11 Great K-Dramas To Binge Watch With Your Friends
K-dramas have been a treasure trove when it comes to celebrating the many shades of friendship in all its glory. There’s the good, the bad, the ugly, the heartwarming to the heartbreaking, and sometimes funny and bittersweet. Friends are life, and no one said it better than these dramas. And somewhere along the way, you end up befriending these characters as well. Here are 11 K-dramas you can revisit with your tribe.
An all-time favorite among many K-drama fans, “Reply 1988” is a true celebration of those wonder years gone by and a keepsake for what friendship really is. Flashback to the year 1988 as Seoul awaited a landmark event prepping for the Summer Olympics, we meet the tribe of Ssangmun-dong. There’s the feisty school slacker (and the only girl amongst the band of boys) Duk Sun (Hyeri), the endearing introvert champion and genius go player Choi Taek (Park Bo Gum), the reliable, hardworking model student Sun Woo (Go Kyung Pyo), the broodingly quiet yet observant Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol), and the goofy, mischievous, and easygoing Dong Ryong (Lee Dong Hwi). They have been inseparable since they were babies. Now on the threshold of adulthood as the world around them starts to change, what remains unchanged is their bond with each other.
In them you will see shades of your own teen years as they sneak past parents, get into trouble at school, eat and fight over the last bite of ramyun and pizza, or wrestle to lay their hands on the VHS copy of the latest American blockbuster or a cassette of the latest album. Whatever it is, they are in it together for better and worse. “Reply 1988” is a throwback to those simpler times when life and relationships felt a lot more uncomplicated and carefree.
Start watching “Reply 1988”:
“Twenty Five, Twenty One”
When Min Chae discovers her mother Hee Do’s old journals, she is curious to read what her mother was really like as a teenager. We are introduced to Na Hee Do (Kim Tae Ri), a spirited fencer who dreams to play for her country, defeat her arch rival, and experience true love and heartbreak. In the meantime, she is also obsessed with the comic “Full House” and can move heaven and earth to lay her hands on the latest edition of the same. But more than Hee Do, Min Chae is taken in with reading about Baek Yi Jin (Nam Joo Hyuk), a young man who constantly finds mention in Hee Do’s diaries. Baek Yi Jin was Hee Do’s best friend, cheerleader, and first love. Their story not only had Min Chae but also viewers invested to know how Hee Do and Yi Jin’s relationship actually panned out. And even though their story may not have had a promised end that one envisioned, what stayed were their conversations and the promise to be great together wherever they are. When a teary Hee Do asks Yi Jin, “Why do you root for me? Even my mom doesn’t,” Yi Jin simply answers, “Because you give me hope. And I want more for you. And it makes me want to do well too.”
“Twenty Five, Twenty One” is an achingly stirring coming-of-age story of young love, friendships, hopes, and dreams. It will make you laugh and shed a few tears along the way as it tells the story of the bittersweet brush of first love, an aching heartbreak that still lingers on, and the cherished memories you hold onto in your heart.
Dong Man (Park Seo Joon) is a taekwondo and martial arts expert. But after losing a competitive fight, Dong Man has lost his self confidence and puts his dreams on the back burner. His best friend Choi Ae Ra (Kim Ji Won), an aspiring news anchor, is not too keen on him being back in the fighting arena. But Dong Man needs to win that one bout, despite a health issue, to get his confidence and self-esteem back as an athlete. In the meantime, as Ae Ra auditions for one gig after the other, her best friend Seol Hee (Song Ha Yoon), who works at a home shopping network, lacks confidence in herself and her relationship. She is involved with Joo Man (Ahn Jae Hong), but they hide their relationship at work, especially since Joo Man is a senior and also comes from a different social strata. Can they overcome the social hierarchy and class divides which tend to suffocate their relationship?
“Fight My Way” struck a chord for its realism. A story of ordinary people and the burning desire to make it big against all odds, the drama resonated with viewers. The four friends have their own issues, but their bond is so strong that they know they aren’t alone. Park Seo Joon is adorable as the unassuming Dong Man, and Kim Ji Won as the opinionated Ae Ra is a multi-dimensional character who stood out for being most expressive.
