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KajoPicks: 8 Korean ‘noona’ romance drama you should watch

Usually, it is not a big deal when a man dates a younger woman. However when a woman dates a younger man, it is suddenly a big deal.

In South Korea, ‘noona’ (elder sister) is term used by a younger man to address an older woman.

Recently, there has been a rise of dramas depicting relationships between an older woman with a younger man. K-drama fans call it noona romance.

Some of these dramas portray the real prejudice and stereotypes against women who are in May-December relationships with younger men. At the same time, it also depicts the struggle of men who are in love with older women.

If you are into noona romance, here are 8 South Korean drama you should watch:

1.Encounter (2018)

Watch the trailer here.

In most Korean dramas, it is okay when a male CEO dates his employee but when a female CEO dates a younger male employee, suddenly the world goes crazy in Encounter (2018).

The drama follows Cha Soo-hyun (Song Hye-kyo) the daughter of a politician and the CEO of a hotel.

She married the son of a conglomerate family out of convenience for her father’s political career.

Her marriage is breaking apart because her husband is cheating on her.

During a trip to Cuba, she comes across Kim Jin-hyeok (Park Bo-gum), an ordinary young man looking for adventure in life.

They have a brief encounter in the foreign country and make memories together.

When he returns to South Korea, he finds out he is hired for a job in a hotel and Soo-hyun is his boss.

This couple has so many ups and downs, from dealing with Soo-hyun’s former in-laws to office gossips and paparazzi.

It ranks at 17th spot of the highest rated dramas in Korean cable television history.

2.A Witch’s Love (2014)

Watch the trailer here.

When a man is aggressive with his career, people mostly would say he is just being passionate. But when a women is aggressive with her job, some might say she is being a ‘b*tch’.

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In this drama, Ban Ji-yeon (Uhm Jung-hwa) is so passionate about her job as an investigative news reporter that her colleagues call her a ‘witch’ behind her back.

After her last boyfriend disappeared right before their wedding day, Ji-yeon focuses all her attention on her career.

Meanwhile, Yoon Dong-ha (Park Seo-joon) is a 25-year-old guy who runs an errand center with his friends.

Despite looking happy, he is actually still mourning after losing his girlfriend to a fatal heart problem.

At first glance, Ji-yeon and Dong-ha seem like has nothing in common. They even have 14 years difference in age.

As they spend time with each other, they realise they have a lot in common with each other, including their grief over lost loves.

3.I Can Hear Your Voice (2013)

Rather than focusing on the noona romance, this drama centers around a couple trying to catch a killer.

The ‘noona’ here is public defender Jang Hye-sung (Lee Bo-young) who does not care about her clients.

Meanwhile, the younger man is Park Soo-ha (Lee Jong-suk) who after witnessing his father being killed, , gains the supernatural ability of reading people’s minds by looking into their eyes.

When they were younger, 15-year-old Hye-sung testified during Soo-ha’s father murder trial. This caused the murderer to be convicted and imprisoned.

Since then, the 9-year-old Soo-ha has harboured a crush on her.

When he meets her again 10 years later, she turns out nothing like he expects to be as the murder has affected them both one way or another.

4.When the Camellia Blooms (2019)

Watch the trailer here.

Here is another drama which combines ‘noona’ romance and thriller perfectly.

The story starts with Oh Dong-baek, a single mother who opens a bar named Camellia in the fictional town of Ongsan.

Six years later, a younger man working as a policeman Yong-sik falls in love with her.

She rejects him but he persists despite his mother’s opposition.

Then, Dong-baek’s former lover and the father of her child comes to town trying to win her back.

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It is all love and romance until a serial killer shows up in town aiming at Dong-baek as his next victim.

The drama stars Gong Hyo-jin, Kang Ha-neul, Kim Ji-seok, Son Dam-bi and Kim Kang-hoon.

5.Romance is a Bonus Book (2019)

Watch the trailer here.

“Noona, can I sleep here?” is perhaps one memorable lines of Cha Eun-ho (Lee Jong-suk) in this drama.

Eun-ho is a successful writer and the youngest editor-in-chief of a publishing company.

He has romantic feelings for his long-time friend Kang Dan-i. Meanwhile, Dan-I (Lee Na-young) is an unemployed divorcee who later joins the publishing company as a temporary task support team member.

As they begin to work together in the same company, they become more involved in each others’ lives.

Romance is a Bonus Book is Lee Jong-suk’s first romantic comedy drama since his breakout role in School 2013 (2012).

6.High School King of Savvy (2014)

Lee Min-suk (Seo In-guk) is a high school student and varsity ice hockey player.

He and his older brother Hyung-suk look very much alike, despite their nine-year age gap.

When he gets a mysterious phone call from Hyung-suk telling him to impersonate his brother at the latter’s new job, Min-suk is forced to pretend to be a high-ranking executive at an IT conglomerate.

Living a double life, Min-suk learns how to navigate his way in the world of adults while balancing his high school life

With the help of Jung Soo-young (Lee Ha-na), a temp with an odd personality whom he eventually falls in love with, he manages to pull out even from the stickiest situation.

In terms of romance, the drama highlights a stereotypical mindset that man has to pay for everything especially on dates. Since Min-suk is still a student, what happen when he goes out for a sudden double dates Soo-young and is expected to pay for dinner?

7.Secret Love Affair (2014)

Watch snippet of the drama here.

Before Kim Hee-ae got cheated on in World of the Married (2020), she was the cheater in Secret Love Affair (2014).

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Here, she plays Oh Hye-won, a 40-year-old married woman working as the director of planning for the Seohan Arts Foundation.

She is composed, elegant and seems like leading a fulfilling life. Her scandalous rendezvous starts when she meets Lee Sun-jae (Yoo Ah-in), a poor genius pianist.

Can they keep their scandalous romance a secret?

This romance melodrama explores the struggle between attraction and the expectations from people around you.

8.Something in the Rain (2018)

Watch the teaser for the first episode here.

There are so many underlying themes in this drama which resonate to women especially those who are living in a conservative Asian society.

Also known as Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food, the drama highlights more than just the stigma surrounding a woman dating a younger man.

The love story circles around Jin-ah (Son Ye-jin), a 30-something district supervisor at a cafe franchise and Joon-hee (Jung Hae-in), a 20-something animator for video games.

Joon-hee is the younger brother of Jin-ah’s best friend, Jang So-yeon. Moreover, Jin-ah’s younger brother is best friend with Joon-hee.

Perhaps the most infuriating character in the drama is none other than Jin-ah’s mother Kim Mi-yeon (Gil Hae-yeon).

She blames her daughter when her ex-boyfriend cheated on her during their relationship. Besides that, she asks her son to not hang out with Joon-hee because he grows up without his parents and not of a wealthy status. She even pushes her daughter to marriage just because she is already in her 30s.

Additionally, the drama follows the struggles of female employees in the company who usually have to suffer through sexual harassment from male superiors in order to climb the corporate ladder.

As the drama touches so many raw nerves in Asian society, no wonder Something in the Rain is one of the most highest-rated Korean dramas in 2018.

You can watch Something in the Rain on Netflix.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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