The 5 Best Korean Dramas of 2022

After Squid Game’s enormous success in 2021, Korean dramas had to have a banner year. One reason is that the aforementioned series has been dominating award ceremonies in the West, and fans are anxiously anticipating season two.
Other programs are also making progress. The King’s Affection, starring Park Eun-bin from Extraordinary Attorney Woo and Rowoon from the boyband SF9, became the first K-drama to win an International Emmy in November.

1. Thirty-Nine

Best Korean Dramas

Whatever part of the world, it is uncommon to see stories about women who are approaching their forties on television, unless they are about their families and being mothers. Enter Thirty-Nine, starring Son Ye-jin from Crash Landing On You and Jeon Mi-do from Hospital Playlist.

The three 39-year-old women at the center of Thirty-Nine are fiercely independent, but they are also struggling with work, family, love, and, for one of the three BFFs, a major health issue. The show embraces unbreakable friendships and the messiness of life, even when you’re expected to have it all figured out.

Biggest fan: People who believe female friendships are life’s grandest romances.

2. Little Women

Best Korean Dramas

The Korean adaptation of the Little Women TV Series brings Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel to modern-day South Korea, exploring the themes of struggle and strife. In a storyline that weaves a captivating web of murder, fraud, and embezzlement, the Oh sisters (Kim Go-Eun, Nam Ji-Hyun, and Park Ji-hu, all excellent) take on Korea’s richest family.

Kim Go-Eun (Yumi’s Cells) in particular gives an outstanding performance as In-Joo, while Squid Game’s Wi Ha-Joon continues to establish himself as one of South Korea’s most exciting male actors. In this intense series, their chemistry is undeniable.

Biggest fan:

Friends who claim to be above cheesy romances but fall for the angsty, problematic anti-sweethearts in blood-pumping crime K-dramas.

3. Business Proposal

Best Korean Dramas

The plots for the business proposals were taken from a webtoon.
This source material can lead to some unrealistic, if not absurd, premises, but not in this upbeat office rom-com. It runs with everyone’s favorite romance tropes, such as fake dating and a relationship between a wealthy CEO and his office subordinate.

Of course, the structure of the romances in Business Proposal is not novel in the K-drama world. However, when executed with the care that this series did, you have a cult classic on your hands.

4. Pachinko

Best Korean Dramas

Pachinko was an epic on-screen retelling of Min Jin Lee’s 2017 novel, Pachinko chronicles the enduring journey of a Korean family over one of the most tumultuous centuries in East Asian history, shedding light on the complicated history between Korea and Japan.

Sun-JA (beautifully played by Minari’s Youn Yuh-Jung and newcomer Kim Min-ha) is at the center of it all, a young Busan woman forced to leave her life behind and start over in Osaka due to a cruel twist of fate. Pachinko is a moving story of displacement and oppression, but it is also one of hope, as Sun-JA and her descendants rediscover home in one another.

5. Twenty-Five Twenty-One

Best Korean Dramas

Twenty-Five Twenty-One is my personal favorite of the five shows, thanks to its magnetic cast and poignant storytelling.
It follows five young friends as they strive for success, love, and happiness, as well as deal with the challenges of adolescence, against the backdrop of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, which threatens to derail their lives.

Na Hee-do (Kim Tae-Ri) aspires to be a fencer, but her school’s team is disbanded due to economic constraints brought on by the crisis, while Baek Yi-(Nam jin’s Joo-hyuk) family loses everything.
They split up as debtors hound them to pay what they owe, and he has to rebuild his life on his own, hustling for any part-time job he can find.

Twenty-Five Twenty-One is charming and refreshing, succeeding not only in making you fall hard for its lead couple but also in fleshing out the peripheral characters to the point where you root for them as well.

Even smarter is the decision to tell Hee-story do’s through her diary, as seen by her daughter Kim Min-chae decades later, giving the young girl a new perspective on her mother and immersing viewers in a relatable period of youth’s exhilaration and uncertainty.


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