Soompi & Viki Staff Talk: What Is Your Favorite K-Drama Featuring Chaebol Characters?

What many K-dramas have in common no matter the genre is the existence of chaebol characters, meaning that they are part of families that own major conglomerates. In this edition of “Soompi & Viki Staff Talk” series, some of our staff members discuss our favorite K-dramas that include such characters.

Here are the comments from our staff:

Warning: minor spoilers ahead

Sala: “Dali and Cocky Prince

New money meets old money in the chaotic rom-com that is “Dali and Cocky Prince.” Full of laughter, unexpected twists, and touching moments, the drama stars Kim Min Jae as Jin Mu Hak, a man who lacks book smarts but is extremely resourceful at making a living, and Park Gyu Young as Kim Dal Li, a woman who is intellectually polished and comes from an elite background but doesn’t know how to take care of herself. What really sells the show are the actors and their amazing portrayals of their characters. Having come from new money, Jin Mu Hak is rough around the edges when trying to fit in with the high class society, but he remains undaunted and confident in his day to day life, especially as tries to woo Kim Dal Li. On the other hand, Kim Dal Li is everything sweet in the world after growing up sheltered (or seemingly so as there’s a lot more to her than just her lovely and innocent appearance), and she even believes Jin Mu Hak is just being funny rather than being uninformed about fine arts, making for some hilarious (and endearing) misunderstandings between the two. Nevertheless, despite their differences in upbringings and personalities (as well as the interference of Kim Dal Li’s ex-boyfriend Jang Tae Jin (Kwon Yool), they make their relationship work, and their romance could not be any simpler or sweeter!

Watch “Dali and Cocky Prince” below:

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Ginny: “Boys Over Flowers

When it comes to chaebol stories, my favorite would have to be the timeless hit “Boys Over Flowers.” Lee Min Ho plays Gu Jun Pyo, an arrogant 2nd generation chaebol and the leader of the F4, the powerful group of boys at Shinhwa High School. Geum Jan Di (Ku Hye Sun) is a girl from a regular family who is accepted to Shinhwa High School with a scholarship by chance, and she is bullied by Gu Jun Pyo at first. They end up spending more time together and sharing experiences that are completely new to each other. Gu Jun Pyo eats ramen for the first time with Geum Jan Di, and he takes her on a fancy trip to New Caledonia. As they spend more time together, they gradually fall in love. It’s really the classic chaebol love story that is a must-watch for any K-drama fan!

Watch “Boys Over Flowers” below:

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Winnie: “Reborn Rich

As K-drama fans, we’re no strangers to stories about chaebols. We’ve seen the cliche of chaebol men falling in love with poor women a countless amount over the years, but the recent trending plot seems to be chaebol revenge. As seen in dramas including “Itaewon Class” and “Eve,” characters who suffer due to chaebols plan major revenge against them. Viewers desperately wait for the big moment when the main character wins back everything they lost. For fans of this plot, the currently airing “Reborn Rich” is one to check out. Yoon Hyun Woo (Song Joong Ki) is a loyal secretary to a chaebol family who dies after being framed for embezzlement by the very family that he had faithfully served. He is then reborn as the family’s youngest son Jin Do Joon, and he plots to take over the company in order to exact revenge. Let’s stay tuned to find out how his plans turn out!

Watch “Reborn Rich” below:

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JJin: “The Penthouse

“The Penthouse,” a three-season series, is one of the most dramatic revenge dramas. The drama deals with the tale of the residents of the luxurious 100-story Hera Palace and all the greedy secrets, betrayals, and corruption motivated by hunger for money and power. The three mothers Sim Su Ryeon (Lee Ji Ah), Cheon Seo Jin (Kim So Yeon), and Oh Yoon Hee (Eugene) would do anything and everything to ensure their children’s success, even if it means committing crimes. Unlike other chaebol revenge dramas with the lesson that good wins over evil, this drama demonstrates the power of the wealthy and the fact that no one is innocent in the Hera Palace. They are all distinct chaebol characters with unique backstories and their own goals. Moreover, there are so many shocking plot twists that it’s difficult to predict what will happen next. Although “The Penthouse” is known for the crazy plot, it also tells the story of romance, family bonds, friendship, and the development of villain characters over the seasons. You will get to see so many outstanding actors and might be surprised to learn that some of the supporting actors are now the main leads in their recent dramas. If you’re tired of watching lovey-dovey romance and want to watch an insanely intense thriller, “The Penthouse” is a perfect drama to binge-watch that will have your eyes glued to the screen!

