Rating a drama is a lot harder than it seems. Some dramas are totally crackastic while you’re watching them, but when they end and the endorphins and hysteria subside, you realize you’ve wasted dozens of hours of your life that you’ll never get back. Other dramas are objectively really very good, but you can’t muster up the strength to care about them. Then there are those dramas that aren’t that great, but you love them anyway and will never figure out why.
Hence, this page has given me fits as I tried to think of a fair way to accurately rate the dramas I’ve seen. I’ve gone with a loose rating system based on the show’s watchability (I think that’s a word). My favorites are listed first, but use of the word “favorites” is a little misleading as I only included the dramas that I love and have rewatched more than twice.
MY FAVORITE KOREAN DRAMAS
Coffee Prince (aka First Shop of Coffee Prince) (MBC 2007)
Full House (KBS 2004)
I Need Romance (tvN 2011)
My Lovely Sam Soon (aka My Name is Kim Sam Soon) (MBC 2005)
Queen In-Hyun’s Man (tvN 2012)
The Last Scandal of My Life (MBC 2008)
The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry (aka Still Marry Me) (MBC 2010)
THE OTHER K-DRAMAS I’VE WATCHED
9 End, 2 Outs (aka Bottom of the 9th with Two Outs) (MBC 2007)
Enjoyable rom-com about long-time BFFs who end up cohabitating and eventually get around to realizing they’re in love. Worth watching!
A Gentleman’s Dignity (SBS 2012)
Harmlessly entertaining look at the lives, careers and loves of four forty-something men. Watchable.
A Love to Kill (KBS 2005)
One of Rain’s best performances. He’s totally unforgettable even though you’ll really REALLY want to forget other aspects of the show, like THAT kiss (gross!) and THAT ending (huh?). Worth watching.
Answer Me 1994 (aka Reply 1994) (tvN 2013)
Loved the characters and the cuteness, especially the secondary characters. Hated the bloated plot and the unnecessary teasers in every. single. episode. Wished I could unwatch when the lead I shipped didn’t get the girl, but overall it’s watchable.
Answer Me 1997 (aka Reply 1997) (tvN 2012)
This drama leaped off my (computer) screen and nested firmly in my heart. The energy is that palpable. Leaves an ache for that bygone era even if you’re like me and the cultural references of the time period go right over your head. This is a must see!
Arang and the Magistrate (MBC 2012)
Fun and imaginative. Mildly addictive mystery. Great leads. Worth watching!
Attic Cat (MBC 2003)
Typical rom-com in which the heroine falls in love with the cad who mistreats her, but Kim Rae-won does a decent job of making me love to hate him. As one of the original cohabitation dramas, it’s watchable.
Baby-Faced Beauty (KBS 2011)
Banal workplace drama with a relatively cute noona romance to slightly liven things up. If workplace dramas aren’t your thing, skip it. Otherwise, it’s slightly watchable.
Baker King Kim Tak-Gu (KBS 2010)
Over the top and emotionally manipulative melodrama about revenge and forgiveness. Goes a little overboard on the makjang but that only makes it more addictive and fun. It’s watchable.
Boys Over Flowers (KBS 2009)
Cracktastically fun to watch, but Lee Min-ho’s performance is the only objectively good thing about this drama. But as a fan favorite and bona fide Hallyu hit, it’s worth watching.
Bride of the Century (TV Chosun 2014)
Interesting and entertaining fantasy/romance with a cold chaebol who doesn’t mind that he’s fallen for a warm, hardworking candy even after he discovers she’s a look-a-like whom his runaway fiancée paid to dupe him. Definitely worth watching!
Brilliant Legacy (aka Shining Inheritance) (SBS 2009)
Pretty cast, solid performances and horrid secondary characters that you loathe. The lengths those women go to just to snag a man still flabbergasts me to this day. But the feisty best friend and one of the best oppas ever make up for their shenanigans. Worth watching!
Can Love Become Money (MBN 2012)
Liked the premise and the main actors, but it wasn’t nearly as good as I wanted it to be. Slightly watchable.
Can We Get Married (jTBC 2013)
Underrated gem of a drama. When you get tired of the adorable OTP, there’s always the well-matched future mother-in-laws to entertain you with their battle of the wits and wills. Definitely worth watching!
Can We Love (aka Could We Love) (jTBC 2014)
Interesting look into the travails of a threesome comprised of a divorcee struggling to get back on her feet, a successful single woman, and a housewife who suffers at the hand of a cruel mother-in-law. Watchable.
Can’t Lose (MBC 2011)
Fairly typical story of a couple that forgets why they fell in love after years of fighting and relationship neglect. It is a little bland, but I appreciated the message and really liked the cute, happy ending. Watchable.
