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The Top 4 Best Romantic K-dramas for Beginners

Culture

I got my start with Korean dramas in 2021. My cousin was at my place and convinced me to watch "It's Okay to Not Be Okay" with her. She had been telling me about K-dramas for a few months at that point, but I didn't see the appeal. I had watched the Thai show "2gether" about a year prior and enjoyed it, but I was skeptical of those who specifically said, "Asian dramas are my favorite." I would think to myself, "they're just shows in another language. What could be so different about them? Why are they considered their own genre?"

Now, though, I've watched 19 romantic K-dramas (plus seven others from Thailand and China). I've averaged four per month this year and I have now watched more dramas than my cousin who introduced me to them in the first place. I love the cheesiness of them, which I've found isn't usual with American romance shows. I also love how binge-worthy they are and how the characters are written. Getting into the genre at first can seem overwhelming, though.

There are many options on Netflix and even more on Viki, a platform specifically for Asian television. Here are four shows I've watched that I think give a good introduction to the genre.

"Her Private Life" (2019)

"Her Private Life" is centered around passionate K-pop stan Sung Deok-Mi and Ryan Gold, an artist from abroad who isn't very friendly. Ryan became the manager of the art gallery Deok-Mi is a curator for, and while they didn't get along, they ended up fake dating to stop rumors Deok-Mi found herself to be the center of. Then, they start a relationship for real. Also throughout the show, viewers get to better understand why Ryan can be cold and why he eventually stopped his work as an artist.

I think this series is great for beginners because it discusses K-pop, which many people know of even if they don't listen to it. The fake-dating trope is also well-known and enjoyed by many. Plus, this show is one of the many dramas where aspects of the characters' lives somehow connect on a deeper level, specifically their pasts. "Her Private Life" could be a great introduction to a series which feature these kinds of relationships. Dramas like these are also more emotional, making it easier to connect to the characters. This show in particular keeps a balance between lighthearted romance and seriousness well.

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"Business Proposal" (2022)

"Business Proposal" follows the story of Shin Ha-ri and Kang Tae-moo. They met on a blind date when Ha-ri was posing as her friend who didn't want to go on the outing. The friend, Jin Young-seo, gave Ha-ri the task of scaring off whoever the man was. Neither girl knew the bachelor would be the CEO of Ha-ri's workplace. He went on the date to quickly find a suitable wife and stop his grandfather from nagging him. Young-seo and Tae-moo's secretary/friend, Cha Sung-hoon, also have a love story in this show.

I have seen so much well-deserved hype around this series. It's the least dramatic and most rom-com-like show I've watched; it doesn't dwell too much on sad moments. Its few emotional scenes are necessary because otherwise the show would be monotonous. The show is also not weighed down by annoying, easily-resolvable conflict. "Business Proposal" is 100% worth it. Its light-heartedness and lovable characters make it perfect for beginners.

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"Was It Love?" (2020)

This was the first K-drama I ever watched in full -- I had given up a few episodes early with "Crash Landing On You" and "It's Okay To Not Be Okay" because they were a bit too emotional for me. "Was It Love?", however, really kickstarted my love for the genre.

Noh Ae-Jeong is the main character of this show, a single mother who had been raising her daughter Ha-Nee for 14 years. After her film company's CEO disappeared and left behind a mess, Ae-Jeong kept trying to achieve her dream of being a successful movie producer. She also found herself in not a love triangle nor a love square, but a love-pentagon.

Four very different men were love interests: an intimidating investor who was also the father of Ha-Nee's best friend, a famous actor who was Ae-Jeong's friend in college, Ha-Nee's sweet teacher who was also once close to Ae-Jeong, and lastly, a popular author who Ae-Jeong dated in her university days.

Besides Ae-Jeong's dream with her career and her attempts to solve the problems in the film business, her single motherhood and Ha-Nee's curiosity over who her father was -- which of the four men could it be? -- were highlighted. This show can introduce K-drama newbies to love triangles, which are common in the genre, but obviously on an even larger scale. I genuinely had no clue as to who Ae-Jeong would end up with (or who Ha-Nee's father was, for that matter) and liked all four of the men. "Was It Love?" also has older characters, which can aid new watchers in discovering their tastes. This series made me realize I preferred shows with characters in their 30s rather than those set in high-school or college, unlike my cousin, for example.

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"Touch Your Heart" (2019)

This romance series with elements of courtroom dramas immediately became a favorite of mine. It focuses on Oh Yoon-Seo, an actress who had been criticized for a scandal she had, and attorney Kwon Jung-Rok. After being out of work and the limelight for a while, Yoon-Seo received a chance to be in a new TV show. In order to star in it, though, she needed to work in a law firm for a few months so she could better portray her character. That's when she became the secretary for Jung Rok, who is boring, cold, and work-oriented.

Yoon-Seo is at first offended by Jung-Rok when he suspected she wasn't taking her job seriously. This pushed her desire to prove him wrong, which, of course, led to them growing closer in a well-done enemies-to-lovers storyline. "Touch Your Heart" could ease beginners into K-dramas since it focuses on a trendy hate-to-love relationship. True crime is popular right now too, so viewers may also enjoy the sub-plot of Jung-Rok (and Oh Yoon-Seo) working on a murder case for court.

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Ultimately, all romantic K-dramas will be different, so it's not necessary to start with a specific show. However, I believe these four series will be more comfortable for those new to the possibly-daunting genre.

Isabella Dudley-Flores
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Isabella Dudley-Flores is a writer and high school junior based in New York City. Before she moved to Manhattan, she lived in Georgia and was the managing editor for her school's publication. In addition to journalism, she enjoys obsessing over K-pop, drinking iced coffee and collecting heart-shaped earrings.