Over the years, Korean content has emerged powerfully across the globe, giving rise to the popularity of Korean culture in music, arts, lifestyle, and travel, referred to as Hallyu Wave or Korean Wave.
Hallyu dramas before the rise of streaming platforms:
KBS2’s Winter Sonata (2002), which is considered the symbol of the beginning of Hallyu dramas across Asia, was immensely popular in Japan. It also made a large contribution on the profit of South Korea’s tourism, making Nami Island a hot destination for international travelers. With the story of MBC’s Jewel In The Palace (2003-2004) revolving around Korean royal court cuisine and traditional medicine, overseas viewers were drawn to Korean cooking. KBS2’s Full House (2004), which is considered as the pioneer of romantic-comedy genre, attained Hallyu impact that it was remade in nine countries.
More Korean dramas continued to expand overseas with actors becoming household names overnight as digital technologies and social media evolved. In particular, KBS2’s Boys Over Flowers (2009) led to the Hallyu popularity of Lee Minho and the rest of the cast members, achieving sold-out events held across Asia, and causing influx of international travelers to the drama’s filming locations becoming popular destinations.
In the 2010s period, SBS’ My Love From The Star (2013-2014), starring top actors Jun Ji-hyun and Kim Soo-hyun, reignited the interest on Korean dramas overseas with cultural impact on food, fashion, and travel, such as Korean fried chicken, beer, ramyeon, and tourist attractions. Besides the several local awards, the drama and lead actors were also recognized internationally and won various Hallyu awards.
tvN’s Reply 1988 (2015-2016) attracted a huge fan base internationally for its nostalgic experience and warm narrative about friendship, family, and first loves set in 1988. Several years after its release, the drama still reigns supreme as an all-time favorite slice of life Korean content, topping surveys and rankings across social media and articles. On Netflix, it reached Top 10 in TV category in five countries in 2021, with its longest running record of 24 weeks in Vietnam.
KBS2’s Descendants Of The Sun (2016) received explosive popularity across Asia and led to Song Joong-ki’s surge as a top Hallyu star alongside Song Hye-kyo. It was the no.1 most watched show on Viu Singapore in 2016, topped the most watched shows on Viki USA, recorded 1.2 million downloads on Viu Hongkong, and strengthened the economic effect in South Korea, influencing the rise in tourism and overseas sales in Korean products. The drama and lead actors also received several international awards.
KBS2’s Love In The Moonlight (2016), starring Park Bo-gum and Kim Yoo-jung, is another successful historical drama that reached international borders with its popularity named by the media as the “Moonlight Syndrome”. The drama was praised for its great performances, production, music, and Joseon-era costumes, leading to the exhibit display of Park Bo-gum’s hanbok at Tokyo International Forum in Japan. Language translations in various countries, parodies, musical production, as well as best-selling merchandise such as digital stickers, eternal bracelets, and photo essay book were some of the drama’s cultural effect.
Known as the most expensive drama sold in 2016, SBS’ Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016) reportedly surpassed the international sales of Descendants Of The Sun (2016). It also crossed two billion views on Youku in China, topped the rankings with high ratings in Singapore and Malaysia, and landed at no.1 spot on Korean content in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Other Korean dramas that attracted popularity overseas before the COVID-19 era included Guardian: The Lonely And Great God (2016-2017), The Legend Of The Blue Sea (2016-2017), What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim (2018), Something In The Rain (2018), Mr. Sunshine (2018), Sky Castle (2018-2019), Vagabond (2019), Hotel Del Luna (2019), When The Camellia Blooms (2019), just to name a few.
Hallyu dramas during the rise of streaming platforms, 2020-2022:
Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic, which placed the world on lockdowns and quarantines, enabled people to turn to Netflix, Viu, iQIYI, causing increased subscribers and more Korean content have also appeared on streaming platforms such as Disney+, AppleTV+, and others. During this time, more Korean content have been made easily accessible for viewing overseas, more Korean actors are getting known and popular, and more Korean stores, restaurants, food, and drinks have appeared across Asia due to the high demand influenced by Korean dramas—a powerful testament on the huge impact of Korean culture across Asia and the world.
