Drama Reactions & Reviews
Our Top 10 favorite K-drama tropes
by | January 8, 2017 | 224 Comments

javabeans: It was painful to pick only 10 dramas for the previous list of gateway dramas, but when we decided to write about tropes for this list, I found that it practically wrote itself. (The list, I mean! Not the entries, which were as arduous as ever!)

girlfriday: Yeah this list was particularly fun, because it allowed us to look at dramaland as a whole and talk about our favorite recurring tropes—the things we see time and again across all dramas, that are such a huge part of why we love them in the first place.

javabeans: Tropes are a funny thing, in that they can be wildly exciting when executed well, in a story that moves you, and when they’re done badly they’re the stuff that creates all those Youtube parodies and mocking diatribes about why K-dramas are weird, or cheesy, or dumb.

girlfriday: Yes, totally. That’s why if you only thought of the bad examples, this could easily be the Top 10 Cliches of Dramaland.

javabeans: For the record, I hate those snarky Top 10 Cliche lists, because I always feel like those list-makers don’t even get dramas, or set out to mock them and only pick bad examples. Or maybe I’m just earnest and protective of my babies, even the ugly ones.

girlfriday: Oh I hate mean-spirited snark too. Because for every cliched example out there, there’s a good version, or a hundred, that they left out. The dramas where the trope was sincere and used to great dramatic effect, and made us all cry.

javabeans: Also, I think that it may be entertaining to poke fun at commonly used cliches—I’ll never find a Truck of Doom to not be funny, not by now—it skips over the more interesting flipside of the question, of why we all watch dramas anyway. Why does that dumb-sounding premise get its hook into your heart? And why does the twentieth drama to explore the same concept still manage to get your heart racing and tears flowing?

girlfriday: YES, EXACTLY. This is why we still watch dramas and still love them, no matter how many we’ve seen, because there is an inherent appeal in the way these tropes are used—sometimes with great creativity—to set up a love story, or to complicate it, or to make it sweeping and epic. If you’ve seen a drama (or ten thousand), these will be familiar to you.


1. Crossdressing

javabeans: Crossdressing—particularly in the woman-as-man iteration—is so frequently featured in dramaland that a newcomer might find the fixation strange, or at least disproportionate to the rest of the world. But it’s not for nuthin’ that it’s also frequently featured in the dramas on many a favorites list (see: Coffee Prince, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, You’re Beautiful, Moonlight Drawn By Clouds).

What crossdressing in K-dramas accomplishes so well is in addressing one of the heart’s most earnest desires: to be loved wholly and unconditionally for who you are, as you are. I don’t mean that crossdressing results in a truer love than others, but as a narrative device, it’s a wonderful way to cut to the heart of what draws two people together. When the hero of Coffee Prince decides that he’ll love the heroine “whether you’re a man or an alien,” it becomes the ultimate declaration that she is what matters most, not her appearance or gender or place in the world. In a society that is still overwhelmingly driven by heteronormative ideals, crossdressing flirts with transgressing those norms, challenging characters to value love above social acceptance, while also allowing them to have a sunny happy ending when they don’t actually have to give up that acceptance. That may sound like a cop-out, but it is a step in the right direction and the dramas that use this trope often do promote tolerance and acceptance, even if the heroine does turn out to be a she. Moreover, having a heroine also be one of the boys gives us a chance to marry romance with bromance—the very best way to have your cake and eat it too.

We recommend: Coffee Prince, The Painter of Wind, You’re Beautiful, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Moonlight Drawn By Clouds

Watch at your own risk: To the Beautiful You, Scholar Who Walks the Night, Nail Shop Paris, K-pop Ultimate Survival


2. Amnesia

girlfriday: Amnesia may be overused in dramaland, but it’s a surefire way to create narrative suspense when you wipe a character’s memory, and we as the audience know something the characters don’t (Winter Sonata is the classic example of this, where you’re glued to the screen while shouting She’s your first love but you just forgot, you dummy!). In romance, amnesia is a common way to reinforce that this couple is the be-all-end-all of fated OTPs (one true pairing), if despite not remembering one another or themselves, they will always find their way back to each other. Like the soul remembers what the mind cannot.

Sometimes that fate is so strong it defies death (Legend of the Blue Sea, The Lonely Shining Goblin), though most of the time amnesia works to intensify a regular romance by stamping it as Meant To Be, like in I Hear Your Voice, when Lee Jong-seok forgets who he is but falls in love with the heroine all over again. (Also in W.) Amnesia can also give us insight into a character’s true nature (Shopping King Louis, A New Leaf), where wiping the slate clean actually helps people discover who they are fundamentally as people. Mostly, I like to think of amnesia as Fate’s go-to trick—if you separate lovers and force them to forget each other, and then they cross oceans and lifetimes to reunite anyway, Fate gets all the credit.

We recommend: Nice Guy, Boys Before Flowers, The Moon That Embraces the Sun, A New Leaf, I Hear Your Voice, Arang and the Magistrate, Oh My Ghostess, Who Are You–School 2015, Legend of the Blue Sea, The Lonely Shining Goblin, Shopping King Louis, W–Two Worlds, Bring It On, Ghost

Watch at your own risk: Winter Sonata, Fantasy Couple, Remember–Son’s War, Memory, Thousand Day Promise


3. Contract Relationships

javabeans: A hero and heroine get caught in a compromising situation and agree to contract-date to save face. A hero hires a girlfriend to get his mother to stop setting him up on blind dates. A heroine contract-marries a hero to provide for her child because she’s dying of cancer. Whatever the reason, contract relationships are a tried-and-true staple of dramas, because they force proximity between two characters who might not otherwise find themselves in each other’s orbits, and keep them there long enough for attraction to do its work.

Contract relationships work particularly well in conjunction with that old chestnut, opposites-attract romance, because it’s way more satisfying to watch two diametric opposites struggling to find common ground and clashing with chemistry and fireworks than it is to have a well-matched pair with similar backgrounds and tastes coming together in a calm, rational partnership. We’d like to note that in real life, Door Number 2 seems eminently preferable to the Sturm und Drung of dramaland romance, but who said real life had anything to do with dramas? Of course, even in a fictional story, we need pretexts for keeping two people who hate each other together (or even just people who don’t care to necessarily be together), and contract relationships are a handy-dandy way to provide that couple with their denial starter flame: I don’t actually LIKE him, I’m here for the money! I have zero interest in her, but she’s my best bet for getting Mom off my back! They can keep making all sorts of excuses for why the contract relationship is real, and the terms of the contract keep them firmly in place until it’s too late to walk away with the denial intact: You’re hook, line, and sinkered, and only true love will do at that point.

We recommend: Full House, Sweet 18, My Name Is Kim Sam Soon, Delightful Girl Chun-hyang, Marriage Not Dating, 1% of Anything, Coffee Prince, Marriage Contract

Watch at your own risk: Fated To Love You, Cinderella and the Four Knights, Accidental Couple (That Fool)


4. Cohabitation

girlfriday: Dramaland would be nowhere without forced proximity, and Cohabitation is like Contract Relationship’s big sister: One forces relationship proximity, and the other forces physical proximity. How would ALL of those characters who hate each other’s guts discover that they’re actually meant to be unless the powers that be force them to spend all that time together night and day in cramped quarters, against their will? Reluctant relationships come in all shapes and sizes in dramaland, but cohabitation is one of the quickest and most entertaining ways to cut through the crap and see people for who they really are, warts and all. It’s a fast-track to romance, which is why it’s so often employed, particularly in romantic comedies. The fact that they often come with accidental shower run-ins is just icing on the cake.

