5 K-Dramas That Tell Korean History

Many historical K-dramas set in the Joseon era, the Goryeo era, and more hold a rich history that viewers can learn about while watching. However, there are also shows that give viewers vivid accounts of the lives in the last century. Besides the fabulous fashion, the important events that happened during a period of time is saved in these dramas. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting K-dramas that tell history.

Reply 1997

This is the very first installment in the “Reply” series. “Reply 1997” follows the story of a group of high school friends navigating their way through life and first loves. Yoon Yoon Jae (Seo In Guk), Sung Shi Won (Jung Eun Ji), Mo Yoo Jung (Shin So Yul), Kang Joon Hee (Hoya), Do Hak Chan (Eun Ji Won), and Bang Sung Jae (Lee Si Eon) make up the lively group. What’s fun about this drama is that the audience is left in the dark about the identity of the main married couple until the end of the series.

H.O.T. and pay phones were some of the trendiest things in this K-drama set in the late 1990s. “Reply 1997” shows off the latest products of that decade, and it’s amazing to witness the televisions, phones, and even the fashion trends of the past. The K-pop group H.O.T. was one of the most popular bands at the time, and as a viewer it gives you the opportunity to view the 1990s fandom through the eyes of the fangirls in this memorable friend group!

Watch “Reply 1997” here:

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Reply 1994

Sung Na Jung (Go Ara) reminisces about the good old days of the mid-1990s, when her parents move to Seoul from the countryside. They operate a boarding house, which is where she meets her future husband. Like “Reply 1997,” her husband’s identity stays a secret until the end. Trash (Jung Woo), Sam Cheon Po (Kim Sung Kyun), Haitai (Son Ho Jun), Bing Grae (Baro), Chil Bong (Yoo Yeon Seok), and Jo Yoon Jin (Min Dohee) make up the boarding house residents, and the guessing game begins.

The Korean Basketball League as well as Seo Taiji and the Boys were just a few of the hottest topics around the year 1994. This installment places a spotlight on the two things South Korea adored at the time. All of the characters are influenced by the music of the group, and the leading lady has a crush on a basketball player.

Watch “Reply 1994” here:

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Reply 1988

A group of childhood friends maintain an unbreakable bond that continues into their teen years. Sung Duk Sun (Hyeri), Kim Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol), Sung Sun Woo (Ko Gyung Pyo), Ryu Dong Ryong (Lee Dong Hwi), and Choi Taek (Park Bo Gum) are neighbors, and they are also best friends. But love begins to blossom between Sung Duk Sun and a few of her friends, and her future husband’s identity remains a secret until later in the story. This is also the third installment of the popular “Reply” series.

In this installment, the 1988 Summer Olympics takes the main focus. At that time, the city was full of excitement for the opportunity South Korea was given to be on a global stage. It was a great honor, and it helped pave the way for Korean culture to take over the world. During the games, families were glued to classic television screens and cheering on their home teams. Like the other “Reply” series, this drama is full of nostalgic moments and heartwarming friendships that you don’t want to miss!

Watch “Reply 1988” here:

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Revenge is the only thing on three siblings’ minds after the death of their parents and separation from each other. Lee Kang Mo (Lee Beom Soo), Lee Mi Joo (Hwang Jung Eum), and Lee Sung Mo (Park Sang Min) grow up and deal with many heartbreaking situations. A betrayal by a guardian, an unplanned pregnancy, and a near fatal accident plague their lives in adulthood, and the siblings reunite to get revenge for their father’s death.

“Giant” is set in South Korea’s economic boom of the 1970s. The updated industrial revolution is shown in the series through the emerging new businesses and laborers. The hard work and genius minds of the 1970s created an avenue for the successful companies in the country today. “Giant” also gives a cool glimpse into the 1950s and 1960s when the characters are growing up. The 1950s and 1960s were a time when Korea was in the midst and coming out of the Korean War.

Watch “Giant” here:

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Bridal Mask

Sick of the oppression his family endures for Korea’s independence movement, Lee Kang To (Joo Won) embarks on a successful road as a police officer with Japanese law enforcement. He encounters a masked person coming to the rescue of independence fighters time and time again. Over the course of his career, Lee Kang To realizes that the Japanese colonial regime is unjust and goes undercover to fight for Korea’s independence too.

“Bridal Mask” is set in the 1930s. Viewers get to experience what Korea was like before the Korean War, and when they were under the laws of a foreign country. The series illustrates the struggles independence fighters had to endure on a regular basis and features some heartbreaking moments between characters as they make hard choices. “Bridal Mask” is a raw look at life before modern conveniences and development of the current government.

Hey Soompiers, which K-dramas have taught you the most about Korean history? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

KMoody is a Soompi writer who is a longtime Korean drama fan. Her favorite dramas include “Boys Over Flowers,” “Dream High,” and “Love Alarm!” For more information about her personal and professional writing journey, follow her on Instagram at BTSCelebs.

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