With their captivating storylines, star-studded casts, and stunning visuals, it’s no wonder that K-dramas have become a global phenomenon.
But what about the Korean dramas that were popular abroad but not in Korea?
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at 12 K-dramas that were a hit overseas but failed to impress viewers in Korea.
From heartwarming rom-coms to thrilling crime dramas, there’s something for everyone on this list. So, if you’re a fan of K-dramas, or if you’re simply curious about Korean dramas that were underrated in Korea but popular abroad, be sure to check out this list.
1. The King: Eternal Monarch
About the Korean Drama “The King: Eternal Monarch” (더 킹: 영원의 군주)
“The King: Eternal Monarch” is a South Korean drama that aired on SBS from April 17 to June 12, 2020. Directed by Baek Sang-Hoon and Jung Ji-Hyun, and penned by renowned screenwriter Kim Eun-Sook, this drama combines elements of fantasy, romance, and parallel worlds.
Plot of “The King: Eternal Monarch”
The story begins in 1994, when the Kingdom of Corea faces upheaval following the murder of the King by his brother, Lee Lim. The young prince, Lee Gon, survives an assassination attempt and becomes the ruler. Lee Lim, driven by a desire for the Manpasikjeok, a legendary flute with supernatural powers, escapes with half of it. In the Republic of Korea, Jeong Tae-Eul is a detective who becomes entangled in an investigation while Lee Gon, now King of Corea, is haunted by the mystery of a police badge from his past.
As Lee Gon chases a person dressed like a rabbit with a clock, he crosses over into the parallel world of the Republic of Korea, where he meets Detective Jeong Tae-Eul. Their unexpected encounter leads to a tale of love, destiny, and the consequences of meddling with parallel universes.
Who Should Watch “The King: Eternal Monarch”
“The King: Eternal Monarch” is recommended for viewers who enjoy intricate storytelling with a blend of fantasy and romance. It appeals to those who appreciate visually stunning productions and the exploration of parallel universes. Fans of Lee Min-Ho and Kim Go-Eun will find their chemistry captivating.
Cast of “The King: Eternal Monarch”
- Lee Min-Ho as Lee Gon
- Kim Go-Eun as Jeong Tae-Eul
- Woo Do-Hwan as Jo Young
- Lee Hong-Nae as Seok Ho-Pil
- Kim Young-Ok as Noh Ok-Nam
- Kim Yong-Ji as Myung Seung-A, and others.
About the Korean Drama “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth” (화랑)
“Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth” is a South Korean drama that aired on KBS2 from December 19, 2016, to February 21, 2017. Directed by Yun Seong-Sik and written by Park Eun-Young, this series is set during the Kingdom of Silla and focuses on the story of Hwarang, an elite group of young men.
Plot of “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth”
The drama is centered around the Hwarang, a select group of young men who are trained in martial arts, poetry, and other arts in the Kingdom of Silla. These Flowering Knights embark on a journey of self-discovery, friendship, and duty as they navigate the complex political landscape of their time.
Moo Myung (Park Seo-Joon) assumes the identity of Sun Woo Rang and joins the Hwarang. He forms close bonds with his fellow knights, including A-Ro (Go Ara), Sam Maek Jong (Park Hyung-Sik), Soo Ho (Minho), and Ban Ryu (Do Ji-Han). As they face personal and political challenges, they strive to become true warriors.
Who Should Watch “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth”
“Hwarang” is recommended for viewers who enjoy historical dramas with a blend of action, romance, and coming-of-age themes. It offers a glimpse into the culture and politics of the Kingdom of Silla and showcases the growth and camaraderie of the young knights. Fans of the cast, including Park Seo-Joon and Park Hyung-Sik, will find their performances engaging.
Cast of “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth”
- Park Seo-Joon as Moo Myung / Sun Woo Rang
- Go Ara as A-Ro
- Park Hyung-Sik as Sam Maek Jong / Ji Dwi Rang
- Minho as Soo Ho Rang
- Do Ji-Han as Ban Ryu Rang
- Seo Yea-Ji, Jo Yoon-Woo, Kim Tae-Hyung (V), Kim Hyun-Joon, Kim Ji-Soo, and others.
About the Korean Drama “Nevertheless” (알고있지만)
“Nevertheless” is a South Korean drama series that aired on JTBC from June 19 to August 21, 2021. Directed by Kim Ga-Ram and based on a webcomic by Jung Seo, this drama explores the complexities of modern dating and relationships. Set in a university, it delves into the lives of young adults as they navigate love and personal growth.
