23 Korean Dramas to Jumpstart Your Korean Learning in 2023

Korean dramas are a goldmine of authentic dialogue, colorful vocabulary and useful idioms.

From forbidden love to rags-to-riches stories and heartbreaking family feuds, watching Korean dramas online is a winning recipe for successful Korean learning.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the best K-dramas to watch, as well as provide some tips on maximizing the benefits.


1. “Itaewon Class” (이태원 클라쓰)

korean drama

Watch it on: Netflix

Park Sae-ro-yi intervenes when he notices the wealthy son of his father’s employer, bullying another student. This sets off a wild chain of unforeseen events involving death, prison, a new restaurant opening and romance.

“Itaewon Class” takes place in the Seoul neighborhood of Itaewon, which is known for its multi-cultural and open atmosphere. The show is notable for featuring a more diverse grouping in its main cast than is usual for a Korean drama.

You’ll hear some language in the show related to food and the restaurant business, but as a learning tool, “Itaewon Class” might be best for picking up smaller bits of everyday language. 

2. “My ID Is Gangnam Beauty” (내 아이디는 강남미인)

korean drama

Watch it on: Netflix | Viki | DVD

“My ID Is Gangnam Beauty” is the story of Kang Mi-rae, a girl who has plastic surgery before attending college. Her intention isn’t to become beautiful, but to look average so that she doesn’t stand out. 

It turns out that things are not so simple. This drama is interesting both for its examination of societal beauty standards and for its wider meditation on different types of beauty and love.

As this drama takes place mostly in a college environment, you can see how younger people address both their peers and older adults. Pay attention to how students speak to other students based on age and seniority.

3. “Romance Is a Bonus Book” (로맨스는 별책부록)

korean drama

Watch it on: Netflix | DVD

Kang Dan-yi is reckoning with some difficult life changes. Not only has she recently undergone a messy divorce, but she’s having trouble re-entering the workforce, and nearly everything else is going wrong, too.

Eventually, she lies about her age and background in order to land a job as an intern at a publishing company where her longtime friend Cha Eun-ho, a successful writer, works as an editor. Bookish romance may ensue.

Since “Romance Is a Bonus Book” takes place in and around a publishing company, you can learn language related to books and publishing in the process of watching it. 

4. “Misaeng: Incomplete Life” (미생)

korean drama

Watch it on: Netflix | Viki | DVD

Who doesn’t love a good office drama? “Misaeng” is an award-winning Korean series that follows a group of characters working at a trading company in Jordan.

The main character, Jang Geu-rae, once had dreams that didn’t involve office life. He was obsessed with playing the board game “Go” professionally, but ended up having to get a regular job like everyone else. 

As “Misaeng” is focused heavily on the office environment, it can teach you a lot of language related to working, business and interactions between employees and superiors.

5. “Reply 1997” (응답하라 1997)

korean drama

Watch it on: Viki

“Reply 1997” switches between a timeline that follows high schooler Sung Shi-won, a huge fan of the boy band H.O.T., and her friends in 1997 and another timeline that features the same people years later at a school reunion dinner.

This is a great drama for Korean pop music lovers to delve into, as it hearkens back to the origins of what we now know as K-pop in its ’90s plot.

“Reply 1997” includes Korean-language songs specific to the era of the show. Additionally, this drama takes place in the city of Busan, with a large portion of the cast being from the area and speaking the local dialect.

6. “Memories of the Alhambra” (알함브라 궁전의 추억)

korean drama

Watch it on: Netflix | DVD

“Memories of the Alhambra” is about augmented reality video games… in Spain! In this visually striking and offbeat drama, CEO Yoo Jin-woo travels to Granada to work on developing an AR game there.

The show features many aspects of AR gaming, including some truly entertaining sword battles. As the game begins to intersect with real life, the plot becomes more and more complicated.

This drama might be less intimidating for beginners who want to get used to the sounds of Korean while taking in some great visuals and enjoying an international atmosphere. You can also get some Hangul reading practice from the game interfaces that appear on the screen.

7. “Chicago Typewriter” (시카고 타자기)

korean drama

Watch it on: Viki

“Chicago Typewriter” is about three people in modern-day Korea who in a previous lifetime worked together as resistance fighters during the Japanese occupation in the 1930s.

