KajoPicks: 15 South Korean romance-fantasy dramas you must watch
One of the many reasons why South Korean drama series do well not just domestically but internationally is because they know what they are good at and they stick to it.
You don’t see Korean dramas doing a superhero storyline or comedy drama in front of a live audience.
The first Korean drama genre that broke through to international audiences was romance which is why we have plenty of romantic Korean series going around.
Today, we have so many types of Korean romance dramas out there. From romance between an older woman with a younger man to love stories set in an office or campus, Korean series have them all.
On top of that, Korean dramas take romance to another level of unreal-ism by giving viewers love stories between mortal and supernatural beings.
These Korean romance-fantasy dramas show how true love prevails even when you are not of the same entity or universe.
So here are KajoMag’s pick for 15 Korean romance-fantasy dramas you need to watch:
1.Secret Garden (2010)
Kicking off the list is Secret Garden (2010), a classic Cinderella story. A poor stunt woman with no family falls in love with a good-looking but arrogant CEO.
The fantasy part of the story is the two swap bodies after drinking a mysterious drink in a secret garden.
Gil Ra-im (Ha Ji-won) works as a stunt woman who lost her father when she was in high school.
Meanwhile, Kim Joo-won (Hyun Bin) is a strict and rational CEO of a high-end departmental story who is secretly suffering from claustrophobia.
After a series of misunderstandings, Ra-im constantly bumps into Joo-won.
Despite their differences, Joo-won finds himself constantly thinking about Ra-im.
He then decides to pursue Ra-im, all of this happening while they are swapping bodies, literally walking in each other shoes.
Even to this day, the drama remains one of the highest rated Korean series.
2.Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (2017)
At first glance, the love story in this popular drama by Kim Eun-sook is bottom line disturbing.
The age difference between a thousand year-old deity and high school kid is huge.
But then again, even if the deity fell for a 100 year-old grandma, the age difference would still be huge.
Anyway, the story follows Kim Shin (Gong Yoo), a military general who is cursed to be an immortal goblin.
The only way to put an end to his immortality is the Goblin’s bride as she is the only who can see and pull out the sword and kill him.
His destined wife is Ji Eun-tak (Kim Go-eun), a plucky orphan and struggling high school student.
One day, Kim Shin’s nephew Yoo Deok-hwa (Yook Sung-jae) rents out his house without his knowledge to Grim Reaper (Lee Dong-wook).
Due to this, the Goblin and the Grim Reaper reluctantly become housemates.
Later, Eun-tak becomes homeless and join in the Goblin’s household.
At the same time, Eun-tak starts to work part time job at a chicken story run by Sunny (Yoo In-na).
As they spend more time together, Kim Shin, Grim Reaper, Eun-tak and Sunny never knew how deep the connection between them and how fate brought them together in the first place.
This Korean romance-fantasy series is currently the fifth highest rated drama in Korean cable television history.
3.Black Knight: The Man Who Guards Me (2017)
This drama follows the story of Moon Soo-ho (Kim Rae-won), a successful CEO who is still holding on to his first love.
His first love is Jung Hae-ra (Shin Se-kyung), a hardworking employee who works for a travel agency.
Both of them share two past stories together; one takes place in a current time and another happens two hundred years ago.
In the present time, Soo-ho is brought into Hae-ra’s home after the death of his parents.
They grow up like siblings but Soo-ho begins to have feelings for Hae-ra. They separate when Soo-ho goes oversea to study but he returns to Hae-ra as a successful CEO.
What both of them do not know is that they are the reincarnations of Lee Myung-so and his lover Boon-yi who died in the hands of Myung-so’s wife Choi Seo-rin (Seo Ji-hye).
Apart from that, the couple do not know that Seo-rin is cursed with immortality and still obsessed over her husband or now, the reincarnation of him.
4.My Girlfriend is Gumiho (2010)
This Korean romance-fantasy drama is old but gold. It follows the story of Cha Dae-woong (Lee Seung-gi), a college student who wants to be an action star.
He accidentally releases a gumiho (Shin Min-ah), a Korean mythological fox who was sealed in a painting.
Legend has it that gumiho takes men’s livers for food, causing Dae-woong to be afraid of the creature.
What he does not know is that the gumiho that he released has been wanting to turn into human for along time.