What is so appealing about cohabitation as a trope is that it brings out adorable domestic coupley behavior, before anyone is officially a couple. Everything from washing dishes to doing laundry can suddenly become meaningful, and for some reason, the more minor the activity, the more it highlights the comfortable everydayness of their lives together. They needn’t even be a romantic couple, as Goblin and Reaper can attest—once you wash each other’s underwear and compromise on the interior decorating, even sworn enemies can become the best of friends (The Lonely Shining Goblin, Hwarang, Age of Youth, Answer Me 1994). In the classic rom-com (Attic Cat, Full House, Personal Taste, I Need Romance 3), cohabitation is the impetus for romance to bloom by playing house. Because if we go by the rules of dramaland, grocery shopping, all-night sickbed nursing, and matching toothbrushes can only lead to true love.

We recommend: Personal Taste, Feeling (Neukkim), Attic Cat, Full House, Bottom of the 9th with 2 Outs, I Hear Your Voice, You’re Beautiful, Answer Me 1994, Age of Youth, The Lonely Shining Goblin, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, It’s Okay, It’s Love, I Need Romance 3, Pinocchio, Shopping King Louis, Hwarang

Watch at your own risk: The Producers, My Princess, Rooftop Prince, The Man Living in Our House


5. Candy and Alpha Heroes

javabeans: Call it Candy and her Alpha hero, or the Darcy syndrome, or tsundere; they’re all variations on the same theme. At the crux of the matter is a plucky heroine melting the heart of a crotchety (but hot!) hero—after first melting the ice around his stone-cold heart—and it’s one of the bedrocks upon which dramaland is built. I like to think of it as an evolution from the Cinderella story, which is a perennial favorite for a reason but does rather put the worn in time-worn. Prince Charming ruled the early days of trendy K-dramas, but it wasn’t long before Charming underwent a bad-boy makeover and emerged charismatically cranky.

What’s the appeal in a hero who says mean things and thinks niceness is a character flaw? In real life, we’d just walk away when presented with a sneering superior, a rude boss who’s constantly nitpicking, or a guy who thinks every hand-sewn sequin on his designer tracksuit is better than you. Sticking around to see if he’ll grow and mature out of his assy stage is a bet that’s simply not worth taking. In dramaland, however, there’s satisfaction in the redemption arc (his), as well as safety (for her) in knowing that he is, underneath it all, a decent fellow. It’s a safety that only works in fiction (seriously, don’t try this at home, kids!), where the Powers That Be have assured us that he’s our guy, so we can rest assured that it’s safe to root for the couple. It even becomes a twisted kind of fun to see a sneery Alpha hero misunderstand the heroine or put her down, because we know he’ll be brought down low once love takes hold. Since narratives love dramatic extremes, the higher they stick their noses, the harder they’ll fall on them. And while there have been dramas that tackle the reverse scenario, with an Alpha heroine and a Beta male, it doesn’t have the same effect, inasmuch as swapping the genders reverses the power dynamic. Skewing the character setup to extremes on the conventional power scale (powerful hero, powerless heroine) further emphasizes the great equalizing power of love, where their hearts are on equal ground.

We recommend: My Girl, Goong, Secret Garden, Boys Before Flowers, Full House, Brilliant Legacy, You’re Beautiful, The Last Scandal of My Life, Best Love, Answer Me 1988, Oh Hae-young Again, Master’s Sun, Drinking Solo, Jealousy Incarnate

Watch at your own risk: Heirs, Pasta, Cheese in the Trap, Hyde, Jekyll, Me, Level 7 Civil Servant


5. Beta Heroes

girlfriday: Alpha’s Hero’s little brother is naturally the Beta Hero, the type we most often meet in noona romances, who is often younger and less experienced in life compared to his counterpart, the Alpha Heroine. Or maybe he’s even just a ‘fraidy cat, like the hero in My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, or a pushover who lives to please his dominant girlfriend (the classic example is the movie My Sassy Girl). There’s an obvious gender role reversal that comes with this territory, which is the fun of most beta hero romances, and while they are increasing in popularity nowadays, the Candy and Alpha Hero still dominate the drama landscape by far.

What we often see in these types of dramas is a sassy heroine who’s opinionated and strong, which is a huge part of their appeal for me. And of course she’s coupled with a puppy dog hero who follows her around with complete devotion, almost always in romances where he likes her first and isn’t afraid to declare it at every given opportunity, and publicly at that (Biscuit Teacher Star Candy, The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry). Beta Hero may be inexperienced at a great many things, but he certainly throws everything behind courting his girl, and I’ll never grow tired of watching romances where the hero wears his heart on his sleeve and openly chases after the girl of his dreams. It sure is the stuff of fantasy, but then again, what drama isn’t?

We recommend: Biscuit Teacher Star Candy, Unstoppable High Kick, Witch’s Romance, What’s Up Fox, The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry, Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, I Hear Your Voice, I Need Romance 3, Shopping King Louis

Watch at your own risk: Baby-Faced Beauty, I Do I Do, Big, The Producers


7. Reverse Harem

javabeans: One (p)lucky heroine, surrounded by many, many beautiful guys. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE.

The trick to either a harem or reverse-harem setup is that there must be a suitable twist, which allows the characters in the drama to escape seeming overly into the situation. I mean, the appeal is obvious—you just can’t have the characters admitting it all up front! That would be… unseemly. (Also, we fans understand that the gratification is really for us.) That means, if a girl is surrounded by boys, she has to either hate the attention (like the shy agoraphobic of Flower Boy Next Door), or be presenting herself as a different identity (Coffee Prince), or maybe be forced into this situation by factors out of her hands (Flower Boy Ramyun Shop). Moreover, there’s no fun in putting a heroine in the center of a reverse harem if she were the kind who’d naturally attract one on her own, without the extenuating circumstances that establish our drama’s premise. If she’s already a queen bee, there’s no fun in putting her in the middle of the action—at least not the kind of fun that comes in putting a wallflower or overlooked tomboy in that same role and having the guys fall in love with her for her personality and character as much as they do for her looks. It’s part wish fulfillment, part true-love-wins-all. And okay, partly pure eye candy.

We recommend: Feeling (Neukkim), Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Coffee Prince, You’re Beautiful, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Boys Before Flowers, Flower Boy Next Door, Hwarang, Answer Me 1988

Watch at your own risk: Cinderella and the Four Knights, To the Beautiful You, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Doctors


8. Friends-to-Lovers

girlfriday: Friends-to-lovers is one of my personal favorite romance tropes, because I love watching the confusion when love begins to complicate a friendship, and the tension that comes from that inevitable turn when one half falls in love first and has to pine in secret. It’s really the secret one-sided pining that gets me every time, when everyday interactions suddenly become laced with heartfelt yearning, and we’re privy to the stolen glances and silent acts of love—stuff that in many dramas is otherwise reserved for the perfect Daddy Long Legs second lead (Answer Me 1997, Twenty Again, Plus Nine Boys).

The appeal of a good friends-to-lovers romance is that there’s a very natural progression from trusted confidante to romantic partner—you begin to lean on a best friend and cross lines without being conscious of it, and before you know it, you’re already spending all of your time together and getting jealous of potential suitors and acting like a boyfriend without the title (Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju is a particularly adorable example of this). One of the key advantages of a friends-to-lovers setup is that there’s plausible deniability when you’re “just friends,” and denial is very useful in dramaland, as it gets you into all manner of coupley shenanigans without having to label things, and lets the drama deliciously tease out every potential romantic development. But whether it’s denial or one-sided yearning, all roads in a friends-to-lovers romance lead to one conclusion, which is the best of all: that your best friend is the one person you can truly be yourself with, who loves you just for who you are. And what could be better than that?

