South Korea

The 11 Best Korean Dramas of 2023

The top Korean dramas of 2023 across genres like thriller, romance, comedy and more—featuring stars like Song Hye-kyo, Ji Chang-wook, Wi Ha-joon, etc. Streaming links included when available.

By , 23 Dec 23 02:18 GMT

In 2023, Korean Dramas continued to expand their cultural dominance worldwide.

It’s then logical to ask—what are the Best Korean Dramas of 2023?

To that end, Cinema Escapist has selected 2023’s top Korean dramas—across a variety of genres including thriller, romance, crime, action, comedy, superhero, and more.

These K-dramas also feature top stars like Song Hye-kyo, Ji Chang-wook, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Hae-in, and more.

We made our selections according to several factors. First, we picked Korean dramas that ran most of their episodes during 2023. Within those dramas, we then narrowed to titles with good  entertainment value and wider availability on global streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+. Lastly, per Cinema Escapist’s editorial ethos, we included K-dramas with noteworthy social consciousness or artistic innovation.

With these factors in mind, we’ve curated 11 entries for 2023’s best Korean dramas. Check out our list, with streaming links included (when available/region dependent)!

•  •  •

11. Agency

Korean Title: 대행사 | Starring: Lee Bo-young, Jo Sung-ha, Son Na-eun, Han Joon-woo, Jeon Hye-jin | Genre: Business, Life, Workplace

The 2023 hit K-drama Agency follows the career of Go Ah-in (played by Lee Bo-young), who becomes the first female executive of a big advertising agency. Coming from a humble background, Go must face entrenched sexism to rise up amongst her corporate peers.

Agency features a good mix of fun and seriousness, touching on important topics including not just misogyny but population decline and conservative attitudes in the Korean workplace. Fans of K-pop group Apink might also appreciate the appearance of Son Nae-un as one of the drama’s characters. As a testament to Agency’s appeal, the drama’s viewership grew steadily over its television run in Korea, with over 13% of South Korean television viewers surveyed watching the show by its conclusion.

Stream this Korean drama on Viki or Netflix

10. The Worst of Evil

Korean Title: 최악의 악 | Starring: Ji Chang-wook, Wi Ha-joon, Im Se-mi, Bibi | Genre: Action, Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Alongside Netflix, Disney+ has been entering the Korean drama arena with original productions over these past few years. One of Disney+’s more prominent offerings in 2023 is The Worst of Evil, which stars Ji Chang-wook as an undercover police officer who’s trying to dismantle a drug operation in Gangnam.

With romance and international crime intrigue, The Worst of Evil tells a punchy and unrelentingly dark story that will hold viewers’ attention throughout its 12 episodes. Besides Ji Chang-wook, the drama also features Wi Ha-joon (of Squid Game) and singer Bibi in her drama debut.

Stream this Korean drama on Disney+ or Hulu

[You may also like: 2022’s Best Korean Dramas]

9. Daily Dose of Sunshine

Korean Title: 정신병동에도 아침이 와요 | Starring: Park Bo-young, Yeon Woo-jin, Jang Dong-yoon, Lee Jung-eun | Genre: Life, Medical

Daily Dose of Sunshine features Park Bo-young as a nurse named Jung Da-eun who’s staffed in the Psychiatry department of a hospital. We’re highlighting this drama primarily because of its empathetic approach towards depicting mental health issues. In each episode, Daily Dose of Sunshine focuses on a particular patient and explores their specific condition in a manner that’s both educational and entertaining.

On this front, the show is vaguely reminiscent of the 2021 Netflix K-drama Move to Heaven, which contains episodic explorations through the lens of an Aspergic trauma cleaner.

Besides its approach to mental health though, Daily Dose of Sunshine is a generally thoughtful show that offers a degree of catharsis with each episode, good editing choices, and overall dynamic production design to complement a component cast.

Stream this Korean drama on Netflix

8. D.P. Season 2

Korean Title: 디피 시즌2 | Starring: Jung Hae-in, Koo Kyo-hwan, Kim Sung-kyun, Son Suk-ku, Kim Ji-hyun | Genre: Action, Military, Drama

We usually try not to feature sequels or second seasons on these best Korean drama lists. However, we especially appreciated season two of D.P., a show that we loved back in 2021. Thus, we’ve made an exception and put it on this year’s list.