Gumiho takes advantage of Dae-woong’s fear to stay by his side.
As they spend more time with each other, love blossoms between the mortal man and gumiho.
5.The Bride of the Habaek (2017)
Based on the Korean manhwa Bride of the Water God by Yoon Mi-kyung, the series stars Shin Se-kyung, Nam Joo-hyuk, Lim Ju-hwan, Krystal Jung and Gong Myung.
The God of Water, Ha-baek (Nam Joo-hyuk) needs to come down to earth to retrieve the sacred stones in order for him to claim the throne of the Divine Realm.
To do so, he needs the help of So-ah (Shin Se-kyung), the descendant from a family fated to serve the gods for generations.
However, when Ha-baek arrives on earth, he loses his power and unable to convince So-ah that he is in fact a god.
So-ah, on her part treats him like a patient who is suffering from a mental illness.
While the storyline can be messy and confusing, the acting and performances by the cast is what makes this Korean romance-fantasy drama worth watching.
6.About Time (2018)
What if one day you wake up and can see the life spans of other people ticking? Will you save them from their deaths or walk away ignoring them.
For aspiring musical actress Choi Michaela (Lee Sung-kyung), this gift has been a curse rather than a blessing.
The worst part is the fact she can see her own life span.
Everything changes for Michaela when she comes across Lee Do-ha (Lee Sang-yoon), a chaebol son and CEO.
Michaela realises her life clock whenever she is with Do-ha.
Obsessed with living longer on earth, Michaela does everything in order to stay by Do-ha that she even becomes his personal driver.
Soon enough, Michaela and Do-ha’s relationship turns in to a problem especially to Do-ha with his business and family.
7.Extraordinary You (2019)
Imagine, one day you discover that the world you have been living is not real and actually a fantasy world of a comic.
To make matters worse, you find out that your character will be killed off in the end of the comic.
Eun Dan-oh (Kim Hye-yoon) is a high school girl born into a wealthy family, but with a heart disease.
At first, she believes that everything in her life is perfect despite her illness. Then, her world collapses when she finds out that everyone in her life is just characters in a teen comic book entitled Secret.
Moreover, Dan-oh is just a supporting character in the comic and the author is planning to kill her character off in the end of the story.
Dan-oh is not the only who has such ‘awareness’ as a small group of people around her start to become ‘aware’ of their identities.
One of them is Number 13 (Rowoon), an extra character in the comic who does not even have a name.
After spending time together, Dan-ah names him Ha-ru.
Overall, this Korean romance-fantasy drama is light and entertaining with a good dose of suspense thrown into it.
8.My Love from the Star (2013)
How about a love story between an alien and a human being?
Do Min-joon (Kim Soo-hyun) is an alien who landed on Earth in 1609.
After saving a girl named Seo Yi-hwa from falling off a cliff, he misses his return journey to his home planet.
For the next four centuries, Min-joon roams around the Earth changing his identity every ten years as he never ages.
Meanwhile, Cheon Song-yi (Jun Ji-hyun) is a famous actress who happens to be Min-joon’s neighbour.
Later, Min-joon finds out that Song-yi at her young age resembles Yi-hwa, the girl he rescued 400 years ago.
The duo starts to spend time together after a series of incidents and mishaps. Song-yi eventually finds out Min-joon’s identity and he using his enhanced abilities of his vision, hearing and speed to help Song-yi in her troubles.
The drama marks Jun’s first comeback to the small screen after 14 years. It was definitely a notable comeback for her because she won the Grand Prize in Television at the 50th Baeksang Arts Awards for her role in the drama.
9.Legend of the Blue Sea (2016)
Written by the My Love from the Star’s screenwriter Park Ji-eun, this drama tells the story of a conman and a mermaid.
Perhaps because the drama stars two of the biggest Korean stars Jun Ji-hyun and Lee Min-ho, the series was one of the most popular ones in 2016.
It centers around Shim Cheong (Jun Ji-hyun), a mermaid who falls in love with a con artist named Heo Joon-jae (Lee Min-ho).
Their love story, however, starts from the Josean era but when they died almost Romeo and Juliet style, they are reincarnated in the 21st century.
Many of the key elements such as parallel time between the past and present as well as the romance between a human and a non-human are basically a recycled version of Park Ji-eun’s previous work My Love from the Star.