We recommend: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju, Twenty Again, Bottom of the 9th with 2 Outs, Jealousy, Propose, Answer Me 1997, Answer Me 1988, Let’s Eat 2, Bubblegum, The Good Wife

Watch at your own risk: The Time I’ve Loved You, Ex-Girlfriend Club, Plus Nine Boys, Persevere, Gu Hae-ra, The Producers, One More Happy Ending


9. Wrong Identity

javabeans: Mistaken identity isn’t the same thing as swapped identities, or heroes in disguise, or body possession—but what they all have in common is a narrative conflict built around an identity that’s, well, wrong. Whether this circumstance is the result of a mistake (he has amnesia and forgot he’s a chaebol!) or an intentional ploy (he got a new face and name to avenge his dead father!), it’s a great trope for lovers of dramatic irony, where a great part of the fun is in knowing more than the characters do. When we know that the heroine is really just a doppelganger or possessed by someone else’s soul, our meta awareness provides an extra layer of entertainment. Dramas often revel in it, playing with near-discoveries in another form of fanservice, heightening tension and raising blood pressure by throwing our disguised characters in all sorts of close calls.

And playing with identity doesn’t just end there; it also allows for all sorts of angst to befall our main character when the false identity comes into direct conflict with the true one. Maybe a hero falls in love with the enemy he swore to destroy (or more likely, the daughter), or perhaps a heroine fits into her false life so well that she feels trapped in her lie and is deathly afraid of losing it. When the initial motive is pitted against a newfound love, for instance, it forces the hero(ine) to examine what truly matters—and when (s)he chooses love (because they’ll always choose love), it reinforces the preciousness of that love. Over money, over revenge, over anything and everything that came before it, making it seem just a little more epic than had our protagonist not had to sacrifice all else in order to keep it.

We recommend: High School King of Savvy, Who Are You—School 2015, Green Rose, I Remember You, Come Back Ajusshi, 49 Days, Angry Mom, Healer, Who Are You, Oh My Ghostess

Watch at your own risk: Wife’s Temptation, Angel’s Temptation, Mask, Monster, Goodbye Mr. Black, Shark, Birth of a Beauty, Bad Guy, Oohlala Spouses


10. Hate-to-Love

girlfriday: The hate-to-love setup is probably one of the most common tropes in dramaland, because you can have a bickering, contentious relationship no matter what genre you’re in, and it has the very simple but satisfying reversal of first impressions being utterly wrong. It’s Pride and Prejudice—where two people’s vast differences first cause hate, and then lead to growth and change—applied to everything from political and ideological enemies (Gaksital), to warring school club presidents (Sassy Go Go).

Characters needn’t be mortal enemies to go from hate to love, since a bad first impression is enough to get two people off on the wrong foot, but it’s especially satisfying when they hate each other with a fiery passion and then have to eat crow. The more hate there is, the sweeter the comeuppance when a jerk falls off his high horse and becomes a fool for love (The King 2 Hearts, Boys Before Flowers). It’s like karma, but with a twisted sense of humor. There’s also a subset of dramas that go love-hate-love, if there’s a divorce or betrayal to overcome, and I find that these can be the most ardent hate-to-love relationships if done well, like School 2013, in which the violent hate between two boys just masks how much they loved and missed each other (sniff!). Hate-to-love is used so often because it infuses any relationship with a strong narrative arc from the start—if you start your love story at rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.

We recommend: The King 2 Hearts, Boys Before Flowers, Full House, Sassy Go Go, Secret, Secret Garden, Gaksital, Best Love, School 2013, Brilliant Legacy, Drinking Solo

Watch at your own risk: Cinderella’s Sister, Emergency Couple, Fantastic, High Society, Cheese in the Trap


224 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. mariazzang

    I don’t agree that Answer Me 1988 should be under the Candy and Alpha Hero trope.

    • 1.1 demons oppa

      I think the relationship between jung pal and duk sun can be put into the candy alpha category

      • 1.1.1 redfox

        umI don´t think so, he is not tsundere he is just … slow in expressing himself? and in the beginning a teenager, who acts that way not cause he thinks high of himself, but, well… cause he is a boy not a man. he is def not an alpha just because he is a bit grumpy and his family has a wee bit more money.

    • 1.2 Fay

      Answer me is more beta hero, considering Taek is the one who was the husband after all. Also taek is kindhearted but strong, smart but modest and he confessed. So the hero is of course him, not jung hwan :S.

      • 1.2.1 wow

        I didn’t consider Taek as beta hero bec he didn’t woo or hover around Deok Sun , he is the one who opened up as he spent time with Deok Sun actually but he isn’t quite uialpha too Taek is just Taek i think 😀

        • Sweet&Sour

          I didn’t know that to be considered a beta hero, the male lead simply should be devoted to the heroine? So an alpha male can’t be devoted to the heroine, or be the one to pursue her first? This is the first time I’m hearing this.

          I agree with the poster that Reply 1988 is not “alpha and candy” because Taek is definitely beta, even if he didn’t start loving Doek Sun until the second half of the drama.

          On this note, I also think that “I Hear Your Voice” does not have a “beta hero”. Soo Ha is a very strong character who is mature beyond his years (due to his experiences). Just because he wasn’t tsundere, and was devoted to the heroine, doesn’t make him beta. I would say that Soo Ha is a “nice alpha” as opposed to a “jerk or cold alpha”. I don’t know, all I know is that i don’t see him as “beta” at all.

          • Sheriff Woody

            Taek loved Deok Sun since they were kids…the flash back in Ep. 20….and we know about Taek’s interest since Ep.6.

            Like one poster above said….Taek is Taek, not alpha or beta.

          • snowmobile

            I think by beta, they mean that the heroine was strong and spunky and her personality made the hero chase after her wholeheartedly and earnestly, even when sometimes that attention was unwanted. Sooha doesn’t seem like an alpha to me though, because he was much younger than Hyesung, and he did end up living at her place and not the other way around.

          • wow

            Sorry, i didn’t mean it negative way there is nothing wrong with wooing it’s equally swoon worthy depending on preference I still think Soo Ha is beta hero since he had done things for heroine who eventually softened up while it’s vise versa for Taek and Deok Sun that’s just my opinion anyway.

      • 1.2.2 Stardust

        Team Taekkie here!
        Taek is pretty beta but that kiss – he was very alpha hahaha
        Can the next top 10 be top 10 kisses of all drama time? Or let’s going to the kiss theology of the top 10 kissers of all time heh

        • jellybine

          I will definitely wait for this list! Haha. Looking forward to having Another Oh Hae-young/Seo Hyun-jin in the listof best kisses if ever.

        • redfox

          we all know it is going to be a battle of drama brothers Bogummy and Ingukkie.

          though Inguk is already crowned the King of Kissing by fans and even by show hosts…

          • rockingcharis

            I think we can throw in Gong Yoo there too

      • 1.2.3 Yumi

        All the guys were classic Betas

        Taek was certainly a beta
        as was SunWoo and Jung Bong.

        Not seeing Taek as beta might be the result of DukSun not being an alpha. But betas are betas because they are betas, not because they are in relationships with alphas.

        • Stardust


      • 1.2.4 Miranda

        Taek’s the friends-to-lovers trope, right? Friends, then he develops a (very quiet) one-sided love, and then when he got his opening he pounced.

        Literally. Which I appreciate.

        • thelady

          we all appreciated Taek’s literal pouncing

    • 1.3 Purple Owl

      I think it fit more because of Duksoon, but also a little Taek.

      Taek isn’t a beta hero so much as gone most of the story. When the loveline between them is the point, he has the presence and smoothness of an Alpha. We just missed the heart melting/rude jerk moments. Though, Duksoon does coax more out of Taek than anyone else.

      Lol. I was team Junghwan. Never thought I’d write a paragraph about team Taek

      • 1.3.1 Fay

        Lol yeah, but I can see him beyond alpha, beta, et all. Tt’s hard to give him only one tag, the guy is like a chameleon. He can’t park a car, but he can look just fine in any woman’s eyes and make her stop talking, like he did with deok sun. And don’t forget that princess run amidst the playground. I can even call him anonymous and glee blissfully. :S

  2. Liz C

    Love the list!
    Reply 1988 is listed under 5. Candy and the Alpha Hero, but I’m trying to figure out which relationship it would be?

