K-Dramas = New Obsession

Happy Friday, everyone!

Starting this week, I’m going to start running some Top 5 lists while I’m waiting on edits from Amanda on Destroyer. This one is near and dear to my heart, and in case you haven’t been following my posts on Facebook recently, I’m going to give you one hint, here he it is:

I’ve got the worst case of Chen Kun on the brain EVER closely followed by Eun-Woo Cha, and God, I hate saying this out loud, but also Jingting Bai who is frankly young enough that it makes me feel like a letchy old lady. Ew. I haven’t been this fixated since probably Sons of Anarchy or David Tennant in DR WHO. I’ve got it bad. I’m so obsessed with Korean and Chinese period dramas that I’ve taken over control of the TV in my household and I’ve eaten waaaaay too much pot noodle and kimchi for one non-Asian household. It’s seriously so bad that I’m considering learning Korean or Mandarin Chinese just because that’s what you do when NETFLIX FEEDS YOU CRACK TELEVISION. OH MY GOD.

Yes, I’ve been bitten by the K-Drama bug. It started off harmless enough with binge watching Love Alarm and now I’ve moved onto a 56 episode Chinese drama THAT WILL TAKE ME FOREVER TO FINISH IT. Who makes a 56 episode season? The Chinese, that’s who. Kill me now. Wait, don’t. I have to get to the end and see if Ning Yi and Feng Zhi Wei finally make it (it only took them 40 episodes to hug, people . . .)

I should point out that technically, The Rise of Phoenixes that I’m talking about is not in fact a K-drama but a Chinese period drama so I’m cheating a bit. At this point, I might’ve lost about 50% of my readers who have no idea of what I’m talking about, but here it is in a nutshell:

K-Dramas stands for Korean Drama also known as Korean drama televisions series televised in . . wait for it . . Korean. They have made a bit of a resurgence more recently outside of Korea due to the K-pop and K-culture phenomenon and often are a love story that plays out in a contemporary setting and deals with relationships, family, duty, and other themes prevalent in Asian culture. They always have pretty boys and a girl who must choose between two or more possible love interests. The filial duty aspect also takes on a life of its own almost like another character in the story line especially when you start drilling down into period dynasty dramas. They are the slowest burn romance you’ll ever come across so if you are impatient, you will be screaming at your TV, trust me. But if you’re good for sacrifice, duty-bound tragedy, celestial destiny, and a whole host of wacky martial arts moves then read on. 

I’m going to make a contentious statement right here: The best TV on Netflix hands down RIGHT NOW is Asian television. Everything else that Netflix has produced as original content has been pretty lackluster and I’d even put The Witcher in that category (feel free to send me hate mail). If you want compelling, beautiful TV that delves into family, duty, honor, and personal sacrifice, Netflix has got a great selection to choose from.

Here are my current Top 5 MUST WATCH Asian TV Series on Netflix:

1) The Rise of Phoenixes 

I will say this: don’t start with this series. Although it’s my favorite so far, it is hard going to begin with and if you’re not used to watching subtitled content you will drive yourself insane and give up quickly. Try something a little softer, like Rookie Historian, which is my no. 2. It’s also a slow burn, but I think is a bit more easier on American audiences. If you delve into The Rise of Phoenixes be prepared for the time commitment and to fall head over heels for Chen Kun and Ni Ni who make this story so compelling. The cast overall is superb and you will find that you quickly care about all the characters and worry every time that someone is going to die ala George RR Martin. I’m going to be sad when I’m done with this one.

2) Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung

Until I started The Rise of Phoenixes, this was it for me. I really thought no one could top Historian Goo and Prince Yi. Equal parts funny and heart felt, again, the whole honor and duty-bound aspect of the show really cuts you to the core. The thing that I failed to mention above in The Rise of Phoenixes is that we’re also talking about very strong and clever female protagonists who still strive to have their own identities and desires separate from the main love interest . . . even if it means not getting the guy in the end. I just loved this one so much and it made me an instant Eun-Woo Cha fan who is also in a K-pop band. Go figure.

3) When the Camellia Blooms

True fact: my husband has been known to run around the house shouting, “Dong Baek!” It’s kinda cute and annoying at the same time. This series isn’t so much of a K-drama as it is a romantic comedy mixed with some thriller moments. What I love about this particular show is that it’s more realistic than the other picks on my list. It deals with a single mother raising her son in a small Korean coastal town and the way she struggles to be accepted in the close-knit community while attracting the single son of the local matriarch while also trying not to be killed by a murderer. It was a refreshing change from some of the more sickly sweet teen K-dramas you might see on Netflix.Very funny. 

3) Cheese in the Trap

We are a torn household on this show. I really liked it, my husband really didn’t. He took offense to the nerdy up-tight love interest, Jung Yoo, being too clinical, almost “on the spectrum” with the way he treated Hong Seol given the fact that my husband is himself a super nerd who can be socially shy shall we say. I actually thought it was a great college-level-girl-has-to-choose-her-destiny but wasn’t thrilled by the fact that it ends on a cliff hanger. I suspect that this could get another season. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be pissed (just like Love Alarm).

4) Cinderella and the Four Knights

If you’ve ever watched Eastenders, then this is the Korean equivalent. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just think soap opera. Man, this thing goes on forever about hidden agendas, secrets coming out of the closet, and a whole heap of mean boy syndrome. I’m not sure this one belongs on the list, but I did stay entertained. The husbot gave up and walked away bored. It was almost too much K-drama for him, but I felt like this was a quintessential K-drama at its core and was the best representation of what you get with this genre. I think it’s also easy and disposable if you like romance unlike some of the other ones on my list.

5) There is no number 5 . . . .

I hate when that happens, but alas, I could only recommend 4 for now. I still have a large list to get through and I didn’t want to add a fifth just for list sake. If you want to see what else I’ll be watching here is it – 

  • Chocolate
  • Yanxi Palace: Princess Adventures
  • Eternal Love
  • Romance is a Bonus Book
  • My Sassy Girl
  • One Spring Night
  • My First First Love
  • The Bride of Habaek
  • Mr Sunshine
  • The Princess Weiyoung


Let me know what K-dramas you love. Email me at shawnee@shawneesmall.com

xo – shawnee