As a lover of all things romance, I am ashamed to admit that it took me until a few years ago to learn about the amazing world of romantic K-Dramas. From the very first series I watched, the complex plots, well-written characters and poignant romances drew me in and have yet to let me go!
Get ready to experience episodes that contain first love, second chance love, and enemies-to-lovers plots, just to name a few things in store for your viewing pleasure. If you’re new to K-Dramas like I was and are ready to make up for lost time (I know I’ve certainly been!), here is a list of the most romantic K-Dramas to get you started.
My First First Love (2019)
This K-Drama will always have a special place in my heart since it was the first one I ever watched—and I am so glad I did because it was the perfect lighthearted, funny and heartwarming introduction to K-Dramas I could have asked for. This series has two seasons and is one of the shorter K-Drama shows I’ve seen, with 8 episodes per season (it’s a good one to start with if the usual 12-20 episode seasons seem daunting). But despite being on the shorter side, this show makes a lasting impact with its highly lovable characters and slow-burn friends-to-lovers romance.
It follows Yun Tae-o, a 20-year-old who convinces his father to let him live in his grandfather’s house while he attends college. He is looking forward to the newfound independence and privacy that he will finally have while living on his own when he comes home from a blind date to find three of his friends already making themselves comfortable on his couch. One of which is Han Song-i, a close childhood friend whom he’s looked after since her father passed away.
What ensues is a story that explores family pressure, wealth disparity, and, of course, blossoming love. It’s a romance that’s depicted through both small and large acts of kindness whether it’s the way Tae-o lends Han Song-i his tennis shoes, so she doesn’t ruin her new heels in the rain, or the way he joins her on her trip to confront her mother who abandoned her. The pair’s chemistry will be sure to make you swoon!
A Love So Beautiful (2020)
Based on the 2017 Chinese series of the same name, A Love So Beautiful is a coming-of-age drama that follows five high school friends through to adulthood. The main protagonists are Shin Sol-i, a cheerful hopeless romantic who is head-over-heels for her next-door neighbor Cha Heon, a reserved self-conscious teenager who shares a class with Shin Sol-i. Although he's initially cold toward Shin Sol-i’s unabashed proclamations of love, the audience slowly starts to witness Cha Heon gradually take down his walls and let Shin Sol-i add much-needed warmth to his life.
With hardly any dark or sad moments, this show is perfect for those who are in the mood to enjoy a comfort show that promises many adorable scenes that capture the sweetness (and cringiness) of first love.
Our Beloved Summer (2021)
If you don’t watch any other K-Drama on this list (although you’ll be totally missing out!), you should at least make sure to watch Our Beloved Summer. This story begins by introducing us to Choi Ung and Kook Yeon-soo, two high school students forced to get to know each other through a documentary that is meant to study the differences between the top student and the worst student at their school. This romantic comedy has many hilarious moments as viewers witness their personalities clash and the ways they severely annoy each other throughout the school year. What the two didn’t expect was that this documentary would blow up in popularity and, even more so, that they would eventually develop feelings for one another despite their different outlook and goals in life.
The story jumps back and forth in time and shows that 10 years later, the pair have gone their separate ways vowing to never see each other again. But fate has other plans when their mutual producer friend asks them to create a follow-up documentary on where they are in their lives now. This is a story of forgiveness, second chances and healing depicted through two imperfect but genuine characters trying to figure out how to navigate life in their late twenties. This one will leave you weeping and grinning ear to ear (often in the same episode). A definite must-watch!
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021)
One of the highest-rated dramas in Korean cable television history and one of Netflix’s most-watched non-English television shows, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is one of the most swoon-worthy on this list. It follows Yoon Hye-jin, a dentist who quits her job in Seoul and ends up moving to the small seaside village of Gongjin to start her own dental clinic.
There she meets the charming Hong Du-sik, or “Chief Hong,” as he is lovingly nicknamed by the town’s residents, who is known to help any neighbor with a multitude of odd jobs. It’s an immensely beautiful love story, yes, but it also explores the concept of “found family” and the idea that leading a meaningful life doesn’t mean one needs to have a grandiose lifestyle. If you take time to appreciate the tiny joys of life, you can experience fulfillment.
