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Top 10 gateway dramas to hook your friends on

javabeans: Happy New Year, happy tenth anniversary, happy 2017, happy everything-that-will-be-better-than-2016!

girlfriday: Yay, I’ve never been happier for a new year to start! I still can’t believe Dramabeans is old enough to be a tween!

javabeans: Oh god, is it time for braces, backtalk, and bad attitudes? I’m still the boss of you!

girlfriday: You tell it!

javabeans: In keeping with the whole 10 motif, we thought we’d dust off our trusty ol’ Top 10 series, and honor our tenth birthday by shoving everything into categories of ten.

girlfriday: Because we like symmetry, and themes, and simple math.

javabeans: One of those things is a lie. But surely if a list is good, then a list with a vaguely conceptualized theme is better!

girlfriday: One of the reasons we wanted to do more of the Dramabeans Top 10 series is that it’s a good way to induct new drama addicts, and give new watchers a good place to start. What good is it being a drama addict if you can’t help others start their addiction?

javabeans: And what more apt topic for the first one than dramas that actually did hook new addicts? In the time we’ve been following dramaland and running this site, we’ve come to see certain patterns emerge, and surges of interest that are often driven by specific projects, which act as the gateway to the rabbit hole. Does that metaphor make sense?

girlfriday: It does to me. Are we all rabbits in this metaphor?

javabeans: I think we’re all Alice, only we get used to Wonderland, probably because we drank the Kool-Aid and things started seeming normal there. I’m not really selling dramaland, am I?

girlfriday: Thankfully, we don’t really need to sell dramaland, since if people watch a good, properly cracky gateway drama, it’ll sell itself and then they’ll never know what hit ‘em.

javabeans: With that said, here’s our list of Top 10 Gateway Dramas to Hook Your Friends On. Maybe these selections seem pretty basic to longtime drama fans and Dramabeans readers, but this list is more for the uninitiated.

girlfriday: Yes, these are the dramas you want to recommend to that friend who’s never seen a Korean drama and wants to know why you always have panda eyes after a long weekend.

javabeans: Or any weekend, really. It was tough narrowing selections down to just 10, since any proper drama addict has to have at least dozens of dramas on the favorites list, but we created the rules, so I guess now we have to suffer by them.

girlfriday: Stupid rules.

 

1. Boys Before Flowers (2009)

javabeans: There’s a reason this drama pops up with particular frequency in our Spill the Beans posts, where fans dish about how they initially got drawn into the world of K-dramas: It’s crazy addictive. It isn’t the only show to ever feature high school romance, or craft ultra-luxe wish-fulfillment fantasies, or make alpha heroes fall to their knees for penniless spunky heroines. Nor does it stand out for having an unusually beautiful cast; don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful, but so is basically everybody else in dramas these days. And yet… it had something crazy special to it, a special ingredient that made it incredibly gratifying to watch, which was probably in large part a madly entertaining dose of WTF-ery. And man, was it effective.

The term “guilty pleasure” gets thrown around a lot when talking about Boys Before Flowers, probably because the drama is flawed a million ways to Tuesday; even those of us who love the show recognize the ways in which it’s sometimes sloppy, frequently cheesy, and completely over-the-top. Yet there’s an undeniable lightning-in-a-bottle quality to this show, a magical addictiveness that defies logic, like MSG for the brain: This is junk, I shouldn’t be eating this, I may feel guilty in the morning but right now it’s maybe my favorite thing ever and I can’t stop. I say we never stop.

You May Also Like: Heirs, Dream High

 

2. Coffee Prince (2007)

girlfriday: I get asked a lot by friends and random strangers what drama they should watch first, and without fail I say: Coffee Prince. It’s just one of the best starter dramas I know and a safe bet, because everybody—even ajusshis, as my dad can attest—likes Gong Yoo. Despite now being ten(!) years old, Coffee Prince is one of those dramaland classic romances that ages like a fine wine, and still remains relevant and addictive and squee-worthy, long after copycats have come and gone.

One of the reasons I recommend Coffee Prince so often is because it has such an addictive one-line premise: A tomboy girl gets a job at a coffee shop that only hires pretty boys, and the boss starts to fall for her despite not knowing that she’s a girl. Right away it asks, What does it mean if he loves her anyway?—and one of the reasons this drama stands the test of time is that it doesn’t cop out in addressing that central conflict and does it in an emotionally gripping, heart-wrenchingly satisfying way. Any drama fan can tell you that crossdressing rom-coms are a peculiarly popular sub-genre of Korean dramas, and it’s really Coffee Prince that made that phenomenon happen. I happen to like all crossdressing dramas, but you know what they say about first loves in dramaland—nothing can replace it.

You May Also Like: You’re Beautiful

 

3. My Name Is Kim Sam-soon (2005)

javabeans: Sometimes you just need to feel like there’s a heroine who gets you—and a drama that appreciates you for who you are, and not who you feel, on your worst days, you aren’t living up to be—and no show does that better than My Name Is Kim Sam-soon, which was so much more than just another workplace romance or modern-careerwoman success story: It was downright empowering. It was a transformative show when it first aired, offering up a much-needed new kind of heroine; dramas till that point had featured primarily sweet doormats or plucky Candys, the more waif-like the better. And then Sam-soon charged in with her loud mouth and saucy attitude and refused to take guff from others; she took pride in her work as a patissier, didn’t let her boss push her around, and somehow balanced backbone with compassion. She stood up for herself in ways that were inspiring, heartwarming, and often hilarious.

