Best Korean Dramas of 2023

It’s that time of year where we look back and reflect on the Korean dramas of the past year. 2023 was a pretty good year for me drama-wise with a nice selection and several dramas that really left an impact. 

Thank you for another amazing year to enjoy dramas with all of you!  I always have fun hearing your thoughts on all of the different dramas out there, and it means so much that you share that with me.

Next up is the list! It includes all of the dramas that I watched which aired and concluded their runs in 2023. We will be counting down my favorite dramas from least to most favorite. Full reviews are available for all of them.

As always, this is completely my opinion on these dramas, and it does not reflect Korean or international ratings or the popularity of any particular drama among fans. Check out the grand total of how many new and old dramas I watched at the end of the article 🙂

14. Oh! Youngsim

Oh! Youngsim was about as run-of-the-mill as they come. It has a pretty typical set-up with the childhood love story that went wrong due to misunderstandings followed by a reunion between the duo as adults. These misunderstandings continue in the present day as our couple gets involved in a dating show.

This drama for me is an example of a show using the basic romantic comedy formula and doing it in a completely average way. I felt pretty meh about both of the leads. The couple is so-s0,  and I wasn’t particularly invested in their relationship. The story is basic. The production is basic. Nothing stands out. It’s all pretty forgettable. It’s a lighter show that leans fun if you have nothing else to watch, and that’s about it.
My Rating: 5/10 (Oh! Youngsim Review)

13. Romance By Romance

Romance by Romance is a short mini drama. It’s a fluff piece that is pretty basic, but all around it’s decent. As far as web dramas go, this one has a nice little story. It’s light and fun with a simple but developed plot. 

It’s a decent quick drama if you enjoy love triangles and the friends-to-lovers trope. Romance By Romance is a good fit for an easy filler in between other dramas.
My Rating: 6/10 (Romance By Romance Review)

12. Love to Hate You

Love to Hate You Korean Drama - Yoo Teo and Kim Ok Bin

Love to Hate You was a mixed drama for me. It’s a romantic comedy that deals with relationships as well as issues like discrimination between the sexes. It’s mostly light-hearted but does sprinkle in some more serious and thoughtful moments.

The first half of the series took some warming up to as I found it slow, I didn’t really like the characters, and I wasn’t feeling the overall tone. Now, as a whole, I enjoyed the second half of the series a lot more including the characters, relationship developments, and some of the issues that were touched upon.

So, in the end, Love to Hate You was a decent watch.  I do wish it would have been more even throughout, but it was a cute overall.
My Rating: 6/10 (Love to Hate You Review)

11. Family: The Unbreakable Bond

Family: The Unbreakable Bond Korean Drama - Jang Hyuk, Jang Na Ra, Shin Sun A, Lee Sun Jae, Kim Kang Min, Yono Sang Jung

Family: The Unbreakable Bond was an interesting drama to say the least. Of course, the main reason I had to check this series out was because of the reunion of Jang Hyuk and Jang Na Ra. I love this couple, and getting to see them on screen together again was a delight.

The drama had two sides with a family comedy element that had lots of fun family hi-jinks and then a spy action story. The spy story initially felt weak, but as we went deeper, it was more complex. It was surprisingly dark, but it was done well enough. Tonally, the drama felt very uneven which gave it an odd feel, and the drama as a whole was a bit sloppy.

So, in the end, Family: The Unbreakable Bond was a nice enough watch. Jang Hyuk and Jang Na Ra are definitely the standouts and both put in fantastic performances.
My Rating: 6.5/10 (Family: The Unbreakable Bond Review)

10.One Day Off

One Day Off Korean Drama - Lee Na Young

One Day Off was a lovely shorter drama. It is very contemplative and slice of life. You might also describe this as a healing drama. Each episode, we join Ha Kyung as she visits a new place. The overall tone feels quite peaceful as the story gently takes us on a journey as she discovers new things and meets new people.

It really is amazing how much they were able to do with just a short 25 minute episode in terms of storytelling. Each episode was emotional, impactful, and filled with meaning. Even though One Day Off isn’t the type of drama I tend to be attracted to it, I liked it and could easily see the beauty in it. I think many others will see this as a lovely little gem of a show.
My Rating: 7/10 (One Day Off Review)

9. Unlock My Boss

Unlock My Boss Korean Drama - Chae Jong Hyeop and Seo Eun Soo

Unlock My Boss has a quirky premise with the concept of a CEO getting trapped inside of a smartphone. It grabbed my attention, and it was a solid drama. The story was paced well with a couple of nice twists, and the characters were interesting. There is also a bit of a slow burn romance to enjoy that was nice to see take shape.

We get a nice mixture of genres too. The mystery element moved things along while the heart and humor delivered thoughtful moments along the way. Overall, it was a good watch.
My Rating: 7/10 (Unlock My Boss Review)

8. Doona!

Doona! Korean Drama - Yang Se Jong and Suzy

Doona! is a romance drama that packs an emotional punch. I love both Suzy and Yang Se Jong and thought they had fantastic chemistry. Their relationship was unique and intriguing.