Why is this the case? Well, D.P.’s second season continues to offer tight, suspenseful storytelling with a tinge of social realism. As with D.P.’s first season, D.P. season two features Jung Hae-in as a soldier who’s part of a special “Deserter Pursuit” unit tasked with tracking down deserters. Season two continues to be a binge-worthy phenomenon, with each episode building suspensefully towards the next.

The only reason why D.P. season 2 isn’t higher on our list is because there isn’t necessarily much new to its premise compared to the first season; this makes sense given it’s simply a continuation of the previous season’s plot.

Stream this Korean drama on Netflix

[Want to know which  top Korean dramas feature North Korea? Read this list to find out.]

7. Divorce Attorney Shin

Korean Title: 신성한 이혼 | Starring: Cho Seung-woo, Han Hye-jin, Kim Sung-kyun, Jung Moon-sung | Genre: Legal

Fans of legal dramas might consider Divorce Attorney Shin, one of 2023’s most-watched Korean dramas when it comes to cable viewership within South Korea. The show centers on Shin Sung-han (Cho Seung-woo), a former music professor who ends up becoming a divorce attorney after a tragic occurrence.

Shin garners a reputation for being able to resolve the most complex cases, and the show outlines the unfortunate stories of his various clientele. All the while, Shin finds meaning in the companionship of two close friends, who help him build resilience in the face of adversity.

Stream this Korean drama on Netflix

6. The Good Bad Mother

Korean Title: 나쁜엄마 | Starring: Ra Mi-ran, Lee Do-hyun, Ahn Eun-jin, Ryu Soo-young, Kim Sae-ron | Genre: Comedy, Life, Family

The Good Bad Mother centers on the relationship between Young-soon (Ra Mi-ran), a single mother, and her son Kang-ho (Lee Do-hyun). When Kang-ho was young, Young-soon raised him in a strict manner, causing him to resent and distance himself from her. Years later, Kang-ho is a successful prosecutor. However, when an accident causes him to lose his memory and regress to a childlike state, he reunites with his mother and the two must heal their relationship.

With themes around justice and explorations around urban-rural as well as class divides (Young-soon lives in a rural area raising pigs), The Good Bad Mother offers a degree of social consciousness in its exploration of family dynamics. Ra Mi-ran also gives a laudable performance as Young-soon, giving the drama a degree of warmth and vulnerability that makes it worth remembering.

Stream this Korean drama on Netflix

5. Bloodhounds

Korean Title: 사냥개들 | Starring: Woo Do-hwan, Lee Sang-yi, Kim Sae-ron, Ryu Seung-beom, Kim Sung-kyun | Genre: Action, Thriller, Crime

Bloodhounds centers on two ex-Marines-turned-boxers named Kim Gun-woo and Hong Woo-jin (played by Woo Do-hwan and Lee Sang-yi, respectively) who decide to team up to fight against Smile Capital, a predatory money lending company.

Besides some bromance between the two male leads, Bloodhounds contains ample action and suspense. For those who dislike romance in K-dramas, the show also offers a welcome respite, as bloody fights and not teary love declarations are its main focus.

With its focus on loansharking, the film also peeks into issues of morality and economic inequality within South Korea, though it may not be as thoughtful as shows with an explicit socially conscious focus.

Stream this Korean drama on Netflix

4. Queenmaker

Korean Title: 퀸 메이커 | Starring: Kim Hee-ae, Moon So-ri, Ryu Soo-young, Cha Tae-hyun, Ryu Seung-beom | Genre: Political, Business

Fans of political dramas will appreciate Queenmaker, which features Kim Hee-ae (from The World of the Married) as a slick corporate fixer named Hwang do-hee who turns on her chaebol employers to help an eccentric labor activist named Oh Kyung-sook (played by Moon So-ri) run for the Seoul mayorship.

