Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin in Crash Landing on You

Binge-Worthy Korean Dramas on Netflix

What makes a KDrama binge-worthy is its plot and its runtime. There are tons of amazing KDramas, but you might find yourself running out of time trying to complete them in one or three sittings. It’s no secret that watching at least one episode is worth an hour in the world of KDramas. Many of them are worth watching, but they’re not for people who need a compelling story accompanied by fast pacing.

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Luckily, a lot of hit KDramas prove that they don’t need to have more than fifty episodes to tell a great story that resonates with a broad audience. From fluffy romances to justice-driven dramas, there are many KDramas worth binging for hours on end.

10. Queenmaker

Queenmaker has only eleven episodes, and each episode is packed and as intense as the last. This is about winning elections as an underdog in the game. Oh Kyung-sook is a human rights lawyer who has thrown her bid to be the next mayor of Seoul. Elections in the capital of South Korea can get brutal, but with the help of Hwang Do-hee and her ability to turn public opinion at its head, she might just have a chance.

The two leads often clash, but their shared goal makes their teamwork cohesive and astonishing to look at.

9. Juvenile Justice

This 2022 legal drama focuses on a judge named Sim Hyun-seok, a cold juvenile judge who carries immense hatred towards underaged offenders. In South Korea, minors are often given lenient sentencing for their crimes. This isn’t the case with Judge Sim, and she sentences many minors to the fullest extent of the law. Beneath that cold and callous facade is a judge who is willing to go above and beyond duty in the name of justice and immense sympathy for victims.

One of the things that make Juvenile Justice great is that its lead role, Sim Hyun-seok, is a unique character. She might sound a little machiavellian, but it’s all in good faith. She’d run after juvenile criminals in the streets of Seoul in heels if it meant bringing them proper judgment. The drama only has ten episodes, lasting about an hour each. Overall, an amazing binge to include in your Netflix library.

8. The Glory

The Glory is a story about revenge, and while the theme is just as severe as the previous entry in this list, it’s also worth mentioning. This is a drama you couldn’t look away from no matter how brutal the scenes are because of how good the story is portrayed. This revenge KDrama is seen through the eyes of Moon Dong-eun (played by Song Hye-kyo) who was severely bullied in high school by a bunch of her privileged peers. She was physically assaulted and disfigured, but her bullies got away with it because of their parents’ influence. A decade later when all her bullies reach their dreams, she reemerges from the shadows and enacts her revenge.

Song Hye-kyo proved that her acting is timeless and that she is very much still in her prime. Kim Eun-sook, who was this drama’s screenwriter, previously worked with the actress in another one of her hit KDramas. This is a drama with a powerful cast and an unflinchingly great story to tell.

7. The Sound of Magic

Yoon A-Yi grew up too fast. She had to take part-time jobs to support herself and her little sister because both of their parents disappeared. Despite her financial struggles, she’s the highest-ranking student in her high school. Na Il-deung sees A-Yi as a challenge to outrank in school standing, and they form a rivalry. One day, A-Yi meets a magician who takes her under his wing to teach her magic.

If you need your regular dose of fluff after having gone through the three intense recommendations that came before this, The Sound of Magic is something you should consider watching. A-Yi’s struggle to survive is not easy, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel for her and Il-deung. It also has the rivals to lovers genre on its tag, so if you’re into that, you’ll like this KDrama. It only has six episodes, but that doesn’t make the drama feel like it’s lacking either.

6. Flower of Evil

Anybody who’s had a dose of Spy x Family, or even Mr. & Mrs. Smith is no stranger to having a couple with secret identities that conflict with one another. This is also the case for Flower of Evil, which follows the story of Baek Hee-Sung who on the surface, seems to be the perfect husband and father. But it seems that he has a dark past he hasn’t disclosed to his wife. Cha Ji-won, his wife, is an amazing detective who has an insatiable curiosity. Her ability to unearth her husband’s secrets might come at the cost of her family, but she will uncover them one by one.

The drama only has 16 episodes, but they’re digestible even if they are intense. If anybody’s looking for a good detective story, this one should be on their watch list.

