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  1. Squid Game
    Photograph: Courtesy Netflix/YoungKyu ParkSquid Game
  2. Kingdom: Ashin of North
    Photograph: Courtesy Netflix
  3. Vincenzo
    Photograph: Courtesy Netflix
  4. Vincenzo
    Photograph: Courtesy Netflix
  5. Move to Heaven
    Photograph: Courtesy Netflix
  6. Nevertheless
    Photograph: Courtesy Netflix

Best Korean dramas you need to binge watch in 2021

We round up some of the most talked-about Korean dramas so far this year – and they're not just on Netflix

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
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2021 has been a busy year for Korean dramas, and now that we're past the mid-year mark, it’s time to round up some of the best K-dramas that have kept us glued to our screens. From action-packed stories filled with zombies and serial killers to gripping dramas that will likely require a box of tissues in hand, here’s a look at some of the most binge-worthy Korean dramas in 2021 so far. 

RECOMMENDED: If you’re in need of some laughs instead, take a look at these Korean variety shows. Alternatively, enjoy a cinematic experience at the theatres and check out some of the best movies right now.

Kingdom: Ashin of the North

No, it’s not the next installment, nor is it a full season of Kingdom that fans were hoping for, but folks can still get their fix of zombie action with this 92-minute special episode. A spin-off from the first two seasons, Kingdom: Ashin of the North tells the backstory of Ashin – who made her first appearance in the final episode of season two – and her traumatic past that led her down a vengeful path. The episode also sheds light on the origin and secrets of the resurrection plant that can bring people back from the dead, as well as the role Ashin plays in the Kingdom series. For those who have yet to watch the main series, now is as great a time as any to start.

Available now on Netflix 

Mouse

Action, romance, suspense, tears, and jaw-dropping plot twists – Mouse has them all.

In this 20-episode drama, a psychopathic serial killer is on the loose and the entire nation of South Korea is gripped with fear. Determined to hunt down the killer, detective Go Moo-chi teams up with rookie police office Jeong Ba-reum to look for every clue possible. The two quickly come face to face with the killer, but their dangerous encounter changes Ba-reum's life drastically when he is almost beaten to death by the killer, causing him to suffer from a major brain injury and memory loss.

Are you with me so far? Because this is when the real story begins. One year later, Ba-reum slowly starts to regain his memory and guess what, there's another relentless murder on the run. Ba-reum and Moo-chi team up once again to find the culprit, but with every clue they find, the pair soon realise that they might have caught the wrong guy one year ago, and that there's a much bigger secret behind all the killings – something that might just be too big for them to handle...

As you get further into the series, the plot twists continue to pile on. So much so that you'll end every episode with either a gasp or just a confused "WTF?" Either way, it'll keep you firmly glued to your screen. This is hands down one of the best and most binge-worthy K-dramas of 2021.

Watch it now on Dramacool

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Move to Heaven

Move to Heaven tells the touching story between Geu-ru, a young man with Asperger’s syndrome, and his ex-con uncle Sang-gu, who suddenly becomes his guardian after Geu-ru’s father passes away abruptly. Working as trauma cleaners that have to clear out and clean up the apartments and possessions of the deceased, the pair slowly begin to learn what it means to be a family as they uncover different heartrending stories left behind by those who have departed.

Available now on Netflix

Nevertheless

Looking for straight-up romance? Nevertheless is a heart-fluttering romance drama based on a popular webtoon of the same name. Park Jae-un is a happy-go-lucky art student with a nonchalant attitude towards love. Meanwhile, fellow art student Yoo Na-bi enjoys dating but is hesitant to fall in love again after a painful experience with her first love. With different perspectives on love, the two meet and feel instantly drawn to one another. But as they get more romantically involved and feelings develop, the pair has to figure out whether they can step outside of their comfort zone and alter their approach towards love. 

