Mention South Korean TV dramas and you’ll most likely conjure up the image of heart-fluttering scenes or tear-jerking breakups, brought to life by undoubtedly gorgeous actors and actresses with flawless skin.
Last year saw many turning to the genre of Korean dramas, most likely due to the time we were spending at home. Yet, you’ll quickly realise that most of them, no matter how compelling the storyline or how intriguing the context was, revolved around at least one love line.
Crash Landing on You? A South Korean heiress and a North Korean officer. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay? An unlikely romance between an antisocial children’s book writer and a psychiatric ward caretaker. Even Start-Up, a show based on the hardships of entrepreneurship had a highly debatable (#TeamGoodBoy, anyone?) rom-com plot line.
While these rom-coms are great for a cosy night (or day) armed with plenty of feel-good moments, there are many other binge-worthy South Korean dramas that aren’t all about love and hope.
If you have ever dismissed the thought of watching South Korean dramas because of the predictable love lines, or you’re just looking to expand your repertoire of South Korean shows beyond romance, this list for you.
Read on for all our favourites.
If there’s one show that caught South Korea by storm in late 2018, it would be Sky Castle. The storyline follows four families in the top one percent of South Korea, highlighting the psychological traumas and pressures each individual of these rich, corrupted households has to face. At the core of the drama lies a satirical social commentary of those “born with a silver spoon” who have to live up to societal expectations in all aspects of life.
The World of the Married
We’re still reeling from the whirlwind that is The World of the Married. The 16-episode drama hinges upon what happens after the happy endings and plunges the audience deep into a plot that’s built on infidelity and betrayal. Unlike many South Korean dramas, the unfiltered series doesn’t have a set protagonist or antagonist. Instead, it paints a picture of what humans really are — flaws, failures and all — which leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions as to who is really “at fault” for a “failed” marriage.
Prison Playbook is calm and well-paced prison series which tackles important themes like male relationships and friendships while calling out the fragility of toxic masculinity. Despite its grim premise, each character is well thought out, exemplifying the humanity that most prisoners are often stripped of when being described.
What makes a Mother? This heartwrenching drama follows the likes of a substitute elementary school teacher who recognises the incessant, grotesque abuse that one of her students is going through, and, due the lack of protection from the state, decides to kidnap her and run away. Here, the audience is consistently directed to the theme that being a mother is based on pure, sacrificial love, and not in biology alone.
We love a good crime show, especially when its stories have been inspired by real-life murders. Signal takes a turn early in the series when a lieutenant discovers that he can speak to a long-missing police detective via a mysterious walkie-talkie that seems to be in a different year every single time they converse. Together with another detective, the “time-travelling” trio find themselves solving gripping crimes and preventing them from ever taking place.
(All images: Netflix)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.