By PIERRA CALASANZ-LABRADOR | Illustrated by CARISSA BAUTISTA
Wondering if you should dip your toe into the K-drama black hole? Curious about the titles that have robbed your friends of sleep or sanity (constantly babbling gibberish about a certain Captain Ri…)? K-dramas have mastered the art of visually-appealing, heartstring-pulling (or heartstopping) storytelling, offering the perfect antidote — with matching catchy soundtrack — to these stressful times. From eye-candy rom-coms to social justice suspense dramas, there’s a K-drama match (and oppa) for you.
If you’re ready to get your feet wet but don’t know where to start, here are K-drama recommendations that may resonate with your sun sign. (P.S. We used Chinggay Labrador’s book, Practical Magic: Your Guide To Everyday Astrology, as reference.)
ARIES: Boys Over Flowers (2009)
As the leader of the Zodiac, you may want to kick off your K-drama immersion with one of the key titles that opened the Hallyu (Korean wave) portal for hordes of devotees and set the trend for the slick, stylized productions (and much-parodied tropes). Based on the Japanese manga
Hana Yori Dango and a remake of the Taiwanese live-action adaptation Meteor Garden, BOF chronicles the epic romance of spunky scholar Geum Jan-di (Ku Hye-Sun) who stands up to Gu Jun Pyo, the arrogant leader of the powerful campus hottie gang F4 (played by Lee Min Ho in a perm he must be regretting now). Packed with all the classic elements of a melodramatic Cinderella tale — evil chaebol* mom, kidnapping, amnesia, knight-in-shining-armor piggyback-riding moments — clear your sched, because it’s guilty pleasure binge-worthy for your fiery Aries soul.
*large family-owned business conglomerate
Watch also: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (2016) If spoiled chaebol antics aren’t your thing, check out this lighthearted, contemporary, and super popular series that spawned a new generation of K-drama converts. Verbal sparring turns to attraction for female collegiate weightlifter Kim Bok Joo (Lee Sung-Kyung) and swimmer Jung Joon-Hyung (Nam Joo-Hyuk), whose childhood trauma affects his athletic performance. Fun fact: sparks flew on and off camera, as they became a couple IRL. The loyal, competitive Aries in you will also love the down-to-earth friendships, the rivalry with the gymnastic team, and the quirky catchprases (“Do you like Messi?”). Be prepared to crave for chicken and beer.
TAURUS: Romance is a Bonus Book (2019)
If your steadfast Taurus heart longs for a warm and fuzzy drama after a stressful day, this charming noona* romance fits the bill. Down-on her-luck former star copywriter Kang Dan-Yi (the lovely Lee Na-Young) has to downplay her brilliance to land an entry-level job in a publishing house, where she ends up working alongside the young chief editor (her old friend and budding love interest Cha Eun-Ho, played by Lee Jong Suk) by day, and secretly squatting in his house by night. Brownie points for the #poetryisnotdead discussions.
Watch also: Something in The Rain (AKA “Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food,” 2018) is steady, sweet, and surprisingly socially relevant (addressing dating taboos and sexual harassment in the workplace). It stars Son Ye Jin who falls for her best friend’s younger brother (smiley-eyed Jung Hae-In) and worries what people will say. Bait for the chill Taurus: lots of music video-worthy umbrella moments, and possibly the most mature younger guy in dramaland. Did we mention it has hot kissing scenes?
GEMINI: Coffee Prince (2007)
This classic gender-bending rom-com will speak to your prankster twin personality. Ko Eun-Chan (Yoon Eun-Hye) disguises herself as a guy to score a job at a coffee shop with an all-male pretty boy hiring policy, and romance brews/comedy ensues when cafe owner Choi Han-Gyul (Gong Yoo!) agonizes over his feelings for her, doubting his own sexuality. Set in an actual coffee shop in the Hongdae area, Coffee Prince was instrumental in popularizing Seoul’s cute café culture, plus it has a soundtrack that will stay with you. P.S. Spot Parasite‘s rich daddy who plays the amiable second lead!
Watch also: Secret Garden (2010), starring (a young, skinny, shiny tracksuit-clad) Hyun Bin as a CEO who complicates the modest life of a stunt double (Ha Ji-Won) when he falls for her. Wait for it — the show really kicks into high gear with the body-switching hijinks! (Also: Hyun Bin sings on the OST!)
CANCER: Winter Sonata (2002)
Empaths of the zodiac, get your tissue ready. Considered theiconicHallyu gateway series, Winter Sonata exploits the classic tropes — star-crossed lovers, identity change, amnesia, birth secrets — in a moving first love melodrama that will tug violently at your heartstrings. This made Bae Yong-Joon and Choi Ji Woo into household names (hence, Choi Ji Woo’s cameo on Crash Landing on You), and to this day, a “Winter Sonata tour” of Nami Island remains a bucket list destination for any self-respecting K-drama fan.