Several good Korean dramas in the 2020s have been recognized and listed as one of “The Best Korean Dramas” by international media and critics, including The World Of The Married (2020), Flower Of Evil (2020), Stranger 2 (2020), Record Of Youth (2020), The King Eternal Monarch (2020), True Beauty (2020), The Penthouse: War In Life (2020-2021), Mr. Queen (2020-2021), Beyond Evil (2021), Navillera (2021), Dr. Brain (2021), Hellbound (2021), The Devil Judge (2021), Yumi’s Cells (2021-2022), just to name a few.
However, there are some Hallyu dramas that appeared stand-outs in popularity and success overseas through international awards, positive reviews, trends, viewership rankings and ratings. So far, here are 25 of the most outstanding Hallyu dramas, dated 2020 to 2022:
Crash Landing On You (2019-2020), tvN
tvN’s Crash Landing On You (2019-2020) was a megahit worldwide for its top-notch screenplay, plot, cinematography, musical score, casting, and perfect chemistry between Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin. It stayed on Netflix’s Top 10 in TV category for 58 weeks in Japan, 32 weeks in Vietnam, and 28 weeks in Thailand. Meanwhile, China’s streaming website crashed during the drama’s final episode due to the large volume of users while the finale hashtag reached 460 million views on Weibo. It was listed as one of “The Best International Shows On Netflix and TV series Of 2020” by Time, Forbes, Vogue, BuzzFeed, Elle, Variety, South China Morning Post, NME, and Screen Rant. Looking at the international awards, it was honored as the “Best Drama Series” at the 2020 Asian Academy Creative Awards in Singapore, given the “Overseas Drama Special Award” at the 2020 Tokyo Drama Award in Japan, recognized as the “Most In-Demand Korean Drama Series” at the 2020 Annual Global TV Demand Awards in America, and won the “Grand Prize Daesang” award for its Hallyu influence at the Korea Communications Commission Broadcasting Awards in 2021.
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Starring: Hyun Bin, Son Ye-jin, Kim Jung-hyun, Seo Ji-hye
Written by: Park Ji-eun
Directed by: Lee Jung-hyo
Kingdom (2019-2021), Netflix
Netflix’s first original Korean series, Kingdom (2019-2021) attracted many international viewers and critics for its creative storytelling with a blend of sageuk, intriguing politics, horror, and gripping action with its thrill-ride plot, great production, impressive cinematography, charm of the Crown Prince, and excellent casting that it was renewed for season two in 2020 and a special episode in 2021. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a rating of 93% from critics for Season 1 and 100% for Season 2. The New York Times listed it as one of “The Best International Shows Of 2020” and one of “The Best Korean Dramas Of 2020” by Forbes and South China Morning Post. The two seasons entered Netflix’s Global Top 10 in TV category in 2021 while the special episode reached Top 10 in film category in 76 countries in the same year. Moreover, it was revealed as the no.1 most mentioned Korean drama on Twitter worldwide, with data analysis from July 2018 to June 2021.
Genre: Historical, Political, Horror, Thriller
Starring: Ju Ji-hoon, Ryu Seung-ryong, Bae Doona, Kim Sang-ho, Kim Sung-kyu, Kim Hye-jun
Written by: Kim Eun-hee
Directed by: Kim Seong-hun, Park In-je (Season 2)
Itaewon Class (2020), JTBC
Named as the “Best Drama Series” by Singapore’s Asian Television Awards in 2020, JTBC’s Itaewon Class (2020) sparked interest among international audience for its inspiring message on the spirit of community and strength in togetherness in the face of marketplace battles. It was included in the list of “Best Korean Dramas of 2020 and on Netflix” by Forbes, South China Morning Post, Teen Vogue, and Time. The series stayed the longest on Netflix’s Top 10 in TV category for 55 weeks in Japan where it was also remade in July 2022. Moreover, it was reported for adaptation in Chinese, German, French, British, Turkish, and Indian and revealed as the no.2 most mentioned Korean drama on Twitter worldwide, with data analysis from July 2018 to June 2021.
Genre: Business, Slice of life
Starring: Park Seo-joon, Kim Da-mi, Yoo Jae-myung, Kwon Nara
Written by: Gwang Jin
Directed by: Kim Sung-yoon
It’s Okay To Not Be Okay (2020), tvN
tvN’s It’s Okay To Not Be Okay (2020) attracted a huge fan base overseas for its message on mental health awareness, creative storytelling, high-quality production, excellent musical scores, interesting characters, powerful lines, and impressive performances. Besides the high viewership on Netflix worldwide, actress Seo Yea-ji’s fashion outfit was also a hit and the drama’s storybooks were published by Wisdom House in 2020, listed in the Top 20 bestselling books, and translated into Brazilian Portuguese in 2021. It was named as one of “The Best Korean Dramas and International Shows Of 2020” by The New York Times, Forbes, Teen Vogue, NME, and La Tercera. It also earned a nomination for “Best TV Series” at the 2021 International Emmy Awards.
