30 Best New Korean Dramas To Binge-Watch In 2021
All aborad the K-drama mania after watching hits such as Crash Landing On You, Itaewon Class and It's Okay to Not be Okay. You'll be pleased to know that a number of notable Korean dramas are set to be released this year––with Netflix even expanding its operations in Asia and leasing 16,000 square metres of studio space in South Korea. Besides all the new films coming to Netflix and new Netflix releases for this month, keep these Korean dramas on your radar to cure your lovesick hearts, give you the thrills or just provide an escape from reality.
A lot of South Korea's most famous names, from Gong Yoo, Song Joong-ki to Jun Ji-hyun are making their small screen comebacks, with 2021 already looking to be another strong year for Korean dramas. From swoon-worthy romances, edge-of-your-seat thrillers to exciting science fictions, here are the most popular Korean dramas that we can't wait to see this year.
Note: The list is arranged chronologically, starting from the earliest release date.
1/30 Sisyphus: The Myth
After a two-year hiatus from the small screen, Park Shin-hye is making her return in Sisyphus: The Myth, opposite Jo Seung-woo. It follows Han Tae-sul (Jo), a genius engineer armed with a high level of coding skills and outstanding looks. He's also the co-founder of Quantum and Time, building the company from the ground up to become a world-class company. But little does the world know, the company's stocks are constantly fluctuating after the death of Han's brother, causing him to set off to a dangerous path.
Meanwhile, Park plays Kang Seo-hae, a soldier with commendable skills—from zipling from building to building, shooting to fighting people twice her size—and sets off in search of Han. Following Park's commendable performance in #Alive, many are excited to see her back in action.
Release date: February 17
See also: 7 Korean Movies To Watch On Netflix
2/30 Beyond Evil
Beyond Evil is a thriller-psychological drama about two fearless men who are willing to go to extreme lengths in their pursuit of a serial killer that has shaken up their city. It won Best Drama at the 57th Baeksang Arts Awards with Shin Ha-kyun bringing home the Best Actor award.
Lee Dong-shik (Shin), a former detective who has been demoted to mundane tasks at a local police station was just about to settle into a peaceful life he gets called back after a string of gruesome killings occur. Lee and detective Han Joo-woo (Yeo Jin-goo) team up to stop the vicious culprit in his tracks.
Release date: February 19
See also: 57th Baeksang Arts Awards 2021: Full List Of Winners
Another household name making a comeback is Song Joong-ki in Vincenzo, playing the role of Vincenzo Cassano, who at the age of eight is adopted and sent off to Italy. As an adult, he becomes a consigliere. But as friction among the mafia starts to run rifle and he flees to South Korea, only to cross paths with a lawyer, Hong Cha-young (Jeon Yeo-bin). The two end up helping each other bring down an evil corporation and protect the tenants living in Geumga Plaza.
Other members of the cast include 2PM's Ok Taecyeon and Yang Kyung-won, who you would recognise from Crash Landing On You. Vincenzo will also be airing on Netflix.
Release date: February 20
See also: Exclusive: "Vincenzo" Star Song Joong-Ki Talks To Tatler About The Netflix Hit
While most know Korean dramas for its swoon-worthy romance, Korean crime thrillers are also worth all the hype. Entering the scene is Mouse, a suspenseful story that addresses the question, "What if we could identify psychopaths in advance"?
The series stars Lee Seung-gi and Lee Hee-joon as the nation is gripped with fear when a crazed serial killer's ruthless murders have gone amok. The two justice-seeking police offers are on the hunt for the killer before he could wreak more havoc.
Release date: March 3
See also: The Best Sci-Fi Movies To Watch On Netflix
5/30 Love Alarm 2
Ever since Love Alarm ended on a cliffhanger, many have been clamouring for a second season. And when the second was announced, many anticipate when it will drop, with production delayed due to various reasons from conflicting schedules to Covid-19. But we can expect to see a continuation of where the first season left off as Kim Jo-jo (Kim So-hyun) finds herself torn between Hwang Sun-oh (Song Kang) and Lee Hye-young (Jung Ga-ram).
