husband.
Haeng-Seon soon realizes that she needs to rise to the occasion for her niece, Nam He-Yi (Roh Yoon-Seo), and grapples with fitting into this world of competition and intrigue.
Drawing inspiration from Min Song-Ah’s webtoon, this show is the latest adaptation of Doona for Netflix Korea and Studio Dragon. Directed by Lee Jung-hyo, the nine-episode series is a journey into a poignant coming-of-age romance between Lee Doo-na (Bae Suzy) and Lee Won-joon (Yang Se-Jong).
The story is about a flashy ex-superstar, Doona, once part of the Dream Sweet group until a stage collapse led her to sever ties. Battling the aftermath of performance-induced stress, a demanding mother, and an unreciprocated infatuation manipulated by her manager, Doona grapples with inner demons. She languishes in sorrow, her suffering concealed and ignored, relegated to being the enigmatic girl downstairs. Though she shares a house for convenience, it’s not a sanctuary; instead, it becomes a sinkhole of self-loathing.
Won-joon’s migration from the countryside to Seoul for college thrusts him into a sharehouse inhabited by a motley crew, challenging his preconceptions about life. His abode is a room in a sprawling, eccentric household, with Lee Doona at its nucleus. She propels him beyond his comfort zone, steering him away from a past infatuation and propelling them both on a transformative journey.
While melodramatic moments arise, they don’t steer the narrative. Rather, it’s the intricate, convoluted backstories and futures of each character that lend depth to the series’ romance. Lee Doona bears the scars of her idol days, her self-worth at rock bottom, yearning for attention without understanding why.
She’s ensnared by chain-smoking, neglecting self-care, leaving viewers to ponder if she’s resigned to fading away. Won-joon, on the other hand, grapples with naivete and innocence, hampering his grasp of morality and nuanced responses to situations. His reticent nature clashes with Doona’s persona. While Won-joon undergoes personal growth upon relinquishing his childhood crush, Lee Doona’s identity remains entangled with her former manager, resulting in forced interventions that occasionally miss the mark.