Start watching “Fight My Way”:
Workplace rivals turn into each other’s biggest support. Swords are drawn and claws sheaths are off when Bae Ta Mi (Im Soo Jung), a director at a leading internet portal company, takes the fall for her principles and clashes with her mentor-turned-boss Song Ga Kyung (Jeon Hye Jin). When Bae Ta Mi joins a rival company and aligns with the dynamic Cha Hyun (Lee Da Hee), her sole aim is to supersede her former organization. But they soon realize Ga Kyung is nothing but a pawn in the hands of her conniving mother-in-law.
The drama drives home an inspiring message from showcasing the lives of three strong-willed woman in their thirties. These women stand for their principles despite being on top of their game professionally, and they tread cautiously as they open their hearts to love and romance but never once compromise on their sense of self. They are very relatable women, and it’s hard not to find a part of yourself in each one of these ladies. They are tenacious, and it is refreshing to see female bonding at the workplace as they empower each other and call the shots.
Start watching “Search: WWW”:
“Hospital Playlist” is a celebration of life and everything in between. Following the lives of five brilliant surgeons at the Yulje Medical Center, these doctors have been best friends for 20 years ever since they first met at medical school. They are not only on top of their game in their field but also devout members of a band they created back in college. The drama has an awesome ensemble cast which features Jo Jung Suk as Lee Ik Jun, the goofy general surgeon who is also a single father, Yoo Yeon Seok as Ahn Jeong Won, the endearing pediatrician who wants to join the priesthood, Jung Kyung Ho as Kim Jun Wan, the wry and compassionate cardio thoracic surgeon, Kim Dae Myung as Yang Seok Hyung, the distant and brusque gynecologist, and Jeon Mi Do as Chae Song Hwa, the lone woman and favorite buddy who is a neurosurgeon and multitasker. As the famous five at Yulje deftly handle medical emergencies, they are the friends like family one seeks. Whether they’re teasing each other, fighting over the last bite of food, or arguing over which song to practice, they are in it together, cheering and comforting each other.
“Hospital Playlist” is a must-watch. After all, the best medicines in life are food, music, and laughter, and there is plenty of that in this drama.
Hwarang, also known as the Flower Knights, were an elite group of young men from high ranking families who were well versed in philosophy, religion, and arts. They were also martial arts experts in the Silla kingdom. The legend of the Hwarang grew over the years and was romanticized in popular culture. “Hwarang” revisits the legacy of these charming flower boys and is a coming-of-age drama about a group of young soldiers who band together to form a new “Silla” on the way of discovering love, friendship, and their own selves. The show is best remembered for its star-studded cast including Park Seo Joon as the brave and free-spirited Moo Young and Park Hyung Sik as the crown prince Sam Maek Jong. Moo Young and Sam Maek Jong are both smitten by Kim Ah Ro (Go Ara), a girl of aristocratic birth. There’s also the flirty yet chivalrous Kim Soo Ho (SHINee’s Minho), the happy-go-lucky Suk Han Sung (BTS’s V) as well as Park Ban Ryu (Do Ji Han) and Kim Yoo Weol (Jo Yoon Woo), each with their own agenda. The show also marks the origins of how the Wooga Squad, the famous friend group, came into being.
From boys to men, the Hwarang embark on a journey of self discovery as they fight off political intrigues, overcome their fears, and discover love. But it is the brotherhood amongst the boys which emerges as the star of the show.
Start watching “Hwarang”:
Despite the warm title having the same name as the 2015 show, this is a different drama. Previously starring as rich brat Joo Seok Kyung in “The Penthouse,” this time Han Ji Hyun plays a cheerleader on a mission. She stars as Do Hae Yi, a student focused on money and getting good grades, who joins the cheer squad that is long past its glory days. Park Jung Woo (Bae In Hyuk) is the misunderstood captain of Theia, the cheer club, and is a stickler for rules and quite the romantic at heart. Hae Yi is a relatable yet complex character, and despite a lot going on in her life, she has an infectious energy which can win anyone over. Her feelings for Jung Woo apart, she brings cheer and also becomes the glue that binds the many members of the cheerleading squad together as they strive to keep their club afloat and are also faced with mysterious happenings.