Powered by Sam-soon’s endearing personality and smart writing that still holds up over a decade later, My Name Is Kim Sam-soon is the kind of show that strikes a chord emotionally at the same time that it’s tickling your funny bone, and has the added benefit of providing vicarious satisfaction for anybody who’s ever had to deal with an unreasonable boss or a pushy mom or a society that tells you you still need work to be lovable. (Spoiler alert: You don’t.)

You May Also Like: Dal Ja’s Spring, The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry, Oh Hae-young Again

 

4. Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)

HeadsNo2: What makes Sungkyunkwan Scandal an appealing choice in recruiting potential converts is its knack for combining some of dramaland’s favorite (read: most addictive) tropes—crossdressing, reverse harem hijinks, fusionized history, and a hot rising cast—in a fun, adventurous story of youth friendship and romance that was breezy fun then, and still holds up today.

The fact that it’s set in the Joseon era is just icing on the cake, since there’s nothing all that historical about this fusion sageuk other than the setting, which paints a picture of the history and times surrounding our characters without getting too mired in the details. Sungkyunkwan took the crossdressing rom-com and found a way to raise the stakes by setting it in Joseon, where gender rules were stricter and the consequences were naturally higher. Being a scholar at that time was a calling strictly reserved for men, and a young woman who was determined to get the same opportunities as the boys had to actually become one of the boys. Cue: male garb, borrowed name, and new residence in the shared dormitories, leading to roomie hijinks aplenty, especially when she bested the boys at their own game. Buoyed by youthful effervescence and good-natured wit, this is just one of those dramas that makes it impossible for us not to smile along with it, and once the hook gets you, it doesn’t let go.

You May Also Like: Moonlight Drawn By Clouds, Arang and the Magistrate

 

5. Answer Me 1997 (2012)

girlfriday: This is an easy one for me to recommend to my friends, because it’s a story about my generation. Anyone who’s ever faithfully recorded their favorite TV shows on VHS and spent hours making mixtapes will watch this drama with a special kind of nostalgia in their hearts. But really, Answer Me 1997 made waves because it’s a universal story about anyone’s youth—what it’s like to be a teenager and not have things figured out, what it means when friendships falter, or turn to love. It tells small, relatable stories about regular kids growing up in regular families, but with sharp wit and a fanatical level of detail for the era it portrays.

On paper it’s just the story of six friends who live in one neighborhood in Busan in the 1990s, but the key to this drama’s success (which spawned an entire franchise) was the perspective of the characters in the present day, looking back on their youth fondly and withholding information about how the romantic pairings ended up. It’s the rosy-tinted perspective that makes the whole drama feel like a love letter to youth, and family, and friendship, and a simpler time. If you know anyone who loved Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life and The Wonder Years, this is the show for them.

You May Also Like: Answer Me 1994, Answer Me 1988

 

6. City Hunter (2011)

javabeans: City Hunter is my go-to drama recommendation when someone asks for a show to watch with a boyfriend/husband/partner, not because I like making gender-based generalizations about taste, but because when meeting other drama fans in person, this has been by far the most popular gateway drama named by the husbands and boyfriends in attendance. Its strength as a gateway show is that it has a little something for everyone: superhero vigilante capers, heartfelt revenge backstory, hero with a secret identity, youthful romance, high stakes, creative fight scenes, guns, blood, and intrigue. For an action drama it’s funny, for a political drama it’s fast-paced and exciting, and for a romance it’s not overly done.

With action that’s more fun-spirited than hardcore, City Hunter takes on a sort of Batman-lite feel: Our hero adopts a cavalier Bruce Wayne-esque persona by day, then takes down corrupt politicians as the mysterious “City Hunter” by night. Undercover capers and fighting for the greater good make this a feel-good watch, while the father-son conflict and relationship development give it that extra pinch of heart. Which it then might rip out a little. But in a good way!

You May Also Like: Two Weeks, Healer

 

7. Nice Guy (2012)

HeadsNo2: There’s nothing like a good melodrama to get you hook, line, and sinker, and Nice Guy stands as a shining example of the genre. Featuring Song Joong-ki (who turns everything he touches into instant crack, enough to be featured three times on this list) as a good man turned bad, then arguably turned good again, this drama was driven by the intriguingly ambiguous hero (or was he an anti-hero?) and his role-reversed relationship with the heiress who hated him, then forgot him, then loved him. Corporate takeovers, deranged family dynamics, and noble imprisonment don’t usually sound exciting, but they were mostly set dressing for some massively screwed-up relationships, like the nice guy who sets his sights on a rich heiress and then ends up becoming her protector, after taking the fall for a woman who then becomes the heiress’s enemy, and therefore his own. The initial ploy grows into a twisted mess of feelings and true intentions, with amnesia and betrayal thrown in for good measure. If it sounds convoluted, it’s because it is, but deliciously so—his motivations always seemed tantalizingly within reach but maddeningly opaque, which kept us on the hook till the end. It’s one of those dramas you pick up and just can’t put down, so use this on your friends who like their shows with just a little bite.