Genre: Psychological, Thriller, Romance
Starring: Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Yea-ji, Oh Jung-se, Park Gyu-young
Written by: Jo Yong
Directed by: Park Shin-woo
Start-Up (2020), tvN
tvN’s Start-Up (2020) gained a huge attraction among international audience as it talked about young entrepreneurs achieving career goals with interesting characters. It became one of the most popular Korean dramas in 2020 and among the most watched Korean titles on Netflix worldwide. It was listed as one of “The Best Korean Dramas Of 2020” by Forbes, South China Morning Post, and Teen Vogue. Actor Kim Seonho who displayed impressive talent and visuals as the perfectionist mentor and “good boy” rose to Hallyu stardom, and mentioned by Forbes as “the most appealing second lead”. The drama is also set for Philippine adaptation that will premiere in September 2022.
Genre: Slice of life, Romance
Starring: Bae Suzy, Nam Joo-hyuk, Kim Seonho, Kang Han-na
Written by: Park Hye-ryun
Directed by: Oh Choong-hwan
Sweet Home (2020), Netflix
Sweet Home (2020) attained a huge success on Netflix by making it to the Global Top 10, reaching over 70 countries worldwide. It was also reported to be the first Korean drama that entered Netflix’s Top 10 in USA. Singapore’s Asian Academy Creative Awards honored the drama’s director, Lee Eung-book, with the “Best Direction” and actor Lee Do-Hyun the “Best Supporting Actor” award. Meanwhile, a second season was announced to be produced.
Genre: Horror, Apocalyptic
Starring: Song Kang, Lee Jin-wook, Lee Si-young, Lee Do-hyun, Kim Nam-hee, Go Min-si, Park Gyu-young, Go Yoon-jung
Writers: Hong So-ri, Kim Hyung-min, Park So-jung
Directors: Lee Eung-bok, Jang Young-woo, Park So-hyun
Hospital Playlist (2020-2021), tvN
tvN’s Hospital Playlist (2020-2021) was an international hit for its good blend of drama, humor, medical knowledge, healthy friendship, and musical entertainment, as well as portrayal of the human aspect of healthcare workers—a realistic medical drama that incorporates “life” into the busy career of doctors. After releasing two seasons, overseas fans continue to plead for a third season especially when the main cast shared a series of reunion photos. The drama was listed in the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2020 and on Netflix” by South China Morning Post, NME, Teen Vogue, and Elle. On Netflix worldwide, it reached Top 10 in TV category in 7 countries for Season 1 and 11 countries for Season 2, with the longest-running record for 19 weeks in Taiwan and 18 weeks in Vietnam and South Korea.
Genre: Medical, Slice of life
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
Vincenzo (2021), tvN
tvN’s Vincenzo (2021) starring top Hallyu star Song Joong-ki was a huge hit worldwide, becoming one of the most popular Korean series on Netflix of all time, reaching Top 10 in TV category in 17 countries, dated July 2021 to August 2022. It was named by Forbes, South China Morning Post, and NME as one of “The Best Korean Dramas Of 2021” and revealed as the no.4 most mentioned Korean drama on Twitter worldwide in 2021. Tokyo Drama Awards honored the series with “Special Award For Foreign Drama” in 2021 while it won the “Best Drama Series” at the 26th Asian Television Awards in Singapore.
Genre: Crime, Dark comedy
Starring: Song Joong-ki, Jeon Yeo-been, Ok Taec-yeon, Kim Yeo-jin, Kwak Dong-yeon, Jo Han-chul
Written by: Park Jae-bum
Directed by: Kim Hee-won
Move To Heaven (2021), Netflix
Netflix’s Move To Heaven (2021), which is a lifelike story from the viewpoint of an experienced trauma cleaner, was named the “Best Drama Series” at the 2021 Asian Academy Creative Awards in Singapore and where actor Lee Je-hoon was also honored with the “Best Actor in a Leading Role” award. The Review Geek praised the drama’s beautiful message, unique characters, soundtrack, excellent performances, and clever writing. It was also listed as one of the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2021” by United Kingdom’s NME media and described it as “a moving portrait of life, death, and humanity” with a perfect 5 star rating.