    • 2.1 the-basketcase

      I think they were referring to our baby Jung-hwan who always was the biggest tsundere ever. *cries*

      I don’t think Deok-sun was much of a Candy tho…

      • 2.1.1 snowmobile

        Deoksun was totally a candy! Though not in the normal sense, because she wasn’t really sweet to anyone besides Taek, and she’s really relatable. But she was strong, plucky, and warm-hearted as any other candy out there.

  3. Annflln

    Hate to love trope never fail for me. Love all the bickering and all the romantic ensues.

    Amnesia….the things that make ke shake my head lol. If only in real life those amnesia could be as romantic as in the drama as.

  4. NamSoon❤️Heungsoon

    I love that School 2013 is included in the ‘hate to love’ trope. Wouldn’t Pinocchio also be categorized as a beta male lead drama ? Or under the cohabitation trope ?

    • 4.1 Petmink

      Or perhaps a friends to lovers trope.

  5. Mariama

    WOO HOO I AM FIRST TO REPLY!!! ‘Happy dance’

    Now for the serious topic, i love this list and you know you are a drama addict when all this just makes you go “yep”, and this is why i love Dramas. Be it Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean, i love that this list reminds me how much dramas have messed up our falling in love route. Can’t wait for the next list.

  6. Even

    I wonder what the criteria for making it onto the “watch at your own risk” is, because I see some dramas there that are pretty terrible and then I see some that aren’t bad at all.

    Love the list though, my favorites would probably be contract and cohabitation. Friends to lovers is pretty good too, if done right. Cross dressing is a 90% miss, but when it hits, it really hits.

    I’ve found that the older I get, the less I care for hate-to- love. It’s just way easier(and way cuter), when the budding romance starts quicker. One of the better examples of this would be Queen Inhyun’s Man.

    • 6.1 gadis

      Hmm… I guess it’s not only because those dramas are bad (though like you said, some of those dramas are really bad), but more likely we’ll get a different drama than what written as its premise. Like Fantastic, One More Happy Ending, Ex-Girlfriend Club. Or it’s basically a good drama, but you need hundred liters of tears to go through it like Memory, Thousand Days of Promise. Or drama that got mixed reviews like The Producers.

      • 6.1.1 La Plume

        Plus Nine Boys to name one, was loved here by the viewers and it still got a “Watch at your own risk”.

        There was a polemic the story might have been stolen, I don’t remember the whole deal but the bottom story, it was 14 episodes, perfect length, not perfect but very very likable… I don’t understand why it was placed there.

        Some other shows I loved but it still got the “Watch at your own Risk” such as Baby Faced Beauty. Maybe it’s because it was a bit old fashioned I don’t know? But then you’ve got “Personal Taste” which was under the “We recommend” dramas for cohabitation… which I fond full of old drama clichés, utterly boring and which portrayal of gays still make me cringe to these days. No those avalanche of gay clichés were NOT funny.

        So while I agree with most dramas listed… there are some that I just don’t get why they were listed where they were listed… and some I wonder WHY they were listed at all especially since they were totally forgettable.

        • nina

          +1 to Plus Nine Boys

          Reading the other dramas through out this entire post, I could see why they would be “watch at your own risk” and then I saw this one and holdupwaitwhat I stopped and scrolled back through all the other categories just to make sure I didn’t interpret something incorrectly. But yes, I’m so so confused.

          • thelady

            Plus Nine Boys was really good

    • 6.2 La Plume

      “I wonder what the criteria for making it onto the “watch at your own risk” is, because I see some dramas there that are pretty terrible and then I see some that aren’t bad at all. ”

      I second that. Well actually I would make the same comment regarding the “We recommend” list since there’s a couple of shows listing there that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. But again, lists are made to be disagreed upon I guess.

      • 6.2.1 Uyen_ah

        My understating was “watch at your own risk” does not mean the drama is bad but that that decribed trope in the drama was bad or is not justly placed or justly done correctly, so it becomes more cliche than it already is. It so happens though that some dramas that have these tropes are not great shows overall. While for some, the trips just maybe didn’t work that well for the story but the overall drama may have been alright.

    • 6.3 Flightey Gazelles

      I think what makes qualifies them into the Watch At Your Own Risk is that dramas in that category are ones that may not be to your liking. You may or may not like them. Such dramas tend to be met with either mixed reviews ( e.g The Producers, Remember: Son’s War, My Princess) or downright divisive( YongPal, Cheese In The Trap, Moon Lovers).

      So going in , you’re warned, it may not be what you’re expecting.

    • 6.4 sorrynotsorry

      Drama watching will always be subjective so they have recommendations for dramas that I would NEVER recommend like Attic Cat but put a watch at your own risk on a drama that I really enjoyed like Fantastic. It’s all good. Sometimes I find a drama that slipped under my radar that goes on my “give it a try” list from these type articles.

    • 6.5 anglvue

      I was wondering the same thing. The Producers and Pasta were dramas I thought were not that bad yet are categorized as “watch at your own risk”.

      my assumption is also maybe how well it exemplifies the category under which it has been placed? it would be nice to have the coding scheme explained.

  7. Divyrus

    Damn !
    I feel this is one of DB’s best posts! Its written with so much love and such understanding of kdrama land.

    *tips hat* am loving all these top 10 series! Thank you GF and JB!

  8. dv

    no city hunter anywhere…. I’d like to nominate it for a new secret identity category w/ healer and more. LOL.

    • 8.1 jillifish

      Ooh. A secret identity category would be cool. I would vote Gaksital for that one too!

    • 8.2 Sim

      Healer Gaksital good list (didn’t like city hunter) so far but question for this unauthorized list: do come back from the dead/body switch dramas count? Like i.e. Oh My Ghostess, Come Back Ahjussi & 49 Days, or is it just secretly I’m a hero? And then would High School King of Savvy fit on this or am I just trying to name a lot of dramas?

      • 8.2.1 vens

        U From Another Star would fit too I imagine. Iljimae. Hwarang.

    • 8.3 3k

      I think City Hunter can also be included under cohabitation. Remember when Lee Yun-seong moves to stay at Kim Na-na’s house?

      • 8.3.1 Stardust

        Ahh yes!!
        After he had that great fight sequence at the stairways with baddie.
        To be said city hunter wasn’t a very classical kdrama but cohabitation definitely used

    • 8.4 redfox

      top 10 secret agents or top 10 action dramas would be good

  9. gadis

    Marriage Without Dating was the first contract relationship drama that finally convinced me that it was actually an okay (and even great) trope in a capable hands. So glad I decided to watch it at that time.

    And I would like to add Hogu’s Love to the Beta Hero resommended list. Maybe it’s a bit more serious than the other recommendations, but personally it has a lovely vibe.

    • 9.1 sfgirl

      Yes, I totally thought of Hogu as well as a beta hero.

    • 9.2 purpleteapot

      Aw, I was going to suggest Hogu’s Love too! Technically it’s a Beta Hero, Seemingly-Alpha-But-Actually-Beta Heroine combination. You’re right that it’s more serious, but I liked that it probed the gender-related issues of the trope beyond the surface of comedy.

      General comment: My favourites from this list are the Friends-Turned-Lovers and Beta Hero. I’m hoping Introverted Boss makes a good Beta Hero show.

  10. 10 SHL

    I’m freaking obsessed with these Top 10 lists you guys are coming out with.

    I love k-dramas with a burning passion, much like everybody here does, but I have to say that while I adore some of these tropes (friends to lovers! candy and alpha hero!), I also definitely hate some of them because they’re just a bit too crazy for me.