Cheongdam-dong Alice (SBS 2012-13)
Candy girl aspires to become a golddigger but falls in love with a chaebol with daddy issues and never quite manages to become as cold-hearted and callous as the show implies. Slightly watchable.
Chuno (aka Slave Hunters) (KBS 2010)
Beautiful cinematography. Compelling story. Solid performances from the entire cast. Worth watching!
City Hunter (SBS 2011)
Entertaining and addictive but a little predictable. In hindsight, I’m not convinced it is as good as I thought it was during its run, but it’s worth watching.
Coffee House (SBS 2010)
Fun characters, particularly the immature, finicky writer, and a nice romance. Watchable.
Creating Destiny (MBC 2009-10)
Middle of the road drama with some fairly fun standard tropes thrown in: bossy elders, an OTP that bickers their way into love, a birth secret and a one-sided love. Too long for my tastes, but there is cuteness peppered throughout that makes it slightly watchable.
Cunning Single Lady (aka Sly and Single Again) (MBC 2014)
Great rom-com with a fun storyline and the perfect dork-turned-heartthrob as lead. It’s well worth watching.
Dal Ja’s Spring (KBS 2007)
Cute early noona romance with a great lead couple and a workplace drama framework that doesn’t overwhelm or bog down the plot. Watchable.
Daring Woman (SBS 2010)
I have no idea how I finished this drama with my commitment issues. Needless to say I stuck around to the bitter end, but you don’t have to. It gets points for a likeable plot, but the drawn out antics and selfishness of the villains make this absolutely unpalatable. Skip it.
Dating Agency: Cyrano (tvN 2013)
Liked the male lead. Loved the new cases each episode or two. Looked forward to the cameos week to week. The movie is better, but if you’re inclined to take the scenic route, it’s watchable.
Delightful Girl Chun-Hyang (KBS 2005)
Cheesy and overacted at times, but has a fresh, fun vibe even today. I loved the hero, but his rival took his unrequited love for the heroine way too far and remained likeable too. As the first Hong Sisters drama, this is a must-see for any true kdrama aficionado.
Discovery of Romance (aka Discovery of Love) (KBS 2014)
Enjoyable in spite of the frustrating main characters and emotional tomfoolery throughout. Worth watching for the absolutely adorable secondary couple and to marvel at the small screen’s just barely managing to contain Eric’s energy and magnetism.
Dr. Jin (MBC 2012)
Brilliant neurosurgeon travels 150 years back in time to the Joseon era and has to practice medicine without modern conveniences. The premise had loads of potential and this drama wasted it all. Skip it.
Emergency Couple (tvN 2014)
A couple reunites years after divorcing while interning in the ER of the same hospital. Nice moments throughout, but I found myself caring about the secondary characters more than the lead couple. It’s watchable though.
Fantasy Couple (aka Couple or Trouble) (MBC 2006)
Fun story. Zany antics. Loved the heroine’s obsession with jjajangmyun. Watchable.
Fated to Love You (MBC 2014)
Jang Hyuk is hilariously nutty. Jang Nara is saccharine sweet. Everything else, except for their cute romance, is forgettable. But it’s watchable.
Flower Boys Next Door (tvN 2013)
Started out so good but couldn’t maintain that edge. Still, it had some pretty great characters and a fun vibe that makes it worth watching.
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop (tvN 2011)
Loved the characters and their lively friendships. Never could get onboard the noona romance—the teacher-student hurdle was too high for me to jump. Watchable.
Full House Take 2 (SBS 2012)
This drama took me by surprise. I expected it to be a mess and was almost angry that someone dared make a “sequel” to my beloved Full House, but this sequel is actually quite good. The hair is bad, really really bad, but if you can get past that, it’s worth watching.
Gaksital (aka Bridal Mask) (KBS 2012)
Well-done hero’s tale set in 1930’s Korea during the Japanese occupation. Worth watching.
Goong (aka Princess Hours) (MBC 2006)
Whimsical and visually appealing romp into an alternate-reality where Korea has a monarchy and a commoner princess brings the usual low-brow hijinks with her when she enters the palace. Worth watching!
Greatest Love (aka Best Love) (MBC 2011)
Has all the funny dramaland has come to expect from the Hong Sisters, which is why it’s one of my favorites from the duo and a must see!
Haeundae Lovers (KBS 2012)
Liked the cast but not much else. Have no idea how I managed to finish it. Kim Kang-woo probably helped. Skip it.
Hello! Miss (KBS 2007)
Corn-ball fun that got a little dragged down by moments of the show taking itself too seriously, but overall it’s slightly watchable.
