2021 Korean Dramas With High Viewership Ratings On Cable TV

Some of the top viewed Korean series are often produced by cable networks such as TVN’s “Crash Landing On You” (2019) and JTBC’s “The World Of The Married” (2020).

Despite the smaller audience of pay cable channels, most of their projects manage to dominate local rankings as well as gain immense popularity overseas, regardless of streaming platform.

From psychological thriller to sageuk and seaside narratives, here are 20 Korean dramas from cable channels which attained high nationwide viewership ratings this year:


17.3% | Mr. Queen

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 20/20
Date: December 12, 2020 – February 14, 2021
Synopsis: A modern chef suddenly becomes trapped inside the body of a queen from the Joseon era, which causes chaos for everyone involved.
Based on: Go Princess Go by Xian Chen; Go Princess Go by Qin Shuang and Shang Menglu
Genre: Historical, Romantic comedy, Fantasy, Body swap
No of episodes: 20
Starring: Shin Hye-sun, Kim Jung-hyun, Bae Jong-ok, Kim Tae-woo, Seol In-ah, and Na In-woo
Written by: Park Gye-ok and Choi Ah-il
Directed by: Yoon Sung-sik
Available On: Viu


16.5% | Love, Marriage, And Divorce (Season 2)

Cable Channel: TV Chosun
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 16/16
Date: June 12 to August 8, 2021
Synopsis: The series tells the story of three married couples, each in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
Genre: Melodrama
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Sung Hoon, Lee Tae-gon, Park Joo-mi, Lee Ga-ryeong, Lee Min-young, Jeon Soo-kyeong and Jeon No-min
Written by: Phoebe
Directed by: Yoo Jung-joon and Lee Seung-hoon
Available On: Netflix


14.6% | Vincenzo

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 20/20
Date: February 20 – May 2, 2021
Synopsis: During a visit to his motherland, a Korean-Italian mafia lawyer gives a conglomerate a taste of its own medicine with a side of justice.
Genre: Dark comedy, Crime, Drama
No of episodes: 20
Starring: Song Joong-ki, Jeon Yeo-been, Ok Taec-yeon, Kim Yeo-jin and Kwak Dong-yeon
Written by: Park Jae-bum
Directed by: Kim Hee-won
Available On: Netflix


14.0% | Hospital Playlist (Season 2)

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 12/12
Date: June 17 – September 16, 2021
Synopsis: Friends since undergrad school, five doctors remain close and share a love for music while working at the same hospital.
Genre: Romance, Medical drama, Comedy, Slice of life
No of episodes: 12
Starring: Jo Jung-suk, Yoo Yeon-seok, Jung Kyung-ho, Kim Dae-myung and Jeon Mi-do
Written by: Lee Woo-jung
Directed by: Shin Won-ho
Available On: Netflix


12.6% | Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 16/16
Date: August 28 – October 17, 2021
Synopsis: At a crossroads, a dentist moves to a seaside village where she meets a handyman intent on helping his neighbours.
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Slice of life
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Shin Min-a, Kim Seon-ho and Lee Sang-yi
Written by: Shin Ha-eun
Directed by: Yu Je-won
Available On: Netflix


10.9% | The Uncanny Counter

Cable Channel: OCN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 16/16
Date: November 28, 2020 – January 24, 2021
Synopsis: Demon hunters pose as workers in a noodle shop in an effort to catch evil spirits hoping to find eternal life.
Based on: Amazing Rumor by Jang Yi
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Jo Byung-gyu; Yoo Jun-sang; Kim Se-jeong; Yeom Hye-ran
Written by: Yeo Ji-na, Yoo Seon-dong, Kim Sae-bom
Directed by: Yoo Seon-dong, Park Bong-seop
Available On: Netflix


10.6% | Jirisan

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 2/16
Date: October 23 – December 12, 2021
Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of towering views of Mount Jiri, it depicts the story of rangers and other employees of the Jirisan National Park who climb through the mysterious and unexplored regions of the mountain, trying to rescue the survivors and lost trekkers. The drama is centered around a mystery surrounding the mountain’s many visitors; those who come to kill, and those who come to end their lives.
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Fantasy
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Jun Ji-hyun and Ju Ji-hoon
Written by: Kim Eun-hee
Directed by: Lee Eung-bok
Available On: iQIY


10.5% | Mine

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 16/16
Date: May 8 – June 27, 2021
Synopsis: Living in a golden cage of secrets and lies, two women seek to topple all that stands in their way of finding true joy.
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Black comedy
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Lee Bo-young, Kim Seo-hyung, Cha Hak-yeon, Park Hyuk-kwon
Written by: Baek Mi-kyung
Directed by: Lee Na-jung
Available On: Netflix


9.7% | Bossam: Steal The Fate

Cable Channel: MBN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 20/20
Date: May 1 – July 4, 2021
Synopsis: Set in the Joseon Dynasty under Gwanghaegun, it depicts the change of fate of a bossam-man Ba-woo, when he mistakenly kidnaps the widowed daughter of the King.
Genre: Historical drama, Romance
No of episodes: 20
Starring: Jung Il-woo, Kwon Yu-ri, Shin Hyun-soo, Kim Tae-woo
Written by: Kim Ji-su, Park Chul
Directed by: Kwon Seok-jang
Available On: WAVVE


9.6% | Love, Marriage, And Divorce (Season 1)