    Every time you bring in something about amnesia or wrong identity, I feel like the plot ends up turning into something convoluted and overly complicated. When you pull in those tropes, I feel like the writers are just trying to one-up each other with something more over-the-top than the last example, though that isn’t to say that there aren’t dramas in those categories that are awesome (hey Goblin, what’s up?).

    That’s why I’m a fan of the simpler tropes. There are so many ways to play on a simple concept and make it unique. Like the rest of us here, I’ve watched multiple dramas in every single one of the 10 categories listed, but there’s a reason I always fall in love with shows like Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Ju or My Name is Kim Sam-Soon. Take a simple idea, build a unique world around it with compelling characters, and I’m as happy as a clam 🙂

  11. 11 neener

    Loving the list and this could potentially add dramas to my long list of Must Watch xD

  12. 12 lovedramas

    Love post – hehe… as much as we love or hate tropes – they always keep us watching one way or another.

    The ones that always tend to hook me are:

    1) Cohabitation – gotta love those – along with…
    2) Contract relationship

    Sometimes these go hand in hand… where contract leads to cohabitation. 🙂

    Reverse Harem is fun too.

    3) Candy and Alpha Heroes – I know a lot of us modern woman HATE it. But what really really doesn’t work so well in real life, does work quite well in dramas – if ratings are an indicator or what works and what doesn’t. I’ve definitely enjoyed my fair share of Candy and Alpha Hero dramas.

    4) First Loves — I’m such a sucker for the first love and the “guy only loves the one girl forever” trope. I know, totally unrealistic.. but I don’t care. I think this draws me in the most to rom coms and other more dramatic dramas like the popular The Moon Embraces the Sun. First love aww yeah.

    So thoses are the ones that come to mind right away.

    The tropes that i don’t like –
    1) Amnesia – urgh drives me so crazy. I can tolerate it in some dramas where it kinda makes sense, but there are others in which it really was so ridiculously unnecessary.

    2) Cancer or Terminal illness trope – really also drives me crazy. It does depend on how it’s use. Again… some do make sense in the story line, while others it’s more out of convenience than good plot point.

  13. 13 candycane

    may I add “Let’s Fight Ghost” to the recommended list of “Cohabitation”? This is such a sweet happy drama that shouldn’t be forgotten… thank you 🙂

    • 13.1 Lord Cobol

      yes !!!

    • 13.2 crazyahjummafan


    • 13.3 Flightey Gazelles

      So adorable

    • 13.4 Andrea

      Don’t forget Dal-ja’s Spring on the list of Cohabitation dramas. There are also strains of Beta Male trope running through it, since it’s a noona-romance (with Lee Min-ki, nonetheless!), but I would argue that Lee Min-ki’s character is more alpha (in a respectful way) than beta, despite the noona dynamics.

      Such a good drama, with a wonderful heroine and a supporting cast populated mostly by amazing, strong female characters.

      • 13.4.1 junny

        Dalja’s Spring had a contract relationship too, if I remember right. It was such a neat drama, love it.

      • 13.4.2 Alejandra

        Yay, I was waiting for someone to mention Dal Ja’s Spring. Such a good show!

  14. 14 pigsnout

    is Sassy Go Go truly a hate-to-love story? I know they start as disliking each other but by episode 2 or 3 they were already friends and sharing secrets (he trusted her), and then it became more like friends-to-lovers. Even if they were new friends and not old friends. Maybe it’s hate-to-love if the ‘hate’ part is extremely short?

    I also think Producers was a decent drama? I liked Cha Tae Hyun and Gong Hyo Jin’s story a lot and it was done well, it’s only that the episodes were too long. I actually liked a lot of Kim Soo Hyun’s portions the least, CTH/GHJ cohabiting or love story was not the problem. Especially when they became parentlike figures to Seung Chan and Cindy.

    • 14.1 Purple Owl

      Thing about SGG is we saw Year 3, right? That means they hated each other for 2 years before that. It’s drama circumstances that caused them to go anywhere beyond that. So at graduation the ratio would be

      hate 2: love 1

      • 14.1.1 pigsnout

        Oh yeah, actually. They were 2nd year high school so they were anti each other for at least 1 year before they became friends/liking each other.

  15. 15 Michykdrama

    This is love! ❤️ Thank you for this!

    My favourites would be Crossdressing, Contract Relationships, Cohabitation and Reverse Harem. With special mention to Friends to lovers and Candy and Alpha Heroes.

    Gosh 7 out of 10! Is it any wonder I’m hooked to kdramas? 😝

  16. 16 siesta

    friends-to-lover is the only trope i wouldn’t mind happening in my real life lol. i feel like being lovers with a good/best friend would be the loveliest relationship , since you already know you work well together, and that you can accept all of them, warts and all

    • 16.1 kimkim

      Totally. After watching so many dramas and then reading this list, I realized it was my favorite K-Drama trope

  17. 17 pickledplumtree

    Oh man, some of the “Watch at Your Own Risks” made me a little sad bc I really enjoyed a handful of those listed!

  18. 18 korfan

    If we’re making a list of top 10 tropes, we absolutely can’t omit …..

    The clingy ex-girlfriend / The clingy woman who aspires to be the girlfriend

    You know the ones:
    – they were told in no uncertain terms that it’s over, but they can’t take “no” for an answer

    – they make it their life’s mission to scheme, to follow the ex-boyfriend around, to make his new girlfriend’s life miserable

    – they can’t take the hint that, hey, he’s just not that into you

    They’re a kdrama staple.

    • 18.1 gadis

      Haha. That’s true. Though I’m also happy that nowadays, there are dramas that deviate from this norm. Because yes, you actually can have second lead female that (gasp!) isn’t clingy, yet remain interesting. Shout out to Oh Hae-young Again, Jealousy Incarnate, Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.

    • 18.2 Flightey Gazelles

      Annoying MGIAG Second lead with her nasally uppity ass.

      The one in Marriage Contract

      His Second-In-Command in A Man Called God( can’t say I blame her much. Did you see Song Il-Gook and his suits? Bae was FINE, Jaysus! Plus muscles and fighting skills.)

      Which is why I fell in love with Jang Hee Ji from SWWTN.

    • 18.3 Purple Owl

      I’d say that’s more of a character trope than a settings trope.

  19. 19 crazyahjummafan

    Can I add Gogh/Go Ho – The Starry Night to the list of hate-to-love trope? It’s a short drama, but really fun to watch.

    There’s also Splash splash love (a short 2 ep drama) for gender-bender trope.

    Plus Nine Boys is not that bad. Granted that the relationship between the Uncle and his ex gf was frustrating, and the 19 yr old son, Kang Minguk’s relationship was cheesy, but the ‘friendship turn love’ relationship between Kang Jin-guk and Ma Sae Young is just perfect!

    • 19.1 genki-escapist

      And Go Ho’s Starry Night was reverse harem too! It’s actually one of the very few reverse harem dramas where I fully enjoyed the reverse harem concept. The fact that it was short and didn’t go on for ages probably had a lot to do with it.

    • 19.2 Andrea

      Eeeeeee, Splash Splash Love was such a perfect little morsel of a drama. I loved Kim Seul-gi before, but this drama cemented my love for her.

      And that [SPOILERS] kiss at the end in the sea? [\END SPOILER] *phwaor!* It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it.

  20. 20 blo

    I like the trope where a dorky Park Bong-soo becomes jealous of his own alter ego.

    • 20.1 Akasha

      Yes, oh yes!!
      That park bong soo, so adorable!!

  21. 21 Luna

    You know you watch a lot of kdramas when you heard of every dramas that is on this list. Great job on the list; it’s really good for new kdrama watchers. Theme may seem repetitive but it’s the creativity that makes it really good.