Watch also: Reply 1988 (2015) This warmhearted, coming-of-age drama of five neighborhood pals (Park Bo Gum alert!) and their families is that rare gem that packs kilig, comic relief, and deeply poignant learning moments (that father-daughter storyline!) without devolving into sappy sentimentality. Stellar ensemble cast, and the nostalgic vibe will especially resonate with Gen X Cancers.
LEO: Dream High (2011)
For the drama queen that craves the spotlight, this show will feel like home. Set in Kirin High, a fictional performing arts academy where aspiring artists reach for stardom, Dream High is filled with juicy intrigue, high energy, and palpable attraction. What made the show especially trendy was that the students were played by actual pop stars — Bae Suzy, IU, T-Ara’s Eun Jung, 2 PM’s Taecyon and Wooyoung, while rising star Kim Soo-Hyun is now a huge name. So. Much. Fun.
Watch also: Strong Girl Do Bong-Soon (2017) Passionate and bright Bong Soon (Park Bo-Young) dreams of being the star of her own video game creation (ah, Leo confidence), but due to her superhuman strength ends up instead as the personal bodyguard of video gaming company CEO Min-Hyuk (Park Hyung-Sik). Cutie CEO starts to fall for her, but she’s been in love with her buddy Detective Kook-Doo (Ji Soo) since forever. Despite the drama’s peppy tone and slapstick gangsters, there’s a darkness that lurks beneath the surface, and all three are pulled into finding the perpetrator of crimes against women in the neighborhood.
VIRGO: Kingdom (2019)
OK, so this isn’t your regulation K-drama, but this period zombie thriller — Netflix’s first original Korean series — is just the thing to suit discerning Virgo sensibilities. Based on the webcomic series Kingdom of the Gods by Kim Eun-hee, Kingdom is set in the turbulent Joseon era just after the Japanese invasion, and follows Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-Hoon) as he tries to investigate a mysterious undead plague secretly afflicting the emperor and sweeping across provinces, while battling coup attemps and political conspiracies. Joining the Crown Prince in his mission is physician Seo-Bi (Bae Doo-na), who may hold the key to ending the plague. Cinematography, costume design, casting, and cliffhanger pacing all on point—the question is: is there a season three?
Watch also: What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? (2018) A preening, perfectionist boss (Park Seo-Joon) is at a loss when his trusty secretary (Park Min-Young) quits, and he exhausts all means to get her back because he needs her in his life, and in the process, they discover how their fates are inextricably linked. Also, hot chemistry.
LIBRA: Crash Landing On You (2019)
The hopeless romantic, fashion-loving Libran will fall hard for this ultimate gateway drama of the season. South Korean heiress and workaholic CEO Yoon Se-Ri (Son Ye-Jin) goes paragliding, and a freak storm causes her to crash land in North Korea, literally into the arms of oppa peg Captain Ri Jeong-Hyeok (Hyun-Bin). The attempts of the noble officer and his (adorable) Company Five men to get her back across the border will have you holding your breath, and the fantastical plot flies thanks to epic storytelling, intriguing locations, multidimensional characters, and beautiful attention to detail. It’s a rollercoaster ride of twisty subplots, heartwarming community dynamics, and tender kilig scenes (watch for that second love team!), and you’ll be crying buckets wondering what to do with your life when it’s done.
Watch also: Love in The Moonlight (2016) For a dreamy fictional Joseon-era rom-com that stirs your Libran sense of justice: Park Bo Gum stars as a seemingly carefree but surprisingly clever Crown Prince who is trying to navigate tricky politics while developing an eyebrow-raising friendship with one of the palace eunuchs and self-styled love guru Hong Ra On (Kim You-Jung), a girl in disguise.
SCORPIO: Sky Castle (2018)
Dedicated to digging up dirty secrets? This nail-biting drama/dark comedy is for you. The story revolves around housewives who live in the fictional privileged neighborhood SKY* Castle, and how they are obsessed with wealth and social standing, stopping at nothing to make sure their husbands and children succeed, sometimes with fatal consequences. Their fairy tale facade starts to crumble when a down-to-earth new family moves in. Despite the high drama, SKY Castle struck a nerve with viewers for challenging Korea’s competitive educational system and addressing the very real problem of suicide, making it the highest rated Korean drama in cable television history to date.
*SKY is an acronym for Korea’s most prestigious universities
Watch also: Healer (2014) A match for your Scorpio intensity is this action-packed romantic spy drama, where the truth about an old case brings together a conflicted top journalist (Yoo Ji-Tae), a passionate internet reporter (Park-Min Young), and an illegal “night courier” known as “Healer” (Ji Chang-Wook). Gotta love the scene-stealing hacker ajumma (Kim Mi-Kyung). Brilliantly maintains the suspense and electric chemistry all the way up until the 20th episode!
