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Must-Watch Korean High School Dramas for Beginners


Mea is a university student with a passion for movies and music

High school is the time when we attempt to discover who we really are. Along this journey we encounter many friends, enemies, heart breaks and accomplishments. While it is a relief to leave behind all the drama associated with school, it can also leave an emptiness when we begin to step out in to the real world. These few dramas have captured teenage angst in a variety of methods and they can undoubtly bring back precious memories for all of us!

1. The Heirs

This drama follows the lives of several teenage heirs of prominent conglomerates as they try to establish a place in the world. Eun Sang is a kind hearted girl from a low socioeconomic background whose life becomes intertwined with the 'high class' society when she gets accepted in to a prestigious school. Kim Tan and Choi Young-do were former friends who turned in to rivals. As Eun Sang endures many hardships, she realizes the age old saying 'money can't buy happiness'.

Lee Min-ho, Park Shin-hye and Kim Woo-bin portray three teens who incidently get involved in a love triangle that tests the limits of their hearts.

Similar to Kim Eun-sook's other dramas, The Heirs became an international sensation and won many awards for writing, directing and acting.


2. Reply 1988

When thinking about the past we understand the mistakes and sacrifices made by ourselves, our parents and our friends. At the time we may have under estimated the gravity of how those incidents helped to construct our self identity. This is a coming of age story narrated by our protagonist Duk Seon, who reminisces about the late 1980s when she lived in a small but charming town with her interesting neighbours. She fondly looks back at a time in her life where mismatched clothing was the end of the world and confessing your feelings to the person you like was the biggest dilemma.

All the characters in this drama have interesting plot lines which will make you empathize with each person. This comedy will undoubtly make you feel good on a gloomy day. It is also the highest rated drama in Korean cable TV history.


3. To the Beautiful You

Goo Jae-hee (Sulli) is a high school student in the United States who loves participating in sports. One day she sees the charismatic track and field athlete Kang Tae-joon (Choi Min-ho) on TV and gets immediately drawn to him. Upon hearing the news that he is planning to retire due to an injury, Jae-hee decides to fly back to Korea hoping to help him. Things get complicated when she decides to attend Tae-joon's all boys' high school disguised as a male student.

This drama is based on the Japanese Manga "Hanazakari no kimitachi e". Sulli and Choi Min-ho have great on screen chemistry while Lee Hyun-woo also delivers a great performance as the other boy who vies for Jae-hee's attention.


4. Dream High

This drama is about six high school students who seek to make it big in the K-pop industry. Friendships fall apart and tension levels rise as each student competes to obtain the place coveted by many but achieved by few.

Go Hye-mi (Bae Suzy) is an aspiring opera singer. Song Sam-dong (Kim Soo-hyun) is a country boy with a lot of talent, Jin-guk (OK Taec-yeon) is a teen with a complicated relationship with his father, Yoon Baek-hee (Ham Eun-jung) is Hye-mi's best friend who also wants to be a singer, Jason (Jang Woo-young) is an American who desires to become a dancer and Kim Pil-sook (IU) is a shy and over weight girl with a perfect pitch.

Dream High won several international awards for it's popularity, acting and soundtrack.


5. Playful Kiss

Another drama based on a Japanese manga, Playful Kiss follows the story of a clumsy girl, Oh Ha-ni (Jung So-min) who falls in love with the biggest genius in school, Baek Seung-Jo (Kim Hyun-Joong). Seung-jo is a tough cookie to crack but it does not stop our protagonist from trying to grab his attention. With Seung-jo's mother on her side Ha-ni makes several plans to make him love her. Meanwhile Yoon Hae-ra (Lee Si-young) a sophisticated young woman who is similar to Seung-jo in every aspect also competes for his love.

This 16 episode drama is a bit slow paced in the middle but it's light hearted feel good nature will make you crave for more.

Playful Kiss garnered a cult following internationally despite it's low domestic ratings.


6. Reply 1997

Another installment of the 'Reply' series, Reply 1997 is constructed in a similar fashion to Reply 1988. As her school reunion nears, Shi-Won (Jung Eun-ji) reminices about her teenage years which were dominated by the rising K-pop bands during that time period. Yoon Yoon-je (Seo In-guk) was the boy that Shi-Won grew up with. They did everything together and he eventually fell in love with her. Until the last episode we do not know if Shi-Won ends up with the kind hearted Yoon Yoon-jae or someone completely different.

Eun-ji and In-guk have one of the best on screen relationships i have ever seen in Korean dramas. The pair is enjoyable to watch and i was feeling giddy throughout their scenes together. To make matters even greater, the theme song "All for you" is also sung by the duo.

I highly recommend the Reply series for all beginners!


7. Orange Marmalade

In this reverse twilight story, Baek Ma-ri (Seolhyun) is a vampire girl who conceals her true identity due to the strong stigma that exists against her kind in the modern world. She tries to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible in fear of discrimination. As she attempts to settle down in her new town, things get complicated when she falls in love with the most popular boy in school who also happenes to hate vampires.


8. Boys Over Flowers

This is the first ever K drama i've watched and therefore it has a special place in my heart. I was introduced in to a world of chaebols, love triangles, arrogant male leads and consistent drama.

Geum Jan-di (Ku Hye-sun) enters the prestigious Shinhwa High School on a scholarship she earned after saving a bullied student from committing suicide. At school she gets to know about F4, a group consisting of 4 young men with wealthy backgrounds. She does not fit in at school and constantly clashes with the leader of F4, Gu Jun-pyo (Lee Min-ho). While Jan-di is disgusted by all the shallow high schoolers, she begins to develop feelings for Yoon Ji-hoo (Kim Hyung-joon) the sensitive member of F4. After realizing this, Gu Jun-pyo becomes more possessive of Jan-di and slowly begins to fall for her.

Boys over Flowers created a massive wave of fans all around the world and boosted the actors to overnight stardom.


9. School 2013

Seungri High School is one of the worst in the country. An expert Korean language teacher, Kang Se Chan is appointed to improve the student rankings. He has to work along side other teachers to settle many problems faced by students. This drama depicts the real life issues teens have to face in the modern world such as violence, bullying and suicide.


10. Goong

One day chae-gyeong (Yoon Eun-hye), an average high school student gets to know that she wil have to marry the country's crown prince Lee Shin (Ju Ji-hoon) who attends the same school. It was arranged by both their grandfathers. She initially refuses because of the crown prince's cold and distant nature but eventually agrees in order to help her family and to honour her grandfather's will. Things do not go smoothly between the two and the crown prince's cousin, the sensitive prince Yul (Kim Jeong-hoon) begins to step in to the picture. Prince Yul is also in line to the throne and his mother attempts to restore his rightful place which was taken away due to her mistakes. Song Ji-hyo portrays a graceful ballerina , Hyo-rin who cannot get over Lee Shin even after she herself refused his proposal of marriage in the past. Things get even more complicated when Yul begins to develop feelings for chae-gyeong.



KDramacrazyfan on September 13, 2019:

You left out my strange hero

Flint_ofBLUE on June 28, 2019:

Great list of dramas!