Genre: Slice of life, Family
Starring: Lee Je-hoon, Tang Joon-sang, Ji Jin-hee, Lee Jae-wook, and Hong Seung-hee
Written by: Yoon Ji-ryeon
Directed by: Kim Sung-ho
Deserter Pursuit (2021), Netflix
Netflix’s Deserter Pursuit (2021) is more than a military drama that takes you on a journey to the underexplored and delicate facet of military life, raising public awareness on the mental health of soldiers. Remarkably, it was the only Korean show that made it to the year-end list of New York Time’s “Best International Shows Of 2021”. Forbes and the South China Morning Post also mentioned it as one of “The Best Korean Dramas Of 2021”. For The Review Geek, the drama is a stunning one, praising its theme and cinematography. On Netflix worldwide, it reached Top 10 in TV category in 10 countries and stayed on the global charts for two weeks. Meanwhile, the drama has been confirmed to return for Season 2.
Starring: Jung Hae-in, Koo Kyo-hwan, Kim Sung-kyun, Son Su-kku
Written by: Kim Bo-tong and Han Jun-hee
Directed by: Han Jun-hee
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021), tvN
Granted the “Hallyu Excellence Award” by the government’s Korea Communications Commission Broadcasting Awards, tvN’s Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021) won the hearts of many viewers overseas for its warm narrative set in the seaside village with a simple yet genuine, healing-driven community. The drama created a cultural impact on the increase of tourism in the picturesque city of Pohang, where the show was mostly filmed, becoming a popular destination for seafood, seaside scenery, comfort, and rejuvenation. It was named one of “The Best Korean Dramas and International TV Shows Of 2021” by US Variety and United Kingdom’s NME media, and recognized by the New York Times best-selling and award-winning American author, Christie Golden, mentioning the drama as “utterly charming and without flaws” as well as praising Kim Seonho’s performance as “perfect in portraying many emotions”. On Netflix worldwide, it reached Top 10 in TV category in 40 countries, watched for a total of 300.5 million hours, and stayed for 16 consecutive weeks on the global charts, becoming the no.2 most popular Korean title on Netflix in 2021, next to Squid Game. Meanwhile, it was the most popular in Thailand, which appeared on Top 10 TV in the country for 31 weeks, followed by Indonesia for 20 weeks.
Genre: Slice of life, Romance
Starring: Shin Mina, Kim Seon-ho and Lee Sang-yi
Written by: Shin Ha-eun
Directed by: Yu Je-won
Squid Game (2021), Netflix
Netflix’s Squid Game (2021) took the world by storm for its attention-grabbing brutal adaptation of Korean traditional games, creative and high-quality production value, as well as the engaging storyline that takes you on a journey to the often neglected facet of society, gambling and poverty—a realistic narrative that conveys the extreme competition of life. It remains the no.1 Korean show on Netflix that has acquired a whopping 2.2 billion viewing hours for 20 weeks. It dominated Netflix’s global charts for 19 consecutive weeks from September 2021 to January 2022, re-entered the Top 10 list on the 3rd week of June 2022, reached Top 10 in 94 countries and mostly watched in India for 28 weeks. The deadly game show also landed at no.1 spot for 9 consecutive weeks and remains the no.1 most popular TV series based on hours viewed in the first 28 days on Netflix, surpassing Spain’s Money Heist and America’s Stranger Things.
Remarkably, it received several international nominations and awards. It won the “Breakthrough Series In A Long Form” at the 2021 Gotham Awards in New York City; “Bingeworthy Show Of The Year” at the 2021 People’s Choice Awards in USA; “Excellence in Production Design” at the 2021 Art Directors Guild Awards in Los Angeles California; “Best Foreign Language Series” at the 2021 Critics’ Choice Television Awards in Los Angeles, California; “Special Award” at the 2021 AFI Awards in USA; “Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series” at the 2021 Screen Actors Guild Awards; “Best Action Series” at the 2022 Critics’ Choice Super Awards; and “Best International Series” at the 2022 Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards.
