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Here Are 10 Friends to Lovers K-Dramas to Cozy Up To

Never say never to falling in love with your bestie—well, in the K-Drama world, at least. Watch or revisit these classics for a dose of kilig!

The above bodes true only if it applies to you, alright? There’s no need to get weird with your bestie—unless there’s something brewing and we might be touching a nerve or two with this. But that’s not what we’re here for, so let us take you to Hallyu Land for a bit. 


This trope is one of the most loved for K-dramas, as there are so many ways one can go about working with it. There are stories of childhood sweethearts who discover newfound feelings for each other on the cusp of adulthood; there are tales of old friends that reconnect later in life, only for it to turn into something more. The feelings of kilig that stem from these stories are never lost on us, perhaps because they might just be all too relatable. From the affections that blossom between Weightlifting Fairy’s Kim Bok-joo and Jung Joon-hyung to a love once lost and then forgotten between Hospital Playlist’s Lee Ik-jun and Chae Song-hwa, here are 10 K-dramas to tune in to for those friends to lovers feels. 


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Reply 1988

Ah, youth. Shin Won-ho’s Reply anthology perfectly captures how childhood friendships can blossom into something more, often complicating the barkada dynamics because there are more than just two hearts involved. The most famous—or infamous given how real life events have played out; though we shouldn’t let that affect how the drama made us feel—is perhaps the love triangle of Sung Deok-sun (Lee Hyeri), Kim Jung-hwan (Ryu Jun-yeol), and Choi Taek (Park Bo-gum), as the mystery of who the older Deok-sun ends up marrying plays a big part in the emotional push-pull of Reply 1988. Both boys develop feelings for their fiery lady friend, and it is both touching and heartbreaking to watch them navigate their respective emotional rollercoasters as they move through the stages of young adulthood together. 


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Hospital Playlist

Also by Shin Won-ho, Hospital Playlist sits on the opposite end of the spectrum of its Reply predecessor, centering on a group of doctors in their forties who have drifted apart due to leading separate lives. As the quintet works to rekindle their bond by reforming their old band, the audience become privy to how things used to be among them, including a mutual spark between a young Chae Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do) and Lee Ik-jun (Jo Jung-suk) that had been snuffed out because Ik-jun had opted to prioritize their group’s friendship. There’s something incredibly sobering about watching them put the pieces of their past together, wondering if they can move on from their previous heartbreak. It’s rare that we get to see adults navigating the complexities triggered by unresolved issues from their youth, which makes this drama an absolute must-watch. 


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Something in the Rain

Highly regarded as a classic, this slow burn romance navigates the ebbs and flows of a relationship between people who go from mere acquaintances to lovers. Something in the Rain follows the story of Yoon Jin-ah (Son Ye-jin), a single woman in her 30s who works as a supervisor in a coffee franchise store, and Seo Joon-hee (Jung Hae-in), a video game character animator who moves back to Korea after working in the USA for three years. Coincidentally—or by a twist of fate—he also happens to be the younger brother of Jin-ah’s best friend, and the two begin to develop feelings for each other as Joon-hee helps Jin-ah get through several challenging situations. Aside from the May-December relationship, the series also tackles other dating ideas that are considered taboo in South Korean society: people who grow up in the absence of parental figures are “unfit” for marriage, those of a certain educational or wealth status should only associate with people in their circles, women must endure harassment without complaint during workplace team dinners as so not to fracture camaraderie, and so on. 


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Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo

A favorite among younger viewers, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo is a coming-of-age sports-centered romcom that revolves around the lives of Kim Bok-joo (Lee Sung-kyung) and her athletics university friends. Ambitious and outgoing, she dreams of following in the footsteps of her father, a former weightlifter. Amidst all the demands of schoolwork and training, Bok-joo finds herself caught in a web of feelings between her first love Jung Jae-yi (Lee Jae-yoon) and his brother Jung Joon-hyung (Nam Joo-hyuk). At first, Joon-hyung agrees to help Bok-joo get closer to his brother so she can win him over, but he ends up falling for her in the process. Classic friends to lovers with a love triangle in between? You know it. 