Plot of “Nevertheless”
The story revolves around Park Jae-Eon (Song Kang), an art major who appears friendly and cheerful but has an indifferent attitude toward romantic relationships. Despite his reluctance, he unexpectedly falls for Yoo Na-Bi (Han So-Hee), another art student at his university. Na-Bi, on the other hand, has a history of heartbreak and has sworn off love. However, her encounter with Jae-Eon sparks new feelings, leading to a journey of change and self-discovery for both.
Who Should Watch “Nevertheless”
“Nevertheless” is a drama that will resonate with viewers who enjoy contemporary romance and character-driven narratives. It’s ideal for those interested in exploring the complexities of modern dating and the emotional growth that can occur when individuals confront their fears and insecurities in relationships. Fans of the main cast, especially Song Kang and Han So-Hee, will find their performances captivating.
Cast of “Nevertheless”
- Han So-Hee as Yoo Na-Bi
- Song Kang as Park Jae-Eon
- Chae Jong-Hyeop as Yang Do-Hyeok
- Lee Yeol-Eum as Yoon Seol-A
4. It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
About the Korean Drama “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” (사이코지만 괜찮아)
“It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” is a South Korean drama that aired on tvN from June 20 to August 9, 2020. Directed by Park Shin-Woo and written by Jo Yong, this series blends elements of psychological drama, romance, and dark comedy.
Plot of “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay”
The story revolves around Moon Kang-Tae (Kim Soo-Hyun), a dedicated worker in a psychiatric ward. His responsibilities include documenting patients’ conditions and handling unexpected situations, such as patient conflicts or escape attempts. Despite his dedication, Kang-Tae earns a modest salary. He meets Ko Moon-Young (Seo Yea-Ji), a popular children’s book writer known for her antisocial personality disorder. She’s characterized by her selfish, arrogant, and rude behavior.
As their paths cross, Kang-Tae and Moon-Young’s lives become intertwined. Together, they navigate the complexities of their own mental and emotional struggles while also providing support to Moon Sang-Tae (Oh Jung-Se), Kang-Tae’s older brother, who has autism. The drama explores the healing power of love, empathy, and acceptance.
Who Should Watch “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay”
“It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” is recommended for viewers who appreciate emotionally charged dramas that delve into psychological themes. It’s a must-watch for fans of Kim Soo-Hyun and Seo Yea-Ji, who deliver exceptional performances. Additionally, if you’re interested in stories that explore mental health, family dynamics, and personal growth, this drama offers a unique and heartwarming experience.
Cast of “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay”
- Kim Soo-Hyun as Moon Kang-Tae
- Seo Yea-Ji as Ko Moon-Young
- Oh Jung-Se as Moon Sang-Tae
- Park Gyu-Young as Nam Joo-Ri
- Kim Chang-Wan as Oh Ji-Wang, and others.
5. Welcome to Waikiki 2
About the Korean Drama “Welcome to Waikiki 2” (으라차차 와이키키 시즌2)
“Welcome to Waikiki 2” is a South Korean drama and the second season of the “Welcome to Waikiki” series. It aired on JTBC from March 25 to May 14, 2019. Directed by Lee Chang-Min and written by Kim Ki-Ho and Song Ji-Eun, the series continues the theme of youthful camaraderie and the pursuit of dreams.
Plot of “Welcome to Waikiki 2”
The drama follows the lives, friendships, love, and dreams of a group of young people. Lee Joon-Ki (Lee Yi-Kyung) is an actor who runs the struggling guest house Waikiki. Facing bankruptcy, he decides to rally his friends, Cha Woo-Sik (Kim Sun-Ho) and Kook Ki-Bong (Shin Hyun-Soo), who all share a high school connection, to invest in the guest house and save it from closure.
Cha Woo-Sik aspires to become a singer but is rather picky, and Kook Ki-Bong, a former promising baseball player now in the minor leagues, join Lee Joon-Ki in putting their money into Waikiki. As these three men try to turn the guest house’s fortune around, they are joined by three women: Han Soo-Yeon (Mun Ka-Young), Kim Jung-Eun (Ahn So-Hee), and Cha Yoo-Ri (Kim Ye-Won), who also become residents of Waikiki.
Who Should Watch “Welcome to Waikiki 2”
“Welcome to Waikiki 2” is perfect for viewers who enjoy lighthearted comedies with a focus on friendships and dreams. It’s suitable for those who appreciate ensemble casts and comedic situations. If you’re a fan of the first season or looking for a fun and entertaining series with a youthful vibe, this drama is a good choice.