You May Also Like: Secret, Kill Me, Heal Me

 

8. I Hear Your Voice (2013)

girlfriday: Supernatural romances are a huge trend in dramaland right now, but I don’t normally suggest aliens and vampires right off the bat (unless I’m trying to convert a diehard Buffy fan), and I Hear Your Voice is what I like to think of as supernatural-lite. It’s mostly a funny rom-com that happens to feature a hero who can hear other people’s thoughts, structured like a legal procedural drama, and made addictive by setting a serial killer loose on our protagonists. It’s definitely a mashup, but it works because the story is gripping and the suspense keeps you coming back for more.

Minus the mind-reading, it’s basically an earnest human drama: A teenage girl saves a young boy’s life when she witnesses his father’s brutal murder, and bravely testifies in court to put the killer away. The little boy vows to protect her with his life, and makes good on his promise when they meet again ten years later. Oh, and it’s also an adorable noona romance with cohabitation hijinks—should I have led with that? More than anything, this drama just has great characters, and I’d especially recommend it to anyone who loves a strong heroine. Lee Bo-young’s sassy public defender still remains one of the toughest, funniest, and most endearing leading ladies I’ve encountered in dramaland, and she’s not even the one with superpowers.

You May Also Like: You From Another Star

 

9. Nine (Nine Time Travels) (2013)

javabeans: A lot of the dramas on this list are romance-driven, and that’s partly because Korean dramas do tend to favor romantic storylines, and also because romance is often the thread that gives a drama its addictive factor. But if you’re looking to hook someone with a drama that isn’t all about the lovelines, Nine makes for a great example of addicting with twisty-turny, intriguing, cerebral plot: A hero stumbles upon incense sticks that, when burned, transport him back twenty years in time (stay with me). What starts out as an exercise in curiosity quickly turns into both a revenge mission to right an injustice in his family’s past and a desperate fight against the ensuing butterfly effect. Moreover, because the time-travel is limited to exactly twenty years in the past, the hero cannot undo what he does in prior trips, and as the plot builds and problems start cropping up, the stakes rise in an ever-building crescendo that makes for a thrilling ride. The time-traveling segments get particularly mind-bendy when we see both past and present unfolding concurrently, on parallel tracks, though nifty directing keeps everything comprehensible. Nine is the kind of drama that keeps the brain engaged and buzzing with speculation, so it’s a great choice for the drama geek who loves crafting theories, analyzing storytelling rules, and mining a drama for clues.

You May Also Like: Signal, Queen In-hyun’s Man

 

10. Descended From the Sun (2016)

girlfriday: It’s funny, I wouldn’t personally put Descended From the Sun on my list of all-time favorites, but I would absolutely recommend it as a first-time drama to literally everyone and their mother, because it just has that mass appeal. For one, it’s not an old drama that forces you to add caveats like Ignore the weird fashions and ugly hairdos, and the slick production value just speaks for itself. It’s also a drama that needs no setup, since you have a soldier who meets a doctor, and they fall in love in a (beautifully picturesque) war zone.

One of the reasons Descended From the Sun makes for a good gateway drama is that it’s a straight-up romance with all the fat trimmed off—no romantic interlopers to interfere with the love story, no corporate takeovers to slog through. It’s pretty much all romance all the time, multiplied by secondary couples who are also cute, and sufficient life-and-death stakes to keep us on the hook. The real appeal of Descended is the fast-talking banter, where everyone always has the perfect comeback for every line; there’s just a synergy between the witty dialogue and the crackling romantic chemistry that works here, and it makes the drama a breeze to watch, and good bait to lure everyone you know down the rabbit hole.

 
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My first crack drama was Lovers in Paris! lol

But my forever first love that got me hook line and sinker for Kdramas is Coffee Prince. The pretty boys, the comedy, the squeees and omg the angst! It wasn't just a typical fluffy, light romantic comedy, it was the first one I watched that was full of substance and was well-thought out. Ahhhh, I'm feeling the feels just remembering ♥ I always rewatch it after a couple of years :)

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guess am the wierd one here got addicted to kdrama through i am sam. just love pmy there but nothing can take away my love for healer now.

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Goong is the first kdrama I watched and also the one that leads to my addiction. I'm slowly initiating my hubby to my addiction too ;)

Sungkyungwan Scandal is the first drama I had introduce to my hubby to watch and he likes it and next is the City Hunter then Healer. He thinks PMY is super popular in Korea ^_^

Watching Kdrama is our bonding time when both of us are off from work.

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yeah, thought so too at first. after i watch i am sam then healer followed by skks. anyway like her a lot

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Same here :))

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Honestly, while I wouldn't say PMY's played the most memorable characters, aside from Chae Young-shin, (though I do think she's gotten luckier than most actresses) she has done amazing when it comes to picking solid, entertaining dramas that stand the test of time. Three of her shows are mentioned up there. That is pretty impressive.

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Okey, i don't why but sometimes GF and JB's conversation is like Sun Hi(Megan Lee/make it pop) talking to her mirror(Phone). I can't help but feel like they are the same person.

According to what i've witnessed here in my hometown, "Boys Before Flowers" is indeed the top 1, followed by "The Heirs", "City Hunter" and "I Hear Your Voice".
However, i have a different view. The first kdrama i watched is "A Man Called God" which i did enjoy but not so much( because i just finished watching SMALLVILLE) at that time. The second was "Land Of Wind" and i liked it so much rewatched it right after i finished, followed by the legendary "Boys Before Flowers". But here is my top 10;
1. MY LOVE FROM THE STARS
2. HEALER
3. PERSONAL TASTE
4. TWO WEEKS
5. I HEAR YOUR VOICE
6. HELLO MONSTER
7. MY GIRLFRIEND IS A GUMIHO
8. SECRET
9. I MISS YOU
10. ROOFTOP PRINCE

I Can watch these over and over again.