The show also marked the global popularity of rookie actress Jung Ho-yeon who gained millions of followers on Instagram and attained the “Best Actress” award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Critics’ Choice Super Awards. Actor Lee Jung-jae also won the “Best Actor” at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Critics’ Choice Television Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Critics’ Choice Super Awards, and Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards. Meanwhile, actor O Yeong-su won the “Best TV Supporting Actor” at the Golden Globe Awards and actress Lee Yoo-Mi the “Best Drama Guest Actress” at the Gold Derby Awards.
Genre: Survival, Thriller
Starring: Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, and Kim Joo-ryoung
Written and directed by: Hwang Dong-hyuk
The King’s Affection (2021-2022), KBS2
KBS2’s The King’s Affection (2021) was named one of the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2021” by United Kingdom’s NME media, describing it as a “sweeping, gorgeous, pastel-hued tale of romance”. It became the third longest running Korean drama on Netflix’s global charts in 2021, reached Top 10 in TV category in 34 countries with a record of 138.5 million viewing hours. It was mostly watched in Japan for 17 weeks, followed by Thailand for 15 weeks. The historical-romantic series also landed at no.2 spot during its fourth week on the global charts.
Genre: Historical, Romance
Starring: Park Eun-bin, Rowoon, Nam Yoon-su, Choi Byung-chan, Bae Yoon-kyung, and Jung Chae-yeon
Written by: Han Hee-jung
Directed by: Song Hyun-wook
The Red Sleeve (2021-2022), MBC
MBC’s The Red Sleeve (2021-2022) gained popularity overseas for its vibrant romantic storyline set in the Joseon era, captivating lines, beautiful costumes, and endearing characters, starring Lee Jun-ho who played as the Crown Prince and Lee Se-young as the royal court maid. It was streamed internationally through the platform, Viu, and gained positive reviews across social media, taking 8th place as the most mentioned Korean drama on Twitter worldwide in 2022, with data analysis from January 1st to August 18th. Forbes listed it as one of “The Best Korean Dramas Of 2021”, describing the lead actors as “likable and relatable”, especially mentioning actress Lee Se-young’s character that “transcends women’s limited choices during the 18th century”. On IMDb, it received a rating of 8.6/10 from viewers worldwide, praising the drama as “a solid historical drama”, “a masterpiece”, “the way to write a sageuk drama”, “artistic”, “beautifully filmed”. The drama was also announced as the “Grand Prize winner” at the Korea Communications Commission Broadcasting Awards for its outstanding representation and impact on Korean culture.
Genre: Historical, Romance
Starring: Lee Jun-ho, Lee Se-young, and Kang Hoon
Written by: Jung Hae-ri
Directed by: Jung Ji-in and Song Yeon-hwa
Our Beloved Summer (2021-2022), SBS
SBS’ Our Beloved Summer (2021-2022) captured the world for its warm, nostalgic storytelling. For Tatler Asia, it is “the heartwarming love story we need”. For The Review Geek, it is “an enjoyable romantic drama with great acting and gorgeous cinematography”. It reached Netflix’s Top 10 in TV category in 18 countries, stayed on the global charts for 8 consecutive weeks with a viewing record of 128.8 million hours. It was mostly watched in Vietnam and South Korea for 15 weeks, followed by Indonesia for 14 weeks. By buzz, it took fifth place in the list of most talked about Korean dramas on Twitter worldwide in 2022. Looking at the soundtrack, the beautiful song “Christmas Tree” by V reportedly became the first K-drama OST to enter the Billboard Hot 100.
Starring: Choi Woo-shik, Kim Da-mi, Kim Sung-cheol, Roh Jeong-eui
Written by: Lee Na-eun
Directed by: Kim Yoon-jin
Snowdrop (2021-2022), JTBC
JTBC’s Snowdrop (2021-2022) starring Jung Hae-in and Blackpink’s Jisoo, has taken first place as the most watched Korean title on Disney+ so far and revealed as the no.1 most talked about Korean drama on Twitter globally in 2022. The story follows a hostage-taking crisis inside the women’s dormitory and intriguing political conflicts between North Korea and South Korea. From the 1980s vibes to cinematography to visuals to musical score, the production of this drama attracted international popularity. The visually pleasing retro costumes and props, the old dating style, dormitory life setting, as well as the plot twists and interesting characters also generated international buzz on Twitter with trending hashtags and topics.
