The Best New Korean Dramas To 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 of reality.
A lot of South Korea's most famous names, from Gong Yoo, Song Joong-ki to Jun Ji-hyun are making their small scene 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.
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1/15 River Where the Moon Rises
Kicking off the month of love is River Where the Moon Rises, a historical romance adapted from the novel Princess Pyeonggang by Choi Sa-gyu. Kim So-hyun plays a fearsome warrior determined to become the first Empress of Goguryeo, taking on whatever challenge comes her way to make her dream come true. But things take an unexpected turn when she meets the peace-loving On Dal (Kim Ji-soo) who's the exact opposite of her. But as they say, opposites attract the two soon find comfort in each other only for their love story to be threatened by the battle for the throne.
Fans will be excited to see Kim So-hyun is a fearless role as a warrior princess while followers of Kim Ji-soo can rejoice as he continues his streak as a lead actor, departing from the notable second lead roles that rose him to stardom.
Release date: February 15, 2021
2/15 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, 2021
3/15 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.
Lee Dong-shik (Shin Ha-kyun), 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, 2021
Another household name making a comeback is Song Joong-ki in Vincenzo, playing the role of Park Ju-hyeong who at the age of eight is adopted and sent off to Italy and takes on the name, Vincenzo Casano. As an adult, he becomes a lawyer for the mafia and a consigliere. But as friction among the mafia starts to run rifle and he flees to South Korea, only to fall in love with a lawyer, Hong Cha-young (Jun Yeo-bin).
Other members of the cast include 2PM's Ok Taecyeon and Yang Kyung-won, whom you would recognise from Crash Landing On You. Vincenzo will also be airing on Netflix.
Release date: February 20, 2021
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, 2021
6/15 Joseon Exorcist
Joseon Exorcist seems to be part-Kingdom, part-The Guest in that the undead comes back to life after being killed by the royal family. Prince Chungnyeong (Jang Dong-yoon) takes on the role to protect Joseon from the undead. But King Taejong (Kam Woo-sung) sets out to control the undead who have already taken over the kingdom.
Because of his strong desire to protect his loved loves, the Prince entered into a dangerous plea with the undead.
Release date: March 15, 2021
7/15 Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver is adapted from the original webtoon of the same name about a mysterious taxi service who 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 April's Go Eun (Lee Na-eun) is an IT specialist but many consider her a hacker, and all three crossed paths along the way.
A combination of action, horror, crime and drama—you can expect a lot of thrills from Taxi Driver.
Release date: April 2, 2021
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: May 28, 2021
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9/15 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 the Gwangju Uprising in 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 South 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 2021
10/15 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: June 2021
11/15 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
12/15 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: TBC
13/15 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
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
Another Netflix original to keep in your radar is Undercover (working title), which will be helmed by director Kim Jin-min of acclaimed series, Extracurricular. The story follows Yoon Ji-woo (The World of the Married's 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