  22. 22 crazyahjummafan

    I don’t quite agree with Weightlifting Fairy being under the friends-to-lovers trope.
    While they were childhood friends of some sort, there wasn’t any real friendship, even after they met up again in University…in fact Bok-ju found Joon Hyung super annoying. Not like in Bottom of the 9th, Bubblegum or The time we were in love. And when they eventually became friends, it was only for a brief moment before they became lovers.

    I think it’s better under the First Love trope, if there is one.

    • 22.1 genki-escapist

      Just because Bokju and Joonhyung didn’t have a ten-year friendship prior to becoming a couple doesn’t mean they don’t qualify for the trope. They were good friends and Joonhyung for his part supported her without any ulterior motives though his crush eventually rekindled. Bokju too, knew he was attractive, but only saw him as a friend in the beginning.The childhood crush aspect was never the focus–it was how they became friends first then lovers later.

      For me, they’re one of the best portrayals of the trope in dramaland. The foundation of their friendship was strong and yet they weren’t stuck on the friendzone for so long that the transition was unbelievable. There was a lot of genuine friendship there, nevertheless.

      • 22.1.1 Flightey Gazelles

        Another good one is Sassy Go Go!! I’ve said it many times that Weight lifting Fairy is like Sassy Go Go: College Edition.

        Such a sweet friendship for relationship foundation.

    • 22.2 Venus

      The first love trope is in the fabric of life for Kdramas so I don’t think it needs its own header. It just IS.

  23. 23 Kiara

    I dislike crossdressing heroine to the max but Moon Geun-young in “Painter of the Wind” was perfection. I couldn’t believe that she went from this beautiful young bride in “Empress Myeongseong” to portraying the opposite in Painter.

  24. 24 Agree

    I love the post

    Other overused tropes are

    1)Childhood friends to fated lover
    2)truck of doom…

    Almost every drama comes under one of these..

    Also it’s funny I haven’t seen a drama where chaebol hero has both parents alive and not evil..

  25. 25 estel913

    Awww, but My Princess is so darn cute! Not a good drama, no, but KTH and SSH were adorable and had such great chemistry. And SSH has never been hotter!

    I really enjoyed Ex-Girlfriend Club, too. I bingewatched it and may have liberally ff’d, though. But it was cute.

    • 25.1 salt n' pepper

      I liked My Princess, as well. It wasn’t the best but it definitely wasn’t bad in my book.

    • 25.2 gadis

      I also enjoyed Ex-Girlfriend Club a lot. That’s one drama where I cared more about all the characters rather than the plot. It’s always fun whether they were bickering or helping each other in their own ‘helpful’ way.

  26. 26 sharreb

    the list reinfornces to me that different tropes dealt differently by the writer (and potrayed differently by the actors) makes such a difference.
    From all the 10 tropes, each one i have a drama or two or more that i really enjoyed and dramas that i couldnt get through for the same reason. Prbaby reverse harem is my least favorite.
    I’m fixating on a list where second leads gets the girls- its nice when you have second lead syndrome.

  27. 27 mariazzang

    Smile, You has one of my favorite Beta hero character ever, Kang Hyun Soo. Jung Kyung Ho did so well and made that character so lovable and sweet that watching 50 episodes of that drama was well worth it.

    • 27.1 ricenoodle

      Agreed, it was my first time watching Jung Kyung Ho and I became a fan. He was so adorable and lovable in it. I loved Smile, You. I love Hyun Soo.

    • 27.2 Chandler

      Yes! Someone mentioned him! Whenever I think Beta hero, I picture Jung Kyung-ho in Smile, You. I adore him and Lee Min-jung there so much.

    • 27.3 salt n' pepper

      Smile, You!! That was my first 50 episode (or was it 40-something?) weekend drama and probably still my favorite one. Jung Kyung Ho and Lee Min Jung were so cute there.

    • 27.4 fab

      More love for Smile, You! Such a delightful show, 45 episodes and not a minute too long. Yes I checked because I must rewatch it one of these days.

    • 27.5 Madkdr

      You beat me to it! 😛

      I saw the list – Beta male – and my first thought was Kang Hyun Soo! Jung Kyung Ho was awesome and I still crush on Hyun Soo to this day!!!

  28. 28 Ellie

    The only thing I don’t really agree on is that the problem with the Beta Male troupe is that the viewers for some reason want and expect the male lead to throw everything away for the female lead, but then also think it’s bad when a female lead abandons everything for the male lead. In weightlifting fairy, I feel like no one cared that JY’s life was practicaly just Bok joo, don’t get me wrong I loooove this drama and both the leads, but people are really quick to ignore when a character’s entore life, like JY, seems to revolve around the female lead and no one seems to give a damn.

    • 28.1 Peeps

      … but JoonHyung’s life isn’t like that…

      He still has his swimming, still has his parents and still has his Hyung. He simply adores BokJoo, which is why it always seems like he always gives in to her but… nope, he’s still living his life and BokJoo’s there to spice it up and help him get through the tough times.

      It’s not like he’s giving up any part of his life to be with her.

      • 28.1.1 Flightey Gazelles

        ” its not like his giving up any part of his life to be with her”

        Most crucial and what I love best.

      • 28.1.2 sharreb

        yup. its not like joonhyung lost his personality. In fact Bokjoo makes his character even more animated and charming. They feed off each other and they oso makes each other shine more.
        So its not like his whole world crashed down when bokjoo leaves for national team training. He’s so happy for her, supports her and at the same time its gives him the drive to work harder on swimming and winning

      • 28.1.3 Ellie

        Sorry most of what I meant is that the show pretty much showed him just walking by when he spot bok joo, we did’t see him with his family, or swimming for like 4 episodes straight. I’m aware that he still has these things, I’m talking about te show not really showing him doing anything but being around bok joo. I understand that it was probably what the story needed, but I get the feeling that had this been a woman people would be more annoyed.

        • Momo

          I see what you mean, but I think the reason for this is not that he doesn’t have other aspects to his life, but – as someone pointed out in the WF recaps – BJ is the main character, so we see most scenes from her perspective. It actually makes a lot of sense to do it this way in a drama that’s primarily a coming of age story for the heroine. We do see short scenes of him at swimming practice, at home, and more scenes of him when he was dealing with his birth mother trauma, but ultimately the meat of the episode is centred on BJ, because it’s her story.

          I think this feels weird to us because as kdrama fans we’re so used to the hero-centric revenge melo or sageuk in which the heroine comes in as the adversary and/or love interest, or the romance drama where both leads get roughly equal screentime. I too felt a bit shortchanged when JH dealt with his trauma mostly offscreen in episode 15, but after thinking about it from this perspective, it makes sense to me.

      • 28.1.4 thelady

        I agree, JoonHyung has swimming, his best friend, his hyung and adopted mom/dad, bio mom issues, and his therapist. He likes Bokjoo but his life doesn’t revolve around her, he gave up nothing to be with her. He is even still friendly with his ex.

  29. 29 Rukia

    Thank you for the great post!!
    Would Sly and Single Again be in N°10 from hate to love?
    I thought of it while reading the description…
    or is it in category 15 divorce dramas?
    Thank you for your thoughts. ^^

  30. 30 redfox

    what about Time travel? or connections transcending time to be more accurate, cause there are different type of time-setups.

    • 30.1 Mango Juice

      Transcending time and space dramas, reincarnations, and some other plot devices which cause changes in the past/present/future

      I agree! This drama trope is what makes me hooked to fantasy dramas, with or without the romance part. My list includes:

      Signal, Legend of the Blue Sea, My Love From Another Star, W-Two Worlds, Queen In-hyun’s Man, Nine, Goblin, Oh Hae-Young Again

    • 30.2 bbstl

      Time travel is a trope found in lots of tv other than Korean, right? Honestly, I don’t know the answer since I don’t watch anything but kdrama anymore.

      • 30.2.1 redfox

        yeah, but the distinct sageuk factor brings a different flair into kdrama time-travel.