We also get nice character journeys for each of them with plenty to explore. This is an emotional story focusing on the characters of Doona and Won Jun and how they were individually affected by their relationship. Both actors gave wonderful performances.

Overall, Doona! was a great show. Despite being simple in story and low-key in its delivery, it was poignant and moving. Doona! is an interesting drama that I really enjoyed. My Rating: 7.5/10 (Doona! Review)

7. The Heavenly Idol

The Heavenly Idol Korean Drama - Kim Min Kyu, Choi Jae Hyun, Shin Myung Sun, Laon, Hong Seung Bum

I was honestly surprised by just how much I enjoyed The Heavenly Idol. It has a fun premise with a High Priest being transported to another world and inhabiting the body of a failing idol. Then we get to watch him awkwardly navigate his new world. The fish out of water trope is a favorite of mine, so I was there for it.

Most of the drama is on the lighter side with a lot of cheesy comedy and fun hijinks, but there is a serious story running in the background. It was a bit uneven tonally at times, but for the most part it came together nicely.

So overall, I was very happy with The Heavenly Idol. It gave me plenty of lighthearted laughs and interesting characters. Then it created an in depth back story that really packed a punch in the end be delivering plenty of emotion and suspense. I definitely had a great time with this drama.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (The Heavenly Idol Review)

6. A Time Called You

A Time Called You was an entertaining drama with a complex story and a grand romance. It was a bit messy and confusing in its presentation at times, but it still delivers a unique and engaging time travel romance that was good to watch.

Aside from the romance, there is also an interesting and complicated friendship to explore as well as in-depth character explorations. All of the actors were great and gave good performances. So, overall, I was happy with how A Time Called You turned out. It was a solid drama and very enjoyable.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (A Time Called You Review)

5. See You in My 19th Life

See You in My 19th Life was surprisingly very good! This drama hooked me from episode one with its beautiful telling of the childhood stories. I was immediately drawn to the characters and became invested in how things would turn out for them.

The series was also very emotional. It excelled at showing the deep feelings the characters were experiencing. The lovely soundtrack was wonderful and helped create such a thoughtful atmosphere as those tender emotions were brought out.

So overall, I thoroughly enjoyed See You in My 19th Life. It gave me a compelling fantasy story with a romance that spans times. The story was great from start to finish and truly moved me many times with the issues it explored. It was a wonderful drama all around.
My Rating: 8/10 (See You in My 19th Life Review)

4. King the Land

King the Land Korean Drama - Junho and Yoona

King the Land is like a romp through cotton candy land in the drama world. This is a feel good romance at its best. It’s also pretty much the definition of a kdrama rom-com. Fairly standard but light and comforting with a bit of a fairy tale feel. There is some family business conflict to add a bit of angst, but for the most part, the drama is light. 

Junho and Yoona have a fun chemistry with lots of great moments between them. If you like your romances sweet with a dash of maturity, than this one is for you!

So overall, I really enjoyed King the Land. It doesn’t do anything new, but it does what a rom-com needs to do by delivering a heart-fluttering romance that oozes with sweetness, just enough story to keep a good pace, and a great cast to deliver the fun. 
My Rating: 8/10 (King the Land Review)

3. The Forbidden Marriage

The Forbidden Marriage was such a lovely surprise! It was a treat. This is one of those dramas that drew me in right from the start. It gave me all kinds of feels, and I loved every minute. It’s a very engaging show with romance, friendship, humor, heart, and a solid story shrouded in mystery.

All of the characters were great too. Everyone from the main cast down to the supporting ones had a story. There are plenty of quirky characters that add lots of fun to the series as well as some nice little side storylines. The Forbidden Marriage was a wonderful watch for me, and it left my heart feeling very full.
My Rating: 9/10 (The Forbidden Marriage Review)

2. Castaway Diva

Castaway Diva was a fantastic drama for me! It pulled me right in from the first episode with such a heart-wrenching and engaging story. The writing was both fun and entertaining, but also beautiful. A lot of thoughtful wisdom was woven into the story and delivered in such lovely ways. There was a powerful message about finding a way to continue on and have hope during very dire circumstances. I experienced so many emotions ranging from joy to heartbreak. I shed some tears for sure.

The drama had great pacing throughout, and I was interested in everything from the main story down to the subplots. A nice mystery ran throughout with reveals coming at appropriate times. Everything ties together nicely. 

There was heart, comedy, romance, family, friendship, and some intensity. Mok Ha was a shining light of a character, and her journey was a joy to watch. Castaway Diva was a wonderful series that definitely left an impact.
My Rating: 9/10 (Castaway Diva Review)

And the #1 drama of 2023 is…

1. Alchemy of Souls 2: Light and Shadow

Alchemy of Souls 2: Light and Shadow was amazing! I LOVED it! Just like part 1, this drama embodies what I love in a show with fantasy, history, romance, action, humor, and heart. I really couldn’t ask for more.