Release date: March 12
See also: The Best Teen And Youth Shows To Watch In 2021
6/30 Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver is adapted from the original webtoon of the same name about a mysterious taxi service that enacts justice on behalf of victims. Kim Do-gi (Lee Je-hoon) is one of the drivers for the company whose mother was murdered. Kang Ha-na (Esom) is a lawyer while Ahn Go-eun (Pyo Ye-jin) is an IT specialist but many consider her a hacker, and all three crossed paths along the way.
A combination of action, crime and drama—you can expect a lot of thrills from Taxi Driver.
Release date: April 2
See also: 9 Popular French Shows To Watch On Netflix
7/30 Youth of May
If you've seen the Netflix original series, Sweet Home, two of the leads of this Korean drama might look familiar to you. After starring as siblings in Sweet Home, both Lee Do-hyun and Go Min-si will try their chemistry as lovers in Youth of May. The youth drama will follow Lee and Go as they become swept up in a historically significant time period in South Korea during May 1980.
Transitioning as a lead actor, Lee plays Hwang Hee Tae, who despite being a troublemaker is actually a bit of a genius, earning top grades to enter Seoul National University College of Medicine. Marking Go's first lead role, Kim Myung-hee is a nurse living in Gwangju and despite her beautiful appearance, holds a cold exterior. The two seemingly living different lives, end up meeting and experiencing the hardest May of their lives.
Release date: May 3
See also: Lee Do-Hyun: 8 Things To Know About The Korean Rising Star
8/30 Doom at Your Service
This fantasy drama finally saw the team-up of Seo In-guk and Park Bo-young, who have made cameos in each other's dramas over the years. It follows Tak Dong-kyung (Park), an editor for a web novel company who suddenly finds out that she has a terminal illness and only has a few months left to live.
Wishing for doom to fall upon the world, Mr Doom himself Myul Mang (Seo) suddenly appears and makes a 100-day contract with her to fulfil her wish. As the two battle it out between wishing for the world to end to saving their loved ones, they too end up falling in love.
Release date: May 10
See also: Seo In-Guk: 8 Things To Know About The "Doom At Your Service" Actor
9/30 Move To Heaven
Netflix's latest original Korean drama is Move to Heaven which stars Lee Je-hoon and Tang Joon-sang. This heartwarming story follows Geu-ru, a young man with Asperger's syndrome and Sang-gu, who suddenly finds himself as Geu-ru's guardian. The two team up to work as "trauma cleaners", a group of people clearing out the last possessions of the deceased and uncovering stories that are left behind. They are also tasked with delivering the stories of the deceased to the people they've left behind, offering closure, farewell and comfort.
This inspiring tale is based on a non-fiction essay, Things Left Behind by Kim Sae-byul which chronicles the first trauma cleaners in South Korea. The series will be helmed by director Kim Sung-ho who is making his drama directorial debut and writer, Yoon Ji-ryun who worked on 2004's Boys Over Flowers. Ji Jin-hee and Lee Jae-wook are set to make special appearances.
Release date: May 14
See also: 12 Inspiring Movies To Watch
10/30 My Roommate is a Gumiho
My Roommate is a Gumiho is based on a webcomic that follows the handsome and enchanting man, Shin Woo-yeo (Jang Ki-yong). Secretly, he's actually a 999-year-old nine-tailed fox. In order to become fully human, he collects human energy in a bead.
University student, Lee Dam (Hyeri) crosses paths with Shin. During an unexpected encounter, Shin's bead falls out and Lee ends up swallowing it, tying their fate together. The bead can only exist inside of a human for no more than a year. Afterwards, it will break and Lee will die while Shim will lose his chance to become human. Shin suggests that they live together to find a solution to their problem.
Sounds like the classic co-inhabitation romance story right? With a nine-tailed-fox twist.
Release: May 26
See also: Jang Ki-Yong: 7 Things To Know About The "My Roommate Is A Gumiho Star"
11/30 Hospital Playlist 2
Smash medical K-drama, Hospital Playlist is coming back for a second season. Shin Won-ho is set to return to the director's chair. We can expect the second season to answer some of the hanging questions from the first season including whether Lee Ik-jun (Jo Jung-suk) and Chae Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do) will finally become a couple.