  31. 31 Celine

    I love this post. Sad that we have to limit it to 10 when Kdramaland has a cornucopia of tropes. I can get into any trope so long as its used in the hands of a capable writer (and capable PD and cast). However, my favorites are contract and cohabitation (I think they go hand in hand), beta heroes, and friends to lovers.

  32. 32 crazedlu

    Anytime I see the title, “Level 7 Civil Servant” = *shudders*.


    But it does remind of the great ol’ time dramabeans had with those fancy drawings from db fans. Haha. Good times.

    • 32.1 korfan

      Oh my gosh, the stick figure drawings!!


  33. 33 Flightey Gazelles

    Personal Taste us my favourite iteration of LMH( saying it like its a genre or a book heh) or rather, made me love LMH and even *gasp* swoon and *double gasp* Google search for him.

    It introduced me to Sohn Ye Jin, Made me love traditional houses and I think it’s one of my favourite cohabitation dramas.

    Personal Taste was such a lowkey, quirky drama. It was removed from luxurious apartments except for a few. It hard a struggling hero with money problems. Sure, he was a former Chaebol but right now, he was struggling to pay his workers, pay his rent e.t.c.

    Another thing I loved was that it hard a heroine with a rare dramaland occupation ( for females especially): she was an architect.

    The friendship that arose from the two leads was delicious. I can see why one might be offended by the seemingly stereotyped portrayal of gays but I think I was okay with it because it was accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek awareness. We as the audience often saw clearly that the characters were way off with their assumptions and the drama acknowledged that. The one actual gay person in the show was so far removed from their expected stereotypes and we got the satisfaction of seeing their surprise that they would never have thought that. There are people like that.

    The drama was lowkey, it didn’t need any meddling In-Laws and its unfortunate the drama went that route. It was totally unnecessary and it brought down the drama. But it remains my sisters favourite drama along with OMG.

    • 33.1 Flightey Gazelles

      Sorry, I meant to write ‘she was a carpenter’ , the heroine that is.

    • 33.2 redfox

      you forgot one thing: it was also really funny. even though Lee Min Ho was never nor still is a very comedic person, he was slightly stiff in the funny bits, but it was written well enough and the heroine gave it her all, so it still cracked me up.

      • 33.2.1 Flightey Gazelles

        Yeah, many lol moments. Who can forget LMH running to the store in his tux to buy sanitary pads. Or Ga In scaring him sh!tless with her saw. The friends had to intervene because they were like two playground kids been told to get along.

    • 33.3 Stardust

      I like when LMH wasn’t the international superstar LMH
      I mean it was still after BOF but he wasn’t that hot and SYJ was the bigger noona star. Plus he didn’t wear fluffy sweaters so much then. But it was raw cuteness and their cohabitation antics were hilarious

  34. 34 delurked

    Ooooh I love this list, DB Staff! Great job at sieving out the classics and keepin’ the recommendations real 😁 Most of these dramas are ones I’d recommend myself – and ‘Watch at your own risk’ just cracks me up 😂

  35. 35 Ane

    Unrelated question:

    Can someone please explain me the use of ‘Candy’? I’d like to learn how it’s became a slang word to describe the naive and nice kdrama female characters.

    • 35.1 Kendi

      Based on japanese manga candy candy then becomes a generalization term for the lead female who has shitty life (piss poor, irresponsible parents, scheming aunt/uncle,debt ridden) but still manage to be cheery and optimistic then meets a rich prince-like character.


      • 35.1.1 Kendi

        Eh I’m so embarassed, it turned out the term piss poor isn’t what I think it is. Anyway, I’ll change it to poor af, too bad db doesn’t have edit feature. Sorry.

        • Ane

          Thank you! I have not read the manga, so I did not know that. I keep seeing this word in kdrama reviews and also heard it in the kdramas, and I have always wondered what would that mean.

  36. 36 merry

    Love this list! I was already a 40-something ajumma when i first got introduced to kdramas. No.1 (crossdressing) and 3 (contract) tropes were pure novelty for me. I did not realized i would be captivated by them. If Green Rose is on the list i would like to add Only You (Jo Hyun Jae and Han Chae Young) for starting out as Candy and Alpha Male to Beta Male. One of the first dramas that i would call more-than-a-year wonder for how often it got re-watched. Alas, the male fashion has dated quite faster than female’s.

  37. 37 mjfan

    How in the world winter sonata is put under watch at your own risk !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    winter sonata is the best Korean drama I have ever seen and I have seen A LOT but nothing comes close to it
    All whome I know got addicted to Korean dramas through winter sonar and still consider it the top one …
    It had the prettiest OST I have ever heard and I still hear it up till now
    It also had the most gorgeous cinematography, the best acting and chemistry
    Agh , it’s the ultimate epitome

    • 37.1 Venus

      That’s probably why it is watch at your own risk. Risk of addiction beware. LOL

  38. 38 genki-escapist

    I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the cohabitation hijinks. I don’t mean that just romantically, but in general, like the boys in Hwarang. I’m also pretty much a sucker for contract relationships. Full House had both, and while I don’t think I can rewatch it anymore, I still remember the fuzzy feels.

    I thought that I started to cool towards hate-to-love relationships as I grew older, but I realized I just got more selective when it came to them. A well-done hate-to-love relationship is still a fun watch.

    Reverse harem is one of my least favorite tropes. I understand that it would be no fun if the girl who gets a reverse harem is the type who would have no problem attracting one. But sometimes she’s too… lacking, to be so improbably adored by too many guys who could do so much better than her that it gets annoying. The girls are often too dumb and weak to even live vicariously through. My surprise favorite drama for reverse harem is Go Ho’s Starry Nigh–that was reverse harem done right.

    And I’ve reached peak crossdressing–I just don’t like the trope very much anymore now that it’s so overdone. Coffee Prince is still one of my fave dramas though.

  39. 39 oppaslayer

    I’m a sucker for Friends to Lovers and Contract Marriage/Cohabitation tropes. I also love a good Noona romance. I’d like to add on Dal Ja’s Spring to number 5. Its one of my first Noona/Beta Hero romance and for the longest time, I wanted to be Dal Ja :).

    • 39.1 Andrea

      Yes to Dal-ja’s Spring!!! I commented about it above, because like you, it combines two of my favorite tropes: Forced Cohab and Noona Romances.

      That drama is on my Top 10 list of dramas. The romance is well done and respectful, and the supporting characters (mostly female) are wonderfully strong and complex. I highly, *highly* recommend it.

  40. 40 Jill

    On what category is Kill Me Heal Me? Figure that it’s one of my favorite drama and also one that I like to recommend to my friend

    • 40.1 Valentina

      I think it would fall under Beta bc besides Shin Se Gi’s alpha ness, Cha Do Young was pretty good/ beta

      • 40.1.1 Valentina

        *Cha Do Hyun

    • 40.2 Ane

      I’d say it is a mixture of amnesia + cohabitation.

    • 40.3 Andrea

      I think you can also argue that there’s strains of Wrong Identity in there too, though portrayed with a very unique twist.

  41. 41 Flightey Gazelles

    Awwww, can’t believe Ms.Temper and Nam Jung Gi didn’t make it to the beta male, alpha female category.

    Such a thoughtful, laugh out loud, inspiring and realistic drama!

    • 41.1 newgirl

      MT&NJG was the first Kdrama I thought of in this category, too. So deserving of much more attention than it got!

  42. 42 kimkim

    Answer Me 1997 is my favorite friends-to-lovers drama. In fact it’s my favorite drama. I just can’t stop spazzing about it, even after so many years

    • 42.1 oneandthree

      @kimkim That is exactly me!

    • 42.2 Madkdr

      I listen to All For You on loop!! :p

      And was in ship-heaven when they sang it at tvn awards.