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Oh! I totally forgot, there's no way i'd leave UGLY ALERT on my top 3 better yet Top 10.

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I'm actually find DOTS is more watchable than Goblin. It's pre produced drama and there is Kim Won Suk who add depth each blank canvas Kim Eun Suk seems unable to fill. and one more thing. the acting is really better. might be due to it's preproduced drama and it has subplot like medical drama format so there is alot going on even if there is nothing to do with the main plot lol

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I agree dots is way better than goblin. Song joong ki and song hye kyo chemistry is unbeatable even second leads have great chemistry which is rare feat. Goblin may have better storyline but except gong yoo and Lee dong wook none has impressed me so far.

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First kdrama I watched was Autumn in my Heart.

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Wow, great topic.. i wanna share my own personal top 15 (sorry, i really can't choose which 5 to drop to make it 10) list too..
Here it goes (not in sequence of priority);
1. Full House 2. Successful Story of a Bright Girl 3. Coffee Prince 4. Princess Hour 5. Delightful Girl Chun Hyang 6. Sweet Spy 7. My Name is Kim San Soon 8. My Love Patzzi 9. I Hear Your Voice 10. You're Beautiful 11. Cinderella Stepsister 12. Healer 13. My Girlfriend is a Gumiho 14. Ugly Alert 15. Sungkhunkwan Scandal

And i have minion too.. i've been her source of k-drama for years now.. and it's started with My Love from the Star but unfortunately this drama does not make it to my top 15 list.. ??

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If I was asked this question 2 to 5 years ago, I'd have a ready stream of more than 10 dramas on my list. But alas, Dramabeans and Beanie's have thought me to up my game and with that, up my taste for KDramas. Before, a very handsome lead would be enough for me to gush, come on, of course I still do, but to recommend them to anyone? Hmmm.
This list is my personal preference, they have satisfied me in some ways or another, sometimes in a very weird way. My list is in no particular order:
1.) Signal (duh, need I explain more?)
2.) Sassy Go, Go
3.) Dong Yi (it's a bit loooong though)
4.) Pinocchio
5.) Reply 1988
6.) Oh My Ghost(ess)
7.) Greatest Love
8.) Winter Sonata (yep, old soul, makjang, soundtraaaaack ?)
9.) Coffee Prince (yes, of course)
10.) Forbidden Love (weird right? I wanted to put My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, but at Gumiho I remembered Forbidden Love, my first glimpse on KDrama folklore and I still remember that feeling of amazement because Kim Tae Hee is beautiful I tell yah)
~kkeut

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Oh my god! Gumiho!

That deserves its own mention here !!!

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I would definitely put Signal or Queen In-hyun's Man instead of Nine. Nine is sooo good in the 1st half, but becomes a convoluted mess in the 2nd half.

As for me, my getaway drama is Hotelier. It still is one of my favorites.

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I prefered Bae Yong Jun in Hotelier much more than in Winter Sonata...he totally made me gush waterfalls back in those days.. ha.

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I actually gushed more over Kim Seung-woo than BYJ in Hotelier. Haha....

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Yes, Signal or QIHM, especially to hook guys.
I got a friend hooked by loaning him 3 sets of DVDs, Queen In-hyun's Man, Master's Sun & Faith. I think it was QIHM that did the trick because he ordered as a set for himself.

I've started Nine a couple times and couldn't get past episode 2 - if the start was good and the 2nd half was a mess -- I'd have to rate it a detox drama instead of a gateway.

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Nine should have stopped at ep 8. Other than that I couldn't get behind the main couple. The heroine kinda annoyed me and I didn't understand the hero's fervor in loving her.

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I'm hapy tahta CH got into the countdown because this is the one I recomended my friend to watch because I was so excited about I need someone to about it. she became an addict too and a LMH lover.

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pmy addict from I am Sam, skks, city hunter ,glory Jane, a new leaf, love healer remember. waiting for time city. miss her on my screen love. her so much.

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yeah same here, glad am not the only one

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Congratulations on completing 10 years, guys! Dramabeans rocks! ♥

My first kdrama is master's sun followed by I hear your voice. Both dramas made me feel so high during the time I watched it that I realized this is my happy place and I don't want to leave it.

But I recently watched coffee prince and it has become one of my all time favourite dramas. I was so into it that whenever our lead couple were in pain, I felt pain too. The beach scene is probably one of the best scenes ever written. Choi han kyul is my favourite drama hero. The only part in that drama I didn't enjoy much was eun chan's mother's storyline. But I didn't mind that much. I just can't believe it was made 10 years ago. If not for the picture quality, I don't think it would have been evident.

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Wow, there's only a few entries on the Dramabeans list that I agree with...it's fairly unusual for me to be so out of sync with the writers here. I think we can get influenced by what was our own introduction, and remember it sentimentally. In the meantime far better choices have been produced.

I really take exception with Boys over Flowers, even though it was the gateway drama for my daughter just a few years ago. The appeal of the show for her is that she was familiar with the manga (one of very few manga that she had read). But would I recommend it today as an intro to KDrama? Nope. Too dated. Too cliche. Too cheesy. Even as far as high school romances, there are plenty better recent examples. Even in the area of reverse harem dramas I'd recommend Cinderella and the Four Knights far more than BOF.