Release: June 17
Song Kang, the unofficial "son of Netflix" as most K-drama fans call him, is adding Nevertheless to his line-up this year. Song Kang will be playing university art major, Park Jae-eon who seems nice on the outside but is actually indifferent and has a nonchalant attitude towards relationships.
But it's always these "I'm not interested in romance" characters that end up finding love and Park ends up falling for Yoo Na-bi (Han Soo-hee), a schoolmate who wants to date but doesn't believe in love. The two started off with a friends-with-benefits relationship but their approach towards love begins to change.
Release: June 19 2021
See also: "Nevertheless": 5 Reasons To Watch The New K-Drama
13/30 The Devil Judge
The Devil Judge sees the reunion of Ji Sung and Kim Min-jung—where he plays a judge while she plays an executive director of a charitable foundation. As a lawyer, Kang punishes corrupt and greedy men with power but he has a secret.
Meanwhile, Kim is involved with high-profile people and has the power to control the country by using her connections. She's Kang's enemy. Joining the drama is Kim Ga-in (Got7's Jin Young) as a rookie judge and Yoon Soo-hyun (Park Gyu-young) as a detective who's after Kang's secret.
Release date: July 3
See also: "The Devil Judge": What You Need To Know About Ji Sung's New Drama
14/30 You Are My Spring
You Are My Spring is about a group of people who, as adults, still have a childish state of mind. Kang Da-jeong (Seo Hyun-jin) works as a hotel concierge manager and moves to Gugu Building. Her neighbour Ju Young-do (Kim Dong-wook) is a psychiatrist, the two of them witness a murder case.
Healing, mystery, crime and romance—what more can you ask for?
Release date: July 5
See also: "You Are My Spring:" 5 Reasons The New Netflix K-Drama Is A Must Watch
15/30 Kingdom: Ashin of the North
Zombie fans rejoice! A spin-off episode of historical zombie hit, Kingdom is coming out this year. While this is not a series per se, it's still one of the new ones that have been highly anticipated this year. This sidequel, Kingdom: Ashin of the North stars Jun Ji-hyun as Ashin, an heiress to a northern Jurchen town who knows the secret behind the resurrection plant.
Jun's cameo at the end of Kingdom 2 garnered a lot of buzz and she's here to tell you the story you've been waiting for.
Release date: July 23
See also: Exclusive: "Kingdom: Ashin Of The North" Cast And Crew Talk About The Netflix Special Episode
16/30 Human Disqualification
This year is proving to be the year of comebacks with Ryu Jun-yeol and Jeon Do-Yeon returning to the small screen in Human Disqualification or Lost. The story will revolve around a 40-year-old woman (Jeon) and a 27-year-old man (Ryu). The woman works as a ghostwriter who hasn't achieved anything in life while the young man is afraid of becoming a nobody.
Release: September 2021
See also: Korean Entertainment News: Human Disqualification/Lost Drops Poster And Teaser
17/30 Red Sky
If like me, you were bummed to find out that the original pairing of Kim Yoo-jung and Ahn Hyo-seop in Clean With Passion For Now didn't happen due to Ahn's scheduling conflict, then you'll be pleased to know that the pairing has been given a second chance in Red Sky.
This historical drama is set during the Joseon era where Hong Cheon-ki (Kim), a painter, is picked as the first female painter of the Dohwaseo (Korean Royal Academy of Painting). Painting is everything to her until she meets Ha Ram (Ahn), a blind officer in charge of astronomy, geography, divination and meteorology.
Release date: September 2021
See also: "The 8th Night": 5 Reasons To Watch Netflix's New Korean Horror Movie
18/30 One Ordinary Day
South Korea's highest-paid actor, Kim Soo-hyun is starring in Korean drama, One Ordinary Day, which was previously known as That Night. It made headlines following rumours of Kim's hefty salary per episode.
Kim will be playing university student, Kim Hyun-soo who is accused of murder. Coming to his rescue is third-rate lawyer, Shin Joong-han, who barely passed the bar exam. Despite that, he's determined to help Kim prove his innocence. The upcoming drama is a remake of the British TV show, Criminal Justice.