Cast of “Welcome to Waikiki 2”
- Kim Sun-Ho as Cha Woo-Sik
- Lee Yi-Kyung as Lee Joon-Ki
- Shin Hyun-Soo as Kook Ki-Bong
- Mun Ka-Young as Han Soo-Yeon
- Ahn So-Hee as Kim Jung-Eun
- Kim Ye-Won as Cha Yoo-Ri, and others.
6. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
About the Korean Drama “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo” (달의 연인-보보경심 려)
“Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo” is a South Korean drama that originally aired on SBS from August 29 to November 1, 2016. Directed by Kim Kyu-Tae and written by Jo Yoon-Young, this series is based on the Chinese novel “Bu Bu Jing Xin” by Tong Hua. It blends historical elements with time travel and romance.
Plot of “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo”
The story begins when Hae-Soo (IU) experiences a total eclipse of the sun and mysteriously travels back in time to the Goryeo era, a turbulent period in Korean history. There, she finds herself entangled in the complex politics and power struggles of the royal family.
Hae-Soo falls in love with Wang So (Lee Joon-Gi), a prince known for his fearsome reputation and the mask he wears to hide his face. As she navigates the intricacies of the court, Hae-Soo becomes close to other princes, including Wang Wook (Kang Ha-Neul), Wang Yo (Hong Jong-Hyun), and Wang Eun (Baekhyun), forming bonds and enduring challenges in the dangerous world of the Goryeo dynasty.
Who Should Watch “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo”
“Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo” is a must-watch for fans of historical dramas with a touch of fantasy and romance. If you enjoy intricate court politics, forbidden love, and characters facing the trials of a bygone era, this drama offers a captivating and emotionally charged storyline. It’s also a great choice for fans of the talented cast, including Lee Joon-Gi and IU.
Cast of “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo”
- Lee Joon-Gi as Wang So / King Gwangjong
- IU as Hae-Soo
- Kang Ha-Neul as Wang Wook
- Hong Jong-Hyun as Wang Yo
- Nam Joo-Hyuk as Wang Wook (Baek-A)
- Baekhyun as Wang Eun
- Ji Soo as Wang Jung
- Yoon Sun-Woo as Wang Won
- Kang Han-Na as Hwangbo Yeon-Hwa
- Jin Ki-Joo as Chae-Ryung, and others.
7. True Beauty
About the Korean Drama “True Beauty” (여신강림)
“True Beauty” is a South Korean drama that aired on tvN from December 9, 2020, to February 4, 2021. Directed by Kim Sang-Hyub and written by Lee Si-Eun, the series is based on a popular webcomic by Yaongyi. It falls under the genres of romance, comedy, and coming-of-age.
Plot of “True Beauty”
The story revolves around Im Ju-Kyung (Mun Ka-Young), a high school student who has struggled with self-esteem issues due to her perceived lack of beauty. To hide her insecurities, she becomes a master of makeup, skillfully transforming herself into a stunning beauty whenever she leaves her home. However, she keeps her natural appearance hidden from everyone.
Im Ju-Kyung’s life takes an unexpected turn when she crosses paths with two young men, Lee Soo-Ho (Cha Eun-Woo) and Han Seo-Joon (Hwang In-Yeop). Lee Soo-Ho, a popular and kind-hearted boy, becomes her friend and confidant, while Han Seo-Joon, a rebellious and mysterious transfer student, stirs up new emotions within her. As Ju-Kyung navigates the complexities of teenage life, friendships, and budding romance, she learns valuable lessons about self-acceptance and the true meaning of beauty.
Who Should Watch “True Beauty”
“True Beauty” is a delightful series for viewers who enjoy light-hearted rom-coms with themes of self-discovery and personal growth. It particularly resonates with a younger audience and those interested in exploring the impact of societal beauty standards on self-esteem. Fans of the webcomic may also find this adaptation appealing. Additionally, fans of the main cast, especially Cha Eun-Woo and Hwang In-Yeop, will enjoy their performances.
Cast of “True Beauty”
- Mun Ka-Young as Im Ju-Kyung
- Cha Eun-Woo as Lee Soo-Ho
- Hwang In-Yeop as Han Seo-Joon
- Park Yoo-Na as Kang Soo-Jin
8. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo
About the Korean Drama “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo” (역도요정 김복주)
“Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo” is a South Korean drama that aired on MBC from November 16, 2016, to January 11, 2017. Directed by Oh Hyun-Jong and Nam Sung-Woo, and written by Yang Hee-Seung and Kim Soo-Jin, this series combines elements of sports, romance, and coming-of-age.
