The Classic And Must-Watch K-Dramas That Should Be Part Of Your Binge List
No doubt, Pinoys are now riding the Korean wave or hallyu, the popularity of Korean entertainment and culture across Asia and the world. Perhaps you are already familiar with—and even follow—Korean fashion and beauty trends. While you may already be hooked on American TV series, why not try Koreanovelas for a different kind of entertainment? (Warning: they are addictive!)
With kilig-inducing, heart-wrenching and comedic scenes, as well as unpredictable plot twists—not to mention, good-looking oppas (male leads)—you might just be convinced to start binge-watching K-Dramas. Once you're already a "convert," make sure to add these 10 classics to your binge list, to have a better and deeper understanding of Koreanovelas.
1. Endless Love: Autumn in My Heart (2000)
Yoon Joon-suh (Song Seung-heon) and Yoon Eun-suh (Song Hye-kyo) grow up as siblings until one day, they discover they are not related when Eun-suh needs blood transfusion after an accident. They get separated when Joon-suh’s real sister returns but meet again after a decade when he comes back to Korea from the US. They overcome odds as they realize their romantic feelings for each other.
*This drama is credited to have started the Koreanovela craze in the Philippines.
2. Endless Love: Winter Sonata (2002)
Joon Sang (Bae Yong-joon) and Jung Yoo-jin (Cho Ji-woo) are young lovers whose romance is cut short when Joon-sang meets a car accident and Yoo-jin is led to believe he died. Suffering from amnesia, his mother brings him to the US to start anew. Their story continues 10 years later when he returns to Korea, while Yoo-jin is engaged to another man.
* Due to the drama’s success, a statue of the main characters was even built in Nami Island, a popular tourist destination in South Korea and is one of the show's filming locations.
3. Stairway to Heaven (2003)
Starring Kwon Sang-woo and Choi Ji-woo, Stairway to Heaven follows the story of childhood friends Han Jung-suh and Cha Song-joo whose friendship eventually develop into romance. Her stepsister and stepbrother bring hindrances to her relationship with Song-joo and do everything to tear them apart. When Song-joo leaves Korea to study in America and returns three years later, the much-awaited reunion of the lovers is filled with so much obstacles and drama (read: a character loses his memories, someone gets ill, and another commits suicide).
*There’s a scene in the drama that shows the lead characters in a merry-go-round in an amusement park. It was shot in Lotte World, and because of the show, it quickly drew lots of tourists to the site.
4. Lovers in Paris (2004)
This is a first of three series in the Lovers trilogy, followed by Lovers in Prague and Lovers. Lovers in Paris stars Kim Jung-eun as Kang Tae-young and Park Shing-yang as Han Ki-joo. The daughter of a film director, Tae-young does her father’s wish and studies film in Paris, where she finds herself working as a housekeeper of Ki-joo to support herself. Not satisfied with her work, he fires her, but rehires her when he finds out she comes from the same hometown as the wife of his potential business partner. They agree for her to pretend as his girlfriend, but the fake-girlfriend plan would have them parting ways on bad terms. She leaves Paris to return to Seoul, where more twists and conflicts involving their families threaten to put their relationship on hold.
*The K-Drama, which aired on ABS-CBN on the same year, also had a stage musical adaptation in 2012. It is one of the highest rating Korean dramas ever.
5. Full House (2004)
This rom-com is about the cheerful, aspiring writer Han Ji-eun (Song Hye-kyo) and the stubborn, popular Korean actor Lee Young-jae (Rain). Ji-eun lives in a house called “Full House” built by her late father. One day, she goes on vacation upon her friends’ prodding, only to find out later that they have tricked her and sold her house. She and Young-jae meet on the plane and share some funny moments together during her vacation. When she returns to Korea, she finds out her house has been sold to him. To get her house back, she decides to work as his maid and they live together in the Full House; they later enter a contract marriage to make his crush jealous until they fall for each other.
*The actual Full House is said to be located near the Incheon International Airport and cost approximately US$1 million to build. The Philippine remake of the K-Drama starred Heart Evangelista and Richard Gutierrez.
6. My Girl (2005)
Joo Yoo-rin (Lee Da-hae) is a native of Jeju island, whose father is a gambler and has a lot of debts. When her father runs away, she does her best to support herself and pay off her father’s debts. Later, she meets Seol Gong-chan (Lee Dong-wook), who is an heir to a huge hotel business. He then asks her to pretend as his grandfather’s long-lost granddaughter in exchange for money. His grandfather grows fond of her, so much so that he recovers from his illness. The challenge comes for the lead characters when they need to live together under one roof under the pretense of being cousins. Eventually, they get attracted to each other, but they have to keep their feelings because, as “cousins,” they cannot fall in love with each other.
*My Girl had remakes in Indonesia, Taiwan, and Philippines, where Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson played the lead roles. Meanwhile, the show’s male lead, Lee Dong-wook, would find renewed fame via the 2016 K-Drama Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (Goblin) wherein he played the role of the Grim Reaper.
7. My Lovely Sam Soon (2005)
Kim Sam-soon (Kim Sun-a) is a 29-year-old baker who gets fired from her job and finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her on Christmas day. She then meets Hyun Ji-heon (Hyun Bin), the owner of the upscale French restaurant Bon Appetit, where she is hired as the new pastry chef. Their connection deepens when she agrees to pretend as his girlfriend, because his mother constantly sets him up for matchmaking dates. They each go through personal struggles until they realize they want to go through those things with each other.
*The Philippine adaptation of this K-Drama in 2008 saw Regine Velasquez starring as Kim Sam-soon.
8. Princess Hours (2006)
Crown prince Lee Shin (Ju Ji-hoon) and commoner Shin Chae-kyung (Yoon Eun-hye) are betrothed as agreed by their grandfathers. Shin’s cousin Yul develops feelings for Chae-kyung while she’s coping with life as a royal and the fact that Prince Shin loves another woman. Eventually, the prince falls in love with her.
*After binge-watching this, listen to the soundtracks produced when this was aired locally: Christian Bautista and Rachelle Ann Go’s "Pag-Ibig na Kaya" and RJ Jimenez and Yeng Constantino’s "If We Fall In Love."
9. Coffee Prince (2007)
Choi Han-kyul (Gong Yoo), heir to a large coffee business, refuses to go on blind dates set up by his grandmother and takes over an old coffee shop. He meets boyish Go Eun-chan (Yoon Eun-hye) and offers her a deal to pretend as his "gay" lover, to escape the blind dates. Without knowing she is actually a woman, he realizes he is in love with her.
*A family-controlled corporation in Korea is called a chaebol. In Koreanovelas, grandsons are often pressured to take over the business and marry equally rich women. The coffee shop where this show was filmed became a popular tourist destination.
10. Boys Over Flowers (2009)
Korea’s version of Taiwan’s Meteor Garden is also set in a high school where four wealthy students, the F4 led by Gu Jun-pyo (Lee Min-ho), play pranks on other students, including Geum Jan-di (Ku Hye-sun). He starts liking her while she initially likes another F4 member.
*This drama catapulted Lee Min-ho into superstardom.