Quarantine has got us trying new things: “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” with the homies, kicking it at a virtual club with Charli XcX, and of course, binge-watching everything. This is a time where folks at home can catch up on seasons they missed, shows they’ve been planning to watch and the like. It won’t be a surprise if getting into the Hallyu wave made your watchlist.
Korean pop culture’s massive influence can’t be easily ignored. But some folks have been successful in not catching the wave.
It’s a fine line between sheer hatred of its mainstream success or getting intimidated by its language barrier. Whatever the reason may be, the hard truth is there are people out there who are just not into K-pop or K-dramas. They can appreciate a good Samgyupsal HOHOL but if you’re looking for someone to get into #CLOY—take a hike.
There are still ways to convert them. A good tip is to not strap them on a chair, Ludovico technique style so they can watch K-dramas by force. It’s probably safer to just give them our list of starter K-dramas they can watch.
From popular titles like “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo” to underrated ones like “The Equator Man,” here are K-drama recos from our SCOUT fam and friends that can convert folks to a super stan real quick.
“The Equator Man” (2012)
A group of childhood friends gets separated when they grow older. But once fate intervenes, their seemingly different lives start to cross one by one. This coming-of-age drama deals with a lot: childhood, revenge, character development, and many more. Our summary doesn’t give it much justice. It’s probably best for you to watch the trailer yourself.
“It’s Okay, That’s Love” (2014)
Jang Jae-yeol is a multihyphenate Casanova. He’s an author of bestselling mystery novels and a radio DJ to boot. Little do people know, he is dealing with an obsessive-compulsive disorder brought by childhood trauma. Ji Hae-soo is a strong, independent psychiatrist in her first year of fellowship.
When these two cross paths, the friction of their strong personalities is palpable. Slowly, their bickering turns into romance—probably violating the code of medical ethics. That’s K-dramas for you.
“The Doctors” (2016)
Yoo Hye-jung’s studying ethic is as strong as her fighting skills. Growing up, living in an abusive household turned her into someone cold with a fortress around her heart. Her life changes when she meets her neurosurgeon mentor who inspires her to be a doctor herself. They eventually part ways, until they meet again after 13 years when she decided to follow his path.
“Sky Castle” (2018)
Get ready to be filled to the brim with knowledge on Korea’s competitive academic system. “Sky Castle” is a suspense satire about three women living in a luxury condominium where wealthy doctors and professors live. It looks at the materialistic desires of Korea’s upper-class parents on how they would go to lengths to secure their family’s success, even if it means destroying other people’s lives along the way.
“Legend of the Blue Sea” (2016)
Loosely based on a Joseon legend in Korea, this drama tells the tale of Heo Joon-jae, a con-man who is a son of a rich businessman, and Shim Cheong a mermaid who travels across the ocean to find him. It’s a story with intertwining timelines from past lives. This K-drama is a love letter to a Joseon legend with a modern twist.
“Weightlifting Kim Bok Joo” (2016)
If anyone wants something cute and lighthearted, this K-drama is for you. “Weightlifting Fairy” focuses on two aspiring athletes, the weightlifter Kim Book Joo and the swimmer Jung Joon-hyung. They were childhood friends who find each other after one incident in college brings back their nostalgic memories together. It’s about college life, turning your dreams into reality, and falling in love along the way.
Art by Mark Anthony