Whether torn apart by distance or a bout of amnesia, romantic Korean dramas with plotlines about rekindling lost love have long captured the imagination of fans. The best shows about long-lost connections turning into romance are thus a big draw for lovers of K-drama.
Guardian: Lonely and Great God (2016) and Crash Landing on You (2019) are some classic examples of romantic K-dramas. A subgenre of it deals with the nuanced trope of long-lost lovers. While shows like Fight For My Way (2017) portray the journey of childhood friendship blooming into a passionate romance, others like Twenty Again (2015) deal with ex-lovers rekindling a romance that was cut short.
Using time jumps to narrate the tale of two kids from broken families who form a deep bond only to get separated and fall in love years later is the 2020 Emmy-nominated Park Shin-woo directorial It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. Starring Hallyu superstars Kim Soo-hyun and Soo Ye-ji, the love story gained global recognition for its honest portrayal of the universal stigma around mental health issues.
Not to forget, one of Park Seo-joon career’s best romantic Korean dramas, What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim, which is a perfect blend of heartbreak and office romance. After all, watching an arrogant and snobbish businessman confess, “Please don’t quit, Secretary Kim” can be quite satisfying for lovers of romance K-drama.
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It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020)
Directed by: Park Shin-woo
Cast: Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Ye-ji, Oh Jeong-se
Synopsis: The lives of impulsive and antisocial writer Ko Moon-young (Son) and selfless psych ward caretaker Moon Kang-tae (Kim) get intertwined due to the latter’s brother being a fan of Moon-young. As the trio begin a journey of healing and self-discovery, Moon-young and Sang-tae realise they had known each other as kids. With beautiful past memories resurfacing, the duo grow closer.
About the show: Written by acclaimed South Korean writer Jo Yong, this romantic K-drama earned eight nominations at South Korea’s 57th Baeksang Arts Awards. The TV show also received a nomination at the 49th International Emmy Awards in the Best TV Movie or Miniseries category.
Her Private Life (2019)
Directed by: Hong Jong-chan
Cast: Kim Jae-wook, Park Min-young, One
Synopsis: Art curator Sung Deok-mi (Park) lives a dual life as a fan of K-pop idol Cha Si An (One) until she is pursued by her boss Ryan Gold (Kim). However, a chain of events leads the duo to realise that Ryan’s past is inexplicably linked to Deok-mi and her mother.
About the show: This romantic K-drama is adapted from the 2007 novel Noona Paen Datkom by South Korean writer Kim Sung-yeon.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim (2018)
Directed by: Park Joon-hwa
Cast: Park Seo-joon, Park Min-young, Lee Tae-hwan
Synopsis: Businessman Lee Young-joon (Park Seo-joon) has been trying to keep his perfectionist secretary Kim Mi-so (Park Min-young) from quitting his company. Meanwhile, Mi-so has been trying to reconnect with a boy with whom she had been kidnapped as a child. Co-incidentally, fragments of her memory keep leading her to Young-joon.
About the show: This romantic K-drama is based on the 2013 novel Kimbiseoga Wae Geureolgga by acclaimed South Korean romance writer Jung Kyung-yoo.
Fight For My Way (2017)
Directed by: Lee Na-jeong
Cast: Park Seo-joon, Kim Ji-won, Ahn Jae-hong
Synopsis: Former pro taekwondo player Ko Dong-man (Park) is now a nameless mixed martial arts fighter. The only person aware of his painful past is his long-time best friend, Choi Ae-ra (Kim). While hustling to make successful careers in the present, the childhood friends grow closer romantically and eventually fall in love.
Just Between Lovers (2017)
Directed by: Kim Jin-won
Cast: Lee Junho, Won Jin-ah, Lee Ki-woo
Synopsis: Lee Kang-do (Lee) and Ha Moon-soo (Won) were survivors of the same accident as 15-year-olds. Years later when their paths cross again, the two form a deeper bond by sharing their sorrows and struggles.
About the show: Also known as Rain or Shine, the romance K-drama earned Won the 2018 APAN Star Award in the Best New Actress category.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (2016)
Directed by: Oh Hyun-jong and Nam Sung-woo
Cast: Lee Sung-kyung, Nam joo hyuk
Synopsis: Weightlifting champ Kim Bok-joo (Lee) captures the attention of campus heartthrob and talented swimmer, Joon Hyung (Nam). When Bok-joo’s spunky nature leads Hyung to pursue her, the former realises that Hyung had always known her and was a part of her elementary school.
Kill Me, Heal Me (2015)
Directed by: Kim Jin-man
Cast: Ji Sung, Hwang Jung-eum, Park Seo-joon
Synopsis: Psychiatry resident Ri Jin (Hwang) and the son of the head of a Korean conglomerate Do Hyun (Ji) shared a troubled past as children. The traumatic memories lead the latter to develop dissociative identity disorder as an adult. While Do Hyun struggles with six other personalities, each of which surface depending on the triggers he faces daily, Ri Jin starts helping him cope.
I Remember You (2015)
Directed by: Kim Jin-won and No Sang-hoon
Cast: Jang Nara, Park Bo-gum, Seo In-guk
Synopsis: Criminal profiler Lee Hyun (Seo) has come back to Korea to find his lost brother. Detective Cha Ji-an (Jang), who has been investigating the case for years, discovers that Hyun was her childhood friend. As Ji-an and Lee-hyun start working together towards a common goal, they start falling for each other.
About the show: This popular romance K-drama is also known as Hello Monster.
Twenty Again (2015)
Directed by: Kim Hyung-shik, childhood friends
Cast: Choi Ji-woo, Kim Min-jae, Lee Sang-yoon, Choi Won-young
Synopsis: Due to an unplanned pregnancy, Ha No-ra (Choi Ji-woo) drops out of school. Married at the age of 19, she spends two decades as an unhappy housewife. When her 20-year-old son Kim Min-soo (Kim) starts university, No-ra decides to enrol too. However, things get complicated when both her husband, Kim Woo-chul (Choi Won-young) and her childhood love, Cha Hyun-seok (Lee) end up being her professors.
About the show: This romantic Korean drama is also known as Second 20s.
Directed by: Lee Jung-sub and Kim Jin-woo
Cast: Ji Chang-wook, Park Min-young, Yoo Ji-tae
Synopsis: Mercenary Seo Jung-hoo (Ji) aka Healer is assigned the task of acquiring the DNA sample of journalist Chae Young-shin (Park). In order to get close to her he takes up the identity of a media intern. Soon, Jung Hoo and Young Shin start working together only to discover that their paths have crossed before and the case they are investigating is connected to their childhood.
(Hero and featured image credit: tvN)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
What is the best romantic K-drama of all time?
Some of the best romantic K-dramas of all time are ‘Crash Landing on You’, ‘Descendants of the Sun’, ‘The Heirs’, ‘Boys Over Flowers’, ‘What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim’, ‘My Love from the Star’ and ‘Goblin’.
What is the best romantic comedy K-drama?
Some of the best romantic comedy K-dramas are ‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo’, ‘Strong Woman Do Bong Soon’, ‘Coffee Prince’, ‘Secret Garden’ and ‘Business Proposal’.
Why are Korean dramas so romantic?
Korean dramas often feature romantic storylines which are rather idealistic and tend to tug at your heartstrings. The main reason for romantic K-dramas being so popular might be because of the way romance is perceived in Korean culture, which is often pure and innocent. Moreover, these shows are often targeted towards a younger section of the audience, making romance a given in the plotline.