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. Looking at the streaming services, Netflix remains to be the biggest and most popular platform that has contributed largely to the popularity of Korean dramas and series worldwide.
Several Korean shows have gained popularity overseas but in this article, we have listed five biggest Korean drama hits that made it to Netflix’s Global Top 10 in the non-English TV category, particularly showing the number of weeks it stayed on the global charts.
13 weeks: Business Proposal (2022)
SBS’ Business Proposal (2022) is remarkably one of the most popular Korean shows in 2022 that reached Netflix‘s Top 10 in TV category in 58 countries. The rom-com show stayed on the global charts for 13 consecutive 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 in 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 NME, 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
Cast: Ahn Hyo-seop, Kim Se-jeong, Kim Min-kyu, Seol In-ah
Writer: Han Sul-hee, Hong Bo-hee
Director: Park Sun-ho
16 weeks: Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021)
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 worldwide for its warm narrative set in the seaside village with a simple yet genuine, healing-driven community. On Netflix, 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. It appeared on Top 10 TV in Thailand for 31 weeks, followed by Indonesia for 20 weeks.
Notably, 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 NME. Moreover, New York Times best-selling and award-winning American author, Christie Golden also recognized and mentioned the drama as “utterly charming and without flaws” as well as praised Kim Seonho as a performer who was “perfect in portraying many emotions”.
Genre: Slice of life, Romance
Cast: Shin Mina, Kim Seon-ho, Lee Sang-yi
Writer: Shin Ha-eun
Director: Yoo Je-won
19 weeks: Alchemy Of Souls (2022)
tvN’s Alchemy Of Souls (2022-2023) is a two-part fantasy series about young mages in the fictional country of Daeho that encounters and deals with “alchemy of souls”, a forbidden magic spell that switches bodies. The part 1 ends with the villain creating chaos and destroying the lives of these young mages and the story continues in part 2, entitled Alchemy Of Souls: Light And Shadow, which was released in December 2022.
In total, part 1 reached Top 10 in TV in 44 countries, watched for 291.5 million hours, and appeared in the global rankings of non-English TV for 19 non-consecutive weeks. Part 2 reached 38 countries with 115.8 million viewing hours and attained 8 consecutive weeks on the global charts.
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Historical, Romance
Cast: Lee Jae-wook, Go Yoon-jung, Hwang Min-hyun, Shin Seung-ho, Yoo Joon-sang, Oh Nara, Yoo In-soo, Arin, Jo Jae-yoon
Writers: Hong Jung-eun, Hong Mi-ran
Director: Park Joon-hwa
20 weeks: Squid Game (2021)
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 most popular non-English TV show on Netflix with 1.6 billion viewing hours in the first 28 days. In total, it acquired a whopping 2.2 billion viewing hours for 20 non-consecutive weeks and reached Top 10 in 94 countries.
Remarkably, it received several international nominations and awards including 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.
Genre: Survival, Thriller
Cast: Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, and Kim Joo-ryoung
Writer-director: Hwang Dong-hyuk
21 weeks: Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022)
In 2022, ENA’s Extraordinary Attorney Woo rocked the year’s Korean dramas, breaking records and dominating charts, locally and internationally. It crossed 600 million viewing hours, officially becoming the no.1 most-watched Korean title on Netflix for the year. Remarkably, it entered Top 10 Most Popular Non-English TV Shows worldwide based on hours viewed in the 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 57 countries and staying on the global charts for 21 non-consecutive weeks.
The story follows an extraordinary girl named Woo Young-woo who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She grows up with a high IQ, able to memorize the books of laws, graduated with top honors as a law student, and landed a job at a big law firm. She exercises her extraordinary skills as a lawyer in various cases while overcoming challenges amid discrimination from society. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a perfect rating of 100% from critics. Meanwhile, it was announced to return for Season 2 and is expected to premiere in 2024.
Genre: Legal, Slice of life
Cast: Park Eun-bin, Kang Tae-oh, Kang Ki-young
Writer: Moon Ji-won
Director: Yoo In-shik
Check out the list of 44 Korean drama hits on Netflix of all time here.
Source / Images: Netflix Top 10