A Starter Guide to Streaming Great South Korean TV Drama

The New York TimesDakota Kim


A Starter Guide to Streaming Great South Korean TV Drama

MBC; Chorokbaem Media; Group Eight; May Queen Pictures; Celltrion Entertainment; Hwa&Dam Pictures

You may have seen a few South Korean romance shows pop up on Netflix recently and not given them a second thought. But a wave of appreciation for South Korean entertainment and culture is sweeping the world — a phenomenon known as hallyu — and American viewers are surfing the tide.

Entering the unpredictable world of K-drama, as the shows are called, you’ll need to throw your TV rule book out the window. In this seemingly lawless universe, plot lines ricochet from tragedy to comedy, sometimes spending just a little too long in the theater of the absurd. Expect hilarious chase scenes followed by unexpected dance routines, followed by Cinderella endings and thoughtful insights into South Korean life. It’s also ten-tissue fare, with lighthearted antics melting into heart-wrenching tragedy. The catharsis of a proper K-drama binge can rival that of any late-night karaoke-and-tambourine session.

K-drama is big business, with production houses vying for big-network attention and fans who are eager to buy anything K-drama related or endorsed. Little wonder that Netflix and Hulu added a flood of K-drama last year to their domestic libraries: Large fan bases have long existed in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, and providers are betting that American audiences will follow suit.

Other streaming sites exist that stream mostly Asian content, and they offer far more titles, including movies. Of those, DramaFever provides the most engaging curation of recent shows, with Viki and Kocowa close behind. All three offer some content free with commercials, as well as free monthlong trials of premium subscriptions. At DramaFever, an ad-free plan is $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year; a basic Viki subscription is $4.17 a month or $49.99 annually; and an ad-free Kocowa experience costs $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year.

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