These people (in the present day) are Han Se-ju, a bestselling writer with a cold personality, ghostwriter Yoo Jin-oh, and Jeon Seol, who considers herself Han Se-ju’s biggest fan. Tensions rise as Jeon Seol insinuates herself into Han Se-ju’s life.

As Han Se-ju is a writer, this is another drama that includes language related to writing and books, including some that appears in self-important monologues from our successful author. 

8. “Cheese in the Trap” (치즈인더트랩)

korean drama

Watch it on: Viki

“Cheese in the Trap” is a campus drama based around the friendships and relationships of several college students. It might seem to fall into the romance category of “enemies to lovers.”

Hong Seol, a student from a poor background, finds herself navigating feelings towards a wealthy older boy, Yoo Jung. Yoo Jung sometimes appears mean and manipulative but begins to be unexpectedly nice to Hong Seol.

“Cheese in the Trap” is another drama that’s great for seeing interactions between college students. It also features many everyday phrases, including common greetings, questions and interjections.

9. “Oh My Ghost” (오 나의 귀신님)

korean drama

Watch it on: Viki

“Oh My Ghost” unfolds in the food world with a supernatural angle. Na Bong-sun, a shy, lonely restaurant employee, has a crush on the chef she works for, Kang Sun-woo.

Na Bong-sun often finds herself flustered and making mistakes at work. However, when she becomes possessed by a ghost, Shin Sun-ae, who’s determined to sleep with a man before moving on to the afterlife, her boss begins to look at her differently.

Despite its goofy possession plotline, “Oh My Ghost” includes a lot of scenes featuring routine work in a restaurant kitchen with related language and dialogue surrounding both Korean and international cuisine. 

10. “Heirs” (상속자들)

korean-drama (1)

Watch it on: Netflix | Viki

“Heirs” (also known as “Inheritors”) follows the complicated life of wealthy Korean young adults in their quest for love and self-discovery. The drama follows Kim Tan, an heir to one of the most powerful chaebol families.

Kim Tan is sent to the U.S. where he meets Cha Eun-sang, a Korean girl who is modest and descent. Their fates intertwine and as they get closer, Kim Tan’s jealous girlfriend forces Cha Eun-Sang to leave, prompting the young heir to return to Korea to look for her.

Be sure to pay attention to the level of speech between Cha Eun-sang and the “chaebol kids.” This should teach you about perceived hierarchy in Korean society and how language is deeply influenced by these social codes.

11. “Coffee Prince” (커피프린스 1호점 )


Watch it on: Viki | DVD

This popular 2007 Korean drama was one of the first dramas to really spread the Korean wave of drama. “Coffee Prince” is the unlikely love story between Go Eun-chan, a tomboy from a poor family, and Choi Han-gyul, a womanizer with a chaebol pedigree. 

Unaware that she’s a girl, Choi Han-gyul hires Go Eun-chan for his coffeeshop full of all-male servers. He eventually develops a friendship with her and starts getting confused by his nascent feelings for her.

“Coffee Prince” is a fantastic introduction to the vocabulary of food and beverage and related expressions. Watching this touching drama, you’ll also realize that modern Korean incorporates a lot of anglicisms. 

12. “Descendants of the Sun” (태양의 후예)


Watch it on: Hulu | Viki | DVD

“Descendants of the Sun” is by far the most successful drama of the year 2016 and also one of the most fascinating Korean dramas ever made.

The drama follows special forces officers Yoo Shi-jin and Seo Dae-young, whose unique skills in combat lead them to sensitive combat fields, from North Korea to Afghanistan.

This drama is a great way to pick up some handy and very common technical words used to describe the military, including Army ranks, description of missions and army tools and weapons in Korean.

13. “Boys Over Flowers” (꽃보다 남자 )


Watch it on: Viki | DVD

“Boys over Flowers” is another very popular Korean teen drama following the decadent lives of wealthy Korean heirs. It was based on the famed J-drama “Hana Yori Dango” and stars the very handsome Lee Min-ho as lead.

Go Jun-pyo, the ring leader of F4—a group of four rich and good looking young men—gradually learns to become a better person as he falls for Geum Jan-di, the daughter of a family of laundry cleaners. All should go well, except for the numerous obstacles that get in the way of the two lovers.

The dialogues of “Boys over Flowers” feature a rich variety of sentence structures, especially dry declarative phrases expressing a variety of feelings, including surprise, anger, happiness and fear.

