Image of the Korean drama 'Hospital Playlist.'

5 Korean Dramas to Catch up on While Social Distancing

With everything from romance to rivalries to zombies, these Netflix shows will keep you occupied while you're stuck inside.
March 27, 2020
7 mins read

At this moment, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the globe, the world seems like it’s about to collapse. Cities are on lockdown, schools are shut down and travel is banned. Citizens have been advised to stay home amidst the seemingly unending epidemic. While some of our days are already filled with work or online school, it’s still boring to be at home all the time.

To help with your boredom while social distancing, Netflix has released some new Korean dramas for you to catch up on. Here are 5 of the new releases that I highly recommend for you to watch.

1. “Hyena” (2020)

For those of you who like romantic comedies, “Hyena” would be a great Korean drama to choose. It’s a story about rival attorneys facing each other in court. Yoon Hee-jae (Ju Ji-hoon) and Jung Geum-ja (Kim Hye-soo) are highly competitive lawyers who serve the top 1% of Korea’s society. In meticulous but funny ways, the two main characters try to sabotage each other to win their cases and end up tangled in each other’s lives.

“Hyena” features one of the more common Korean drama storylines, which centers around the classic “rivalry turns into a love story” plot. “Hyena” was released on Feb. 21, and it is still going on Netflix. Since the show is coming to an end in the second week of April, now is the perfect time for you to start watching, so you won’t have to wait too long for the finale.

Despite adopting the rather typical South Korean rom-com narrative, “Hyena” manages to not be too predictable. If you’re looking for a series featuring a comical and lighthearted yet spicy romance, “Hyena” is worth the watch.

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“Itaewon Class” (2020)

Have you ever heard of the popular webtoon “Itaewon Class”? The online manga has allegedly gathered over 220 million views across the globe. Fans of the webtoon have long awaited its drama adaptation. At the end of January the show was finally released, with lead actor Park Seo-joon playing Park Sae-ro-yi.

Itaewon Class” follows the story of Park Sae-ro-yi seeking revenge while making his unbelievably big dreams come true. The Korean drama is about society’s outcasts attempting to live normal lives and fighting for their dreams despite the stigma around their social statuses. It provides a jaw-clenching storyline for the audience as well as an insightful look into the lives of marginalized people in South Korea, like the LGBTQ+ community, multiracial people and even ex-convicts.

Although romance is not the main focus of the series, it wouldn’t be a Korean drama without a little bit of a love story. “Itaewon Class” packs all types of relationships into its plot, including friendships and familial bonds between father and son.

“Itaewon Class” is a multifaceted tale that feeds viewers a lot of twists involving justice, camaraderie and even smart business tactics that we can all learn from.

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“Kingdom” (2019-2020)

On March 13, the second season of “Kingdom” came to grace us after a yearlong wait. If you missed the first season, or if you’re up for a re-watch session, this is the perfect time to binge watch all 12 episodes.

“Kingdom” tells the story of the zombie apocalypse that took place in Korea’s Joseon period. Writer Kim Eun-hee said that she was inspired by the actual mysterious plague that killed thousands of people during the Joseon dynasty.

The horror drama blends history lessons with flesh-eating zombies, making it one of the most unique Korean dramas out there. “Kingdom” also shows how complex and corrupt politics were around that time, which remains relatable today. In Season 2, the characters continue their fight against the living dead while unveiling the intricacies of “blood” or the politics of lineage.

“Kingdom” is a must watch if you are not too interested in cheesy romance and more into shows like “Stranger Things” or “The Walking Dead.” This series will not disappoint.

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“Hi Bye, Mama!” (2020)

One show that’s a lot different from the other dramas on this list is Kim Tae-hee’s ongoing series “Hi Bye, Mama!” This show features ghosts and shamans, a refreshing perspective for the skeptics out there who do not believe in the afterlife. Even though “Hi Bye, Mama!” does not go into the detailed system of life after death, it gives a comedic illustration of what the “lives of the dead” look like.

Similar to our regular lives, the story of the afterlife is not always full of joy. “Hi Bye, Mama!” depicts the desperate love that mothers, or any parents, have toward their children. It dives deep into the sorrowful experiences of those who have lost their loved ones and the loved ones whose lives have been taken away.

“Hi Bye, Mama!” is the perfect Korean drama to watch with your parents. It is the family drama that brings families closer together. The show still has a long way to go, but the first few episodes have received great reviews so far. Obviously, you can wait until all of the episodes are up on Netflix, but why would you delay the fun?

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“Hospital Playlist” (2020)

We cannot go through a list of Korean dramas without a doctor series. Over the years, South Korea has produced many critically acclaimed doctor dramas such as “Good Doctor” and “Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim.”

This time, Netflix brings us a comedic show surrounding the journey of five brilliant doctors who are best friends and in a band. “Hospital Playlist” paints the hilarious behind-the-scenes of being a doctor. Surely a doctor’s life does not only consist of operating rooms and emergency wings; their lives have more layers than that.

Starring famously great actors Jo Jung-suk, Yoo Yeon-seok, Jung Kyung-ho, Kim Dae-myung and Jeon Mi-do, “Hospital Playlist” has already gathered a huge fan base, and it has received a 9.3 rating on Joel Keller from said that the story appears to be a mixture of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Friends.” What more could you ask for?

It may be too early to say whether this show will be amazing or not, but it’s promising enough to commit to finishing the series. After all, you will never know if it’s good unless you see it for yourself.

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Which one of these five shows will you be watching? If none of them fit your preferences, you simply need to search through Google to find what you might like, because Korean dramas have a wide variety of genres. In times like this, when the reality seems bleak and all we can do to save the world is stay home, we should find the positive stuff rather than focus on the negative. Perhaps this is the earth telling us to start binge-watching Korean dramas.

Nanda Illahi, Okayama University

Writer Profile

Nanda Illahi

Okayama University
Political Science, Cultural Anthropology, and Management

Nanda Illahi is a political science student at Okayama University. Nanda has always had an interest in writing and has channeled that passion through various forms of storytelling on her website, school’s student journal and more.

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