Cable Channel: TV Chosun
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 8/16
Date: January 23 to March 14, 2021
Synopsis: The series tells the story of three married couples, each in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
Genre: Melodrama
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Sung Hoon, Lee Tae-gon, Park Joo-mi, Lee Ga-ryeong, Lee Min-young, Jeon Soo-kyeong and Jeon No-min
Written by: Phoebe
Directed by: Yoo Jung-joon and Lee Seung-hoon
Available On: Netflix


7.9% | The Devil Judge

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 16/16
Date: July 3 to August 22, 2021
Synopsis: In a dystopian version of South Korea, the government plans out a trial judge live show where all citizens are eligible to participate and judge. A heartless head trial judge, Kang Yo-han, is appointed to a chief judge.
Genre: Mystery, Legal drama
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Ji Sung, Kim Min-jung, Park Jin-young, Park Gyu-young
Written by: Moon Yoo-seok
Directed by: Choi Jung-gyu
Available On: Netflix, iQIY


6.8% | Law School

Cable Channel: JTBC
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 13/16
Date: April 14 – June 9, 2021
Synopsis: When a grim incident occurs at their prestigious school, justice through law is put to a test by a tough law professor and his ambitious students.
Genre: Legal drama
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Kim Myung-min, Kim Bum, Ryu Hye-young, Lee Jung-eun.
Written by: Seo In
Directed by: Kim Seok-yoon
Available On: Netflix


6.6% | Mouse

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 6/20
Date: March 3 – May 20, 2021
Synopsis: Bareum is a novice police officer of Gudong Police office, taking care of all the town’s misbehaviors. One day, however, he teams up with a notorious detective Muchi to arrest a psychopathic criminal.
Genre: Thriller, Science fiction, Suspense, Mystery, Crime fiction
No of episodes: 20
Starring: Lee Seung-gi, Lee Hee-joon, Park Ju-hyun and Kyung Soo-jin
Written by: Choi Ran
Directed by: Choi Joon-bae and Kang Cheol-woo
Available On: Viu


6.6% | Sisyphus: The Myth

Cable Channel: JTBC
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 2/16
Date: February 19 – April 10, 2021
Synopsis: An unfathomable incident introduces a genius engineer to dangerous secrets of the world — and to a woman from the future who’s come looking for him.
Genre: Science fiction, thriller, drama, action
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Cho Seung-woo, Park Shin-hye, Sung Dong-il, Tae In-ho, Chae Jong-hyeop, Tae Won-seok, Jeon Kuk-hwan
Written by: Lee Je-in and Jeon Chan-ho
Directed by: Jin Hyuk
Available On: Netflix


6.3% | Bulgasal: Immortal Souls

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 1/16
Date: December 18, 2021 – February 2022
Synopsis: The story of a woman who repeats death and reincarnation as a person for 600 years and remembers her past lives, and a man who cannot die because he has been an immortal for 600 years.
Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Thriller, Supernatural
No of episodes: 16
Starring:  Lee Jin-wook, Kwon Nara, Lee Joon, Gong Seung-yeon, Jung Jin-young, Park Myung-shin, Kim Woo-seok
Written by:  Kwon So-ra, Seo Jae-won
Directed by: Jang Young-woo
Available On: Netflix


6.2% | Awaken

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 16/16
Date: November 30, 2020 – January 19, 2021
Synopsis: Police officers investigate the mysterious events that occurred in a village years earlier.
Genre: Action, Thriller, Mystery
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Namkoong Min, Kim Seol-hyun, Lee Chung-ah
Written by:  Shin Yoo-dam
Directed by: Kim Jung-hyun
Available On: Netflix


6.2% | LUCA: The Beginning

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 10/12
Date: February 1 to March 9, 2021
Synopsis: “LUCA” (Last Universal Common Ancestor) is based on Charles Darwin’s proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors.
Genre: Crime, Science fiction, Mystery
No of episodes: 12
Starring: Kim Rae-won and Lee Da-hee
Written by:  Cheon Seon-il
Directed by: Kim Hong-seon
Available On: Viu


5.9% | Beyond Evil

Cable Channel: JTBC
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 16/16
Date: February 19 – April 10, 2021
Synopsis: As a killing resembling a cold case resurfaces in a small town, the chase for the truth falls on two policemen who each harbour secrets of their own.
Genre: Psychological thriller, Procedural drama
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Shin Ha-kyun and Yeo Jin-goo
Written by: Kim Su-jin
Directed by: Shim Na-yeon
Available On: Netflix


5.7% | High Class

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 16/16
Date: September 6 – November 1, 2021
Synopsis: The four secretive women appear at a high-class international school, located on a breathtaking island, to fight to keep their own interest.
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Drama
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Cho Yeo-jeong, Kim Ji-soo, Kim Young-jae
Written by: Storyholic
Directed by: Choi Byeong-gil
Available On: iQIY


5.2% | Secret Royal Inspector & Joy

Cable Channel: TVN
Highest nationwide viewership rating attained on Episode 3/16
Date: November 8 – December 28, 2021
Synopsis: Set in Joseon dynasty, it tells the story of a young gourmet who unintentionally becomes a royal inspector and a divorced woman who rushes to find happiness, as they team up to investigate and expose corrupt politicians.
Genre: Historical drama, Comedy
No of episodes: 16
Starring: Ok Taec-yeon and Kim Hye-yoon
Written by: Lee Jae-yoon
Directed by: Yoo Jong-seon
Available On: Viu, iQIY