Stuff You Should Be Watching: Asian Dramas

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A recent Rec League on tortured love spawned a SBTB discussion about Asian dramas, which often have lots of pining in their romantic arcs. Not all of these are romances, but Shana and I really want to geek out about Asian dramas and hear about your recommendations too! We’ve done a few guest reviews and suggestion posts previously, but we’d love some newer options!

Most, if not all of these, are available through Viki to watch. Viki offers free watching, but a premium membership with more selections!

Shana’s Picks!

What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim

Kim Mi So is a hardworking secretary to a demanding and self-absorbed VP, Lee Young Joon. When Mi So decides to quit her job after nine years, wealthy Young Joon tries everything to keep her running his life, including proposing marriage.

What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim has a classic chaebol CEO & sheltered secretary pairing, but this over-the-top romcom also has fabulous comic timing. The best bits are watching VP Lee’s clueless attempts to ascertain why Secretary Kim could possibly want to leave him. Both main characters have a tragic backstory that slowly unspools over the course of the show, so we get a bit of melodramatic angst too. I loved watching pragmatic Young Joon fall in love despite himself, and it’s equally fun to see Mi So realize there’s hidden depth behind her boss’s narcissistic facade. The story is straightforward, and sometimes silly, so it’s especially good when your brain needs a break.

Available on Hulu, Netflix (in Asia), and Apple TV


Encounter (South Korean version)

Kim Jin Hyuk is a 28 year-old free spirit traveling through Cuba, when he meets Cha Soo Hyun, a rich, reserved divorcee in her 30s, in a Roman Holiday-inspired chance encounter. Soo Hyun is recovering from a loveless political marriage, and she’s rejuvenated the run-down hotel she received as alimony into a luxury brand. She’s both powerful as a CEO, and clueless about life’s pleasures. A sweet, earnest photographer sporting 90s heartthrob hair is just what she needs. And luckily, when the two return to Korea, Jin Hyuk ends up accidentally working at her new hotel. This is an atmospheric and romantic drama with a delightful ice queen + charming beta hero pairing. It’s slow moving initially, but addictive (and beautiful).

Available on Apple TV

It’s Okay, That’s Love

Celebrity novelist Jang Jae Yul, and hospital psychiatrist Ji Hae Soo, end up bickering on a talk show together, and she writes him off as a narcissist. They become roommates after he unexpectedly moves into the house Hae Soo rents with friends, and the forced proximity turns these enemies into friends, and eventually, lovers. It’s Okay, That’s Love has a grown-ass romance, funny housemates, and disability and mental health rep; Jae Yul is a playboy with OCD, Hae Soo has a phobia around sex, and many of the storylines involve emotional healing. The pacing can meander, but this melodrama has a light touch with angsty and serious topics.

Available on Amazon Prime

Amanda’s Picks!

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

This one seems very similar to Shana’s It’s Okay, That’s Love. A caretaker in a psychiatric hospital and a reclusive children’s book author meet. There’s definitely a focus here on mental health and finding some support through friends, which is usually something I don’t often see or find in a lot of the dramas I’ve previously watched. Have some tissues handy, but I think that goes for most dramas.

Available on Netflix

Mystic Pop Up Bar

Three very different characters help solve people’s problems through their dreams and use their pop up as a front. Each of the three main characters have their own backstories to what led them to working at the bar and why they’re on earth, so I don’t want to spoil anything. This one is more self-contained sort of per episode and it’s great to just dip in and dip out for an episode or two at the time. I’m also such a sucker for an ensemble cast in anything I watch. I believe this is based on a South Korean webtoon!

Available on Netflix

Bring It On, Ghost

What a weird little show this was! Park Bong-pal has the ability to see ghosts, which makes things awkward when he realizes his place is being haunted by the wandering spirit of a woman, Kim Hyun-ji. She isn’t sure why she’s stuck in this in-between phase, but the two become ghost fighting partners in the hopes that Hyun-ji can eventually pass over.

Available on Netflix

The Devil Punisher

This is a Taiwanese drama with time travel and supernatural fighting! Zhong Kui is a baker by day and a demon hunter by night. He’s also a reincarnated deity hoping to recover his lover’s memory. I loved that Zhong Kui has this adorable millennium-long relationship and just wants to help his partner’s amnesia so they can be in love again.

Available on Netflix




Which recent-ish series would you recommend? Give us all your recommendations in the comments!

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