SAGITTARIUS: Itaewon Class (2020)
This non-goopy, guy-approved melodrama is just the thing to fire up ambitious archers of the zodiac. Park Seo-Joon (in arguably his best role yet) stars as a principle-abiding, aspiring cop whose dreams and family are wrecked by the powers behind Jangga Co, where his father works. After a stint in prison, he works slowly but surely toward building his own food empire at the heart of the eclectic Itaewon district — honest success as the best revenge. Diverse, complex characters, real life business tactics, a bizarre love triangle, and villains you’ll love to hate on will have you totally invested in this glorious underdog drama (you’ll be shouting at the screen with all its unexpected twists and mic-drop dialogue). Intense, inclusive, and incredibly motivating, Itaewon Class captures the zeitgeist of this generation, complete with fight song that will play in your head when you face your own challenges.
Watch also: My Love From The Star (2013) A science fiction romance with a time travel angle? Be still, your Sagittarius heart! Kim Soo-Hyun stars as a stoic, seemingly perfect man who is actually an alien who landed on earth during the Joseon Dynasty era, and in modern times, falls in love with a famous actress (Gianna Jun) just as he’s scheduled to go back home.
CAPRICORN: Hwarang: The Poet Warrior (2016)
For the eternal student of life, here’s a drama that’s (loosely) based on history. Park Seo-Joon, Park Hyung-Sik, Minho (of Shinee), and Kim Tae-Hyung (V of BTS) and other eye candy star as The Hwarang (“Flowering Knights”), an elite group of male youths formed during the ancient Kingdom of Silla—secretly among them is their future king. Go Ara is here for the romance factor, but it’s the brotherhood and political scheming that make for compelling viewing. Despite some plot holes, it’s entertaining, thought-provoking, and ends on a brilliantly satisfying note.
Watch also: Encounter (2018) Because Capricorn workaholics need to be reminded to play, this sweet noona romance between a successful but ice-cold CEO (Song Hye Kyo) and a fresh-faced company newbie whose hobby is film photography (can Park Bo Gum get any cuter?) will put a smile on your face for 16 episodes straight.
AQUARIUS: When The Camellia Blooms (2019)
Rebels who march to the beat of their own drum will relate to this deceptively low-key but powerful drama that celebrates strong females and fierce mamas. Single mom Dong Baek (ever brilliant Gong Hyo-Jin) moves to a small town and instantly attracts gossip when she puts up her bar-restaurant Camellia. Local police officer Hwang Yong-Sik (adorkable Kang Ha-Neul) acts as her personal knight despite her protests, and complicating her already thorny life are appearances of people from her past. Did we mention there’s a serial killer on the loose?
Watch also: Gangnam Beauty (2018) Despite the seemingly trivial title and cutesy scenes, this drama has surprising gravitas for tackling beauty standards and self-esteem issues, just the thing for the woke Aquarian. Im Soo-Hyang stars as a college student Kang Mi-Rae who undergoes cosmetic surgery due to severe bullying in high school, but her plan backfires when she faces discrimination yet again, this time for her artificial appearance. Reigning campus beauty Hyun Soo-a (Jo Woo-ri) is confident she’ll win the attention of stoic heartthrob Do Kyung-seok (Cha Eun-woo, the true beauty of this series IMHO), but is livid when his only kindness seems to be reserved for Kang Mi-Rae. Let the games begin.
PISCES: Goblin (2016)
Want to indulge your Pisces penchant for over-the-top dramas with a dash of supernatural? Get ready to suspend disbelief with this blockbuster hit and pop culture phenomenon. Gong Yoo stars as a kind but lonely Goblin, searching for the human bride who can end his cursed immortality, and fate leads him to cheery high school student Ji Eun-Tak (Kim Go-Eun) in present-day Seoul. Goblin somehow ends up living with the cynical but apparently socially awkward Grim Reaper (Lee Dong-Wook), who in turn is perplexed by his own attraction to chicken shop owner Sunny (Yoo In-Na). With stunning cinematography, sigh-worthy romance, and a scene-stealing bromance between TV’s most dashing deities, this is definitely a must-watch.
Watch also: The Master’s Sun (2013) Kong Sil (Gong Hyo-Jin) is traumatized by her ability to see ghosts, and discovers that they disappear when she touches rich snob Joong Won (So Ji-Sub), and so she tries to keep him by her side like her very own personal ghostbuster. A much-loved drama perfect for the intuitive Pisces who enjoys solving mysteries by gut feel and who prefers rom-coms with a touch of the macabre.
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