Release: November 2021
See also: “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” Fashion: All The Designer Brands Worn In Netflix's Hit Show
19/30 Now We Are Breaking Up
Song Hye-kyo is also making her long-awaited comeback to the small screen with Now We Are Breaking Up opposite Jang Ki-yong. The drama will tell the story of love and break-ups. Song will be playing Ha Young-eun, the leader of a design team for a fashion company.
She's cold-hearted because she's realistic but smart, beautiful and good at what she does. Meanwhile, Yoon Jae-wook (Jang) is a freelance fashion photographer. He seems to have everything: intelligence, wealth and a charming personality.
See also: "Now We Are Breaking Up": 6 Things To Know About Song Hye-Kyo's New Drama
Rising star Jeon Yeo-bin from Vincenzo and Night in Paradise is headlining another drama this year. This time, it's with the creators of Netflix series, Extracurricular. In Glitch, the rookie actress will be playing Hong Ji-hyo who's tracking down her missing boyfriend with the help of members of a UFO club. She is also expected to portray her multidimensional character in a unique and imaginative way.
See also: 10 Things To Know About "Vincenzo" Actress, Jeon Yeo-Bin
21/30 No Name
Another Netflix original to keep on your radar is No Name, which will be helmed by director Kim Jin-min of acclaimed series, Extracurricular. The story follows Yoon Ji-woo (Nevertheless' Han So Hee), a member of an organised crime ring who goes undercover to infiltrate the police, in search of those responsible for her father's death.
Choi Moo-jin (Park Hee-soon) plays the boss of the biggest drug ring in Korea and helps Yoon go undercover. Impressing watchers with his performance in Itaewon Class, Ahn Bo-hyun scores his first lead role, playing Jeon Pil-do, a police detective in the drug investigation unit and become Yoon's partner.
Release date: TBC
See also: Han So-Hee's Style Evolution In Her Korean Dramas
22/30 Mount Jiri
Jun Ji-hyun will be making her small-screen comeback with Mount Jiri which is centred around a group of rangers and other employees of Jirisan National Park whose primary mission is to rescue lost trekkers. But there's more secret around the unexplored regions of Mount Jiri, left for the rangers to find out.
Jun plays Seo Yi-kang, the park's top ranger who's also very knowledgeable in navigating the national park. Joining her is Kang Hyun-jo (Ju Ji-hoon), a rookie national park ranger. As a military academy graduate and former lieutenant, he's had his fair share of horrific experiences on Mount Jiri, leading him to become a ranger.
Release date: TBC
See also: Jun Ji-Hyun Debuts New Looks For Alexander McQueen's Spring 2021 Collection
23/30 The Silent Sea
2021 seems to be the year of comebacks for many of South Korea's household names. Gong Yoo and Bae Doona will also be making their returns to drama in The Silent Sea, a science-fiction tale set in the future when the planet is suffering from lack of water and food. Actor Jung Woo-sung is serving as executive producer.
Considering that there hasn't been a lot of science-fiction Korean dramas, this one is highly anticipated in addition to Gong and Bae's comeback who will be playing soldiers sent on a mission to retrieve a mysterious sample from an abandoned research station that could potentially save the planet. Lee Joon is also part of the cast and marks the follow-up to his 2017 drama, My Father is Strange as well as his comeback after completing his military service.
Release date: TBC
See also: 10 Most Expensive Korean Dramas To Make
Yeon Sang-ho, director of smash zombie flicks, Train to Busan and Peninsula, will be helming this Netflix original. Hellbound is based on the webtoon of the same name and author Choi Gyu-seok will be part of the production process. Yoo Ah-in of the critically acclaimed, Burning, will make his small-screen return for the lead role of Jeong Jin-su, one of the leaders of the New Truth Church.
Joining the cast is Park Jeong-min as a producer at a broadcasting company set out to investigate the mysterious church, Kim Hyun-woo as a lawyer going up against the church and its devotees, Won Jin-ah as a member of the church and Jin Gyeong-hun as a police detective investigating the "death angels". Fans of Save Me, another drama based on a cult may want to be on the lookout for this one.