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Fight for My Way

Hooked on Queen of Tears? Here’s another series where you may have seen or can see Kim Ji-won, albeit in a starkly different role and scenario. She plays the strong and sassy Choi Ae-ra, a department store employee who dreams of quitting her tedious day job to become an announcer. Playing the role of her best friend turned lover is none other than the nation’s oppa, Park Seo-joon. He stars as Ko Dong-man, a once famous taekwondo athlete who had to stall his career due to a tragic incident. If you’ve seen the memes—especially the aegyo ones—online, it’s definitely this hilarious couple at fault. Along for the ride are their two other close friends, boyfriend and girlfriend Kim Joo-man (Ahn Jae-hong) and Baek Seol-hee (Song Ha-yoon), who represent the couples whose relationships are put to the test despite having been together for a long time.  


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Happiness

In a time where living with infectious diseases have become the new norm, the rules of the old world certainly don’t apply. Special Operation Unit police squad officer Yoon Sae-bom (Han Hyo-joo) finds out she is immune to the Lytta Virus / “mad person disease” after remaining unaffected during an altercation with an infected trainee. She then makes a deal with Lieutenant Colonel Han Tae-seok (Jo Woo-jin) to be able to secure a luxurious high rise apartment in a new complex. However, she must be married to do so, which has her getting in touch with her high school friend Jung Yi-hyun (Park Hyung-sik). The two agree to pose as a married couple, and end up meeting all sorts of individuals as they go about their new lives. It’s an unusual set-up for falling in love with an old friend, but in a word such as theirs, anything is possible. 


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Soundtrack #1

Short and sweet at only four episodes, Soundtrack #1 revolves around an unrequited love between a lyricist and photographer who have been friends for almost two decades. While trying to write lyrics for a famous composer, Eun-soo (Han So-hee) receives feedback that her work lacks depth. At a standstill, she asks her best friend Sun-woo (Park Hyung-sik) for help in understanding what unrequited love truly feels like, opening a can of worms in the process because he has been in love with her for eight long years, holding it all in so they can stay friends. Ouch. (Side note: We get frustrated when our couples can’t seem to resolve their issues, but we wouldn’t have any dramas to watch otherwise.) The performances by the two leads are particularly endearing, especially when you see how Sun-woo treats his lady love: with a gruff, casual affection that transcends all those years of friendship.


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Romance is a Bonus Book

When Cha Eun-ho (Lee Jong-suk) was a child, he was saved from an accident by Kang Dan-i (Lee Na-young). As a result, she was injured and was put on bed rest for a year; Eun-ho helped by acquiring books for her to read from the local library, which awakened his interest in writing. The two drifted apart when Dan-i married an inconsiderate man who later cheats on her, leaving her an unemployed divorcee—a single mother at that. She winds up taking a job as Eun-ho’s live-in housekeeper, but later becomes a temporary task support worker at the publishing company he owns and runs. Their newly rekindled friendship slowly blossoms into something more as they continue to share their living and work spaces. The swoon-worthy romance aside, the story also focuses on the struggles of an older woman trying to pursue her professional dreams. 


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She was Pretty

The reversal of fortunes and appearances is what makes this romcom a binge-worthy watch. Kim Hye-jin, once a gorgeous young woman from a well-off family, comes into misfortune when her family’s business goes bankrupt. As a result of these hardships, the beauty she was once known for faces away. Ji Sung-joon (Park Seo-joon), her childhood friend, struggled with weight and self-esteem issues when he was younger. Now the drop-dead handsome deputy chief editor of The Most magazine, he belittles Hye-jin when she comes in as an intern in the administrative section, not recognizing his former friend. To add fuel to the fire, Hye-jin is so ashamed to reconnect with him that she sends her best friend Min Ha-ri (Go Joon-hee) to take her place whenever they meet up, which leads to Ha-ri developing feelings for Sung-joon as well. What a mess, right?


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Our Beloved Summer

This coming-of-age romcom stars Kim Da-mi and Choi Woo-shik, with the two stepping into the roles of friends turned ex-lovers—something new, right?—Kook Yeon-soo and Choi Ung, respectively. They ended things with a vow to never meet up again, but a documentary they shot ten years ago when they were still in love resurfaces, forcing their paths to converge once more. From the get-go, it’s clear that a second shot at romance is hovering in the fringes of the tension that seeps through the air each and every time they meet, but both Yeon-soo and Ung sill have a lot of growing up to do. The characters are flawed and wonderfully so; Ung is a hermit who is interested in very little outside of his art, and Yeon-soo is a tough talker whose prime interest is herself. There’s plenty of vulnerability and naivety in both leads that adds a depth to the series, which makes them and their experiences all the more believable. 


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