It’s no secret that Korean dramas are raking in U.S. viewers in droves and are quickly becoming mainstream entertainment nationwide, with viewership up 200% between 2019 and 2021. Why the big shift? It could be due to numerous factors, including the growing demand among the Gen Z population for cleaner TV show options with less on-screen sex, as well as a majority preferring to watch original stories rather than franchises, adaptations, and remakes.
If there’s anything K-dramas bring to the table, it’s an abundance of original, heartfelt storylines with less of the flashing body parts and more of the captivating, swoon-worthy romance that keeps us feeling warm and tingly long after the happy ending. This year, we spent hours comparing some of the coziest Korean dramas to date and are boiling the list down to the top six delightful options that will not only keep you entertained but also cause you to fall in love with captivating plots, charming characters, and that magical touch of romance we all crave during the holiday season.
Destined with You
Recently released in September with glowing reviews, this romantic drama is perfect to curl up on the couch with your favorite warm beverage. With a storyline that explores love, destiny, and the (sometimes hilarious) consequences of the choices we make, two individual’s lives become intertwined in mysterious and heartwarming ways. Lee Hong-Jo (Jo Bo-Ah) is a light-hearted civil servant who always tries her best at work, even though she has to attend to many civil complaints. She is used to being alone, but one day, Hong-Jo happens to become the owner of an old wooden chest full of past-life secrets – and it also happens to be the answer to lifting a curse for the prestigious and cold-hearted lawyer, Jang Shin-Yu (Ro Woon).
Where to watch: Netflix
“You did shoot me. With a love bullet. And when I’m shot, my heart races.” – Jang Shin-Yu
“You’ll accompany me to the afterlife, right? Or are we going to a teahouse first? I’d like to go to a teahouse with you.” – Lee Hong-Jo
An eloquent and touching adaptation of the American classic Gone with the Wind, My Dearest is a historical drama set during the Qing invasion, when the Korean people went through severe hardship. A sweeping love story blooms between Lee Jang-Hyun (Namkoong Min), who is a mysterious and sophisticated man, and a young woman named Yoo Gil-Chae (Ahn Eun-Jin), the pampered daughter of a noble family. Gil-Chae, naturally confident and headstrong, is tasked with ensuring her family’s survival while experiencing the brutal conditions of the invasion. Her character grows in wisdom and strength over the years, and she begins to realize she has fallen in love with Jang-Hyun. This drama offers a satisfying ending and a romance that stays warm through every season, making it the perfect cold weather binge.
Where to watch: Viki
“Now you will cross my mind whenever the moon is bright. I swear by the moonlight. This time, wherever you are, I will make sure I find you.” – Lee Jang-Hyun
“My body is yours. My soul is yours. My heart is… yours too.” – Lee Jang-Hyun
Romance Is a Bonus Book
Dive into the world of the book publishing industry with K-drama fan-favorite Romance is a Bonus Book. This drama not only offers a delightful romance that comforts you like a cup of cocoa, but also takes you on a journey of self-discovery, personal growth, and the power of friendship. Cha Eun-Ho (Lee Jong-Suk) is a brilliant young writer and the handsome chief editor at his publishing company. His best friend and crush from childhood, Kang Dan-Yi (Lee Na-Young), used to be an established marketer, but after a long career break raising a child and following a divorce, she is now broke and unemployed, unbeknownst to Eun-Ho. Dan-Yi finally gets a job at a major book publishing company by lying about her background…only it happens to be at the same company where Eun-Ho is chief editor. They begin to develop romantic feelings for each other, and over time, Dan-Yi starts to see her friend less as a younger brother and more as the man who has always loved her.
Where to watch: Netflix
“The more we love, the more I know that we can never be the same person. But as we love, that person’s happiness becomes my happiness. That person’s misfortune becomes my misfortune. It’s strange and miraculous to love. And we do that amazing thing every day.” – Cha Eun-Ho
Kang Dan-i: “When did you start to like me?” Cha Eun-ho: “From spring to summer. And from fall to winter. Do you know when the season changes? Do you know exactly when winter ends and spring begins? Just like the seasons, I don't know when my love for you started to grow.”
