No one does romance quite like K-Dramas. With the perfect amount of humour, intrigue and over-the-top plot twists these romantic comedies offer a certain kind of comfort that makes them one of the most popular type of TV series. Usually running for only one season, the plot develops over the course of usually no more than 20 long episodes, so you can be sure to get closure on your favourite “one true pairing” (OTP). Romance is taken slow, spoken and unspoken interactions are equally valued and simple moments like sharing a meal are magical.
Before diving in the best k-drama romantic comedies, I feel I need to address the topic of representation. Romantic comedies can exacerbate outdated gender roles and beauty standards due to their focus on romance and dating. LGBTQ+ representation is also often random and clumsy and shows with queer characters as protagonists are rare (however not nonexistent!) The characters often fall into stereotypical binary boxes of what is feminine or masculine and even though dramas often try to explore what it would be like to cross this very strict line, more often than not it is for comic effect. Indeed, a popular genre of K-drama is gender-swap, where for instance a woman goes “undercover” as a man and this leads to extreme confusion for the male lead (think Mulan) or vice-versa. You will not find any shows that fall under this category here, although some have been very popular over the years such as the old time classic Coffee Prince. My favourite shows as featured on this list all tend to lean into some form of social critique such as working culture, social status and gender roles however if you do want something more intense there is plenty to go on in other genres, just think of the ever-so-popular Squid Game the thriller Mine.
Rom-com drama will rarely ever decisively transcend these rigid views, part of the charm is the predictability. Certain tropes need to be respected (cut to rushed marriage scene) but what makes a show stand out is how it makes use of them, re-invents them, or portrays them with newfound charm. As societal norms evolve, more and more shows have come to reflect that.
Make sure to check out other TV recommendations like 6 TV Series With a Hint of Darkness, a Pinch of Humour and a Dash of Anger and 5 Animated TV Series for Magic, Love and Adventure.
Crash Landing On You
Many “beginners” introduction to Dramas and for good reason. The context already sets up so many funny and interesting plot developments and the chemistry between the two leads actually led to them dating IRL…
Synopsis: The absolute top secret love story of a chaebol heiress who made an emergency landing in North Korea because of a paragliding accident and a North Korean special officer who falls in love with her and who is hiding and protecting her.
Strong Girl Bong-soon
By having the woman being stronger than the man, you would think this is a little bit too obvious an attempt at challenging gender roles. However, Bong-so’s lack of confidence with her gift is a bigger metaphor for women playing down their strengths and trying to fit in boxes too narrow for them. A beautiful journey full of endearing moments. Also laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Synopsis: Do Bong-soon is a woman born with superhuman strength that comes from the long line of women possessing it. when Ahn Min Hyuk, the CEO of ainsoft, a gaming company witnesses her strength he hires her as his personal bodyguard.
This drama is honestly such a beautiful piece of art. It leads a reflection on the source of happiness, on community and trust. Simply must watch.
Synopsis: A big-city dentist opens up a practice in a close-knit seaside village, home to a charming jack-of-all-trades who is her polar opposite in every way.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
This is a classic for a reason! The difference between Kim Mi‑so’s professional and personal persona is staggering. It is so funny to watch her get real with her boss after all these years, while a mysterious plot unravels at the same time. You can not talk about the best k-drama romantic comedies without mentioning this gem.
Synopsis: A romance between perfect but narcissistic second generation heir and his capable assistant.
My Love From The Star
This show stands out because of the supernatural element without it overtaking everything. I guess after 400 years, Do Min-Joon is a very well integrated alien. It is cool to see how Seoul evolved from just a few fields through his eyes. I always look at cities and wish I could fast backwards and see how it came to be! I also like how the relationship starts off as equals and how funny and confident the female lead is throughout.
Synopsis: Do Min-Joon, an alien that came to our planet 400 years ago, will be able to return to his planet in 3 months, but when he meets famous actress Chun Song-Yi, all the centuries he spent distancing himself from humans come to an end.
Romance Is a Bonus Book
Perhaps more mature than some of the others on the list, this show really provides an in dept reflection around women going back to the workplace after having children, and about dating after divorce. The romance develops without the clumsiness of coming-of-age stories and through a strong bond of friendship. A story about second chances.
Synopsis: Cha Eun Ho is a successful and handsome writer and the youngest chief editor at a publishing company. His childhood friend, Kang Dan Yi who was once a popular copywriter and is homeless, divorced, a single mother and unemployed. In a desperate attempt to find a job, she lies about her background and begins to work as a temporary worker in the same building under none other than Cha Eun Ho.
Something In The Rain
Featuring again the beautiful Son Ye-Jin for this age-gap romance that grows in adversity.
Synopsis: Yoon Jin-A (Son Ye-Jin) is a single woman in her 30’s. She works as a supervisor at a coffee company. She is an easygoing person, but she feels empty inside. Seo Joon-Hee (Jung Hae-In) is the younger brother of her best friend. He comes back to South Korea after finishing work abroad. Yoon Jin-A though he was just a childish guy, but he appears different to her now.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo
Throughout the show Kim Bok-Joo navigates and finds a balance between her identity as an weightlifting athlete and a young woman. Sometimes, the reason why it should be a conflict in the first place really eluded me and some lines, like “it is normal she would want to loose weight for a guy” left me baffled (especially since the actress is also a model and very thin). That aside, the show is very sweet and explores themes of mental health and the limits our body and mind set on us. I also love that the love story starts as a friendship (like Strong Girl Bong-Soon) and how all the secondary characters are well crafted and multi-faceted. Swag!
Synopsis: A coming-of-age story about a group of college athletes who are fighting for their dreams, experiencing and finding love in the process, and growing every step of the way.
I love this drama because the main love story isn’t between a couple but between a woman and herself. This story of self love, although adorned by romance is such a powerful journey of acceptance. I love that the main characters are all flawed yet endearing, as well as the funny throwbacks and nostalgia. A must watch for a feel-good moment!
Synopsis: Miserable and unsuccessful, a woman thinks she’s lost all her spark, until one day, her spunky younger self appears in front of her demanding change.
Have you seen all these? Which do you think are the best k-drama romantic comedies and which are your favourites?