The mention of South Korean dramas typically conjures up images 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, most likely due to the time we were spending at home. Yet, you’ll quickly realise that most of these drama series, no matter how compelling the storyline or how intriguing the context is, revolve 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.

korean dramas
A meme of a “typical” Korean drama timeline (Image: @Dogen/Twitter)

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, non-romance 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 sappy courtship, this list for you.

Read on for all our favourite non-romance Korean dramas.


Sky Castle

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.

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Save Me

Save Me left us on edge for many reasons. The drama is based on a controversial topic of religious cults, and a teenage girl who cannot seem to escape their clutches despite the numerous efforts from her ex-schoolmates. Her harrowing journey to freedom is threatened by a brainwashed community and disturbing offences from a perverse pastor, and is an emotional thriller that’ll keep you up at night for sure.

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The World of the Married

non-romance Korean dramas 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.

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Prison Playbook

non-romance Korean dramas Prison Playbook is a 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.

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non-romance Korean dramas 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.

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The Player

non-romance Korean dramas Step into the shoes of the anti-hero for a moment with the characters of The Player. The light-hearted series tells the story of four con-men and women who have been recruited by a prosecutor seeking to change the future of unpunished corruption in his office. While the pacing of the show takes off points to the overall piece, the camaraderie of the cast and the clever, almost masterful heists make for an enjoyable drama to catch nonetheless.

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This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore

(Main and featured image: Prison Playbook)

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