Watch “The Penthouse” below:

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Somni: “Kill Me Heal Me

“Kill Me Heal Me” is a romantic comedy about a business mogul’s grandson Cha Do Hyun (Ji Sung), who has seven different personalities, and a female physician Oh Ri Jin (Hwang Jung Eum), who becomes his secret doctor after one year of residency. Although the drama deals with heavy subjects such as violence and mental abuse that the main character suffered as a child by his parents (this is one of the factors that led to his multiple personality disorder), Ji Sung’s unique vibe and his stunning portrayal of the seven different identities within Cha Do Hyun create perfect harmony, solidifying his position as a top-tier actor in Korea. On top of Ji Sung and Hwang Jung Eum’s heartwarming chemistry, Ji Sung and Park Seo Joon’s (or should I say Ahn Yo Na and Oh Ri On’s) chemistry is also noteworthy—let’s not forget that these two took home the Best Couple Award at the 2015 MBC Drama Awards! The drama not only provides comfort to viewers who might have suffered from similar trauma but also helps them find how their defense mechanisms work in various situations. In many aspects, “Kill Me Heal Me” is a must-watch series, and I hope you will start watching it to find out what the title “Kill Me Heal Me” implies!

Watch “Kill Me Heal Me” below:

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Sehee: “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

My favorite K-drama starring a chaebol character is “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon,” a hilarious, lively, and dynamic romantic drama that defies pre-existing gender stereotypes. Ahn Min Hyuk (Park Hyung Sik) is a chaebol and the CEO of a gaming company, while Do Bong Soon (Park Bo Young) is a woman with supernatural strength who gets hired as his bodyguard. He embraces Do Bong Soon’s extraordinary characteristics by showcasing his cute and adorable personality within their relationship. If you want to laugh endlessly, “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon” should be included in your must-watch K-drama list!

Watch “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon” below:

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Jessie: “W

I recently re-watched the Korean drama “W,” a very creative drama from 2016 showcasing two different worlds of the real world and cartoon world. Kang Chul (Lee Jong Suk), a handsome millionaire who owns the entire broadcasting studio Channel W, is the main character of a cartoon. After his family was murdered by an unknown killer, he devoted his energy in searching for the criminal and became insanely rich. In the real world, a cartoon artist named Oh Sung Moo (Kim Eui Sung) is the owner and writer of the best-seller cartoon “W.” He has been writing the story of Kang Chul but plans to kill him and end the story. His daughter though, hospital nurse Oh Yeon Joo (Han Hyo Joo), unknowingly gets dragged into the cartoon world and saves Kang Chul from death, rewriting the entire planned story. And that’s where the spark between the two begins. Kang Chul tries to discover who he is by searching for Oh Yeon Joo while she tries stopping her father from killing his main character. With all this, the cartoon’s story goes down the rabbit hole with each episode, and Kang Chul starts to become aware of who he truly is…How will the cartoon “W” truly end? That’s for you to discover because even 6 years later, the story is still gripping, romance dripping, and mind tripping for today’s K-drama fans!

Watch “W” below:

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Natalie: “Secret Garden

One of the most classic chaebol titles in the history of K-dramas has to be “Secret Garden.” Having aired in 2010, it has set the template for many Cinderella storylines in the K-drama scene, driving trope fans around the world absolutely crazy. Let’s discuss some of these tropes that I love so much, shall we? Trope No. 1: Poor girl, rich boy…and the poor girl actually REJECTS the rich boy (gasp). She’s not playing hard to get, and she’s not plotting revenge against him. She just genuinely does not find his gorgeous face, perfect body, and never-ending wealth attractive—on the contrary, stuck-up and unpleasant to say the least. It’s captivating to watch how the once-foes slowly fall in love and admit to themselves that they can’t live without each other. Trope No. 2: They’re from two different worlds, but their chemistry is off the charts. Gil Ra Im (Ha Ji Won) and Kim Ju Won (Hyun Bin) are from two totally opposite backgrounds. But somehow, for two people who have close to nothing in common, they have insane chemistry. Their banter, sometimes even bitter, is sure to put a smile on your face, and you can’t help but agree that if you had met someone like that who is so in sync with you, you, too, would fall so helplessly in love. You have to watch the drama to really grasp what I mean, and you won’t regret it! Check out “Secret Garden” and see for yourself why so many Cinderella-story K-dramas follow the same rules.

Watch “Secret Garden” below:

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Yeon: “Heirs

This topic can’t be discussed without mentioning “Heirs”…arguably THE chaebol drama of all chaebol dramas. Although it is mainly focused on the love story of chaebol heir Kim Tan (Lee Min Ho) and his family’s housekeeper’s daughter Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye), almost all the characters in the drama are chaebols. Featuring a star-studded cast also including Kim Woo Bin, Krystal, Kim Ji Won, Kang Min Hyuk, Kang Ha Neul, and Park Hyung Sik, the series explores all sorts of stories about the elite class including conflict, romance, friendships, broken families, and more. Whether or not the portrayals of chaebols are realistic, it’s entertaining to watch what goes on in a world that most of us are not very familiar with personally—and even better to see our favorite actors in those roles! With the perfect balance of drama, comedy, and romance, “Heirs” is a legendary drama that never gets old.

Watch “Heirs” below:

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What is your favorite drama featuring chaebol characters? Let us know in the comments below!

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