Entertainment

KajoPicks: 8 K-dramas based on Korean novels to watch

Patricia Hului

These days, there are so many Korean dramas that are inspired by manhwa and webtoon.

Even though the number is not as huge as K-dramas based on webtoons, there is still a handful of television series which have gained their inspiration from Korean novels.

So here are eight K-dramas based on South Korean novels to watch:

1.Painter of the Wind (2008)

Based on the bestselling historical fiction novel of the same name by Lee Jung-myung, this series stars Moon Geun-young and Park Shin-yang.

It circles around the idea of ‘what if’ real-life Joseon painter Shin Yun-bok had really been a woman.

Shin Yun-bok was known for his realistic depictions of daily life in his time.

In the drama, Yun-bok is a talented young painter who disguises herself as a man to search for her father’s murderer.

She meets Kim Hong-do, a master painter who later becomes her mentor.

The novel also inspired 2008 Korean film Portrait of a Beauty starring Kim Min-sun.

2.The King in Love (2017)

This Korean series is one of the few youth historical dramas out there.

It is based on the novel of the same name by Kim Yi-ryung.

Starring Im Si-wan, Im Yoon-ah and Hong Jong-hyun, it is a story of a love triangle set in the Goryeo dynasty.

Won is a young and ambitious crown prince who falls in love with a young woman named San.

At the same time, his best friend Wang Rin is also in love with San.

But who does San love between the two?

Watch the trailer here.

3.Top Management (2018)

Top Management (2018) is a YouTube original production based on a novel by Jang Woo-san.

It is a romance-fantasy story which centers around Eun-sung.

She is a former idol trainee and has special power that allows her to see the future.

The storyline focuses on her life as the manager of the aspiring but struggling male idol group ‘S.O.U.L’.

Watch the trailer here.

4.Ms Hammurabi (2018)

What makes this drama different from other K-dramas adapted from Korean novels is that the novelist wrote the script himself.

Judge Moon Yoo-seok wrote the novel The Hankyoreh which was first serialised in a local newspaper back in 2015.

To bring his work to the TV screen, he wrote the script of the drama series Ms Hammurabi which was based on his book.

It was the first time Moon tried his hand at script writing.

In an interview, he revealed that he was surprised that the production company suggested to go with his script without the help of a co-writer or a sub-writer.

It turned out to be an excellent decision as the series was well-received by viewers for its fresh perspective on judges.

This Korean legal drama tells the story of the life of judges and the various challenges that they have to face.

It stars Go Ara, Kim Myung-soo, Sung Dong-il and Ryu Deok-hwan.

Watch the trailer here.

5.Girl’s Generation 1979 (2017)

Based on the novel Lingerie Girls’ Generation by Kim Yong-hee, the series is set during the 1970s in Daegu city.

It circles around Lee Jung-hee whose father owns a lingerie factory. Jung-hee like other girls at her age, loves to listen to pop music.

Instead of concentrating on schoolwork, she focuses more on boys.

Besides the teenage drama, there is a dark mystery going on in the story.

There is an increasing number of sexual assaults in the city and one by one, the female workers in the factory go missing.

Watch the trailer here.

6.Kingmaker: The Change of Destiny (2020)

This historical romance drama is based on Lee Byung-joo’s novel Wind, Clouds and Tombstone.

It stars Park Si-hoo, Ko Sung-hee, Sung Hyuk and Jun Kwang-ryul.

The story follows the fierce struggle for the throne during Joseon dynasty.

Choi Chun-joong is the best face reader in the country who eventually becomes the most powerful person of the era.

Meanwhile, Lee Bong-ryeon is a royal princess who has a special ability to see the fate of people.

Together with Chun-joong, the duo tries to change the fate of their country for the better.

Watch the trailer here.

7.Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)

Most people do not know that this famous historical drama is based on Jung Eun-gwol’s bestselling 2007 novel The Lives of Sungkyunkwan Confucian Scholars.

Starring Park Min-young, Park Yoo-chun, Yoo Ah-in and Song Joong-ki, the story follows a girl who disguises herself as a man to make ends meet.

When Kim Yoon-hee enrolls in the prestigious Sungkyunkwan, the Josean Dynasty’s university, she becomes close with three men.

The first man is Lee Sun-joon, who known for his upright and cold demeanour.

Then the mischievous Gu Yong-ha (Song Joong-ki) and the moody Moon Jae-shin (Yoo Ah-in).

The four of them called their little group the ‘Jalgeum Quartet’.

8.Moon Embracing the Sun (2012)

Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010) is not the only Jung Eun-gwol’s novel that materialised into a television series.

Her 2005 novel The Moon that Embraces the Sun is adapted into drama in 2012.

It is a love story between a king during Joseon Dynasty and a female shaman.

In the same time, it shows the power struggles and conflicts that take place in the royal court.

The highly-rated drama stars Kim Soo-hyun, Han Ga-in, Jung Il-woo and Kim Min-seo.

Special mention
Lovers of the Red Sky (2021)

Proving that she is the queen of Korean historical romance novels, Lovers of the Red Sky (2021) is Jung Eun-gwol’s third book to be adapted into a television drama.

With a dose of fantasy, the story sets during the Dan dynasty when Ghost, Demons and God are heavily involved in human lives.

This ongoing drama follows the story of a genius female painter who was born blind due to the curse of the Demon King.

However, she miraculously can see, thanks to God’s blessing.

Meanwhile, Ha-ram is a red-eyed man who lost his sight as child. Despite being blind, he can still read the future by tracing the movement of the sky at night.

It stars Kim Yoo-jung, Ahn Hyo-seop, Gong Myung and Kwak Si-yang.

Watch the trailer here.