Plot of “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo”
The drama centers around Kim Bok-Joo (Lee Sung-Kyung), a talented collegiate female weightlifter with a bright personality and a strong sense of justice. She is dedicated to her sport and trains hard to achieve her goals. However, her dedication to weightlifting and her muscular physique make her less popular with guys, and she and her friends on the weightlifting team struggle to find romantic relationships.
On the other side is Jung Joon-Hyung (Nam Joo-Hyuk), a collegiate swimmer known for his free-spirited nature and a series of disqualifications due to false starts. One day, Bok-Joo bumps into Joon-Hyung, and their paths cross in a peculiar way when he realizes that she once saved his life when they were children.
As Bok-Joo and Joon-Hyung reconnect and navigate the challenges of college life, they discover the budding feelings they have for each other. The drama beautifully explores their journey of self-discovery and love, set against the backdrop of the sports they are passionate about.
Who Should Watch “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo”
“Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo” is a delightful drama suitable for a wide range of viewers. It’s an excellent choice for fans of sports dramas with a focus on dedication, perseverance, and the pursuit of dreams. Additionally, if you enjoy heartwarming romances and coming-of-age stories, this drama is a must-watch. The chemistry between the two leads and the relatable themes make it a beloved series.
Cast of “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo”
- Lee Sung-Kyung as Kim Bok-Joo
- Nam Joo-Hyuk as Jung Joon-Hyung
- Kyung Soo-Jin as Song Shi-Ho
- Lee Jae-Yoon as Jung Jae-Yi
- Lee Joo-Young as Lee Sun-Ok, and others.
9. Doom At Your Service
About the Korean Drama “Doom at Your Service” (어느 날 우리 집 현관으로 멸망이 들어왔다)
“Doom at Your Service” is a South Korean drama that aired on tvN from May 10 to June 29, 2021. Directed by Kwon Young-Il and written by Im Meari, this series blends elements of fantasy, romance, and melodrama.
Plot of “Doom at Your Service”
The story follows Tak Dong-Kyung (Park Bo-Young), an editor for a web novel company, leading a seemingly ordinary life. However, her life takes a drastic turn when Myul-Mang (Seo In-Guk) suddenly appears. Myul-Mang is not an ordinary person; he’s an otherworldly being with the ability to bring doom and destruction to those around him. In a fateful encounter, Dong-Kyung makes a unique 100-day contract with Myul-Mang, risking her life and love in exchange for her most desperate wish.
Myul-Mang is not a traditional deity or demon; he exists as a middle manager between God and humans, managing the balance of life and death. As Dong-Kyung navigates the intricacies of her contract with Myul-Mang, their lives become deeply entwined, leading to unexpected consequences and emotional challenges.
Who Should Watch “Doom at Your Service”
“Doom at Your Service” is a compelling drama for viewers who enjoy fantasy-infused romance with a touch of melancholy. If you’re intrigued by the idea of making a life-altering pact and exploring themes of fate, love, and the meaning of existence, this drama offers a unique and thought-provoking storyline. Fans of Park Bo-Young and Seo In-Guk will also appreciate their performances in this emotionally charged series.
Cast of “Doom at Your Service”
- Park Bo-Young as Tak Dong-Kyung
- Seo In-Guk as Myul-Mang
10. Extraordinary You
About the Korean Drama “Extraordinary You” (어쩌다 발견한 하루)
“Extraordinary You” is a South Korean drama that aired on MBC from October 2 to November 21, 2019. Directed by Kim Sang-Hyub and Kim Sang-Woo, and written by Moo Ryoo, In Ji-Hye, and Song Ha-Young, this series falls under the genre of fantasy-romance.
Plot of “Extraordinary You”
The story revolves around Eun Dan-O (Kim Hye-Yoon), a student at a prestigious high school. Despite her family’s wealth, she suffers from a heart disease. Her fiancé, Baek Kyung (Lee Jae-Wook), attends the same school, but he has no affection for her. Suddenly, Eun Dan-O experiences short-term memory loss and gains the ability to see glimpses of the near future, leaving her bewildered by her newfound symptoms.
Eun Dan-O’s world takes an astonishing turn when she meets Jinmiche, a student from the school cafeteria, who reveals a startling truth. He informs her that she is merely a character in a comic called “Secret,” just like everyone else in her world. She discovers that she is not even a main character but rather an extra with a limited lifespan. Determined to defy her predetermined fate, Eun Dan-O embarks on a quest to find her own true first love, rather than one dictated by the comic’s writer.