Genre: Black comedy, Romance, Melodrama, Period
Starring: Jung Hae-in, Jisoo, Yoo In-na, Jang Seung-jo, Yoon Se-ah, Kim Hye-yoon, Jung Yoo-jin
Written by: Yoo Hyun-mi
Directed by: Jo Hyun-tak
All Of Us Are Dead (2022), Netflix
Netflix’s All Of Us Are Dead (2022) holds the no.1 spot for the most watched Korean title on Netflix in 2022 so far, reaching Top 10 in TV category in 94 countries with a viewing record of 659.5 million hours for 11 weeks. It landed at no.1 spot for five consecutive weeks and took fourth place in the most popular non-English TV shows worldwide based on hours viewed in the first 28 days on Netflix, alongside Squid Game and Spain’s Money Heist. By buzz, the teenage-zombie show took fourth place in the list of most talked about Korean dramas on Twitter worldwide in 2022. The series also marked the Hallyu stardom of the young cast members who gained millions of followers on Instagram.
Genre: Coming-of-age; Zombie apocalypse
Starring: Yoon Chan-young, Park Ji-hoo, Cho Yi-hyun, Park Solomon and Yoo In-soo
Written by: Chun Sung-il
Directed by: Lee Jae-kyoo and Kim Nam-su
A Business Proposal (2022), SBS
SBS’ A Business Proposal (2022) is remarkably one of the most popular Korean shows in 2022 that has reached Netflix‘s Top 10 in TV category in 58 countries, stayed on the global charts for 13 weeks, and watched for a total of 279.1 million hours. It was most popular in Bangladesh, which stayed on Top 10 TV for 17 weeks, followed by Thailand, Indonesia, and India for 15 weeks. It also landed at no.1 spot for three consecutive weeks on Netflix’s Global Top 10, non-English TV category. During the drama’s airing, the webtoon views on Kakao’s platform was reported to have surged tenfold. It also took third place in the list of most talked about Korean dramas on Twitter worldwide in 2022. Moreover, it was named as one of the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2022” by United Kingdom’s NME media, describing it as “the K-drama rom-com to beat” for the year with its story that is charming and engaging and the main cast’s display of excellent chemistry.
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Starring: Ahn Hyo-seop, Kim Se-jeong, Kim Min-kyu and Seol In-ah
Written by: Han Sul-hee, Hong Bo-hee
Directed by: Park Sun-ho
Juvenile Justice (2022), Netflix
South China Morning Post and United Kingdom’s NME media named Juvenile Justice (2022) as one of the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2022”. Pierce Conran described the drama as “Kim Hye-soo’s show, and she commands the screen whenever she appears”. NME also praised the lead actress for her “tremendous performance as the stern, unfriendly judge marred with a tragic past”. On Netflix worldwide, it reached Top 10 in 29 countries, landed at no.1 spot in the non-English TV worldwide for two consecutive weeks, and remained on the global charts for seven consecutive weeks with a viewing record of 134.5 million hours. It was mostly watched in Taiwan and South Korea for 7 weeks.
Genre: Crime, Legal
Starring: Kim Hye-soo, Kim Moo-yeol, Lee Sung-min, and Lee Jung-eun
Written by: Kim Min-seok
Directed by: Hong Jong-chan
Thirty-Nine (2022), JTBC
JTBC”s Thirty-Nine (2022) made it to Netflix’s global charts for five weeks, reached Top 10 in 16 countries with a viewing record of 52.6 million hours. It was mostly watched in Japan, Taiwan, and Hongkong for 11 weeks, followed by Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam for 10 weeks. Named as one of the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2022”, it was praised by United Kingdom’s NME media for its “simple premise, paired with the authentic chemistry between the actresses” and the writing was described as “brilliantly poignant, yet sentimental that elevates the drama into an outstandingly evocative lesson on family, chosen or otherwise”. Meanwhile, South China Morning Post placed it at no.6 among the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2022”, giving emphasis on the story’s “depth and heart” surrounding life and female friendship.
Forecasting Love And Weather (2022), JTBC
JTBC’s Forecasting Love And Weather (2022), starring Park Min-young and Song Kang, entered Netflix’s global charts for eight weeks, reached Top 10 in 24 countries with a viewing record of 100.8 million hours. It was mostly watched in Thailand for 13 weeks, followed by Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia for 11 weeks. Decider recommended to stream it while United Kingdom’s NME media listed it as one of the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2022” for its clever take on “using weather as a plot device that grows and contrasts with the characters”.
