From the 16+ episode stories to unforgettable characters, there really is nothing better than a good Korean drama.
Among the good, the bad, and the ugly are some Korean dramas that have stood the test of time and can be considered some of the best ever created. Here we will present and celebrate our favorite historical dramas!
Of course, you can leave a comment below if we've missed any notable entries, and we'll be sure to check it out and see if it makes the list!
So without further ado, TheReviewGeek team presents our picks (in no particular order!) for the best Korean historical dramas of all time.
Mr Sunshine is an epic historical piece that combines stunning visuals with a really well written story. Coupled with brilliant casting, this is a Korean drama not to be missed.
Set during the Joseon Dynasty in 1871, Mr. Sunshine begins with a brief glimpse into the past when a Korean boy boards an American warship and grows up as an American in the United States.
When he returns to his hometown, as an American soldier, he causes plenty of internal turmoil and conflict. Spoiling much more would be a disservice to this drama.
The story has a brilliant pace, even across its sprawling 24 episodes, and the series backs up its solid writing with some superb production design and set pieces.
The Crowned Clown
The Crowned Clown is a dramatic, politically charged series full of suspense, twists and turns. With a satisfying conclusion and impressive cinematography throughout, this Korean drama delivers on all levels.
Set in Joseon, the royal family find themselves in a state of disarray after a series of uprisings among the unfortunate populace. A power struggle for the throne soon ensues, with the insane Lee Hun ruling with an iron fist. The Dowager Queen, along with her close adviser Sin Chi-Soo, plans to overthrow the king.
When an entertainer with the same face as the king arrives in town, Lee Hun switches places with the pretender. Unprepared and overwhelmed, he ascended the throne with the help of Eunuch Jo and the royal secretary Ha Sun.
With teasing glimpses of romance and plenty of dramatic plot twists, The Crowned Clown constantly outdoes itself and hosts a series of shocking revelations along the way.
Mr Queen is a hilarious, well-written body swapping comedy set deep in the heart of the Joseon era.
Despite a polarizing ending and a few misfires, this historical drama is undoubtedly a really solid and entertaining watch.
For those who don't know, this drama is a remake of the popular Chinese costume drama Go Princess Go. However, this remake has its own quirks and unique elements.
The story revolves around Bong-Hwan, an arrogant chef suffering from a head injury that throws him back through time. When he wakes up, he is trapped in the body of the new Queen So-Yong. With the political powers conspiring to thwart them at any moment, Bong-Hwan does his best to play his part as he desperately searches for a way back to the present.
Shin Hye-Sun and Kim Jung-Hyun absolutely carry this show, with some downright electric scenes as they share the spotlight. This one is definitely worth a watch.
Mein Land: New Age
My Country: New Age is set at the end of the Goryeo period and enters the early Joseon Dynasty. It depicts a shifting wave of Korean traditions with two friends embroiled in an epic conflict.
On one side is Seo Hwi, a warrior whose father is a famous general. In comparison, Seon-Ho is a smart and talented character. Unfortunately, a corruption scandal involving Seon-Ho's father shatters his dreams of passing the military service exam. As things progress, he and Seo-Hwi form an intense rivalry as they disagree on the direction of the country.
Armed with some excellent combat sequences (and some miraculous recoveries from stab wounds!), My Country: New Age is a decent series, and one with a bittersweet ending.
The Empress Ki
Most Korean dramas take place over the course of 16 episodes. The Empress Ki? Whole 51! Don't let that put you off though, The Empress Ki is a genuinely compelling historical epic that (unsurprisingly) focuses on Empress Ki.
With all the usual courtroom shenanigans, double crossings, and sublime drama you would expect, the cast and crew really help enhance this story and make it an epic watch.
While there are a few historical inaccuracies, with such a dramatic spate of episodes, The Empress Ki makes it very easy to overlook.
moon hugging the sun
The Moon Embracing The Sun is a historical drama centered on timeless forbidden love. With good acting and some really cute child actors in the first half, this K-drama certainly has many positive aspects.
The story here revolves around King Lee Hwon and a shaman named Wol. Wol was born into a noble family but became a crown princess. Unfortunately, she faced execution but was able to survive and live as a shaman. This is where our story really begins as Lee Hwon and Wol grow closer.
There's a lot of melodramatic moments here and some pretty good mystery woven throughout.
Six flying kites
Six Flying Dragons is another 50 episode epic and that's probably the most accurate word for this one.
This historical Korean drama focuses on the success stories of six people who lived right on the cusp of the Joseon Dynasty. In particular, the story revolves around Lee Bang-Won, the third king in the Joseon Dynasty. This man was instrumental in helping his father, King Taejo, lay the foundations of this dynasty.
Well, the series isn't entirely accurate on the historical front, but it does have a lot of compelling drama and some really memorable moments.
The Great Queen Seondeok
The Great Queen Seondeok is the longest drama on this list, and with good reason. Although 50 episodes were originally planned, the incredibly high ratings forced the producers to expand the drama to 62.
