Swoon-worthy stars like Lee Min-ho and Ji-hyun Jun.
There are about a million reasons to love Korean dramas.
In fact, we’ll give you one more reason: Thanks to Korean drama apps, you can now watch them from anywhere!
You’re no longer tied down to watching thrilling chase scenes and tragic love stories from the couch in your living room. You can watch them from the waiting room of your doctor’s office. Or the stationary bike. Or your bed when your laptop is all the way across the room.
Best of all, you can use these Korean drama apps to learn the Korean language of your favorite shows.
How to Watch Korean Dramas for Language Learning
Yes, tons of people love to watch Korean dramas. (And with good reason!)
But not everyone who watches Korean dramas learns the Korean language.
If you want to learn Korean by watching videos, check out FluentU.
Each video comes with annotated subtitles, interactive flashcards and personalized quizzes.
But if you want to learn Korean with full-length dramas, here are a few tips:
One holds the popcorn, the other holds a pen.
I don’t have anything against popcorn… and bring the buffalo wings, while you’re at it! But watching to learn is a highly focused activity. It’s not about sitting back and letting the drama come to you. It’s grabbing the drama by the horns, listening intently, following the subtitles and targeting the words and phrases in the dialogue.
You need to write down your notes and thoughts. Write unfamiliar words or interesting vocabulary from the script. Jot down your observations, comments and insights. You may even be able to find the dramas’ scripts online and print them up to follow along.
Is this starting to sound more tiresome than fun? Here’s a good strategy: Watch an episode for fun, then re-watch it to learn. Which brings us to our next point!
One moves onto the next series, the other repeats the episodes.
Learning from K-dramas involves a lot of repetition. Others will be proceeding to the next series on their binge-watching bucket lists, but you’re only just beginning.
My advice is to split episodes up by individual scenes. Focus on just one scene at a time rather than the entire story. So maybe a scene is about the bad guy threatening to kill the protagonist’s family. Or maybe two old friends are bickering about where to eat. Focus on just that scene and milk it for every language lesson it harbors.
Study the dialogues, phrases and words. Identify the motivation for each line. Looking at all these components requires that you pause and rewind every few seconds. The lines might be too fast, or maybe you didn’t hear the words accurately the first time around. This is what “watching to learn” looks like.
Don’t know which K-drama to start with? Then check out the following video with a list of the most popular K-dramas on FluentU’s Korean YouTube channel.
K-dramas are rich in drama and comedy, and they can even offer insightful commentary on modern life and society within Korea. In that way, they can be much more than entertainment: K-dramas become fruitful lessons not only on the Korean language, but also on Korean culture. With so many K-dramas to choose from, you’re bound to find one that improves your competence in Korean—and delights you along the way.
Don’t forget to subscribe to FluentU’s YouTube channel for more language learning videos.
One is silent, the other talks.
Somebody watching for pleasure will “shh” you if you so much as breathe too loudly. They want everything to be silent so they aren’t yanked out of this make-believe world they’re temporarily living in.
But the person watching to learn? They’re busy talking along with the dialogue, mimicking the diction and comparing their delivery to the actors’.
This involves a lot of repetition, pausing and replaying, listening closely and taking notes. You’ll definitely earn some worried glances from passersby if you do this in public. But talking through a movie is a gamechanger for a Korean language student!
Speaking along with the drama is particularly important because I’m assuming that you want to actually speak Korean, not just read, write and listen to the language. And the only way to learn how to speak is to… well, speak.
Okay, now that you know how to watch Korean dramas through these apps, it’s time to choose which one is best for you!
Korean Drama Apps: 6 Tools for Binge-watching Your Favorite Shows
“Black” has everything you could want in a drama series: romance, crime and humans with supernatural powers. A detective possessed by the Grim Reaper and a woman who can see death team up to save people’s lives. And yes, this show is just as wild as it sounds!
“Memories of the Alhambra” intertwines virtual reality elements with a suspense/thriller love story. A technology company CEO and an innocent inn owner fall in love in Spain. Hyun Bin and Park Shin-hye gave excellent performances as Yoo Jin-woo and Jung Hee-joo in this fantasy-suspense film that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The complex plot of “Black” is probably best suited for advanced learners. “Memories of the Alhambra,” on the other hand, is a good option for beginner and intermediate language learners, because the dialogue is straightforward and the diction is simple. Whichever series you choose, the attractive cast members will probably keep you happy to watch over and over again!
If you’re a reader based in Asia or the Middle East, Viu could be a good option for you. Those are the only regions where Viu is currently accessible, and rates will depend on your specific location. It features Asian dramas, variety shows, animes and entertainment news. Here you’ll have access to crowd favorites such as “Heirs” and “You Who Came from the Stars” (also known as “My Love from the Star”).