Even the same female lead actress Jun Ji-hyun switches her role from a human to a mermaid in this drama.
So if you love Jun’s performance and Park’s script writing style, this drama is definitely worth watching.
10.The King: Eternal Monarch (2020)
As if long distance relationship is not enough, imagine dating someone who is from another universe.
The series follows Emperor Lee Gon of Kingdom of Corea who accidentally comes across to another parallel universe where current South Korea exist.
In South Korea, the emperor who is without any identity comes across detective Jung Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun).
He recognises her from an identity card he obtained during his childhood when his father was assassinated.
The culprit is Lee Gon’s half-uncle, Lee Lim (Lee Jung-jin) who also finds his way to cross between the two universe.
Overall, the drama is an entertaining story of combining myth and science with amazing performance of a stellar cast.
Unfortunately, it was dampened by controversies over excessive use of product placement and historical inaccuracies.
Speaking of alternate universe, W centers on the clash between the real world and another that takes place inside a webtoon.
It follows the story of Kang Chul (Lee Jong-suk), the lead character of the popular webtoon W.
After being stabbed by a mysterious assailant, Kang Chul is rescued by Oh Yeon-joo (Han Hyo-joo).
What he doesn’t know is that Oh Yeon Joo comes from the real world and the daughter of the webtoon artist who created W.
The drama is directed by Jung Dae-yoon, who directed She was Pretty and writer Song Jae-jung who wrote Nine: Nine Time Travels and Queen In-hyun’s Man.
12.Queen In Hyun’s Man (2012)
Also securing a spot on this list is Queen In-hyun’s Man or Queen and I starring Ji Hyun-woo and Yoo In-na.
It follows the story of actress Choi Hee-jin (Yoo In-na) who falls in love with Kim Bung-do (Ji Hyun-woo).
Bung-do is a noble-born scholar from the year 1684 who finds himself time travels to 2012.
When the still-cut of the drama was released showing the two lead characters in front of Gwanghamun, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace, it popularised the ‘Gwanghwamun Kiss’ trend.
The spot has become a famous backdrop for tourists to take photos.
13.Strong Girl Do Bong Soon (2017)
If you are looking for something cute and funny but creepy and thrilling in the same time, this is the Korean romance-fantasy drama for you.
Do Bong-soon (Park Bo-young) was born with superhuman strength, a trait inherited only by the women in her family.
Thanks to her strength, she gets a job as bodyguard to CEO of a gaming company Ahn Min-hyuk (Park Hyung-sik).
In the same time, a series of kidnapping cases targeting women happen in Bong-soon’s neighbourhood.
Bong-soon is determined to catch the culprit who targeted her best friend but managed to escape.
With help and training from Min-hyuk, Bong-soon slowly knows how to use and embrace her superhuman strength.
After it aired, the series became one of the highest rated Korean drama in cable television history.
14.Tomorrow, With You (2017)
This Korean romance-fantasy drama circles around Yoo So-joon (Lee Je-hoon), a successful CEO of a real estate company.
He has the ability to time travel whenever he takes the subway.
After going back and forth in time, he sees his future self living a sad and tormented life.
In order to change his future, he decides to marry Song Ma-rin (Shin Min-ah) thinking that it will bring him happiness.
There is one problem though, So-joon is not in love with Ma-rin. So how can a loveless marriage brings him happiness?
15.Tale of Nine-tailed (2020)
Imagine being so in love with someone that you are willing to live for a thousand years just to wait for your old flame to be reincarnated.
Is it love or obsession? In the K-drama world, it is nothing but true love.
Lee Yeon (Lee Dong-wook) is a gumiho (nine-tailed fox) and former mountain spirit of Baekdudaegan.
After the death of his lover Ah-eum in the hands of Imoogi, a lesser dragon in human form, Lee Yeon works for the Afterlife Immigration Office to eradicate supernatural beings that threaten the mortal world.
He is searching for the reincarnation of Ah-eum.
Finally after almost a thousand years of searching, Ah-eum is reincarnated as Nam Ji-ah, a 30-year-old TV producer.
Many of the characters in the drama are based on Korean mythological figures so those who love legends and myth should watch this Korean romance-fantasy drama.