Hyde, Jekyll and I (aka Hyde, Jekyll, Me) (SBS 2015)
Totally winning premise, but horrible pacing and a complete lack of rationality derail all the goodwill it gleans from casting the delectably superb Binnie. Skip the first and last four episodes for a slightly watchable drama if only to see my new favorite super power—hypnosis at will.
I Do, I Do (MBC 2012)
If shoe porn is your thing, then this will be marginally watchable. Otherwise, skip it and catch the awesome Kim Sun-ah in one of her other dramas.
I Need Romance 2 (aka I Need Romance 2012) (tvN 2012)
Overall it is fun and watchable but boy did the OTP get on my last d—n nerve with the constant bickering and back-and-forth.
I Need Romance 3 (tvN 2014)
Enjoyable during its run but overall a little disappointing despite the great chemistry between the OTP and a swoon-worthy noona romance. Watchable.
IRIS (KBS 2009)
Action packed. Addictive. Entertaining. It is so well cast and the entire cast does such a great job that I totally didn’t mind that I never got around to fully understanding what was going on. Worth watching!
It’s Okay, It’s Love (aka It’s Okay, That’s Love) (SBS 2014)
Solidly cast and well-acted. Gets points for its comparative originality and the enviable house-sharing friendships. Worth watching.
Level 7 Civil Servant (MBC 2013)
Skip this wreck of a drama and watch the movie instead.
Lie to Me (SBS 2011)
Despite excellent leads it falls short of all that it could have been. Fun moments throughout make it watchable though.
Love & Marriage (KBS 2008)
Fluffy, easy-to-watch opposites attract rom-com. Great leads. Watchable.
Lovers in Paris (SBS 2004)
Starts great. Dissolves into a bit of a mess. Never thought I’d say this, but this one may have just a little too much drama (and too little Lee Dong-gun). Slightly watchable.
Love Story at Harvard (SBS 2004-05)
Two totally different dramas. Started as a relatively cute almost rom-com at an Ivy League school in the U.S. Moved to Seoul and morphed into a draggy, weepy melo. Still I loved Kim Rae-won, and Park Young-min’s “Right Beside You” remains my all-time favorite song from an OST. Slightly watchable.
Marriage Not Dating (tvN 2014)
Main leads were amazing. Solid secondary cast. Story felt grounded even in the midst of the unrealistic. Loved this drama to pieces and recommend you watching it immediately if you haven’t already! It’s a must see.
Marry Him If You Dare (aka Mi-Rae’s Choice) (KBS 2013)
Great premise. Horrible execution. Asinine ending. Skip it.
Mary Stayed Out All Night (KBS 2010)
I found it boring and a waste of talent (her) and pretty (him), but there are people out there who liked it (my sister) so in the interest of retaining a relationship with the only real-life Kdrama watcher I know, I will say no more.
My Girl (SBS 2005-06)
A skilled liar and a cold chaebol enter into a contract to play cousins in order to bring comfort to his dying grandfather. Luckily grandaddy doesn’t die and the play cousins fall in love. Otherwise, we’d be without this gem of a drama. Worth watching.
My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (SBS 2010)
Nice take on the traditional Korean gumiho lore with fun modern twists on the standard Kdrama tropes thrown in. Worth watching.
My Love From Another Star (aka You From Another Star) (SBS 2013-14)
Jun Ji-hyun is so perfect I actually had to pause in the midst of watching some of her scenes to spazz over her awesomeness. She had worthy castmates in the excellent Kim Soo-hyun and the well-played villainy of Shin Sung-rok to boot! It’s a must see.
My Secret Hotel (tvN 2014)
The who-done-it concept isn’t bad, but the execution leaves a little to be desired. By the time they got around to unraveling the murder mystery, I didn’t care anymore, but it’s watchable.
My Sweet Seoul (SBS 2008)
One of the more realistic noona-romances. Has interesting side characters and a criminally underutilized Lee Sun-kyun. Pun intended. Watchable.
Nail Shop Paris (MBC 2013)
So bad and confusing (and did I say bad?), that it’s good. The producers tried to match the genres with the number of episodes. Hence, we get a case-of-the-week, fantasy, melodramatic, cross-dressing romantic thriller with an action mystery vampire workplace comedy drama. Does that make sense? Well, neither does the drama. So you’ll have to see it to believe it. It’s a must see!
Nine: Nine Times Time Travels (tvN 2013)
Exceptional example of one of my favorite plot devices: time travel. I couldn’t keep up with all the storyline changes as a result of the hero’s time traveling, but I loved it all the same. It’s a must see.