Instead of a one-size-fits all list, I'd likely do a category list.

For romance and romantic comedy fans, you want something that's going to hit all the reasons why people find those genres appealing, right up to the happy ending. For this reason, I'd chose Queen In-hyun's Man and 1% of Anything (that's the new one, right?). I'd likely round out with some more comedic romances but I'd have to think more about which ones to add. Maybe Fated to Love You (the more recent Korean one, not the TW one) or the Greatest Love? Even though I'd like to add shows like Jealousy Incarnate and Marriage Not Dating, due to the long running triangles, they'd come later in my recommendations list. But I would put in I Need Romance 3, because there's not really any doubt who is the OTP.

If they wanted to venture into the more comedic side of romantic comedy: Oh My Venus, Miss Korea, Haeundae Lovers, Flower Boy Next Door and Let's Eat.

For shows that appeal to both men and women, I'd choose Goblin (this is the first KDrama my husband really loves), Bridal Mask, City Hunter, Healer, and perhaps W, I Remember You, and Nine Time Travels.

For fans of fantasy and sci-fi, I'd choose Goblin, Nine Time Travels, W, and perhaps Signal and Master's Sun.

For fans of romantic suspense, I'd choose Secret, Nice Guy, Kill Me Heal Me, and perhaps Beyond the Clouds.

For character driven medical dramas: Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim (once they got past laughing at the name), The Good Doctor.

For those who like webtoons/manga/manhwa: Goblin, Bring it on Ghost, Cinderella and the Four Knights

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Oh, forgot to add on the last one...I chose these dramas for that category whether or not they were originally a manga/webtoon/manhwa. I chose them because they are examples of including characters, plots and tropes frequently seen in manga/webtoons/manhwa. One is fantastic and two are good for what they are.

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My son in law,who is hooked on Goblin, his first current K-Drama, also liked Bridal Mask--except for the hokey parts where Joo Won sings and dances in the club.

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Hnnng I knew City Hunter would make the cut but I'm just happy to see Healer in the links. It's now my top favorite drama, but I'd hesitate introducing it to kdrama virgins (unless I have their best interests at heart <3), and even to my kdrama-already-watching friends. I dunno, it's not really for everyone. Oh my love.

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Did anyone start with Winter Sonata or Stairway to Heaven? Classics

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Mine was Autumn Love Story. At that time i just watch chinese wuxia (condor heroes, etc) and then suddenly wonbin ajusshi just steal my eyes...?

After that basically MNIKKS, My Girl, Goong,etc
And the list keep getting longer..

And i still keep watching kdrama even though majority of my peers keep bashing me about my addiction to kdrama. Well, everybody live their own life right? ?

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there will always be a place in my heart for Coffee Prince and Goong. even great dramas like Signal, Reply series, Misaeng somehow cannot replace those two lol

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I would add Shopping King Louie cause it is a light, easy and hilarious drama with annoying tropes all turned upside down and adorable swoony romantic scenes youy can replay over and over (red carpet kiss! a whole new world!!!)

second one I would get my friends hooked with is prob Kill Me, Heal Me - cause my friends are all 1980ies generation and they love movies like Back To The Future & Tim Burtons´ Batman and Beetlejuice, so they might like the campy style of KMHM

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and You Are Beautiful - music is a great additional factor to get people hooked; in that sense, I would also recoomend Shut Up Flower Boy Band. it was a bunch of kids you couldn´t help routing for

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my full list would be:

Beginners level

1. Shopping King Louie
2. You Are Beautiful
3. Flower Boy Ramyun Shop
4. Full House
5. Protect the boss
6. Secret Garden
7. Personal Preference
8. My Love From The Star
9. My Girl
10. King Of High School

Advanced level

1. I Remember You
2. Greatest Love
3. Masters´ Sun
4. Shut Up, Flower Boy Band
5. Kill Me, Heal Me
6. Moonlight Drawn By Clouds
7. Coffee Prince
8. Pinocchio
9. I Hear Your Voice
10. City Hunter

Expert level

1. Tree With Deep Roots
2. Secret Love Affair
3. Secret
4. Liar Game
5. School 2013
6. Six Flying Dragons
7. Painter of the winds
8. Police Unit 38
9. King 2 Hearts
10. Gaksital

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Although list is yours.. but in expert level.. i suggest you can add Signal And Misaeng... that will almost make a deadliest list... :D

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I would add them, if I had raved about them as much as the others, but I didnt. I thought Signal was good but not exceptional, and I just couldnt get into Misaeng and I tried, and tried...

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good list! recommend most on the list too.

but for me personally it was youre beautiful :D

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My personal favorite is Dalja's Spring. It was not my first Korean drama, but it got me HAAARD.

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I'm probably one of the only ones to watch DalJa's Spring before Kim Sam Soon and it kind of ruined me for it, tbh. Not that I didn't still love the main character in the latter to bits...l just enjoyed the former so much, it was hard to beat. I feel like a lot of newcomers to kdrama miss out on this one so I'm always suggesting it to those who want to watch a heartfelt and funny rom-com with a great supporting cast.

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I love Dalja's Spring, it was a smartly-written drama and the OST was great. I probably do like it a touch more than My Name is Kim Sam-soon as well. Both actresses were excellent in their roles, but I think I relate to Dalja better overall.