Can a misunderstanding lead to true love? You’ll find out in this K-Drama that centers around Seo Dal-mi, a young woman who was raised by her grandmother through humble means and has big dreams to work her way up as the successful CEO of a start-up company. While competing for success at a young entrepreneur competition hosted by a highly-renowned company called “Sandbox,” she joins a team with Nam Do-san, the founder of Samsan Tech and a programmer who hopes to secure funding for his small and, at the moment, unsuccessful company.
Due to the well-intentioned meddling of Seo Dal-mi’s grandmother, Seo Dal-mi believes that Nam Do-san is her secret pen-pal and first love of her childhood, when in actuality Han Ji-pyeong, a successful team leader at SH Venture Capital, is her past love (who initially only started writing to her as a favor to Seo Dal-mi’s grandmother). Can awkward Nam Do-san become the confident man Seo Dal-mi deserves, or will she realize that Han Ji-peong is really the one she’s been waiting for? You’ll have to watch to find out!
Twenty-Five Twenty-One (2022)
This one is my personal favorite! It’s told as a flashback while in present day, the main protagonist's daughter reads her mother’s diary that she kept as a teen. As she learns about her mother’s past, we also get transported back to the late 90s when Na Hee-do was a high school student with dreams of becoming a member of the National Fencing Team. It’s an incredibly inspirational story about following one’s passion regardless of the obstacle, for Na Hee-do it’s dealing with the aftermath of the IMF crisis—a period of economic crisis that affected many Asian countries—while trying to make a name for herself in the fencing community.
Meanwhile, she meets Baek Yi-jin, a once wealthy son of an affluent family that went bankrupt. He must now struggle to support himself by taking multiple part-time jobs, and finds comfort and companionship in Na Hee-do. The show depicts how they end up supporting one another as they grow into whom they were meant to become. Although it contains many upbeat silly moments, if you’re also looking for a darker, more serious K-Drama then this one should be your pick. It captures the immense happiness and lowest lows that comes with young love.
Itaewon Class (2020)
Perhaps the darkest on this list, but also extremely well-written, Itaewon Class might not be everyone’s initial pick when thinking about the most romantic K-Drama. However, I think it deserves a spot on this list because of the enduring love that develops between two of the characters.
It follows Park Sae-ro-yi, a man with a traumatic past bent on securing revenge by becoming a successful restaurant chain owner; Oh Soo-ah, head of strategic planning at Jangga Group (and also Sae-ro-yi’s longtime childhood crush); and Jo Yi-seo, a highly-intelligent social media influencer who decides to share her expertise to help Park Sae-ro-yi accomplish his goals after she becomes enamored with him due to his hard-working nature and empathetic soul.
The romantic soundtrack that complements the show perfectly also deserves a shoutout (do yourself a favor and listen to Sweet Night by V). Viewers will find this love triangle highly entertaining and will enjoy watching as the two characters finally surrender to their shared connection.
Crash Landing on You (2019)
The attraction between the two main leads is unmistakable (fun fact: during the shooting of the show, the two actors fell in love in real life and now are married and have a son together!), which features a love story that blossoms despite very stressful circumstances. South Korean fashion business owner Yoon Se-ri wakes up finding herself stuck in a tree after a tornado has blown her paraglider off-course. She soon realizes, to her horror, that she has landed in North Korea after Captain of Company Five Ri Jeong-hyeok, finds her in her precarious situation.
A star-crossed lover’s tale of two individuals destined to meet but cruelly kept apart due to political conflict will both break and mend your heart. Do yourself a favor and buy a large box of tissues!
Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022)
A charming, powerful series, Extraordinary Attorney Woo is about Woo Young-woo, a young lawyer with autism who secures her first job at a large law firm in Seoul, where she must constantly prove herself to her peers and boss. Not only is it an important show that brings attention to the inequality those with autism often face within the workplace, but it also contains a wonderful romance.
In doing so, it explores the complexities of communication and intimacy between Woo Young-woo and her partner, who is deemed neurotypical. The romantic tension leading up to their first kiss will give you butterflies and, in my humble opinion, is one of the most tender and passionate kisses in any series you’ll watch.