14. “Gourmet” (식객 )

korean drama

Watch it on: Viki | DVD

“Gourmet” follows two promising chefs who grew up together as they compete for the title of Master Chef at one of Korea’s finest restaurants. Lee Seung-chan works alongside Oh Bong-Joo, who he considers a brother.

One day, Oh’s aging father decides to retire. Unable to name a successor, he decides to organize a cooking contest and let the best chef win, causing dissension in the family and uncovering a deep family secret.

“Gourmet” is quite possibly the best drama to discover the rites of Korea’s ancestral royal cuisine. You’ll learn a plethora of ancestral dishes and culinary techniques, and even the philosophy behind Korean food.

15. “My Love from the Star” (별에서 온 그대 )


Watch it on: Viki | DVD

This quirky romantic drama follows Do Min-joon, an alien who landed on Earth 400 years ago during the Joseon Dynasty period. He’s highly critical and cynical about humans.

Do Min-joon possesses numerous assets, including enhanced physical abilities such as a superhuman vision, an ability to hear from far distances, and amazing speed. His world turns upside down as he falls in love with actress Cheon Song-yi.

“My Love from Another Star” offers a glimpse into a wide range of expressions and levels of speech. Note how Do Min-joon’s own language evolves from formal to more casual as he warms up to Cheon Song-yi. 

16. “On the Way to the Airport” (공항가는 길)


Watch it on: KBSDVD

This romance drama follows the adventures of Choi Soo-ah, a flight attendant, and Seo Doo-woo, a handsome architecture professor.

All would be well except that this is no normal relationship: Both of them are married to different people and have children of their own. Life is becoming more and more difficult for the pair as they grow conflicted about their intense feelings for one another.

This is a fantastic drama for acquiring the unique terminology from the main characters’ respective professions. You’ll also be able to learn plenty of words and expressions to describe a range of feelings and emotions.

17. “Crash Landing on You” (사랑의 불시착)

learn korean tv shows

Watch it on: Netflix

This heartwarming romantic Korean drama is the third highest-rated of all time. It follows Yoon Se-ri, the president of a prominent South Korean fashion company, and a North Korean soldier, Ri Jung-hyuk.

After a paragliding accident, Yoon Se-ri ends up across the border in North Korea, where she encounters Ri Jung-hyuk, a captain in the North Korean army. Despite their vast differences, Captain Ri ends up taking care of Yoon Se-ri as he plans to help her get back home. 

You’ll learn vocabulary from the character’s respective backgrounds. Plus, you’ll also get the unique opportunity to hear North Korean speech, with authenticity ensured by the show’s North Korean consultants.

18. “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” (사이코지만 괜찮아)

learn korean tv shows

Watch it on: Netflix

“It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” was one of the top romantic dramas of 2020. Moon Kang-tae, an overly compassionate psych ward nurse who cares for his autistic brother, and Go Mu-young, a children’s book author who suffers from antisocial personality disorder, are both broken people in their own rights.

During her book reading at the hospital, the two meet and are drawn to one another based on overlaps in their past. As they get to know each other, they slowly begin to open up, creating opportunities for them to heal from their respective traumatic pasts.

This romantic drama offers a unique look at mental health in South Korea, a traditionally taboo subject. Keep your ears out for the whimsical language during the narration sequences, as well as the medical terminology.

19. “The Royal Gambler” (대박)


Watch it on: Viki

This is an absolutely superb historical drama, replete with an exciting storyline, stunning cinematography and fantastic actors. It’s about Baek Dae-gil, a “blue blood” and talented swindler. 

He grew up resenting King Yeong-jo, who was known for his efforts to reconcile fighting factions within the region. After being forced to grow up among commoners, Baek Dae-gil eventually is able to join the royal circle to face the cool-headed king in a high-stakes gambling game.

This is a fantastic program for learning the vocabulary of gambling along with plenty of action verbs. It’s filled with complex, sophisticated expressions and poetic 속담 (proverbs). 

20. “Kingdom” (킹덤)

learn korean tv shows

Watch it on: Netflix

“Kingdom” brings a historical drama twist to the zombie horror genre. In the Joeson period, rumors of the king’s death have sent the countryside into turmoil, with radicals announcing the crown prince, Lee Chang, as the new king.

However, the palace officials insist the king is merely ill, despite their refusal to allow anyone to see him. This spurs Lee Chang to uncover the truth. Taking his loyal guard, Moo-young, he sets out on a journey to find his father’s physician, only to find something far more sinister afoot.