As the team develops camaraderie, it is heartening to see how these students who initially had rivalry and their own clashes bond and come together for the sake of their team and for each other!
Start watching “Cheer Up”:
Three friends, Im Jin Joo (Chun Woo Hee), a screenwriter, Lee Eun Jung (Jeon Yeo Bin), a documentary filmmaker, and Hwang Han Joo (Han Ji Eun), a marketing executive, have turned 30 and are getting through life dealing with their own circumstances. Like any woman balancing life, career, relationships, and the many hurdles to keep the sanity in every area of their life, they have each other’s back for better or for worse. The fierce loyalty and the emotional support they lend to the other reiterate why sisters always score over misters. As these three face hardships, with Eun Jung dealing with depression and Han Joo’s challenges as a single mother, they stick up for and encourage each other even as they deal with their own turmoil.
As they laugh, cry, celebrate, and wallow with each other, the drama does not follow the conventional route. These three strong female voices are not scared to own up and stand up for themselves and do whatever they can to find their call in life. It is a perfect drama to watch with your fave squad.
Start watching “Melo Is My Nature”:
Who doesn’t like a good high school musical? “Dream High” charts the journey of six students who arrive from all over at Kirin Arts School to get a foothold into the hyper competitive K-pop industry. Self-assured Go Hye Mi (Suzy) wrestles her way into the school despite losing the audition. She is desperate to succeed and aspires to be an opera singer, but she is also raising her younger sister as she tries to pay off her father’s debts. Song Sam Dong (Kim Soo Hyun), the proverbial country boy, is a simpleton at heart, and though a talented musician, he suffers from a rare ailment. There’s also Jin Guk (Taceyeon), the rebellious yet talented youngster who is self reliant and estranged from his father, the mayor. He gets into constant trouble which is his way of seeking attention from his father. And there’s Baek Hee (Eun Jung), Hye Mi’s one time timid friend who is now her arch rival, whilst Kim Pil Suk (IU), who has perfect pitch, is shy and self-conscious about being chubby and plain. Last but not least is Jason (Wooyoung), a Korean American awaiting his big debut in K-pop and the most chilled out soul amongst them all.
As these six persevere and go through the grind of auditions, practices, competitions, and bitter rivalries, they also take home valuable life lessons in friendship, self-growth, and relationships. “Dream High” is the quintessential school drama which one never tires of watching.
Start watching “Dream High”:
“Age of Youth”
Jin Myung (Han Ye Ri), Ye Eun (Han Seung Yeon), Ji Won (Park Eun Bin), Eun Jae (Park Hye Soo), and Yi Na (Ryu Hwayoung) are five flatmates with starkly different personalities. There is hardly any friendliness between them, except for the fact that they share the same flat. Each one of them is dealing with their own issues and even keeping secrets, which they are scared to divulge. But as situations arise in their lives, they find themselves reaching out for each other and forming strong bonds of sisterhood.
This coming-of-age series tackles topics like self-identity, self-worth, and how one often needs to pander to the pressures of society. The characters who are in their early twenties learn to navigate their lives and seek their own selves.
Start watching “Age of Youth”:
Dong Goo (Kim Jung Hyun) aspires to be a filmmaker, Joon Gi (Lee Yi Kyung) is an eccentric actor, and Doo Sik (Son Seung Won) is a screen writer. The three friends open a hostel named “Waikiki” to give lodging space to foreigners and earn money to finance their movie production. The issue is that none of the three know how to run a business and are so clueless that they can barely make ends meet. However, no sooner do they decide to give up on the lodge that they discover a baby in one of the rooms. With no mother or guardian in sight, the three adopt the baby for the time being and form an unlikely bond with the child. But when the mother arrives on the scene, they put in all their efforts and resources to help the mother and child as they also work hard on keeping their business afloat.
A feel-good drama with lots of situational comedy, humor, and an endearing bromance between three grown up men and a baby on board, “Welcome to Waikiki” is the perfect watch to rewire and recharge yourself.
Start watching “Welcome to Waikiki”:
Hey Soompiers, which one of these dramas features your favorite squad? Let us know in the comments below!
Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Yoo Tae Oh and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min Ho, Gong Yoo, Cha Eun Woo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram
Currently watching: “King the Land.”