5. Descendants of the Sun

All KDrama fans know Descendants of the Sun, and many even shipped the leading couple on screen. While the on-screen couple had a falling out in real life, it’s still a great story to rewatch and even binge if anybody wants to feel giddy about a dramatic love story. The best part is that this drama doesn’t drag, and has sixteen episodes that anybody could binge in one sitting.

This story is about finding the one at the wrong place and at the wrong time. Captain Yoo Shi-jin accompanied his friend and fellow soldier, Seo Dae-young to the emergency room. There, he meets Kang Mo Yeon who is an excellent surgeon. Despite having conflicting views on human life, they form a relationship that is cut short after Yoo Shi-jin is deployed to the fictional war-torn country named Urk. Years later, Mo Yeon finds herself serving to staff a clinic in Urk, where she reunites with Shi-jin. Old flames are reignited, and maybe a second change is all they need.

4. Crash Landing on You

Crash Landing on You is definitely another army drama, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not distinctly different from the prior suggestion. In fact, it’s a good balance of hilarious and dramatic. Imagine being so privileged that you end up crossing another country’s border because you were paragliding. That’s the case with chaebol (family conglomerate) heiress Yoon Se-ri, who landed at a portion of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) belonging to North Korea. There, she meets a North Korean elite and Captain in the Korean People’s Army, Ri Jeong-hyeok.

The premise itself is silly, but the setting clearly shows it’s not going to be all fun and games. There’s corruption, power struggle, and most importantly, the theme of star-crossed lovers. Alas, will these two, who are respectively from the North and South, be together in the end? That’s for you to explore, and there are only 16 episodes in the drama so it won’t take you long to find out.

3. My ID is Gangnam Beauty

My ID is Gangnam Beauty (or Gangnam Beauty) was adapted from the hit webcomic of the same name released in 2019 at Naver. Kang Mi-rae is a beautiful girl who got plastic surgery upon entering college. She was traumatized by the bullying she received about her looks while she was growing up. The alterations do nothing for her self-esteem, and she’s still overly self-conscious around her peers.

Although there’s a love story to be found in the 16 episodes of this KDrama, this is a story about a girl who was bullied into feeling insecure about herself and who finds her way to feel great in her skin again.

2. Hospital Playlist

Fans of medical drama romance would be committing a crime for ignoring Hospital Playlist (2020), especially when it only has twelve episodes that anybody can finish after a day. It follows the story of five friends who have been doctors since their medical studies. The plot revolves around their experiences as different types of doctors, and you’ll find stories of love, loss, friendship, and a lot of comedy as a good cherry on top.

It’s no wonder Hospital Playlist was a hit in South Korea and worldwide. It has a plot that’s easy to follow, and you’ll laugh and cry alongside the characters, all in twelve episodes.

1. Our Beloved Summer

Anybody still sentimental over their high school, summer loves somewhere in their past should give Our Beloved Summer a watch. This coming-of-age KDrama has sixteen episodes, and it follows a couple of high schoolers who hate each other at the onset. Kook Yeon-soo is everything Choi Woong is not. She’s a smart, straight-laced student with perfect grades; meanwhile, Woong is laidback and often disorganized. Because of a documentary at their high school, they were forced to spend time with each other and they end up falling in love. Ten years later, after breaking up, they’re forced to meet again.

This isn’t just high school rivalry but also forced proximity, which is almost always a fan favorite tag in these kinds of angsty but youthful dramas. What made them break up? How did they drift so far apart, and do second chances exist? Our Beloved Summer is a short but sentimental watch that will have your heart twisting.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Vanessa Esguerra
Vanessa Esguerra (She/They) has been a Contributing Writer for The Mary Sue since 2023. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy, she (happily) rejected law school in 2021 and has been a full-time content writer since. Vanessa is currently taking her Master's degree in Japanese Studies in hopes of deepening her understanding of the country's media culture in relation to pop culture, women, and queer people like herself. She speaks three languages but still manages to get lost in the subways of Tokyo with her clunky Japanese. Fueled by iced coffee brewed from local cafés in Metro Manila, she also regularly covers anime and video games while queuing for her next match in League of Legends.