With depictions of corporate greed and political intrigue, Queenmaker offers much for political junkies to appreciate. The show also stands out for its female-centric narrative, with its two female leads representing contrasting ways through which women from different walks of life attain—and fight to maintain—influence and power. Given South Korea’s increasing hostility towards feminism and persistence of gender inequality, Queenmaker is all the worth watching as a comparison point with reality.

Stream this Korean drama on Netflix

[You may also like: 10 movies about how South Korea become a democracy]

3. Moving

Korean Title: 무빙 | Starring: Ryu Seung-ryong, Han Hyo-joo, Zo In-sung, Cha Tae-hyun, Ryu Seung-beom | Genre: Action, Thriller, Mystery, Supernatural

Given Disney owns the Marvel franchise, it’s no surprise that they decided to try out a superhero-tinged Kdrama concept with Moving. However, Moving fortunately moves beyond the formulaicness that Marvel has become known for lately, and ends up as one of the most noteworthy Kdramas of 2023.

Moving starts off with a group of South Korean high schoolers who we quickly learn have superpowers. As it turns out, they are the children of a group of South Korean spies who also have superpowers and want to protect their offspring from exploitation by government agencies.

Besides ample action sequences, Moving distinguishes itself from other superhero fare by leaning into its characters’ family dynamics. Every character of the drama gets a detailed backstory, and becomes much more than just their superpower alone. It’s no surprise that Moving became Disney’s most-watched K-drama ever in just seven days, with viewership in certain regions even beating out Disney mainstays like The Mandalorian.

Stream this Korean drama on Disney+ or Hulu.

2. Mask Girl

Korean Title: 마스크걸 | Starring: Lee Han-byeol, Nana, Go Hyun-jung, Ahn Jae-hong, Yeom Hye-ran | Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Black Comedy

With just seven episodes, Netflix’s Mask Girl packs a lot of punch into a short amount of time. The show centers on a girl named Kim Mo-mi who’s plagued by a face that doesn’t meet South Korea’s strict beauty standards. Despite this, Kim pines to be a performer—and secretly satisfies that desire by becoming a masked internet streamer known as “Mask Girl”. However, a series of unfortunate events blows up Kim’s hidden identity as Mask Girl, and spirals into a decades-spanning journey of revenge.

To say Mask Girl is dark and violent is an understatement. The show has no qualms about featuring murder and sexual assault, and takes some pretty shocking turns. This degree of shock value makes Mask Girl all the more effective as social commentary on the state of gender relations and beauty standards in contemporary South Korea though, and gives it the flavor of successful Korean revenge movies like Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. If you’re looking for a break from slow-paced 20-episode saccharine Korean dramas, Mask Girl will offer a welcome—though bleak—respite. The show is captivating and suspenseful, and you might find yourself binge-ing through all seven of its episodes before you realize it.

Stream this Korean drama on Netflix

1. The Glory

Korean Title: 더 글로리 | Starring: Song Hye-kyo, Lee Do-hyun, Im Ji-yeon, Yeom Hye-ran, Park Sung-hoon | Genre: Thriller, Revenge, Melodrama

Topping our list of 2023’s best Korean dramas is The Glory. Technically, the show premiered on December 30, 2022. Therefore, it didn’t make it onto Cinema Escapist’s 2022 Korean dramas list given we didn’t have enough information about it at the time. However, given the vast majority of The Glory’s episodes came out in 2023, we feel it makes sense for it to get a place on this list.

Written by renowned screenwriter Kim Eun-sook and starring superstar actress Song Hye-kyo as its lead Moon Dong-eun, The Glory was one of the past year’s most anticipated and praised Korean dramas. The show focuses on Moon’s experiences with school bullying, and then transforms into a gripping revenge tale. Given significant #MeToo-style discourse about bullying over the past few years in South Korea, The Glory comes at a socially impactful time as well.

The Glory swept the Baeksang Arts Awards with wins for Best Drama, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress, and has garnered praise for its realism and ability to build global awareness about the lasting traumas of bullying.

Want to learn more about The Glory? Read our full-length review and get the full scoop.

Stream this Korean drama on Netflix

•  •  •

Want more K-dramas? Check out our lists of 2022 and 2021’s best Korean dramas. Or, check out our list of 2023’s Best Korean Movies!

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