Oh! My Lady (SBS 2010)
A top star discovers he has a child but is too immature and selfish to care until one day he does. It’s predictable, but the fluff and fun carry you through. Watchable.
OohLaLa Spouses (KBS 2012)
Starts out fun, and funny, and quickly goes downhill. I watched for my love of the hometown oppa, but by the end of the drama when the OTP got married, I wished I hadn’t. Unless you just have to have another perfect second lead to idolize, skip it.
Operation Proposal (TV Chosun 2012)
Highly watchable time-travelling drama with a powerful message about love, ala Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock: it takes two to make a thing go right.
Pasta (MBC 2010)
A fairly likeable, but yawn-worthy, peek into the world of Italian cuisine. Two great leads but not much else.
Personal Taste (MBC 2010)
Despite casting great leads, I found this drama only marginally entertaining. It’s watchable, but decidedly average.
Playful Kiss (aka Mischievous Kiss) (MBC 2010)
If you look beyond the tepid beginning and insipid heroine who has only one goal in life—marry her Prince Charming—this becomes a sweet and likeable rom-com that will grow on you. Watchable.
Prosecutor Princess (SBS 2010)
Too ridiculous and over-the-top to pull off its goal of the audience empathizing with the heroine’s journey from spoiled princess to competent prosecutor. But if you accept that this is pure fluff masquerading as a serious drama, it’s watchable.
Que Sera Sera (MBC 2007)
So passionate and intense you forget that at its core it’s a contract dating drama where the payor predictably falls in love with the payee. Watchable.
Queen of Housewives (MBC 2009)
In hindsight, the workplace machinations are trite and annoying, but there’s just enough eye candy and conflict amidst the love hexagon to make it watchable.
Queen of Reversals (MBC 2010-2011)
Pretty awesome romance but my favorite aspect is the unexpected comedic moments peppered throughout. It’s one of the longer ones so it can get a little draggy at times, but it’s worth watching.
Rooftop Prince (SBS 2012)
Of the five time-traveling dramas of 2012, this lands squarely in the middle. It’s watchable but literally and figuratively average despite having the potential to be the most comedic and fun of the pack.
Sandglass (SBS 1995)
This sweeping and ambitious story revolves around three friends and the political landscape over the course of three decades that affects them each in different ways. Its reputation as the most highly regarded K-drama of all time is well-deserved. The performances alone, from relative newcomers at that, make it worth watching, but the poignant subject matter and the significant impact this drama had in the real world elevate it to the level of must see tv.
Sang-do, Let’s Go to School (KBS 2003)
This one is special. Not just because my main bias, Rain, knocks it out of the park (he does though). But because it’s just good. At least until it gets to that totally WTF ending. Then it’s just maddening. Still, it’s definitely worth watching.
Secret Garden (SBS 2010)
Hard not to love the obligatory antics that ensue in this body-swap rom-com. Binnie is fab, and Yoon Sang-hyun is so adorably wrong, but right, for the part of the caddish Kpop star, that this one is well worth watching!
She’s So Loveable (aka My Lovely Girl) (SBS 2014)
This is not a bad drama, but it is a boring drama, which may be worse. It’s so achingly dull that even my unrelenting love for all things Rain couldn’t make me finish this. And G-d knows I tried. Skip it.
Spy Myung Wol (or Myung Wol the Spy) (KBS 2011)
Starts off great, but midway through Eric is the only thing worth watching. But boy did I enjoy watching him. It’s mostly watchable, but if you need an Eric fix feel free to check him out in Que Sera Sera or Discovery of Love instead.
Shut Up: Flower Boy Band (tvN 2012)
Lee Min-ki’s cameo is top notch. It feels like the show can’t survive without him, only it does and manages to get better. This medley of youth, music, and bromance in the midst of self-discovery is a must see!
Soulmate (MBC 2006)
A whole lot of nothing happens at first, which is why this was one of those dramas I initially dropped. But I tried it again when I was in a drama lull and realized it’s one of those shows that grows on you. At the end, I’m still not sure much happens but I loved it all the same. Well worth watching!
Stairway to Heaven (SBS 2003-04)
Major makjang overload. If soapy antics are your thing, you’ll find it watchable. Otherwise, skip it.
Sungkyunkwan Scandal (KBS 2010)
When I stop drooling over how absolutely. ridiculously. hot. Yoo Ah-in is in this drama, I may be able to give an intelligible rating. I mean, this drama IS genuinely enjoyable in and of itself, but that sageuk hair and the five o’clock shadow still make me swoon five years in so I’ll go back to drooling now. It’s a must see!