Available now on Netflix

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Squid Game

If Hunger Games and Black Mirror had a Korean baby, this would be it. Out of money and out of luck, Ki-Hoon receives an invitation from a man to join a mysterious survival game where players have to compete in a series of children’s games. But just like any binge-worthy Korean drama, there's a twist. As Ki-Hoon, along with hundreds of other players, all compete for the grand prize money of 45.6 billion Korean Won, they soon find out that should they fail, their lives will be at stake – as in, your head will get blown off if you’re caught moving in a game of 'Red Light, Green Light', or you'll fall to your death if you lose in a game of Tug of War – how's that for a kiddie's game? Expect plenty of violence, blood and tears, and a surprising amount of dreamy, pastel-coloured visuals in this eight-episode series. 

Available now on Netflix

Taxi Driver

In this revenge-fuelled action-crime drama, Kim Do-gi is a vigilante who fights for justice for those who have been wronged. Disguised as a ‘taxi driver’ for Rainbow Taxi, a secret organisation that offers ‘revenge call’ services for victims whom the law failed to protect, Do-gi and his team always make sure that justice is served in the grandest and most painful way possible. Some of the cases in the series are based on actual true events that took place in South Korea, so it’s especially satisfying to see the outlaws finally get what they deserve.

Available now on Dramacool

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True Beauty

True Beauty is a swoon-worthy rom-com that follows 18-year-old high school student Lim Ju-Gyeong, who was constantly bullied for not being attractive. After feeling she’s finally had enough, Ju-Gyeong masters the art of makeup – with the help of online makeup tutorials – before transferring to a new school. Her transformation quickly earns her the title of a ‘goddess’ at school – though she secretly lives in fear of anyone seeing her without makeup – and gets her caught in a love triangle between Lee Su-ho, a handsome but aloof classmate, and Su-ho’s former best friend Han Seo-jun, the school’s equally-handsome ‘bad boy’.

Ok, before you roll your eyes at this somewhat basic storyline, know that True Beauty was a very popular drama due to the realistic portrayal of everyday situations – namely, the impossible beauty standards and bullying in school – that many Koreans relate to. Plus, who doesn’t like to daydream every now and then about being caught in the middle of a love triangle?

Available now on Dramacool

Vincenzo

If you still haven’t got around to watching Vincenzo, it’s not too late to start now. Quite ​​possibly one of the most talked-about K-dramas of 2021,  this dark comedy stars Song Joong-ki as Vincenzo Cassano, an Italian lawyer and Mafia consigliere who returns to South Korea in the midst of a life-threatening feud. Upon his return, Vincenzo sets out to retrieve a lump sum of gold kept inside a secret underground vault in Geumga Plaza. In doing so, he forms a bond with the tenants of the plaza, including righteous lawyer Hong Yoo-chan and his daughter Hong Cha-young, who is also a lawyer in one of Korea’s biggest law firms. Together, the trio devises a plan to take down the evil corporation Babel Group and protect the tenants, but not without plenty of fists thrown in the air, jaw-dropping twists, and genuine laugh out loud moments.

Available now on Netflix

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Voice 4

It's not often that Korean dramas get renewed for multiple seasons, so, for Voice to have four seasons in total, that should be enough of a guarantee that this is a drama you don’t want to miss. Returning two years after its third season, this ​​thriller drama will take you on one hell of a crime-solving rollercoaster ride. The general premise of Voice follows Kang Kwon-joo, a professional voice profiler with enhanced hearing, and the Golden Time team at the Emergency Call Centre as they race against time to save victims and solve crimes through voice analysis and Kwon-joo’s special ability. 

In season four, get ready for some fresh thrills as a new string of challenges awaits the team. Pit against a serial killer who also has an ultra-sensitive hearing ability, Kwon-joo’s skills are put to the test. She has no choice but to team up with Detective Derek Jo, the leader of a Los Angeles Police Department squad. With an impressive record of chasing down criminals and zero tolerance for mistakes, Jo and Kwon-joo together form a formidable force to be reckoned with.

Season one and two are available on Netflix. Watch season three on Dramahood and season four on Dramacool.

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