During a fall down the school stairs, Eun Dan-O’s heart flutters upon touching the back of another student in a group of males. This mysterious student, who does not have a name, becomes the object of her affection. Eun Dan-O names him “Ha-Roo” and sets out to unravel the secrets of her world and her feelings for Ha-Roo.
Who Should Watch “Extraordinary You”
“Extraordinary You” is a captivating drama suitable for viewers who enjoy fantasy-romance stories with a twist of self-discovery and rebellion against fate. If you appreciate unique concepts and narratives that explore the boundaries between reality and fiction, this series offers an intriguing and imaginative storyline. Fans of Kim Hye-Yoon, Ro Woon, and Lee Jae-Wook will also enjoy their performances in this unconventional romance.
Cast of “Extraordinary You”
- Kim Hye-Yoon as Eun Dan-O
- Ro Woon as Ha-Roo
- Lee Jae-Wook as Baek Kyung
- Lee Na-Eun as Yeo Joo-Da
- Jung Gun-Joo, Kim Young-Dae, Lee Tae-Ri, and others.
11. Uncontrollably Fond
About the Korean Drama “Uncontrollably Fond” (함부로 애틋하게)
“Uncontrollably Fond” is a South Korean drama that aired on KBS2 from July 6 to September 8, 2016. Directed by Park Hyun-Suk and written by Lee Kyoung-Hee, this series explores themes of love, fate, and redemption.
Plot of “Uncontrollably Fond”
The story begins with the childhood experiences of Shin Joon-Young (Kim Woo-Bin) and No Eul (Bae Suzy). They were once close childhood friends but were tragically separated, leading to heartbreak for both of them.
As adults, they cross paths again under different circumstances. Shin Joon-Young has risen to become a top actor and singer known for his intelligence and attractiveness. No Eul, on the other hand, is a documentary PD who values money over justice, often resorting to flattery to gain favor with those in power.
Their reconnection forces them to confront their past and the unresolved feelings they had for each other. With their lives taking different paths, they must navigate the challenges of fame, ambition, and their own personal demons.
Who Should Watch “Uncontrollably Fond”
“Uncontrollably Fond” is a drama suitable for viewers who enjoy melodramatic romances with complex characters and emotional depth. If you appreciate stories that delve into the past and explore how childhood experiences shape adult lives, this series offers a poignant narrative. Fans of Kim Woo-Bin and Bae Suzy will also be drawn to their compelling performances.
Cast of “Uncontrollably Fond”
- Kim Woo-Bin as Shin Joon-Young
- Bae Suzy as No Eul
- Lim Ju-Hwan as Choi Ji-Tae
- Lim Ju-Eun as Yoon Jung-Eun
- Jin Kyung as Shin Young-Ok
- Choi Moo-Sung, Park Soo-Young, Jung Soo-Kyo, and others.
About the Korean Drama “Tempted” (위대한 유혹자) / “Great Seducer”
“Tempted,” also known as “Great Seducer,” is a South Korean drama that aired on MBC from March 12 to May 1, 2018. Directed by Kang In and Lee Dong-Hyun, and based on the novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, this series explores themes of seduction, love, and the consequences of manipulation.
Plot of “Tempted”
Kwon Shi-Hyun (Woo Do-Hwan) is a young man who is willing to bet his life on a dangerous game. His mission is to seduce Eun Tae-Hee (Joy), a 20-year-old who holds a cynical view of love, believing that those who fall in love are pitiful. Shi-Hyun aims to change Tae-Hee’s perspective on love through his seductive tactics.
As Shi-Hyun and Tae-Hee’s lives become intertwined, their emotions and desires start to blur the lines between the game and reality. Their journey is filled with twists and turns as they navigate the complexities of love, temptation, and betrayal.
Who Should Watch “Tempted”
“Tempted” is a drama suitable for viewers who enjoy complex romantic dramas with elements of seduction and psychological intrigue. If you’re interested in stories that explore the consequences of manipulation and the transformative power of love, this series offers an engaging narrative. Fans of Woo Do-Hwan and Joy will appreciate their compelling performances in this drama.
Cast of “Tempted”
- Woo Do-Hwan as Kwon Shi-Hyun
- Joy as Eun Tae-Hee
- Mun Ka-Young as Choi Soo-Ji
- Kim Min-Jae as Lee Se-Joo
- Jeon Mi-Sun, Shin Sung-Woo, Kim Seo-Hyung, and others.