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for me Dalja is just a more likable character than Kim Sam Soon. I never understood why people sympathize with Sam Soon, I thought she had such an unpleasant character. the only reason why she had to get together with Hyun Bins´ character was that the other female was even more unpleasant. they were buildt to be sympathized with, both, but the acting turned them very itchy.

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Great list and I agree with most, especially with JB's. Coffee Prince is what introduced me to kdrama but City Hunter is what made me a kdrama addict. I have watched all the dramas in the list, including the honorable mentions, except for 1 drama which is Nice Guy. Is it really worth watching ? I am not into melodramas but I did see Secret and Kill me Heal me, just because of Ji Sung.

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Yes, you should watch it! I enjoy (with tears) this drama for its emotionally effective writing and, of course, the acting. I even love Song Jong Ki here more than him in Dots :)

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Thanks for the tip! Honestly, I wasn't a big fan of DOTS. I liked it, but didn't really love it. I do like SJK in A Werewolf Boy and SKKS, so I might give Nice Guy a try.

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Twas year 2010 I got hooked on Kdramas. When your heavily preggy and confined in your bed until due time, and all u have are a book and and a laptop, well, internet surfing that ended to Kdrama watching was the solution to immobility. The drama that first hooked me was Sungkyuwan scandal and the actor Lee Seung Gi. The rest followed.

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I remember the gate was slightly opened when I watched Autumn (actually, it was Won Bin who kept me staying). And then, Full house shown up (ah, those times when my friend and I had to stop by at movie rental right after the school and when we really tried to wisely decide who should watch first and how many days that lucky person should finish it). Then, Goong came around! And, the gate was completely opened for good when I fell in love with Choi Han Gyul.
So, who is the person that becomes an addict because of me? My mom! She loves sageuk (Dong Yi, Tree with Deep Roots, and Six Flying Dragons are some of it). Btw, I successfully convinced her to watch Marriage Contract last week and she started a reflective discussion with me about marriage after watching it.

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I agree with the whole list.

It's funny because I don't like some of these titles and I definitely can't call them good dramas but still... I can't deny they're addictive and a good place to start.

So I end up recommending dramas I didn't like but are sure to bring the other person to "the dark side".

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I've watched 14 out of 26.

Guess I know what my next project is.

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Working on I Hear Your Voice and Signal

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Great list!

I would add You're Beautiful in with BOF #1 section. It wasn't the first one I watched, but got me hook, line, and sinker into K-dramas. My husband even liked it! He also liked City Hunter, so that's definitely a solid recommendation for the significant others of us female fans.

I might be the only person in the world who didn't like Boys Over Flowers (loved the Japanese version!) or My Name Is Kim Sam Soon :) Dal Ja's Spring and Coffee Prince are both awesome though!!

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How come no one mentioned - my love from another star ...

It was the first kdrama I watched .... And I think I watched like for 18 continuous hours before my body gave out ....

And then I was hooked

Its the perfect drama to start with - not old , good looking people, good actors, comedy romance fantasy .... Perfecttttttt ...

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The only thing I would change is adding My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, probably instead of I Hear Your Voice and YFAS (though I'd suggest those eventually). Also Marriage, Not Dating and Jealousy Incarnate are my go-to suggestions for truly funny rom-coms.

At least one Hong Sisters has to be on the list too!

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Agree! My GF is a Gumiho should also be on the list!

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It was also BoF for me. ❤️ It was a difficult time in my life, and I wanted to just watch something to get things off my mind. I got transported to another world, and 6 years later, it's still my happy place. :) I wanted more after binge-watching BoF so I devoured almost all of the dramas on this list one after the other (the older ones, of course).

I would most definitely recommend You're Beautiful and Full House as well. And I almost always recommend Reply series to just about everyone. Haha ❤️?

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It was coffee prince for me..it required only 1 episode to got me hooked and ever since i am stuck in dramaland..not complaining... just saying...

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am i the only one who got hooked into kdramas by "snow queen"? for beautiful cinematography/production/ost and ---> hyunbin :)

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oh bless your heart, I think only about 12 Beanies even saw Snow Queen! I've never understood why it doesn't get more love, it's all the things you said and such a good cry, too ?
Killingly beautiful OST.

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I hooked my pregnant cousin and almost hooked my (way too young) niece on Kdrama with My Love from Another Star. She then watched Queen in Hyun's man and that was it. She probably watches way more Kdrama than I do now.

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MINE WAS MY LOVE FROM ANOTHER STAR

and i drowned in the kdrama world after that...

I hooked like 4 people with Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo recently, 2 with Signal, 3 with DOTS, 1 with Marriage not Dating, 1 with W-Two Worlds HAHAHHAH I tend to choose what to recommend based on what my friends love <3

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My first drama and gateway was Jumong (my tricksy sister lured me in with the words 'epic' and 'history'). After that came Kingdom of the Winds, Queen Seon Deok and Faith. It's funny that BOF seems to have pulled many intro dramaland, but I only arrived at BOF after a few dramas. I could blame Lee Min Ho... but it was Hae Mo Su who hooked me first.