Starring: Park Min-young, Song Kang, Yoon Park, Yura
Written by: Seon Yeong
Directed by: Cha Young-hoon
Twenty-Five Twenty-One (2022), tvN
Listed as one of the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2022”, United Kingdom’s NME media described tvN’s Twenty-Five Twenty-One (2022) as nostalgic and “a good coming-of-age story”, while South China Morning Post praised it as an “engaging youth romance” and actress Kim Tae-ri “an utter delight as the feisty fencer”. On Netflix worldwide, it entered Top 10 in 33 countries, landed at no.2 spot for three consecutive weeks in non-English TV worldwide, stayed on the global charts for 10 weeks with a viewing record of 171.6 million hours. It was mostly watched in Taiwan for 17 weeks, followed by Indonesia and South Korea for 15 weeks. On Twitter worldwide, it was revealed to be the second most talked about Korean drama in 2022.
Genre: Slice of life, Sports, Coming of age, Romance
Starring: Kim Tae-ri, Nam Joo-hyuk, Bona and Lee Joo-myung
Written by: Kwon Do-eun
Directed by: Jung Ji-hyun
My Liberation Notes (2022), JTBC
JTBC’s My Liberation Notes (2022) was placed at no.1 in the list of “Best Korean Dramas Of 2022” by South China Morning Post, describing it as an “exceptional slice-of-life drama that is hard to beat for the year-end ranking”. The whole cast was also recognized for their performances but with special mention of actor Son Su-kku who “stole the show as the enigmatic Mr. Gu”. United Kingdom’s NME media also mentioned it as one of the top K-dramas of the year. On Netflix worldwide, it entered Top 10 in 15 countries, stayed on the global charts for four weeks with a viewing record of 47.2 million hours. It was mostly watched in South Korea for 15 weeks, followed by Indonesia for 11 weeks and Taiwan for 10 weeks.
Genre: Mystery, Slice of life
Starring: Lee Min-ki, Kim Ji-won, Son Seok-koo, Lee El
Written by: Park Hae-young
Directed by: Kim Seok-yoon
Our Blues (2022), tvN
tvN’s Our Blues (2022) entered Netflix’s Global TV charts for nine consecutive weeks, reached Top 10 in 12 countries with a viewing record of 105.1 million hours. It was mostly watched in Taiwan and South Korea for 15 weeks, followed by Hongkong and Indonesia for 14 weeks. By buzz, it took 9th place in the list of most talked about Korean dramas on Twitter worldwide in 2022. By reviews, it was named one of the “Best Korean Dramas Of 2022” by United Kingdom’s NME media where it “excelled in the bittersweet intersection of happiness and unhappiness, also known as contentment” while South China Morning Post mentioned actor Lee Byung-hun and actress Kim Hye-ja as “particular highlights among a sterling cast”. Looking at the soundtrack, “With You” by Jimin and Sungwoon became the fastest song to reach no.1 on iTunes in 119 countries and the first and only K-drama OST to top Billboard’s Hot Trending Songs Chart, landing at no.2 spot during its first tracking week.
Genre: Slice of life
Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-a, Cha Seung-won, Han Ji-min, Kim Woo-bin
Written by: Noh Hee-kyung
Directed by: Kim Kyu-tae
Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022)
ENA’s Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022) rocked this year’s Korean dramas worldwide, breaking records and dominating charts, locally and internationally. As of August 21st, it has crossed 400 million viewing hours, officially becoming the no.2 most-watched Korean title on Netflix this year. Remarkably, it has entered the Top 10 Most Popular Non-English TV Shows Worldwide based on hours viewed in their first 28 days on Netflix, taking 6th place and overtaking France’s Lupin (2021) and Spain’s Elite 3 (2020). The drama also pulled in several international audiences across the globe, reaching Top 10 in 56 countries from Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania, and The Americas. It landed at no.1 spot in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Hongkong, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, UAE, and Vietnam. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a perfect rating of 100% from critics. On IMDb, it recorded a high rating of 9/10, praising the drama as: “Thought provoking and well handled”, “An amazing and educational series”, “Refreshing and entertaining”, “Beautiful that does not lack depth”, “Hilarious, endearing, one-of-a-kind”, “Irresistibly charming”, “A wonderful masterpiece”, to name a few. Meanwhile, it was announced to return for Season 2 and expected to premiere in 2024.
Starring: Park Eun-bin, Kang Tae-oh, Kang Ki-young
Written by: Moon Ji-won
Directed by: Yoo In-shik