  43. 43 wow

    I Remember You – Wrong Identity, is it meant for Hyun and Min? This, friends to lovers and cohabitation my favs. I enjoyed Reply 1988 and It’s Okay That’s Love the most.

    • 43.1 redfox

      definitely the most dramatic and tear-inducing identity reveal ever. so desperately wanting to be recognized, so hurt by the context.

  44. 44 Chandler

    Oh, now this is just great. I can’t wait for more of these.

    It’s so hard picking because I really love all of them (yes, even Candy and the Alpha hero as JI just proved to me), but cohabitation, contract relationships and friends-to-lovers are probably my favorites. I actually think Dal Ja’s Spring belongs in one of those categories. And I recently realized the main reason I even get into the crossdressing trope is actually because of the friends-to-lovers aspect it brings to the relationship. Coffee Prince is such a great example of this.

    Also, I just have to add: hands-down the best use of the Amnesia trope = Bad Family. A little girl can’t remember her whole family dying in an accident? Let’s just get an ex-gangster to round up a bunch of misfits who don’t get along to step in as her fake-family and see what happens from there! Never has such a nonsensical beginning lead to such a heartwarming result. It really can’t be beat.

    • 44.1 Chandler

      Oh no, I forgot Wrong Identity! That’s another one of my favorites.

    • 44.2 bbstl

      Bad Family, what a good example of amnesia being logical and put to good use! That show was amazing and it hardly ever gets mentioned. It was charming.

  45. 45 dramalover

    I think ‘Jealousy Incarnate’ fits into the ‘cohabitation’ list very well!

    • 45.1 gadis

      They live in a different apartement building, though. While other recommended title from that trope has hero and heroine (or another hero) sharing one house or even one room.

      • 45.1.1 Chandler

        I think she’s referring to when the three leads shack up together. And now that I think about how bizarre that situation was, I think it deserves a mention in that category too, even if it didn’t last long.

  46. 46 mary

    *moves Nail Shop Paris from Watch At Your Own Risk to We Recommend*

    • 46.1 Purple Owl

      Tsk, tsk, tsk, I see you Mary.

      P.S. haven’t seen it. Is it worth? Or is he worth?

      • 46.1.1 mary

        It’s… crazy. But definitely worth it for Song Jae-rim. Hahaha

        I couldn’t watch Age of Feeling in full because it was too long and his scenes too short. But there’s just enough crazy WTF moments in Nail Shop to keep me watching + Rim is one of the main characters. :DDDD

    • 46.2 genki-escapist

      Erm. I would wholeheartedly not recommend it. It’s the only Kdrama I truly regretted watching. Not even goddes Gyuri’s face could save it for me.

    • 46.3 bbstl

      teeheehee you go, mary!

  47. 47 starswillshine

    I think there’s another extremely common and overused trope that is missing out from this list is BIRTH SECRET. (switched at birth, adopted by another family, siblings/twins separated at birth, your dad has an affair with my mum so we are actually half siblings etc.). It’s very common in daily dramas and long weekend dramas, and it’s present in some 16/20 episodes dramas too. E.g. Smile Dong Hae, Come on Jang Bo-ri, Unexpected You, Winter Sonata, City Hunter, Damo, Autumn in My Heart, Cheongdamdong Scandal, Here Comes Oh Ja-Ryong etc.) This trope leads to so much pent up angst and dramatic background music and crying and shouting. I’m kinda sure most daily Korean dramas have this trope HAHA.

    • 47.1 mary

      Maybe it’s not their favorite trope. Hehe~ or does it fall under mistaken identity?

      • 47.1.1 starswillshine

        Birth secret may lead to mistaken identity but not always the case.

        In one of the more memorable daily drama I watched, Smile Dong Hae (I knew Ji Chang Wook through this), the birth secret


        is about him being the son of the chairman of the hotel and his ex-girlfriend dumped him for his half-brother whom he did not know (Lee Jang Woo).

        There’s a weekend drama called Unexpected You and the male lead was adopted but he found his Korean family. This is the least angst filled birth secret drama ever and it’s really really good. And it doesn’t include mistaken identity.

        Or even Winter Sonata and Damo, they did not even realise they are related when they fall in love (Winter Sonata did not really say it upfront but it’s hinted).

        Birth Secret is in majority of daily dramas (weekend dramas too) so I do think that birth secrets should be one of the top 10 tropes.

        • mary

          It’s true that birth secrets don’t always mean mistaken identity, but my other point still stands. The title of the post is “favorite k-drama tropes”. Not “most common tropes”. So it’s possible that jb and gf don’t like birth secrets. (I generally hate birth secrets too :/ But Unexpected You was a gem of an example for it, perhaps because it didn’t revolve around the birth secret itself but on how the lost son reintegrated into his lost family.)

          • starswillshine

            Oh my bad for misunderstanding you!!! So sorry!!! Yeah, probably JB and GF don’t like birth secrets. I don’t mind birth secret when it serves as a plot twist or has a genuine purpose. I think the one in City Hunter was good! However, daily dramas overused it far tooooo much until it was so repetitive which becomes boring.

          • mary

            Oooh City Hunter was a good example! No wonder you didn’t view birth secrets that negatively. I couldn’t name a good one and here you just immediately named two. ^___^

    • 47.2 KDramaWatcher2609

      I agree totally. Spoiler : upcoming big birth secret will happen in current Hwarang 😛

    • 47.3 La Plume

      SO TRUE!

      But I guess Birth secret falls under the same category as “Wrong Identity”.

      In Amnesia they forgot to mention Save the Last Dance for Me. My first korean drama, I was totally stuck to it like glue. Also Lee Bo Young and Ji Sung first met on that set and we all know how it ended ^^

      More seriously, Ji Sung looses his memory twice in it. I mean you can’t list dramas about amnesia without Save the Last Dance for Me… The whole freaking drama is based on it.

      • 47.3.1 revel

        Agreed. Amnesia was the biggest plot device of Save the Last Dance For Me. Not once, but twice. And all things considered it was quite a good drama.

      • 47.3.2 Achang

        I agree 110%. I love this drama. Some days when I feel like just watching a love scene, I’ll turn on this drama and watch episode 18. It’s one of my faves.

  48. 48 Purple Owl

    I have to say Cohabitation is my favorite. It was the first thought I had when I categorized my list.

    I love all 10. And I appreciate that jb & gf gave some dramas where maybe the trope wasn’t aced but still good. Watch at own risk is different from Don’t Watch & Avoid at All Cost

    I could add a bunch of non Korean dramas. But I’ll save that for my organizing.

    • 48.1 mary

      I love Cohabitation too! There’s just so many opportunities for funny encounters and heartfelt talks. It kinda forces them to be upfront with each other. Talk more. Help each other… It’s hard to be an angsty noble idiot when you gotta wait for them to finish pooping so you can take your turn in the toilet…

  49. 49 Taeki's Parking Teacher


    You forgot one more category.

    11. SUBWAY

    We recommend: None

    Watch with your own risk : Descendants, of the Sun, Goblin, and 1200000+ more..

    Coz The Almighty Subway deserve its own category…

    • 49.1 KDramaWatcher2609

      The PPL trope ! Haha. Subway wins in Goblin and Maxim Coffee wins in Shopping King Louie. Lol !!

      • 49.1.1 Dee Em

        Not to mention Laneige and Philadelphia cheese in Weightlifting Fairy xD

    • 49.2 Emmy

      You forget k2’s epic subway flashback.

      Cos at the brink of death, what the hero really wants, is subway with his gal!

    • 49.3 missjb

      LOL. laughing so hard with sunway PPL LOL

    • 49.4 Lovedramas

      And don’t forget The Prime Minister and I – whatever the Yoona, LBS and YSY drama was called. yoona had the political wives club meeting at Subway!!!

  50. 50 Fk

    If you are talking about beta heroes, smile you takes the crown.

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