I have to say that drama soundtracks did a lot to pull me in. Jumong was just epic, beautiful and heart-rendering. Kingdom of the Winds had me crying *replays Jumong track 7*

I hooked a friend with Rooftop Prince, which has a good blend of genres. Now we recommend shows to each other. :)

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I absolutely loved You're Beautiful, and judging from your list we like most of same dramas... I am also enjoying Hwarang so far. :)

Neither Jumong or Kingdom of the Winds are 'dry'. Jumong is 81 episodes long (which now seems ridiculously long) and has basically 3 parts. Some of the palace scenes can be repetitive, but I hardly noticed because everything was shiny and new to me. Kingdom of the Winds might be a better option (36 episodes). It's about the grandson of Jumong but you don't have to watch Jumong before to understand.

Queen Seon Deok is completely amazing until episode 50, for me. But I am one of the few who was not a fan of the character Bidam, whose story takes off after episode 50.

Conclusion: If you liked Faith, Kingdom of the Winds might be a good option for a 'serious' sageuk. Have you watched Rooftop Prince though?

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Winter Sonata does it for me

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Respectfully, I still think a lot of this discussion is missing the boat. Girlfriday said in the article, " Yes, these are the dramas you want to recommend to that friend who’s never seen a Korean drama..."

I'm assuming (and I could be wrong) that this means
1) Someone living outside of Asia and not very familiar with Asian cultures (and possibly someone who has not been into manga/manhwa or anime in the past)
2) Someone who typically watches North American, UK or European television

If this is the case, than they are likely going to, at first, compare your recommended dramas with current Hollywood-produced or influenced television shows. It makes sense (at least to me) that any recommendation that would be a huge step down in acting quality (BOF), or scriptwriting/plot, or production quality (some of the other older dramas) may be a less than ideal candidate for their first impression of KDrama. And, I think, in most cases, sageuks would not be a good choice either.

So...I think the best candidates to introduce a newbie to KDrama showcase what is really great about many Korean dramas (like a one season 16 to 24-ish episode series telling a complete story), but have a plot and characters that are relocatable to Western audiences. And, those who have good acting, a good story, and good production quality.

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I agree that a shorter drama with things that may be 'relocatable' to Western audiences might be a good tactic... however I was drawn in precisely by how different things were in historical dramas.

So there's no definitive way of hooking people, it depends on knowing their tastes and recommending things they may like. But I agree that BOF would not be my first recommendation for most people.

My list would be:
- For those familiar with super heroes: Healer, City Hunter.
- For fans of time travelling: Rooftop Prince, Faith, Moon Lovers (I did recommend this one to a friend, who loved it because of its 'modern' feel, whatever that means)
- For fantasy fans and initiation into rom-com: My Girlfriend is a Gumiho.
- First timers for sageuk: Princess Man.
- Office drama: Misaeng. It invites comparison with US/European offices and anyone can relate to it.
- Rom-com: This is where I hesitate because my own preference is for weird characters and ridiculous situations...not necessarily something I'd recommend to first timers: You're Beautiful, Beautiful Gong Shim, Fated to Love You, Sassy Go Go. I've tried recommending Secret Garden but I always seem to fail! (why? is this the best I can do?)

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My recs (to UK people) tend to the stronger stories and less of the melodrama. The ones I normally go for

Tree With Deep Roots
White Xmas
Joseon X Files
Harvest Villa

I know a lot of people here who are pretty firm fans of Korean cinema so it can be a bit of a jump to TV, but I think these cross over well.

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Believe it or not I managed to make 2 of my friends become addicted to kdrama by watching Moon Lovers and Cheese in the trap. I recommended them based on their preferences and it worked. They fell in love ? I even managed my husband to watch with me at least 2 dramas. Two weeks and City Hunter. Although he was making fun of it most of the time, every night we watched at least 2 episodes back to back because he couldnt wait to see what happens next. Lol. And finally I made my mother to watch one kdrama, Heirs. So, for me these 5 dramas are the easiest to attract others to dramaland.

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I missed your convo posts so much! :D Every line made me laugh.

Oh, and @HeadsNo2, there's another trope in Sunkyunkwan's favor! The tortured-but-adorkably-clueless-in-love hero of a second lead.

What's a kdrama addiction without a heartbreaking second lead syndrome, right?

*crying for Crazy Horse*

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I just read this comment and wanted to say, "I agree with you so much!" then I saw I wrote it 3 days ago. @[email protected]

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I like the list despite I still wonder why you would put DotS on it. Both, DotS and Goblin, are the cheesiest k-dramas of the last and this year. And we will be tortured by other dramas by the writer because people watch cheesy stuff like that.

I know k-dramas tend to be cheesy but I couldn't even finish the first episode of DotS because I thought it was so manifactured and fake. With Goblin I gave the writer another try and I find it a rather boring drama with too long episodes and not much plot to fill them. And so I really don't know if DotS would be a good first time-drama. Neither is Goblin btw.

I personally adore Nice Guy - which has its weaknesses as well but is overall one of the better melodramas out there.

For sageuks I would definitely recommend fusion sageuks rather than "real" sageuks since they tend to be long. Moonlight Drawn By Clouds or Princess Man would certainly be nice dramas to get into historcal k-dramas. Other than that Tree With Deep Roots - definitely go to drama if somebody wants history combined with thriller elements.

Signal - of course! Since it's procedural but at the same time got a proper mytharc as well which is nicely resolved within the 16 episodes.

If somebody wants to go for longer weekend dramas I would always recommend: Smile, You and Ojakgyo Brothers. Definitely not too much makjang and it's all about family.

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I've watched dramas since elementary school but only the ones aired in my home country (dubbed ones). The one that actually started my addiction though is Baker King, Kim Takgu. At the time, I wasn't aware of makjang stuff and just liked it so much. Even now, it's high up my all time favourites list.