Crash Landing on You
As a consistent top five rated K-drama, Crash Landing on You (or CLOY as it’s lovingly called by fans) has captured the hearts of viewers worldwide. In addition to the fact that the two leads fell in love in real life, married, and now have an adorable son, the drama itself is a masterpiece. You simply can’t miss the unexpected love story between a South Korean heiress as she “crash lands” in the dangerous demilitarized zone of North Korea and a North Korean soldier who attempts to hide her and help her safely return home. It's a tale of love that overcomes every border and obstacle, sprinkled with humor, beloved characters, and touching moments. In addition to the precious times shared between the main leads Yoon Se-Ri (Son Ye-Jin) and Captain Ri Jeong-Hyeok (Hyun-Bin) during the Christmas holiday, this drama is full of cozy wintertime moments.
Where to watch: Netflix
"I wonder which one is love. Hoping that you're worrying about me like I am for you and wishing that you're longing for me like I do for you. Is this love? Or, on the other hand, is it wishing that you won't be worried about me, that you'll forget about me and all the moments we've shared? Is that love? If it's neither, is it love that I'm willing to go through everything from the very beginning just so I can meet you once again?" – Yoon Se-Ri
“Next year, the year after that, and even the year after that, your birthday will be good because I’ll be thinking of you. I’ll be grateful that you were born into this world. I’ll be grateful that the person I love is still breathing.” – Captain Ri Jeong-Hyeok
The Good Bad Mother
A beloved tale of the joys and challenges of motherhood, it’s easy to see why The Good Bad Mother is a top favorite drama of 2023. This Korean drama explores the complexities of motherhood, true love, and personal growth. While viewers rarely leave this drama with a dry eye, this series will touch your soul and leave you with a happy ending, just right for holiday viewing. Young-Soon (Ra Mi-Ran) is a single mother who runs a pig farm and raised her son Kang-Ho (Lee Do-Hyun) alone after the death of her beloved husband. Young-Soon turned herself into a “bad” mother and was strict with Kang-Ho so that he could live a better life than her. Now, her son is all grown up and works as a cold-hearted prosecutor who turned away from his mother. When Kang-Ho has an unexpected accident that causes him to return to a child-like state, his mother uses the opportunity to be a “good” mother and redeem the way she treated him, while his childhood crush, Mi-Joo (Ahn Eun-Jin), also finds a new beginning with her first love.
Where to watch: Netflix
“If you destroy yourself while getting revenge, that isn’t revenge. True revenge is forgetting everything completely, even the reason you wanted revenge, and living a good life.” – Jin Young-Soon
“That’s how it is between a parent and a child. You don’t have to say a word. You can tell just by the look on their face.” – Mrs. Jung
For those who love poetry, history, and romance, Mr. Sunshine is a must-watch. Set in the late 19th century during the United States expedition to Joseon (Korea), this drama is an epic tale of love, patriotism, and the struggle for independence. Eugene Choi (Lee Byung-Hun), a slave boy from Joseon, escapes certain death and boards an American warship bound for the United States. As an adult, he returns to his home country as an American soldier stationed during a time of the Japanese invasion of Korea. He falls in love with the strong-willed noblewoman Lady Ae-Shin (Kim Tae-Ri), who is determined to fight for the freedom of her country. Caught between his loyalties to the United States and his love for Ae-Shin, Captain Choi finds himself willing to risk everything to ensure her safety and those of the few, mighty independence fighters left. With breathtaking cinematography and a compelling storyline, Mr. Sunshine will surely sweep you off your feet this winter.
Where to watch: Netflix
Kim Hee-Sung speaking of his unrequited love for Lady Ae-Shin: “There are two ways to see flowers. You either put some in a vase or set out to meet them along a path. I choose to do the latter. It will be unpleasant on my end, for there won’t be any flowers along the path I choose.”
"Death does not discriminate between the sinners and the saints. It takes, and it takes, and it takes.” – Captain Eugene Choi
And there you have it – a handful of heartwarming Korean dramas that are sure to make you fall in love this winter season. Whether you're in the mood for romance, family drama, or historical tales, these shows are sure to hit all the right notes and make you smitten for compelling plots, beloved characters, and the true magic that makes up Korean storytelling. Now all that’s left is to snuggle up with a warm blanket and reach for a cup of your favorite hot beverage. Happy binging!
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