“Heirs” is a classic high school tale of boy meets girl. Unfortunately, girl is poor and boy is super rich, so they’ll have to go through a thousand hoops to prove their love and devotion to each other.
The cast is an ensemble of K-icons led by Lee Min-ho and Park Shin-hye. The drama is ideal for beginning Korean students. The dialogues are rich with recent, relevant Korean expressions and slang. If you want to listen to Korean as the native speakers (particularly high schoolers) wield it, this is a good drama to study.
“You Who Came from the Stars” is a story about a self-absorbed Korean actress who falls in love with an alien. Well, the execution of the premise is actually more romantic than that, so don’t think E.T.—especially not when the alien is played by the dreamy Kim Soo-hyun.
Jun Ji-hyun, of the “My Sassy Girl” fame, plays the part of the Korean actress. Her character’s lines are ideal for viewers trying to learn Korean. Maybe not so much with Soo-hyun’s character, because the alien talks almost exclusively in monotone lines.
Hulu can’t be left out of the running when it comes to K-dramas. The company, which is a blockbuster joint venture between four major media companies, houses some excellent K-dramas you’ll definitely want to get your hands on. For example, you’ll find “Descendants of the Sun” and “The Legend of the Blue Sea.”
“Descendants of the Sun” is set against a background of military conflict. A soldier, who’s trained to kill, and a doctor, who’s trained to save lives, come into contact… and sparks fly. You’ll pick up vocabulary pertaining to the military and the medical field. Enrich your treasure chest of Korean vocab while tending to the butterflies in your stomach with this nuanced love story.
Speaking of love stories, “The Legend of the Blue Sea” is another one—but it’s between a man and a mermaid. Korean language students will probably be able to relate to the mermaid character in the series. She comes to a brand new place and has to learn so much so fast: culture, food and language, just for starters. Korean language learners can take a page from the character and apply it to their own journey of linguistic discovery.
Hulu subscription plans start at $7.99 per month.
Viki is a platform that carries Asian dramas from South Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan.
What makes it different from the others on this list? Its fan base.
There’s a whole community of fans that translates these dramas into different languages. This means the shows are available not just for the English-speaking community, but for practically anyone with bandwidth. You can also chat with other people about your favorite dramas!
Don’t worry, the series “Sungkyunkwan Scandal” isn’t as racy as it sounds! “Sungkyunkwan” is the name of a prestigious learning institution from the Joseon Dynasty. This period drama follows the life and times of Kim Yoon-hee (played by Park Min-young), a woman who pretended to be a man to help her family make ends meet.
Our well-intentioned heroine often find herself in trouble because even though she’s brilliant and talented, hers was a time that didn’t appreciate these qualities in a woman. Language learners will have the chance to listen to a more formal and courtly type of Korean as scenes and dialogues often involve academics and magistrates.
Speaking of powerful women, “Strong Girl Bong-soon” is a drama about a woman with the strength of 100 men. But unlike “Sungkyunkwan Scandal,” this romantic comedy is set in present-day South Korea. There’s a lot of gender role reversals in this drama, where the main character, Bong-soon, gets to play bodyguard to rich guy Min-hyuk. Intermediate language learners should study the bickering and the volley of lines between the two protagonists. It’s a good example of how to annoy a person in Korean!
The OnDemandKorea app gives you the latest episodes of Korean dramas just hours after they air in their home countries. Its content is available for fans in North and South America. The app is free, but for $6.99 a month, OnDemandKorea will forego the ads and give you access to premium content.
If you want to learn the language of food, “Wok of Love” is the perfect drama for you. It’s the story of redemption for a former gangster, a former star chef and a bankrupt heiress. Language learners will be fed with plenty of theme-related vocabulary, idioms and everyday expressions.
If you want excitement and action, get your fill from the “The Fiery Priest.” It’s about a hot-blooded, ex-military man. Now he’s a man of God who doesn’t take too kindly to thugs, corrupt businessmen and stone-faced liars. The sequences will get your adrenaline pumping, and if you’re a language learner who wants to learn a slang term or two, you can take it straight from the pulpit through a priest with anger management issues.
This last app actually isn’t for watching Korean dramas… it’s for talking about them.
Here you’ll find a receptive audience who’s as addicted to Asian dramas as you are. You can gush about those cosmic good looks of a K-drama actor or rant about how weak a season finale is.
Although KDRAMA Amino wasn’t originally designed with language learners in mind, you can utilize it as a learning tool. Find kindred spirits who are watching dramas to learn the language. You can engage in chats, submit queries or ask for learning resources from others using the app. You’ll realize that there are so many other folks who are trudging the same road—learning Korean by watching K-dramas!
Watching Korean dramas has never been easier.
You can watch shows with these Korean drama apps on the go, at your kitchen table or in line waiting for your food.
As long as you remember to watch as an active language learner and not just a passive bystander, you’ll be on your way to language fluency.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.