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  • Susanna Lam

5 Korean dramas to watch on Netflix

Watching TV shows can be one of the most engaging and effective ways to learn a foreign language, and a great thing about choosing to learn Korean is the endless variety of entertaining content.

Blackpink’s Thai member, Lisa, who is often praised for her excellent command of the Korean language, has on multiple occasions revealed that her secret to learning Korean was watching lots of Korean dramas. She expressed her love for actor Gong Yoo and disclosed that she had watched Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, one of the dramas we’ve included on our list, multiple times.

This may sound too good to be true. Maybe you’ve watched your share of Korean dramas before but still don’t feel confident listening to the language, let alone forming a sentence. There are common reasons for this, which we’ll explore in the future, but by far the most common is an over-reliance on subtitles in your native language. When you use native language subtitles, it is easy for your brain to not pay attention to the spoken Korean in favor of the words being read on the screen. This is known as passive listening. Active listening, one of the fastest ways to target language acquisition, requires watching the show with either only Korean subtitles or no subtitles at all. But watching Korean dramas with just Korean subtitles or no subtitles at all can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Immersion and exposure to your target language is extremely important, but the effectiveness could be limited if you are unable to pull meaning from what is said.

We created Inkah to make it easier for you to learn Korean by binge-watching your favorite Korean dramas on Netflix. With our Google Chrome extension, you can watch Korean dramas with both English subtitles and Korean captions switched on at the same time. Our pop-up dictionary also allows you to hover over specific words and look up definitions as you watch dramas so you don’t have to go through the trouble of manually looking up every single word in a dictionary.

To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of five Korean dramas you can binge-watch on Netflix guilt-free using Inkah.

1. Crash Landing on You – Susanna’s Pick ⭐

One of the most popular Korean dramas of all time, Crash Landing On You tells the tale of a South Korean heiress Yoon Se Ri (Son Ye Jin), who while paragliding in Seoul, gets blown off course by a sudden storm and ends up on the wrong side of the of the DMZ. There she meets Ri Jeong Hyeok (Hyun Bin), the captain of the North Korean Special Police Force and a member of an elite North Korean family. Captain Ri eventually offers her shelter and devises a plan to secretly get her back to South Korea.

The on-screen chemistry between the two lead actors was so impressive that it had fans falling in love with the couple way before they confirmed their relationship earlier this year, to the delight of #BinJin shippers. This drama also features a series of unique supporting characters who don’t allow themselves to be overshadowed by the main duo. Those who enjoyed the Academy Award-Winning film Parasite will also be treated to familiar faces on the small screen.

Crash Landing on You has also received much praise from North Korean defectors for its portrayal of life in North Korea, in areas such as fashion, setting, and language. For those interested in exploring some of the linguistic differences between the two Koreas, this is a must-watch drama.

Learn vocabulary related to: North Korea, the military, business

2. It's Okay to Not Be Okay – Conor’s Pick ⭐

The New York Times named It’s Okay to Not Be Okay one of "The Best International Shows of 2020."

The series follows Ko Moon Young (Seo Ye Ji), a famous children’s book author with a troubled childhood and antisocial personality disorder and Moon Gang Tae (Kim Soo Hyun), a psychiatric ward caregiver with a similarly tragic past that has the added responsibility of taking care of his autistic older brother, who suffers from the trauma of witnessing the murder of their mother.

Moon Young obsessively tries to gain Gang Tae’s attention and follows him to Seongjin City, where they all grew up. The story unfolds revealing the dramatic and intertwining lives of the main characters as they begin their journey of emotional healing.

Aside from the stunning visuals of the two lead actors as well as the spectacular fashion choices, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay has also been praised for the powerful performances of all the actors and the way in which it addressed the central theme of mental health.

Learn vocabulary related to: psychology, mental health, storytelling

3. Guardian: The Lonely and Great God

This fantasy romance drama, by award-winning writer Kim Eun Sook, is one of the highest-rated Korean dramas in cable television history.

Kim Shin (Gong Yoo) is a modern day Goblin who was once a decorated military general from the Goryeo Dynasty. He was cursed with immortality and is forced to see his loved ones die as punishment for the soldiers he had killed while trying to protect his country. The only way for him to rest in peace would be for him to find the Goblin’s bride and have her remove the sword from his body.

Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun), the Goblin’s bride, is a lively high school student who has the ability to see ghosts and summon the Goblin. She was saved by the Goblin as an infant right before the Grim Reaper could claim her when her pregnant mother was killed in a car accident. Eun Tak unintentionally summons the Goblin for the first time and becomes interested in him.

The Grim Reaper (Lee Dong Wook) moves into the Goblin’s house and the two form a hilariously endearing but complicated relationship due to their fundamentally conflicting interests.

They meet the owner of a chicken store named Sunny (Yoo In Na) and the lives of the four characters intertwine, revealing their painful and interrelated past lives as they struggle with the present.

Learn vocabulary related to: supernatural beings, old (historical) Korean

4. Start-Up

Set in the fictional Silicon Valley of South Korea, Start-Up centers around a group of young entrepreneurs following their dreams and starting their own businesses in Korea’s competitive tech industry.

An intelligent and ambitious young woman by the name of Seo Dal Mi (Bae Suzy) dreams of becoming the Steve Jobs of Korea. She meets Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk), founder of Samsan Tech and mistakes him for her first love that she used to correspond with as a young girl.

Dal Mi, Do San and Dal Mi’s estranged sister are selected to join Sandbox, a prestigious tech accelerator in a contest to be the best start-up company. Things get interesting when the real guy from Dal Mi’s past, Han Ji Pyeong (Kim Seon Ho), shows up as one of the investors.

Unlike other Korean dramas with clearly defined romantic leads, this one keeps viewers guessing who Dal Mi will end up with. Are you team Do San or team Ji Pyeong? You’ll have to watch Start-Up to find out.

Learn vocabulary related to: technology, startups, business

5. Vincenzo

The hit series Vincenzo, which premiered in February 2021, tells the story of Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joon Ki), who moved from Korea to Italy at the age of eight after being adopted by Fabio, the head of the Cassano mafia family. He becomes a lawyer and consigliere for the mafia, as well as one of his adopted father’s best men. After Fabio’s death, Paolo (Fabio’s biological son) tries to kill him, leaving him no choice but to escape to Seoul to recover hidden gold from a secured vault hidden beneath the Geumga-dong Plaza. However, he is met with challenges after finding out that a company under the infamous Babel Group has illegally taken over the building. Vincenzo then joins forces with a strong-willed lawyer by the name of Hong Cha Young (Jeon Yeo Bin) to take down Babel Group.

We won’t give any spoilers, but fans of 2PM’s Taecyeon can also get ready to be surprised by his mindblowing performance, which has received much praise from Korean netizens. As this drama is still ongoing, we’ll have to wait together to see how the rest of the story unfolds.

Learn vocabulary related to: crime, law, conglomerates

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