Must Watch Korean Historical Dramas for Beginners

Updated on July 30, 2018
Mea Hera profile image

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

Why do you need to check out these dramas?

It is a well known truth that many Korean drama fans steer clear of historical dramas. Most individuals believe that these shows are monotonous with very little excitement. This may be due to the fact that they start off with a long and relatively boring drama which mainly caters to a targeted audience that enjoys such content. There are many dramas which successfully utilize modern undertones along with history to create a successful and exhilarating experience. The following are 10 dramas which can be enjoyed by seasoned Sageuk lovers as well as first timers (the dramas are not in any particular order).

1.) Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)

Hae Soo is a 21st century woman who accidentally gets transported to the Goryeo era. She has to use her history knowledge to navigate through this time period. Her life will get intertwined with several princes who are battling for the throne. Hae Soo will have to make difficult decisions in order to save herself and her loved ones from the inevitable dangers of this era.

Lee Jun Ki delivers an astounding performance as the 4th prince Wang So, a complex character with a dark past. Kang Ha-neul also shined as the 8th prince Wang Wook. This drama has an amazing soundtrack by many great artists including EXO (Baekhyun also plays a major role in the drama). Scarlet Heart received low ratings in Korea but it had extremely high international ratings. This is a must watch for all beginners!

2.) The King in Love (2017)

This is a drama based on the novel of the same name. Im Yoon-ah plays the role of a tenacious young woman in the Goryeo period who befriends a young monarch (Im Si-wan) and his best friend (Hong Jong-hyung). Tensions arise when the two best friends fall for the same woman. The young king will have to fight against those who plot to supplant him and prove where his loyalty lies amidst the chaos of stepping in to adulthood.

This drama has beautiful set designs, soothing music and mesmerizing costumes which will grab your attention and keep you glued to the screen.

3.) The Moon that Embraces the Sun (2012)

This drama tells the story of a fictional king in the Joseon era who falls in love with a female shaman. They get separated due to unforseen misfortunes brought about by political rivals. It's primary focus is the love and betrayal between the main characters which will culminate in to a dramatic ending that will stir a roller coaster of emotions within you. This drama is a fantasy/ historical gem which had a domestic peak rating of 35%, making it one of the highest rated Korean dramas of all time. It also won multiple awards including the best drama and best actor (for Kim Soo-hyun) in the Baeksang Arts Awards.

4.) Love in the Moonlight (2016)

Set in the Joseon dynasty, crown prince Lee Yeong falls for his eunuch who is actually a girl disguised as a man. He will transcend all accepted gender norms in order to be with his one true love. This drama is a feast to the eyes due to it's amazing cinematography and costume designs. Park Bo-gum managed to steal our hearts with his passionate performance which earned him several prestigious awards. Gummy, Soyou, K. Will and Baek Ji-Young are among the many talented artists who contributed to the original soundtrack of this drama.

5.) Bridal Mask/Gaksital (2012)

This is based on a popular South Korean manhwa about a masked warrior who fights for liberation against the Japanese during the 1930s colonial period. Lee Kan-to is a South korean police officer who works for the Japanese. He is assigned to catch the notorious masked vigilante 'Gaksital' who is a beloved folk hero among the public. Mok-dan is a patriotic young woman who despises traitors like Lee kang-to and aids the rebel freedom fighters in the path to liberation. Kimura Shunji is an innocent school teacher who befriends Lee Kang-to and Mok-dan and eventually falls in love with her. Their fates take an unprecedented turn in the backdrop of political instability which forces them to question their allegiance.

6.) Empress Ki (2014)

This show depicts the rise of a Goryeo woman from slave to royalty amidst the difficult social conditions prevalent during that time. Don't let the length of the drama (51 episodes) make you miss out on this gripping tale of love, betrayal and sorrow which has been praised extensively for it's intricate scenes and amazing acting from all those involved.

7.) The Slave Hunters (2010)

Lee Dae-gil is a former noble lord who resorted to slave hunting after a series of unfortunate events which separated him from the woman he loves. The lovers embark on the quest to find each other again. Military leader turned slave, Song Tae-ha, complicates matters as he also begins to fall in love with the same woman. Meanwhile Dae-gil is ordered to hunt down Tae-ha due to conspiracies against the military leader.

Jang Hyuk who portrays Lee Dae-gil even received an Emmy nomination for his brilliant acting. Overall this drama was intense and full of dramatic action sequences which were well choreographed and filmed.

8.) Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth (2017)

Hwarang is a treat for all the BTS fans out there as Kim Tae-hyung (V) has a main role in it. It is a coming of age story about a group of elite young men in the Silla Kingdom. The star studded cast includes Park Seo-joon, Go Ara and Park Hyung-sik. The story moves rather slow at times but it is a light show which can be enjoyed by those who are new to historical dramas.

9.) Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)

If you like comedies where the girl dresses up as a boy, then this one is for you. This is a hilarious drama with great chemistry between the leading actors. Park Min Young takes on the role of a woman who disguises herself as her brother in order to earn money for her family. Later on she gets accepted into a prestigious university by illegal means. Here she meets three young men who are unaware of her real identity and it lays the groundwork for the hilarious comedy that ensues afterwards.

10.) Gu Family Book (2013)

This fantasy drama starring Lee Seung-gi and Bae Suzy tells the story of an individual who is half man and half monster in search of a book which holds the remedy to become a complete human. He receives help from a young woman with a martial arts background and together they discover hidden secrets from their past which may bring them closer or drive them further apart. Actors Choi Jin-hyuk and Lee Yeon-hee share a romantic story of their own which is sure to bring tears in to your eyes.

What was your favourite drama?

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    • Mea Hera profile imageAUTHOR

      Mea Herera 

      22 months ago

      Hi Suu,

      Thank you for your comment.

      V makes an appearance in 16 episodes out of 20. Eventhough they may be small appearances it was still a treat for me as a BTS fan. Plus he has an actual story line in the drama. Its not like a cameo where pop stars make an appearance in one or two episodes. That is why i mentioned that he has a main role.

      V and Jin also contribute to the drama's original soundtrack!

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      In hawarng bts V hasn’t a major role in it

      He has a really minor role lol

      Nice way to attract bts fans

    • Mea Hera profile imageAUTHOR

      Mea Herera 

      23 months ago

      Thank you Lara! I am glad you liked the list. My favourite is Moon Lovers too!

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      Thanks for this nice post, I agree on these dramas, you have recommended the most beautiful. Good choice!

      Ps- my favorite is Moon Lovers

    • Mea Hera profile imageAUTHOR

      Mea Herera 

      23 months ago

      Priya Barua, thank you for reading my hub :)

    • Priya Barua profile image

      Priya Barua 

      23 months ago

      I was thinking of trying out Korean dramas so thanks for writing this post!


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