Surplus Princess (tvN 2014)
Objectively this show may have its flaws, but it’s so absurdly enjoyable you’ll never know. Worth watching.
Swedish Laundry (aka Sweden Laundry) (MBC Drama Net 2014-15)
One part WTH two parts endearing family drama with birth secrets, bad hair, a cute almost-noona romance and more. The psychic laundress concept could have ruined this one, but it never took itself too eriously while still managing to deliver a morally grounded story with just the right amount of silliness. It’s worth watching.
Sweet 18 (KBS 2004)
Commonplace tale of a couple entering an arranged marriage and falling in love in spite of a few interlopers trying to steal them away. Nothing new or fresh about it, but it’s innocently pleasant and watchable.
Take Care of the Young Lady (aka My Fair Lady) (KBS 2009)
Even my love for Yoon Eun-hye can’t keep me from admitting that this is just not the drama, or role, for her. She improves (a little) over time but not enough to hide the fact that overall this is a waste of an otherwise talented cast. Slightly watchable.
The Bean Chaff of My Life (MBC 2003)
A chance meeting introduces the OTP. He’s not marriage material to her, but in spite of all the blunders and misunderstandings, they keep reconnecting over the years until she’s finally all in. Watchable.
The King 2 Hearts (MBC 2012)
Stellar performances from the entire cast, particularly Lee Seung-gi and Lee Sung-min. Romantic and bromantic. It is intense and enthralling for the first two-thirds then loses its way a bit, but it’s worth watching.
The Master’s Sun (SBS 2013)
Gore and horror are not my thing, but this show is so good I could get beyond the scary. The central mystery is disappointing but everything else makes it well worth watching. It’s a must see!
The Princess’s Man (KBS 2011)
Even the political-intrigue-heavy plot couldn’t stop the epic romance from shining through and running away with my heart. Everything is done right with this one—writing, casting, acting, directing, cinematography—name it and they nail it. It’s a must see.
The Vineyard Man (KBS 2006)
I liked the actors, but I’ve enjoyed them all so much more in almost everything else they’ve done—before and after this. Overall, it’s a safe, middle-of-the-road drama if you’re into safe and middle-of-the-road. Otherwise, skip it.
The World They Live In (KBS 2008)
Nice peek into the inner-workings of the dramaland machine that feeds our addiction. If not for the two gorgeous leads and a nice performance from Uhm Ki-joon, I’d say skip it and watch King of Dramas instead, but it’s watchable.
Tree With Deep Roots (SBS 2011)
Intense and captivating. The determined villains and equally-resolute king make the conflict gripping and the episodes fly by. Worth watching.
Trot Lovers (KBS 2014)
Despite a solid cast, the sum total of this drama is just bad. Jung Eun-ji’s magnetic smile helps a little, but otherwise the plot is a little senseless and stupid, Ji Hyun-woo is miscast, and Shin Sung-rok is wasted. Slightly watchable.
Truth (aka Honesty) (MBC 2000)
Has all the elements of a makjang mess but deft crafting and solid performances from the great cast keep it from the brink of disaster and make it worth watching.
Twelve Men in a Year (tvN 2012)
Great premise and some fun bits scattered throughout, but overall falls a little flat. Watchable.
Unemployed Romance (E Channel 2013)
There is more wrong than right with this drama, but I enjoyed it in spite of myself. The leads are loveable and deliver solid performances that make up for the show’s awkward pacing. Worth watching.
Wedding (KBS 2005)
Simple and unexciting storyline but lots of heart, sweetness and angst as meek as the heroine. Worth watching.
What’s Up, Fox (MBC 2006)
Mild, but nice, noona-romance. Good performances from the whole cast. Worth watching.
Witch’s Romance (tvN 2014)
Totally winning heroine and a gorgeous noona-killer? Yes please! Worth watching.
Wonderful Life (MBC 2005)
Starts out as a typical and reasonably easy-to-watch rom-com, but loses its way when it devolves into melo territory. Watchable if you don’t mind sitting through the deadly illness storyline toward the end.
You’re Beautiful (SBS 2009)
A nun-in-training masquerades as a male member of a Kpop band to cover for her twin brother as he recuperates from a botched plastic surgery. Overflowing with cuteness and pretty, it’s worth watching.
You’ve Fallen For Me (aka Heartstrings) (MBC 2011)
Charmingly sweet. Worth watching if only for the cuteness overload and Jung Yong-hwa’s performance of “Because I Miss You,” which I still love to this day.
The only non-Korean drama I’ve watched
Hana Yori Dango (Japanese Boys Over Flowers) (TBS 2005)
It isn’t all that different from the Korean version, but somehow it is just so much better. Worth watching.