Top 5 K-Dramas for Learning About Korean Society and Culture

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New K-dramas get released every year but which one should you watch and how much can you learn about Korean culture from the plot? Here are our top 5 K-dramas to watch to learn more about Korean society.

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5. Itaewon Class

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

Released:  2020

Watch on:  Netflix

This drama depicts the life of an ex-convict who wants to prove himself within society and build his own company. Park Saeroyi goes against the biggest food company in Korea (Jangga Group) to avenge his father’s death.


You’re probably wondering why this drama is ranked 5th out those chosen. Although the drama touches upon the topics of transgender and race, the main story between Park Saeroyi and his relationship with the opposition dragged on quite a bit… However, the ways in which the topics were addressed was very strong and surprising to see in a K-drama. We found it refreshing and liked how Ma Hyuni’s and Toni’s stories were told. It’s also nice to see Korean society opening up.

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4. My ID is Gangnam Beauty

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

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Released:  2018

Watch on:  Netflix or Viki

The drama portrays a young girl (Kang Mirae) who isn’t happy with her appearance and lives her life being tormented by bullies until she receives plastic surgery and begins university life.

 

The drama itself is rather meaningful and delivers a powerful message of not judging people based on their looks, a growing issue in today’s society. It's one of the most realistic dramas we found and shows beauty isn’t just skin deep, but rather comes from within. It's well known that Asia has high plastic surgery rates relative to the rest of the world and we believe this drama is an important watch, especially if you’re in an environment where you feel pressured to get surgery. Plus who can resist watching a drama with Astro’s Cha Eun-woo!

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3. Search WWW

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

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Released:  2018

Watch on:  Viki

This drama revolves around three women in their late 30s who all work in the search engine industry. The main character (Bae Tami) is fired from her job at Unicon and accepts a job offer from rival company Barro. Bae Tami and her team members at Barro compete against Unicon using the “Portal of Ethics” and eventually convince the CEO at Unicon to be just.

 

This drama is one of our favourites as it addresses a lot of social issues as well as the kind of experiences gained whilst working in Korea. The CEOs of both companies take completely different directions to become successful (some more ethical than others) but eventually work together to achieve justice. This drama begs a relatable question in today’s society: where there are two different paths you can travel to become successful, are you able to distinguish which path is morally right and which one is wrong?

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2. It's OK, That's Love

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

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Released:  2016

Watch on:  Netflix

This story follows the relationship between a writer and a psychiatrist who both suffer from mental illness due to childhood trauma. Both protagonists help each other along their journey of acceptance within society and eventually develop a romantic relationship. 


Although a love story at heart, the narrative also revolves around how mental illness is treated in Korea and how people live with them. It goes further in addressing other topics such as the transgender movement, gender roles and more in ways that allow audience to empathise. The drama is a true masterpiece and will never be forgotten by K-drama fans the world over.

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1. SKY Castle

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

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5 stars.png

Released:  2019

Watch on:  Netflix

SKY is an abbreviation for the top 3 universities in South Korea - Seoul National, Korea and Yonsei University. SKY Castle highlights an important issue in Korea - Education - by diving into the extremes that parents will go to in order for their children to get into the top universities.

Relative to most of the other dramas in this list romance isn’t actually the main focus, which is rather refreshing to see in the K-drama industry. The show emphasises that family should be there for you and support you whether you’re academic or not. Towards the end of the drama you can actually see changes begin to occur within each family and within society itself. A definite must watch!

Now you have so many TV shows to get through, it might be helpful to brush up on your Korean. 

Luckily for you we offer group and private courses for all levels. You can take these courses either online or in person at our London offices where you will meet lots of like-minded K-drama fans.

For other great ways to familiarise yourself with Korean society, why not check out these Korean culture comics from our friends Dom & Hyo?