Of course, given the setting in the Joseon era, historical language abounds in the court scenes and countryside alike. Following Lee Chang and the court officials also provides ample amounts of honorific speech.

21. “The Uncanny Counter” (경이로운 소문)

learn korean tv shows

Watch it on: Netflix

Adapted from a popular webtoon, this engaging superhero action drama is a must for fans of action. A boy named So-mun, who was crippled in the accident that took his parents, is recruited to be a part of Counter.

This is a group of demon hunters who go after evil spirits that have escaped the afterlife to kill and devour the souls of their victims. Since So-mun is a high schooler, a good amount of the story takes place in So-Mun’s school.

This provides great opportunities to hear young people’s speech and casual terms. And sharp words go hand in hand with dramatic fight scenes, so you’ll get to hear people swinging some good Korean insults as well as fists!

22. “Flower of Evil” (악의 꽃)

learn korean tv shows

Watch it on: Netflix | Viki

This dark, gripping thriller follows a couple as they keep secrets and maintain the illusion of the perfect family. Cha Ji-won, a homicide detective, and Baek Hee-sung, a metal artisan, appear to have the perfect marriage. 

However, when Cha Ji-won encounters an 18-year-old serial murder case, the connections to her husband become too great to ignore. Meanwhile, Baek Hee-sung will do whatever it takes to conceal his secret. 

Listening to the detectives’ use of police terminology as they chase down leads makes for a great addition to your vocabulary. In addition, Cha Ji-won’s interactions with her in-laws and social superiors make good practice for hierarchical speech.

23. “Hospital Playlist” (슬기로운 의사 생활)

learn korean tv shows

Watch it on: Netflix

This heartwarming medical drama focuses on the bonds between five long-time friends who work together in one hospital. Kim Joon-wan, Chae Song-hwa, Ahn Jung-won, Yang Seok-hyung and Lee Ik-jun have known each other since their first day of college.

Now in their early 40s, they all work together in the same hospital and play music on their free nights. This show stars the everyday struggles of the doctors, giving a realistic look into the real goings-on of a Korean hospital.

The bonds all five unique doctors share is put on display in a stunning feature of the power of friendship. With the characters in different wards of the hospital, you get the chance to hear a wide variety of medical terminology.

Tested and Proven Tips to Learn Korean with Dramas

Choose a drama you like.

If you genuinely enjoy what you’re watching, you’re much more likely to keep at it! Here are the best places online to find Korean dramas.

There are tons of options, so choose series that are based on your personal preferences, favorite hobbies, or topics you want to learn more about. (Or just find the ones with your favorite Korean actors.)

Want some more guidance? Here’s a breakdown of 15 popular and iconic dramas to further improve your knowledge of Korean pop culture:

Watch actively.

Choose a segment, then close your eyes to make an effort to follow what’s being said. Write down difficult words and new expressions, but only look them up in a dictionary if you can’t figure them out from context. You can also replay difficult scenes and focus on the parts you didn’t fully understand.

Don’t use English subtitles.

Don’t fall prey to the temptation! Your brain will focus on reading the English writing instead of listening to the Korean sounds. This “crutch” is actually a hindrance that you should avoid.

Watch with Korean subtitles.

Unlike English subtitles, these will help you build reading familiarity with Hangul and verify that you fully understand what’s been said. Ideally, you should watch a scene without Korean subtitles, then again with them.

A good resource for vetted subtitles is FluentU. The program has hundreds of videos with dual-language Korean and English subtitles, including clips from dramas and movies, commercials, trailers and other authentic content made for Korean speakers.

You can also read the full transcript of each clip, click on any word to hear it pronounced, and browse the “key vocabulary” section for even more support.

Read along.

Another great exercise is to read the subtitles out loud and act the part. It’s a challenging activity that will greatly improve your reading speed.

Practice makes perfect! Replay a scene over and over by reading the subtitles out loud until you can get through them without stumbling.

Focus on the plot.

Even at the beginner level, it’s easy to follow a drama without subtitles. You might not catch every little nuance, but you’ll know the gist of the story. Plus, there’s always the option to rewind if you feel like you’ve missed too many critical elements.

Before you get started, try reading the plot of your favorite drama on Drama Wiki. This will indicate what the drama is really about, which is particularly helpful for understanding the story in Korean.


So, there you have it! Grab your popcorn and get started!

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