There are certain factors that make Korean historical dramas just as addictive as modern Korean dramas—breathtaking landscapes, gorgeous traditional costumes, and engrossing storylines. They let you explore Korea’s vibrant culture and traditions in a fun and exciting way.
Although they usually revolve around palace conspiracies, throne rivalry, and political issues, they come in a variety of genres (action, romance, comedy, mystery, and more) to make the storyline more captivating.
Whether you’re looking for a drama to rewatch or binge-watch, our list of the best korean historical dramas below will help you find one that you’ll surely love.
The 15 Best Korean Historical Dramas
There is a wide array of historical dramas, and choosing what to watch can be daunting. To help you out, we’ve listed the 15 best historical K-dramas you are going to love!
- Mr. Queen (2020)
- Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)
- Kingdom (2019)
- The Red Sleeve (2021)
- The Crowned Clown (2019)
- Empress Ki (2013)
- Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung (2019)
- The King’s Affection (2021)
- Hwarang (2016)
- Love in the Moonlight (2016)
- 100 Days My Prince (2018)
- The Hymn of Death (2018)
- Dong Yi (2010)
- Jewel in the Palace (2003)
- Jumong (2006)
1. Mr. Queen (2020)
The recent Korean historical drama, Mr. Queen, will never bore you out. Each episode comes with plenty of hilarious scenes that will make you crack up, so if you’re up for a good laugh, don’t miss it out!
Its story follows a modern man named Jang Bong-Hwan. He works in the Blue House (South Korean Presidential residence) as a chef, and he lives a normal life. Until one day, he gets involved in an accident where he falls into a pool, allowing his soul to travel back to Joseon times mysteriously.
As soon as he wakes up, he finds himself inside the body of Kim So-Yong… a woman and a queen-to-be! Desperate to go back home, he tries to drown himself again, but unfortunately, fails. He ends up trapped in the palace and tied to a political marriage with King Cheoljong, who tends to hide his true personality.
2. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)
If you’re looking for a perfectly paced Korean historical drama that will make you go through a roller coaster of emotions, you’re sure to love Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.
The story revolves around a broken-hearted and miserable young woman, Go Ha-jin, who lives in the 21st century. After running away from a terrible situation, she ends up on a pier. There, she wallows in self-pity but eventually collects herself when a drowning kid catches her attention.
Ha-jin dives into the water to save the child. She safely hands the boy to his parents, but just as she’s about to get off the water, the sky darkens, and a total solar eclipse occurs. An unknown force drags her underwater, causing her to lose consciousness. She then ends up time-traveling back to the Goryeo Dynasty.
She encounters royal princes and later meets the cold-hearted 4th Prince, Wang So. As she tries to adapt to change, she finds herself entangled with the princes’ conflicts and rivalry for the throne.
3. Kingdom (2019)
If you’ve seen a lot of modern zombie apocalypse series or movies and you’re craving something new, Kingdom is definitely worth the watch! It’s also a zombie horror series, except it’s set in the medieval Joseon period.
The horrors of the flesh-eating monsters start when the king dies of smallpox. With the Chief State Councilor’s plan to take over the throne, he forces the royal physician to revive the king into a mindless, bloodthirsty monster and keep him alive until his daughter, the queen, gives birth to the crown prince.
The current crown prince, Lee Chang, hopes to see his father, so he begs the queen to check the king’s state. The queen denies his request, but he starts his own investigation. While on his way to search for the king’s physician, a mysterious plague spreads all over the town, putting him in a complicated situation.
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4. The Red Sleeve (2021)
The Red Sleeve tells the affectionate love story of Joseon’s Crown Prince Yi San and court lady Sung Deok Im. Determined to become the ideal heir to the throne, San pushes himself to be perfect, so he appears cold and arrogant to the people he encounters. He then meets Deok Im, a mischievous yet fierce and strong-willed young woman, and eventually falls in love with her.
San ascends to the throne, becoming King Jeongjo of Joseon. As he wants Deok Im to stay by his side, he asks her to be his official concubine. But to be a concubine, Deok Im will have to let go of her freedom and the peaceful life she values the most.
This drama shows how life in the palace could be miserable and sorrowful. It also gives a fresh take on historical dramas as it follows the court ladies’ point of view.
5. The Crowned Clown (2019)
The Crowned Clown is an enthralling drama about an unhinged king and his look-alike clown. To avoid the dangers of assassination and unknown enemies, the king’s closest advisors decide to protect him using Ha Sun, a clown who strangely looks exactly like him.
Ha Sun’s main goal is to fill the role of the king by protecting the throne. However, his mission becomes complicated when the real king dies, and the beautiful queen slowly falls in love with him. Now, he also needs to fool everyone into believing that the king is alive and well so that no one would dare to take the throne for themselves.
Overall, this drama has a well-developed political storyline with a mix of a forbidden romance. It also depicts palace complications and intrigues that will keep you glued to your screen until the last episode.
6. Empress Ki (2013)
Empress Ki is a thrilling and gripping drama that will trigger your anticipation of what could happen in the next episodes. Since it has 51 episodes, it’s a perfect choice if you want to stick to one drama for a long time. It might seem a lot, but this one’s really worth the watch.
It follows the journey of a girl named Ki Seungnyang, who disguises herself as a boy to avoid being a concubine tribute to Yuan. But her life starts to change when her true identity is discovered, and she’s forced to be a palace servant.
With her ambition, courage, and resilience, she strives from being a low-level palace woman to a powerful empress of China’s Yuan Dynasty.
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7. Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung (2019)
During the 19th century, the traditional role of a woman is to marry and be a housewife. Being a free-spirited woman, Goo Hae Ryung refuses to be forced into a marriage, so she works as a reader for those who can’t read. She then gladly takes the rare opportunity to become a female historian at the royal palace.
