The 10 Best Korean Dramas of 2023 on Netflix

8 minute read

For years, Korean dramas have successfully traversed borders to capture the hearts of international audiences. And there’s much more Korean television in store—in part thanks to Netflix’s public commitment to spend $2.5 billion on South Korean film and TV production in the next four years. 

That investment is proportional to the demand: Netflix original The Glory, which was first released on Dec. 30 last year and went out with a bang in March, became the fifth most watched non-English show ever to premiere on the platform. Netflix also recently unveiled that The Glory was the third most watched show globally in the first six months of 2023, with over 622 million hours of viewership during that period.

And 2023 has dropped dozens of other worthwhile shows too, spanning a variety of genres for audiences of all stripes, from medical procedurals to period Westerns, political thrillers to time-traveling romances. So whether you’re a K-drama “stanner” or a newcomer, there’s likely a show that would cater to your tastes.

With 2023 drawing to a close, TIME selects this year’s must-watch Korean dramas, listed in no particular order. All titles are available to watch on Netflix USA.

Crash Course in Romance

Korean dramas of the romantic variety tend to cater to the teenage or the young professional demographic. Crash Course in Romance is a breath of fresh air: the 16-episode, sweetly funny series follows the love story between 49-year-old former national handball player Nam Haeng-seon (played by Jeon Do-yeon) and Choi Chi-yeol (played by Jung Kyung-ho), a handsome and popular math teacher at a private tutoring center—who also happens to be 10 years Nam’s senior. The series offers a love story that is neither cringeworthy nor overly dramatic—save for a serial attacker subplot—but it also provides thoughtful commentary on the excessive competition within South Korea’s education system.

Doctor Cha

For two decades, Cha Jeong-suk (played by Uhm Jung-hwa), a medical school graduate, put her career on hold after getting pregnant in order to become a devoted housewife supporting her spouse, mother-in-law, and children. But after being diagnosed with acute liver failure, Cha sees the selfishness of her family—culminating with her husband’s eventual refusal to be her liver donor. She then decides to stop being a doormat and applies to be a first-year medical resident in her late 40s. Doctor Cha is an entertaining 16-episode series on finding newfound independence and meaning in life as one ages.


If you’re looking for well-choreographed fistfights and serious knifing skills, then this webtoon-based series is for you. Kim Gun-woo (Woo Do-hwan), a high-school dropout determined to pay off his family’s debts, makes friends with Hong Woo-jin (played by Lee Sang-yi of Hometown Cha-cha-cha), a former opponent in the boxing ring. After a loan shark puts Gun-woo’s family in danger and severely scars his face, he teams up with Woo-jin to exact justice on the powerful lenders that have made the lives of the poor even more miserable. Other than the action sequences that get your blood pumping, Bloodhounds stands out for the entertaining rapport and sympathetic dynamic between its two leads that make audiences root for their success.

The Good Bad Mother

The theme of motherhood is at the core of The Good Bad Mother’s meaty if predictable story. After the murder of her pig-farming husband, a pregnant Jin Young-soon (Ra Mi-ran) moves to a small town and gives birth to her son, Choi Kang-ho (played as an adult by Lee Do-hyun). Jin is a tough parent to her son, which eventually pushes him away from her and into working with the same people behind her husband’s death. But a car crash renders Choi with—you guessed it—amnesia, which provides an opportunity for Jin to mend their fractured relationship. Ra and Lee’s performances help The Good Bad Mother transcend its familiar notes to become a worthwhile and heart-rending watch.

Castaway Diva

Park Eun-bin (Extraordinary Attorney Woo) is the anchor of this 12-episode drama about Seo Mok-ha, a wannabe teenage pop singer who, in an attempt to escape her abusive father, gets shipwrecked and cast away in one of South Korea’s many uninhabited islands. She is rescued 15 years later, and upon return to civilization as an adult, our main character—to whom Park lends her beautiful singing voice—finds herself becoming close friends with her childhood idol (played by Kim Hyo-jin), while finally becoming one herself. The show chronicles Seo’s almost unbridled ascent into stardom, only slightly bogged down by a complicated subplot involving the family she stayed with after she was rescued.

The Glory

Despite this series' late-2022 release, this 2023 list would not be complete with The Glory, the streaming platform’s fifth most viewed non-English language show of all-time, and one which dominated in the early months of this year. Across 16 nail-biting episodes, it tells the story of one woman’s plan to get revenge on the people who tormented and bullied her during high school. Song Hye-kyo plays Moon Dong-eun, the emotionally (and physically) scarred protagonist, in a moving, at times disturbing performance as Dong-eun orchestrates her revenge plot against her tormentors 20 years later. Equally disturbing is that many of the scenes in The Glory are based on real life, in a country plagued by bullying and school violence.

Daily Dose of Sunshine

Nurse Jeong Da-eun (Park Bo-young of Strong Girl Bong-soon) transfers to the psychiatric ward of a hospital with much naïveté about what this kind of patient care will look like. But inside, she learns that many of her patients’ mental health challenges may be more complicated to address than she initially believes. Daily Dose of Sunshine functions as a procedural but it’s also informative, with each episode tackling a different disorder, peppered with empathetic and sometimes goofy scenes. In the context of South Korea’s mental health crisis, its entertainment value is matched by its social message.

Divorce Attorney Shin

A piano prodigy decides to become a lawyer specializing in divorce litigation in a quest to find justice after the untimely death of his sister, who had just been divorced. If that plot doesn’t reel you in, Cho Seung-woo, who plays the pianist-lawyer Shin Sung-han, should be enough of a draw. Cho carries the series almost single-handedly, giving viewers a character imbued with both playfulness and empathy for clients who have the odds of winning their legal battles stacked against them. The series doesn’t shy away from the often messy fallout associated with divorce proceedings—from property settlements to custody battles—but it also presents the aftermath as a chance for new beginnings.


Coming off the success of the hit drama The World of the Married, actor Kim Hee-ae returns to the small screen as a cutthroat corporate “fixer” and imagemaker Hwang Do-hee in a binge-worthy political thriller. Used to cleaning up the scandals of the conglomerate she works for, she crosses paths with civil rights lawyer Oh Kyung-sook (played by Moon So-ri), who has beef with Hwang’s firm. Things take a turn for Hwang with the death of a fired colleague, and after being unceremoniously fired from her job herself, Hwang and Oh find that the notorious firm is fielding a candidate for the Seoul mayoral elections. The two decide to band together as Hwang prepares Oh to run as mayor. Queenmaker is dirty politics at its sleekest.

D.P. (Season 2)

The lauded drama that tackled the traumatizing abuses in South Korea’s military returned for a second season this year. The new season begins where the first season left off: a brutal suicide attempt and the ensuing fallout. Most of D.P.’s latest episodes deal with the cover-up of the military’s scandals, but its standalone episodes add nuance to this brutality—including the case of a deserter who performs as a drag queen while on the run. Though themes in the latest episodes can sometimes tread familiar ground, D.P.’s second season is just as unapologetic, as visceral, and as thought-provoking as its first, if not more so.

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