7 Rom-Com K-Dramas That Surprised Us With Their Emotional Intensity
All hail the fluffy rom-com, the bread and butter of K-drama! For many of us, romantic comedy is what sucked us into Korean TV. K-dramas excel at giving us butterflies, loading shows with cute and swoon-worthy moments we can’t help but make GIFs out of.
But lightness and fluff are only one part of what makes a rom-com great. Just as important is a deep emotional core – characters have to suffer through hard times for those sweet moments to feel meaningful. Sometimes there’s conflict in a drama from the beginning, but I love it when the angst arrives later to shake things up. In the best dramas, that tonal shift reignites our interest when things might otherwise start feeling slow. Here are seven rom-coms that took us by surprise with their emotional intensity. Prepare your lols, your uwus, and your tissues!
Warning: spoilers ahead!
1. “100 Days My Prince”
This is the story of a snooty prince (EXO’s D.O.) who gets amnesia and finds himself far from the palace, playing the brand new village idiot with a wife (Nam Ji Hyun) he never asked for. How could such a kooky fish-out-of-water scenario not be hilarious, especially with our beloved Kyungsoo and Ji Hyunnie in the lead roles? But hang on, this is also a sageuk, a Korean historical drama, so how could it not be intense and tragic? “100 Days My Prince” delivers both cuteness and catastrophe in spades. One minute D.O. is Won Deuk, making a mess of village life and annoying his eye-rolling new wife to no end. The next minute he’s back as Prince Lee Yul, putting his life on the line to save his kingdom and the woman he loves.
A flashy, self-absorbed Hallyu star moves in next door to a 400-year-old alien who’s set in his ways like the grumpiest old grandpa. What could possibly go wrong? “My Love From the Star” would’ve been great enough if it was merely a screwball comedy about unlikely neighbors who can’t help but fall for each other. But this drama really shines because it takes its crazy premise and turns it into near-tragedy. When an alien and a human fall in love, how do they make it work? What if they have to stay apart to stay alive? Then there are career-best performances from Jun Ji Hyun and Kim Soo Hyun, who can both move from twinkly-eyed to tortured at the drop of a hat. Altogether, it’s a recipe for a stone-cold K-drama classic.
Check out the first episode of “My Love From the Star”:
3. “I Am Not a Robot”
This is another drama with a high-concept premise which feels surprisingly grounded and relatable, once you look past all the pretending-to-be-a-robot shenanigans. Min Kyu (Yoo Seung Ho) may have a life-threatening allergy to human contact, but he’s also a lonely little boy who feels abandoned by everyone he ever loved. Ji Ah (Chae Soo Bin) may be acting like a robot to help out her scientist ex (and because she really, really needs the money), but she’s also a woman who feels belittled every time she tries to be herself. These two fall in love through the cutest, silliest robot-human interactions, but then the angst starts rearing its head. How can Min Kyu love someone who isn’t real? And how can Ji Ah keep telling the biggest lie to the man who holds her heart?
Check out the first episode of “I Am Not a Robot”:
4. “Secret Garden”
In body-swap rom-com “Secret Garden,” we have endless amounts of fun watching Hyun Bin show Ha Ji Won how to put on a bra, or Ha Ji Won manspreading as she sits deep in thought. It makes no sense that their characters end up in each other’s bodies, but good sense is not what we’re here for! Their bickering, body-swapping antics add an extra sense of fun to their opposites-attract romance before the harsh reality of opposite lifestyles truly sets in. When Joo Won’s (Hyun Bin) mom opposes the star-crossed lovers, we can see the storm clouds start to gather, but when Ra Im (Ha Ji Won) ends up in an accident, all hell truly breaks loose. As a tragic new reality starts to dawn, we wonder how on earth we got here from just a few episodes ago.
Check out the first episode of “Secret Garden”:
5. “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds”
If you manage to sit through “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds” without fainting from all the cute, you’ll get to see Ra On (Kim Yoo Jung) and Lee Young (Park Bo Gum) wink, prance, and yelp their way through one of the warmest, freshest romances ever seen in a sageuk. They even get over that whole she’s-pretending-to-be-a-guy thing without much fuss! BUT WAIT. Is that a heaping pile of parent-inspired misery looming on the horizon? Parents have derailed many a cute romance in Dramaland, but rarely is it on such an epic scale as we see here. This is not just a battle of families, but of beliefs and ideals. Will Ra On and her Crown Prince survive with their adorable smiles intact? Umm… at least they look really pretty when they cry!
Check out the first episode of “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds”:
6. “The Third Charm”
If you don’t know what’s coming in “The Third Charm,” you’ll be in for a big surprise. It doesn’t help that the drama’s poster campaign and trailer suggested a fluffy romance with just a dash of relatable couple-struggle thrown in. What we get instead is full-blown melodrama, with so much intensity that at times that it feels like we’re watching a completely different show. You can’t just give Seo Kang Joon a full head of ahjumma curls and expect us to think this is going to a serious place! But when taken without expectations, “The Third Charm” becomes a touching meditation on how to cope when the worst things in life hit you hard, brought to life by incredible performances from Seo Kang Joon and Esom. This is one for a rainy day.
Check out the first episode of “The Third Charm”:
7. “A Witch’s Romance”
“A Witch’s Romance” opens with Yoon Dong Ha (Park Seo Joon), dressed as Santa, chasing Ban Ji Yeon (Uhm Jung Hwa), dressed as a schoolgirl, as she rides a bike with a giant stuffed teddy bear on her back. If that’s not a setup for a fluffy rom-com, I really don’t know what is. It takes the rest of the first episode for us to figure out exactly what’s going on in that scene, which gives plenty of time to fall in love with charming, decent Dong Ha and fierce queen Ji Yeon. Surely these two, with their love for outlandish costume chases, are a match made in heaven? It looks like it, until a certain “polar bear” ex-boyfriend (Han Jae Suk) arrives on the scene. The unexpected torrent of tears that follows is enough to melt an iceberg.
Check out the first episode of “A Witch’s Romance”:
Which drama made you cry when you least expected? Let us know in the comments below!
Azra_A spends most of her waking hours waiting patiently for 2PM’s next comeback (roll on 2021!). She relies on sheet masks and weird ice cream flavors to help her endure (cucumber is great, ceylon is better). When she’s not watching the comeback clock, you’ll find her on Instagram.