While competing with the other female historians, she meets a lonely prince named Lee Rim, who secretly loves to write romance novels. They grow fond of each other and eventually fall in love. As their romance spurs, some shocking secrets about themselves unveils.
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8. The King’s Affection (2021)
The King’s Affection has to make it to our list of the best Korean historical dramas!
Set in the Joseon Dynasty, a crown princess gives birth to royal twins. During this period, giving birth to twins serves as a sign that bad things will happen soon, so the king sends an order to kill the princess and spare the prince’s life.
To save the girl, the crown princess fakes the girl’s death and secretly asks her trusted guard to sneak her daughter away from the palace. Years passed by, and the princess grew up amongst commoners. However, her peaceful life turns upside down when her twin brother dies.
The crown princess decides to keep her son’s death and convinces her to live in the palace as her twin brother, Lee Hwi. Every day, she tries her best to act like his twin brother but hiding her true identity becomes even more complicated when she falls in love with Lee Hwi’s teacher, Jung Ji-Un.
9. Hwarang (2016)
Ever since the king passed away, Queen Mother Kim Ji Soo ruled Silla. To protect his son and the throne from nobles, she creates an elite group of poet warriors called “Hwarang.” The formed band consists of men with aristocratic family backgrounds who pledge loyalty to defend Silla and its royal family.
As they train, the young warriors develop brotherly friendships. Little did they know that one of them is the queen’s son, their future king. Conflicts arise, and things get complicated when a rumor spreads that the hidden king is one of the Hwarangs.
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10. Love in the Moonlight (2016)
Love in the Moonlight is another palace romance drama that will make you fall in love with its dreamy, romantic scenes. Its story is about Hong Ra On, a girl who disguises herself as a man to fulfill her mother’s wish. She goes by the name Sam Nom, and she makes a living by ghostwriting and giving love advice as a relationship counselor.
One day she accepts her counselee’s offer to pay her debts. All she needs to do is pretend to be him and meet up with the woman he writes letters with. It leads her to Crown Prince Lee Yeong, who shows up instead of his younger sister.
After a few days, Ra On ends up sold as a candidate eunuch at the palace, making her cross paths with the crown prince again. The two continue to annoy each other, but eventually, Lee Yeong develops feelings for Ra On without knowing her true identity. Will he discover Ra On’s secret? Find out when you watch this drama!
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11. 100 Days My Prince (2018)
Beginning with a childhood love story, Lee Yul, the young nephew of Joseon’s King, meets young Yoon Yiseo and develops a crush on her. Yul tries his best to impress her and later promises to marry her when they get older. One night, a tragedy unfolds when Yul witnesses how Yiseo’s family gets murdered by his father’s order.
This horrible event makes Yul’s father the new King of Joseon, while he becomes a cold-hearted crown prince, tied into a forced marriage with a crown princess. After a series of events, Yul gets ambushed by assassins and suffers from amnesia. He then meets Yiseo again, who’s now a commoner named Hong-shim.
Since Hong-Shim is the oldest bachelorette in their village, her father takes advantage of Yul’s amnesia and fools him into believing that he’s Hong-shim’s betrothed. Without any memory of his past, he ends up being her husband for 100 days.
12. The Hymn of Death (2018)
The Hymn of Death is a mini-series based on the real-life story of Yun Sim-Deok, Korea’s first soprano, and Kim Woo-Jin, a stage drama writer. Their bittersweet story is set under Japanese occupation. Woo-Jin is unhappily married while running their family business. Meanwhile, Sim-Deok tries her best to support her family.
Woo-Jin slowly falls in love with her, but their responsibilities to their families forbid their feelings and love for each other. This drama is great if you want to witness a heartbreaking love story of two people who just want to live their life freely. Just prepare some tissues as this one’s a tearjerker!
13. Dong Yi (2010)
Here’s another long drama that’s worth your time. It is about the love story of Dong Yi, a lowly servant, and the King Sukjong of the Joseon Dynasty. She’s a mere water maid in the palace who catches the king’s attention and interest with her fun personality.
Since she’s strong-willed, she does her best to overcome all the challenges in her life. She even impresses the queen and king, which leads her to rise from being a slave to a top-ranking concubine.
14. Jewel in the Palace (2003)
If you’re an avid Korean historical drama fan, you can’t skip the classic Jewel in the Palace. This drama shows how Jang Geum, a determined woman, strives to prove that women can also bring influence in society as men. As an orphan, she becomes a kitchen cook and later the king’s first female physician.
Her ambition does not end here as she also studies Korean cooking and medicine to help the king, who’s suffering from illness. Aside from Jang Geum’s journey, this drama also portrays traditional Korean culture such as Korean cuisine and medicine.
15. Jumong (2006)
Jumong is another classic historical drama that deserves a spot on your watchlist. It tells the story of Jumong, the great king and conqueror. His long journey starts when Gojoseon has fallen, and he wants to restore it by uniting the dispersed tribes. Eventually, he becomes the founder of the Goryeo kingdom.
Jumong is considered one of the best Korean historical dramas by many. There are plenty of reasons why you should watch it. From its soundtrack, epic fight scenes, costumes, and cinematography to its well-written story, it highlights Korean history, so it’s indeed a “must-see” drama series!
I hope you enjoyed this list of the best Korean historical dramas!
You don’t have to conduct a lot of research to get a glimpse of Korea’s history. Even though most of them are fictional, historical K-dramas serve as an entertaining way to experience its history and culture.
We hope that we’ve helped you pick the kind of drama you’ve been looking for! If you enjoyed reading our list, you can also check out our blog post about Korean superstitions—surprising things Koreans still believe in.