I tried watching Coffee Prince but didn't finish it. I think I made it until episode 7 but thought it was just okay. I remember liking Kim Samsoon watching it on TV before so I tried watching it again in its entirety but didn't like it.

My co-worker who doesn't watch dramas surprised me one day by saying she watched DotS and loved it. lol. I guess at the moment, it's indeed the best way to make someone enter kdrama addiction.

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I am so glad to see you mention Baker King! My daughter had me watch Flower Boy Band first which was just okay for me but one she watches over and over. Next she introduced me to Boys over Flowers and I couldn't get past half of the first episode. ( Later I did watch it and ended up liking it) Next on her list was Flower Boy Next Door which I thought was better. I liked Yoon Shi Yoon in it a lot so I looked for something else he had done and found Baker King and that was the show that got me hooked.

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My first Korean drama was healer. I loved it and it got me hooked to kdrama. Dots was second and it surpassed my love for healer. Descendants of the Sun has huge mass appeal. I really was not into it but huge rating got me curious and I gave it a try. And l loved it and how! Not only me but many of my friends loved it are shipping song song couple. I also enjoyed syunkyunkwan scandal, It's enjoyable and loved song joong ki in it. He is brilliant actor.

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Boys over Flowers was definitely what got me addicted to Kdramas. I loved the manga and anime and these odd kdramas kept popping up on Hulu. So I decided to give one a try. My brother came over while I was on episode 2 and then we binge watched the whole series together in a weekend. The obsession had started.

My Mom got into kdramas by oddly The Girl Who Sees Smells. I had tried to get her to watch kdramas before but she thought asian guys were odd looking and said she had a hard time paying attention to what was going on while reading subtitles. But while visiting my Mom, me and my brother were watching TGWSS and she settled down to watch with us. She watched the whole thing and then watched My Love from Another Star and got fully addicted. She is more addicted then me. She watches about 2-3 dramas a week. She only finds asian men attractive now (Kim Soo-Hyun and Seo In-Guk are her #1 and #2 obsessions), And even wants to learn Korean and visit Korea. It's pretty funny.

But those shows were our gateway drugs.

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Holy God, what a superficial list. I'm really impressed, but not surprised.

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Happy 10th!!

My very first kdrama was My Name is Kim Sam-Soon recommended by my lovely sister. And it lead me to my favorite My Girl which made me an addict and it also lead me here to Dramabeans where I found Coffee Prince. Oh the feels. I need to have a re-watch. :D

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My sister has been wondering why I'm always going on and on about the Korean dramas I watch, and just yesterday she asked me which one she should watch first. Without a doubt I recommended COFFEE PRINCE! It was my first Kdrama and it's always the first drama I recommend to friends. Needless to say my friends ALWAYS get hooked. it literally pulls you in from the beginning.

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Even though I’ve been watching dramas for over a year now pretty hard-core, there are a bunch on the list I haven’t yet seen. Mostly because I tend to pick and choose my dramas extremely carefully. I know what I like and I make sure a show is pretty universally well-received before I watch it, if it’s an older one.

My gateway Korean drama was Healer. Which I binge-watched in two or three days. After falling in love with Ji Chang Wook, I watched Coffee Prince. And fell in love with Gong Yoo. I think You From Another Star came next, and that was awesome, too. I would absolutely recommend those three shows to newbies.

Boys Over Flowers is so over the top but so addicting. (“Why am I watching this? This is ridiculous! But I have to watch just… one… more… episode…”) Answer Me 1997 is so nostalgic. Plus there’s Seo In Guk which makes everything great. (Task Force 38, also with Seo In Guk, is a great show, one I think guys could really get into.) Descendants of the Sun is a great choice for a more recent drama. It’s so easy to watch.

As for those “You May Also Like” shows: Oh Hae Young Again is excellent. So is Moonlight Drawn By Clouds. And Kill Me, Heal Me. (Ahn Yo Na will forever be one of my favorite characters!) And Signal, my favorite drama ever — which I forced my mom to start watching. And Queen In Hyun’s Man — that one really surprised me!

Love this list! It’s a great reminder to finally take the plunge and marathon City Hunter, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, I Hear Your Voice, and Nine: Nine Time Travels.

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Happy 10th Dramabeans!!!??? My first time posting since I started reading your blog 10 years ago just to congratulate you on your 10th. Can't imagine that I've been a kdrama addict for so long and you feed that addiction. Thank you!!!

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I would always tell people who ask me what kdrama to watch, to try R1997!!! That show was everything...94 still breaks my heart whenever i think about it *coughs*CHILBONG*coughs*....i made my cousin watch SKKS and she got hooked waaaay baaad....i think any drama with Song Joong ki in it would get anyone addicted....
If i were to list my top 10:
1. GOOOOOOOONG!!!
2. SKKS
3. REPLY 1997, then 94, then 88 in that order eveb though i still haven't seen 88
4. COFFEE PRINCE
5. HEALER!!! bcos JCW is love.
6. DOTS. No questions asked. Just watch it.
7. HE'S BEAUTIFUL
8. EVERY LEE MIN HO DRAMA
9. WHITE CHRISTMAS
10. SHUT UP FLOWER BOY RAMYEON AGENCY NEXT DOOR

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City Hunter was how i got my Big Brother hooked on Kdrama and he has been onboard ever since.

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