Release date: TBC
See also: 15 Scariest Asian Horror Movies To Watch
Blackpink's Kim Ji-soo will be making her television debut with Snowdrop and fans cannot wait but be excited. Joining her are Jung Hae-in, Kim Hye-yoon, Jung Yoo-jin, Yoon Se-ah and Jang Seung-jo. The highly-anticipated drama will be set in Seoul in 1987 and follows the love story of Im Soo-ho (Jung), a student at a prestigious university.
Meanwhile, Eun Young-cho (Kim Ji-soo) falls in love with him at first sight during a social gathering and runs into him at her dorm. Will sparks fly behind the two?
Release date: TBC
See also: Dior Appoints Blackpink's Jisoo As New Global Ambassador
26/30 When Flowers Bloom, I Think of the Moon
Hyeri is set to star in another drama this year, opposite Yoo Seung-ho in When Flowers Bloom, I Think of the Moon. This saeguk (historical drama) takes place during the late Joseon period when a strict alcohol ban is in place.
Nam Young (Yoo) is an officer for the Saheonbu, who catches people that break the alcohol ban. Here, he meets Kang Ro-seo (Hyeri), who is the breadwinner of a poor noble family. In order to pay off her debt, she begins brewing alcohol during the ban to earn money.
See also: 13 Items To Dress Like Hyeri In "My Roommate Is A Gumiho"
Island is based on the eponymous webcomic of the same name and stars Kim Nam-gil. It's Okay to not be Okay star, Seo Yea-ji was initially the female lead but dropped out after her skinship controversy. Kim is set to play the character of Ban but not much has been revealed yet except that Ban may be a ghost hunter.
The female lead character Won Mi-ho is described as arrogant and selfish, perhaps because she's the only child of a father who runs the wealthy Daehan Group. After causing trouble, her father sends her to Jeju Island to work there as an ethics high school teacher. But she starts getting involved in a case related to ghosts who have started to target her.
See also: 14 Popular Korean Drama Filming Spots To Add To Your Travel List
Youth is an upcoming drama inspired by the BU or the BTS Universe which is a shared fictional universe that is centred on a series of music videos and short films done by BTS. The characters are inspired by septet and the franchise has since expanded to include short stories, books, a webtoon and a visual novel.
Youth is set to follow the stories of seven boys, played by Seo Ji-hoon, Ro Jong-hyun, Ahn Ji-ho, Seo Young-jo, Kim Yoon-woo, Jung Woo-jin and Jeon Jin-seo, each carrying their own secrets and pain. But amidst all that, they cross paths and find each other during the hard times. While the BU uses the real names of the BTS members, fans have asked to change it for the drama and the production team has not yet released the new character names.
See also: BTS Graces Louis Vuitton Men's FW21 Show In Seoul As House Ambassadors
29/30 That Year We
Parasite actor Choi Woo-sik and Itaewon Class star Kim Da-mi are reuniting after starring together in The Witch for this drama. That Year We also marks Choi's return to the small screen after his last drama in 2017.
The two stars will be playing Choi Woong and Kook Yeon-soo respectively, an ex-couple who broke up 10 years ago. But when a documentary they filmed together during high school becomes popular, they are forced to reunite and stand in front of the camera.
See also: Bong Joon-ho Has Officially Confirmed "Parasite" Follow Up Films Are Underway
Speaking of comebacks, two other actors are making her returns to the small screen in Happiness. Actress Han Hyo-joo who made her English debut in the drama series, Threadstone is making her return to Korean dramas after a five-year hiatus. The drama also marks Park Hyung-sik's first acting role after finishing his mandatory military service. Directors Ahn Gil-ho and Han Sang-woon are also working together again after their 2019 drama, Watcher.
Happiness is set in the near future and centres around a newly constructed high-rise apartment building that has residents from diverse backgrounds. Suddenly, a new infectious disease breaks out and the building is sealed off.
See also: BTS, IU And Song Hye-Kyo: 9 Korean Stars And Their Expensive Properties
This article was originally published on February 5, 2021 and was updated on July 20, 2021.