Top 10 K-Dramas for Learning About Korean Society and Culture

squid-game-6721749_1920 (1).jpg

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 10 K-dramas to watch to learn more about Korean language and society.

Sweet Home

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
5 stars.png

Released:  2020

Watch on:  Netflix

Sweet Home is an apocalyptic K-Drama based on a popular web series of the same name. The story is based around a man who moves into a new apartment. 

After settling in monsters take over the outside world and he must barricade himself inside the building along with the other residents and try to survive as long as possible!

Although very much based in the fantasy realm, Sweet Home does present opportunity to learn about Korean etiquette and social interaction as well as containing natural and well delivered Korean language that goes to support the wider plot of the series.

Crash Landing on You

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
5 stars.png

Released:  2019

Watch on:  Netflix

Crash Landing on You follows the story of a successful Seoul businesswoman ​who has a paragliding accident and is accidentally swept into North Korea, where she lands and meets a North Korean army captain who vows to protect her.

The couple eventually fall in love and while the romance itself is interesting to watch unfold, the series does a great job of finding the humanity in the very real North South Korean divide. 

It is perhaps for this reason as well as the exceptional acting from the cast that Crash Landing on You is one of the highest rated K-Dramas ever released. Definitely one to add to the list!

The Uncanny Encounter

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
5 stars.png

Released:  2020

Watch on:  Netflix

The Uncanny Encounter follows the story of a disabled high school student who joins a gang of paranormal enthusiasts to fight demons who have crossed over from another realm.

Another fantasy genre K-Drama to win critical acclaim, this series has just been renewed for a second season so if you enjoy the first one, you wont have long to wait for more content. 

While not the most educational of the shows on this list, the language and culture explored is both entertaining and funny, making it a very addictive watch.

Start Up

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
5 stars.png

Released:  2021

Watch on:  Viki

As the name suggests, Start Up is based around a young entrepreneur who wants to be the next Steve Jobs. Focused around business life and touching on the pressures that come with the Korean education system, there are also love triangles, betrayals and much other drama to keep you engaged.

The beauty of this series is that is does focus around fairly realistic daily life and as such gives the outsider an interesting view into Korean society. The language used ranges from casual to more business appropriate formal speech, so there is something for every Korean learner to pick up and enjoy!

The Silent Sea

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
5 stars.png

Released:  2021

Watch on:  Netflix

A science fiction drama based on a 2014 short film, The Silent Sea actually refers to the sea of tranquillity on the moon and follows a crew of astronauts sent to retrieve samples from a lunar research base.

Receiving positive reviews from both critics and audiences, this 8 episode drama is an undeniable success and a number of spin off series and sequels are already in the works.

If science fiction is your thing then this is the drama for you. Thrilling and scary in places, there are a number of plot twists to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat.

Squid Game

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
5 stars.png

Released:  2021

Watch on:  Netflix

Squid game was one of Netflix's most popular shows in 2021. The story revolves around a death game set up for people in extreme debt. By playing their way through the game contestants have the opportunity to win ridiculous amounts of money and turn their life around. 

Incredibly violent and entertaining, the show is very well acted by the entire cast. It also wins extra points for promoting K-Dramas to a wider, more Western audience than ever before. It's popularity on Netflix means more people are likely to get into K-Drama and that's certainly no bad thing!

An excellent opportunity to practice your Korean listening and extremely entertaining throughout. However, this show is not an accurate representation of Korean society so watch it with that in mind!

My ID is Gangnam Beauty

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
5 stars.png

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!

Search WWW

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
5 stars.png

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?

It's OK, That's Love

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
5 stars.png

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.

SKY Castle

Educational

Entertaining

Cultural Elements

5 stars.png
5 stars.png
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?