Sometimes we just need a good cry, and if you’re like me, you’ll turn to K-dramas to put you in the crying mood. The dramas listed below (in reverse chronological order) are well-known tear-inducers. From the detailed level of acting to the solid plot line (albeit a little over-the-top at times, but hey, K-dramas!), and also the swelling OSTs, these shows will guarantee you reach for your tissues many, many times.
Warning: Don’t watch these dramas right before going to bed. You’ll wake up with extremely puffy eyes. Also, SPOILERS AHEAD!
8. Goblin (2016)
A story dealing with death is usually sad enough. A story involving a grim reaper? 10 times worse! The main story revolves around a Goblin (also known as Kim Shin, played by Gong Yoo), and a high-schooler, Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun), who can communicate with ghosts. While their past and present day stories are both tear-inducing, it really is the simple stories with the Grim Reaper (Lee Dong Wook) that tug at the heartstrings the most. The simplicity of a dog faithfully waiting for its human, of someone waiting for their loved one in the afterlife, of saying an eternal goodbye — these are the moments that can really strike you in your heart.
7. Kill Me, Heal Me (2015)
Those diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder are generally those who have been through some form of trauma or abuse. This is the case with Cha Do Hyun (Ji Sung), who has to live with six other personalities. He enlists Oh Ri Jin (Hwang Jung Eum), a first year psychiatric resident, to help him with his disorder, but this only brings the secrets of his past to light. While some personalities are seemingly care-free and fun-loving (Yona!), they all carry their own burden and exist for very specific, very heart-breaking reasons. Ji Sung shines exceptionally in this drama, imbuing each personality with their own gravitas and characteristics, and you can not help but care for each of the broken souls.
Watch “Kill Me, Heal Me”:
6. Secret (2013)
I was in love with Ji Sung after watching “Kill Me, Heal Me,” so after some Googling, I came across “Secret,” headlined by the same co-stars, Ji Sung and Hwang Jung Eum. Now, if Ji Sung was the shining star (or seven shining stars) in “Kill Me, Heal Me,” “Secret” really was the vehicle for Hwang Jung Eum. It is a story of revenge, mystery, and love, and every time Hwang Jung Eum’s character Kang Yoo Jung suffers losses that become increasingly personal to her, your heart can’t help but break for her. And every time she breaks down and semi-ugly cries, we full-on (c’mon, let’s admit it) ugly cry right along with her.
5. The Moon Embracing the Sun (2012)
Starring Kim Soo Hyun as the Crown Prince and Han Ga In as Wol/Heo Yeon Woo, “The Moon Embracing the Sun” is a historical drama depicting the struggles between the moon and her two suns. We first meet the main characters during their childhood. Their innocence and naiveté in their early years only make the struggles their adult counterparts go through appear even more saddening. And as we all know, there can only be one sun in the sky, and that itself foreshadows many a heartache for our heroes.
Watch “The Moon Embracing the Sun” here:
4. I’m Sorry, I Love You (2004)
Starring So Ji Sub and Im Soo Jung, “I’m Sorry, I Love You” is a drama oft-quoted even until today, some 13 years later. The initial introduction to our hero is already depressing enough, as we learn that Cha Moo Hyuk (So Ji Sub) was abandoned at birth, later adopted but then abused and thus forced to roam the streets. Later, we are introduced to the heroine Song Eun Chae (Im Soo Jung), and it is the struggle that Moo Hyuk faces between love for family versus love for Eun Chae that continues to propel the story while also breaking our hearts.
3. Stairway to Heaven (2003)
Han Jung Suh (Choi Ji Woo) and Chan Song Joo (Kwon Sang Woo) are childhood friends who bonded over the fact that they have both lost a loved one. Fast forward a few years, and with a sprinkle of evil stepmother, a dash of tangled and jealousy-loaded love relationships, a dollop of memory loss, and a drop of fatal illness when things are just finally falling into place make for a drama where all the cards are stacked against our couple. But our masochist hearts just can’t stop watching and hoping that we’ll have a happy ending. Frankly, we should’ve known better.
2. Winter Sonata (2002)
“Winter Sonata” was the vehicle that catapulted its leads, Bae Yong Joon and Choi Ji Woo, into the stratosphere. Widely considered to be one of the leaders in the Hallyu wave, it has been remade into various versions, including an Indonesian one. It tells a tale of love between Joon Sang (Bae Yong Joon) and Yoo Jin (Choi Ji Woo), which again starts out innocently and sweetly. This, however, is quickly interrupted by a car accident that causes Joon Sang to lose his memory. Cue an over-bearing mother, and the two leads are separated, only to be brought back into each other’s lives when they’ve all seemingly moved on.
1. Autumn in My Heart (2000)
A classic is considered a classic for a reason. “Autumn in My Heart” is another drama that is considered to have brought the Hallyu wave to the rest of the world, and also one that kick-started a slew of melodramatic dramas that has only just slightly slowed down in recent years. Two rivaling girls are discovered to have been switched at birth, and are later forcefully and gut-wrenchingly placed back with their birth families when they are well into their teens. Yoon Eun Suh (Song Hye Kyo) grew up believing Yoon Joon Suh (Song Seung Heon) was her brother, only to find out that they were in fact not blood-related. They slowly develop romantic feelings for each other, but Han Tae Seok (Won Bin), Joon Suh’s good friend who also loves Eun Suh, and their families, who are strongly against the relationship, complicate matters for them. The scene where Joon Suh carries Eun Suh down the beach still brings tears to many eyes.
A special shoutout to:
The J-drama “A Litre of Tears” (2005)
Based on a true-story of a girl diagnosed with an incurable disease, it will literally make you cry a liter of tears.
The US series “Parenthood” (2010–2015) and “This is Us” (2016–ongoing)
Both are built around familial relationships and the personal struggles of the family members, which make the characters’ pain more grounded, more relatable, and much more tear-jerking.
Have you watched all these dramas listed? What other dramas have reduced you to a puddle of tears? Drop your comments below and let us know what we’ve missed!
Belinda_C is a lover of all things K. She is continually fan-girling over all things Shinhwa, and excited for the recent comeback of Highlight (f.k.a. BEAST).