The story here revolves around Queen Seondeok who was born as twins but was abandoned as a baby. She was later taken back to Silla Palace, where she joined forces with her sister, Princess Chonmyong. Together they oppose Mi-Shil, who wants to seize power.
This forms the core of the drama that follows, as the show begins at the end of King Jinheung's reign and continues until the end of Queen Seondeok's reign.
Though there are some historical inaccuracies, this Korean drama is well written and certainly a rollercoaster ride!
100 days my prince
100 Days My Prince is a fascinating Korean drama. While it doesn't necessarily do anything outstanding, it ticks all the usual boxes one would expect from a historical drama.
The story here begins with Crown Prince Lee Yool falling off a cliff and nearly dying in an assassination attempt. Plagued by amnesia, Lee Yool wanders under a new name and personality for 100 days. During this time, he meets Hong Sim, the head of the first detective agency in Joseon.
What follows is a historical drama that blends comedy, romance and history into one bubbling pot of goodness. The mystery is engaging and the chemistry between the actors helps enhance it.
Dong Yi is another long-running historical drama that was released 11 years ago. But it's still as entertaining and exciting as it was then.
The story takes place during the reign of King Sukjong in the Joseon Dynasty. The series itself is based on the real-life historical character Choi Suk-Bin.
Dong-Yi's father and brother are members of the Sword Fraternity, wrongly accused of murdering nobles. Dong Yi then conceals her identity and enters the palace as a servant of the Bureau of Music, determined to uncover her family's innocence and find the true organizers of the nobles' deaths.
Based on a true story, Dong Yi does a really good job of showing this extraordinary woman's journey from humble servant to court inspector.
The Story of Nokdu
Based on the webcomic "Nokdujeon" by Hye Jin Yang, The Tale Of Nokdu is something of a love-hate relationship for many drama watchers. However, if you fall on the love side, there's a lot to like.
The story revolves around Jeon Nok-Du, a man who lives on an island with his father and older brother. When they are attacked by a group of female assassins, Nok-Du hunts them down.
The girl disappears into a widow's village, prompting Nok-Du to disguise herself as a woman and enter. There he meets Dong-Ju, a woman he previously helped when he assumed his male disguise. As it turns out, she's actually an apprentice to become a gisaeng.
This romantic comedy certainly has some good laughs along the way, backed by some convincing actors as well.
My cheeky girl
Not to be confused with the 2001 film of the same name, the serial version of My Sassy Girl is arguably better than its film counterpart. There's a lot more characterization here, too, and the show ensures hearty laughs throughout.
The story revolves around a romance between the scholar Gyeon Woo from the cold city and the naughty princess Hye-Myung. It takes place deep in the Joseon Dynasty and it's fair to say that it doesn't have the best reputation among the people.
In fact, Hye-Myung often sneaks out of the palace in search of her mother, the dethroned queen. One night she meets Gyeon Woo and while they initially start out as enemies, this facade soon breaks and they fall in love.
Novice historian Goo Hae Ryung
Part historical drama, part romantic comedy, Rookie Historian Go0 Hae-Ryung is an interesting and entertaining series.
The story begins as a whimsical comedy and follows hopeful Goo Hae-ryung in the early 19th century. She was recruited to work as the first female historian at the royal palace.
With a strict hierarchy and traditions to abide by, the series explores a growing romance between Goo and Prince Lee. Shunned by his father and kept away from political affairs, Lee spends his days writing and longing to get rid of his title.
As the episodes progress, Lee finds himself back into royal affairs. In the process, he and Goo Hae-ryung become entwined and begin to fall in love.
Moon Lovers: Scharlachrotes Herz Ryeo
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo is a classic time travel story, but much less a fantasy and more of a historical drama. It's also another remake, this time the 2011 Chinese drama Scarlet Heart
The story begins with a total solar eclipse that sends a 25-year-old, 21st-century woman back through time, named Ha-Jin. She ends up in the Goryeo Dynasty and in the body of Hae Soo, one of the many royal princes of the ruling Wang family. King Taejo sits on the throne, but Ha-Jin falls in love with a gentle and warm-hearted Prince Wang Wook.
As the story progresses, Ha-Jin finds himself involved in palace politics as the princes begin a rivalry over the heir to the throne.
The ending is suitably bittersweet, and the show does an excellent job of blending drama and romance together.
And there we have it, our list of the best Korean historical dramas of all time! We will update this page regularly as we see more Korean dramas.
What do you think of our list? Have we included your favourites? Or did we miss any must-see dramas? We love hearing from you, so don't hesitate to let us know in the comments below.
You can check out more of our K-Drama content here!
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- Mr. ...
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- Our Blues – 1 season (2022) ...
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The first historical television series in South Korea was aired in 1962 on state channel KBS, titled Gukto malli (국토만리), directed by Kim Jae-hyeong (김재형), set in the era of Goguryeo.