We drop right back into this beautiful world filled with complexity, mages, and magic. It’s a world populated by a sprawling cast of interesting characters. We get a fleshed out story with consistent plot developments and filled with twists and turns. The pacing was wonderful with the intensity building with each episode. The drama definitely leans heavy, but there is plenty of lighthearted humor scattered throughout it too.

The cinematography and special effects were top notch, and I loved seeing how this magical world was brought to life. We get to enjoy great music too. I was again able to get lost in this world, and it really felt good to be back. It’s a grand story that felt epic on many levels. The saga that is Alchemy of Souls 2 is truly a special one.
My Rating: 10/10 (Alchemy of Souls 2: Light and Shadow Review)


Other Dramas I Completed in 2023

As a year end review, here is a list of the older Korean dramas that I completed this year. Full reviews for each drama are available by clicking on the drama title. Here they are broken into categories depending on how much I liked them with each category listing the dramas alphabetically:

Good:

Good Job
Good Job Korean Drama - Jung Il Woo and Yuri

Kiss Goblin
Kiss Goblin Korean Drama - Bae In Hyuk and Jeon Hye Won


Okay:

The Fabulous
The Fabulous Korean Drama - Minho and Chae Soo Bin


That brings my total count to 14 new dramas and 3 older dramas for a grand total of 17 dramas! A bit more than last year, so not too bad. Of course, my watch list is still so full! And with that, it’s time to prepare for all of the dramas we have to look forward to in 2024!

How was 2023 for you?  What were your favorite dramas of the year?


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11 responses to “Best Korean Dramas of 2023”

  1. Snow Flower Avatar
    Snow Flower

    Alchemy of Souls Part 2, Castaway Diva, and Twinkling Watermelon are my favorites for 2023. I also liked Unlock The Boss and The Kidnapping Day. The Secret Romantic Guesthouse is a pleasant surprise.

    1. Kay Avatar

      Great list of favorites! I still have Twinkling Watermelon and The Secret Romantic Guesthouse on my list, so I’m looking forward to those 🙂

  2. Kate Avatar

    In 2023 I finished 50 dramas and dropped 15. Of the 50 I finished the following are my top 10:

    1. King the Land
    2. Alchemy of Souls Pt 2
    3. The Forbidden Marriage
    4. Bo Ra! Deborah
    5. Casting a Spell to You
    6. Twinkling Watermelon
    7. Destined with You
    8. Celebrity
    9. My Dearest
    10. Secret Romantic Guesthouse

    Special mentions to the following as exceedlingly good as well:
    My Demon
    Moon in the Day
    Perfect Marriage Revenge

    1. Kay Avatar

      Oooh, we have several of the same dramas towards the top of our list! I have several from you list I still plant to watch (Twinkling Watermelon, Perfect Marriage Revenge, Moon in the Day, My Dearest, Bo Ra! Deborah, Secret Romantic Guesthouse). There were some really good dramas this year 🙂

      1. Kate Avatar

        This was a great year for dramas, especially since I’ve watched so many of the backlog on my watch list so starting to watch week to week is a new thing for me but I’m liking it 😁

        1. Kay Avatar

          A great year for sure, and you definitely made some solid progress on your list with how many you got in! I still don’t much like the week to week thing myself, but I’m glad you’re finding it fun as it definitely brings a different kind of enjoyment 🙂

  3. sovietredstar Avatar
    sovietredstar

    #1 Alchemy of Souls 2. Incredible show. It doesn’t get any better than this one.

    #2 King the Land. Great couple chemistry. Great settings. Im Yoon-Ah was excellent.

    Best 2023 Chinese drama: Fireworks of My Heart (firefighter drama).

    1. Kay Avatar

      100% agree on Alchemy of Souls! Fantastic in every way 🙂 Also loved King the Land. Fireworks of My Heart sounds like a good one, so I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  4. Fred Avatar
    Fred

    My favorite writers (#1 Hong Sisters and #2 Park Hye Ryun) taking the #1 and #2 spots. This is the reason why I love reading your reviews, Kay. We have the same favorites! LOL

    I probably watched just around 4 or 5 dramas this year. I remember finishing Alchemy of Souls, Family: The Unbreakable Bond (watched because of Fated to Love You), and Extraordinary Attorney Woo. AOS now my favorite kdrama (Sorry Miho).

    I went here to look for a kdrama I will watch during Christmas. Now I have found it. Written by Park Hye Ryun and played by one of my favorite actresses. What else can I ask for?

    Merry Christmas, Kay!

    1. Kay Avatar

      Haha, yes! We definitely have the same favorite writers which is why we love quite a few of the same dramas. And this year gave us 2 outstanding dramas to enjoy from them 🙂 AOS has risen high on my favorites list, but I don’t think my beloved Gumiho will ever be dethroned, lol 😂

      I hope Castaway Diva is a good one for you.

      Merry Christmas to you too, Fred!

  5. […] genre. In addition to this, you can check out the big list of my favorite dramas of the year in my Best Korean Dramas of 2023 post. So let’s see what my favorites of the year […]

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