- From figuring out first love to finding your way at college, the coming-of-age story is a TV drama staple.
- Whether you’d prefer to binge-watch dystopian high school romance “Love Alarm” or slice-of-life comedy “Hello My Twenties”, there’s something here for every K-drama fan.
- Many of these shows delve into the challenges young people face today, from relentless academic pressure to cyberbullying and impossible beauty standards.
- These are the 11 best Korean coming-of-age dramas available to watch now on Netflix and Viki.
Note: Numerous Netflix titles drop off the service monthly, so the availability of titles below may change.
‘Hello My Twenties’ is a sweet slice-of-life series that follows the lives of 5 young women who share a house in Seoul
Belle Époque means ‘beautiful era’ in French. It’s an apt name for the house our protagonists share in this gentle drama.
The show follows five young women in their twenties as they grow into their independence.
With five such distinct personalities, conflict is inevitable and it’s reassuringly relatable to watch the women fight and forgive each other as their friendships deepen.
Across two seasons, “Hello My Twenties” deftly switches between the perspectives of the five housemates, exploring their lives, loves, struggles and secrets.
“Hello My Twenties” is available to watch on Netflix.
Beauty standards, sexism and societal expectations of women come under fire in ‘My ID is Gangnam Beauty’
Gangnam is the plastic surgery capital of Seoul. The phrase “Gangnam Girl” refers to a woman who has obviously enhanced her looks by going under the knife.
Kang Mi-rae (Lim Soo-hyang) is a girl who doesn’t fit society’s beauty standards. After being bullied mercilessly throughout school, she gets cosmetic surgery before starting college, with hopes of blending in and having a normal life. However her surgery is a little too good, and she subsequently faces judgement for her choice.
“My ID is Gangnam Beauty” has a strong female-led cast who approach beauty from different perspectives. Each woman battles her own insecurities, as they learn to accept themselves and dismantle society’s false ideals. This is a sweet college romance with depth and heart.
“My ID is Gangnam Beauty” is available to watch on Viki.
‘Itaewon Class’ is an addictive revenge drama with a diverse cast
This epic revenge drama follows Park Saeroyi (Park Seo-joon – who also appeared in the Oscar best picture “Parasite”).
He’s the archetypal underdog, kicked out of school and sent to jail by the wealthy family responsible for his father’s death. Saeroyi resolves to avenge his father and destroy the Jangga conglomerate owned by his nemesis, the fiendishly evil CEO Jang Dae-hee (Yoo Jae-myung).
The show’s twisting storyline encompasses class warfare, betrayal, and a cooking competition, while fitting in a love triangle between Saeroyi’s childhood crush Oh Soo-ah (Kwon Na-ra), who has sold her soul to become an executive at Jangga, and ruthless entrepreneur Cho Yi-seo (Kim Da-mi).
Saeroyi’s crew reflects the reality of Itaewon’s diversity, including Guinean-Korean recruit Kim To-ni (Chris Lyon) and transgender chef Ma Hyeon-yi (Lee Joo-young). The show integrates them smoothly into the storyline while exploring discrimination with care, going beyond soundbites to forge impactful character development.
“Itaewon Class” is a compelling show with a cast you’ll root for.
“Itaewon Class” is available to watch on Netflix.
High school drama ‘Cheer Up’ is a beautifully relatable story of youthful defiance against a corrupt academic system
Kang Yeon-doo (Jung Eun-ji) leads her school’s dance team, a loyal bunch of outcasts who collectively occupy the bottom of the school’s academic ranking.
Kim Yeol (Lee Won-geun) is the school’s top student, and he leads the cheerleading club, which is a cover for an elite study group populated by the school’s smartest — and richest — students.
The two groups are forced to come together when their clubs are combined to enter a national competition, in a complex scheme rigged by a particularly pushy parent hoping the extracurricular activity will cinch her daughter a spot at an Ivy League college.
“Cheer Up” tackles bullying, mental health issues and suicide as the students face intense pressure to succeed academically. The school’s rigid focus on exam results both fractures friendships and brings the students together as they fight for the space to simply enjoy being young.
With a rich cast of quirky characters, one of the most relatable romances in K-drama land and a lot of heart, this show is a stand-out high school drama.
“Cheer Up” is available to watch on Viki.
‘Love Alarm’ is a gorgeous high school romance with a dystopian twist
“Love Alarm” depicts Seoul filtered through the rose-tinted lens of first love, but its dreamy date scenes hide a darker theme. This is a world subtly remade by Love Alarm, a dating app that determines whether you’re crushing on anyone within a ten-metre radius – and announces it to the world.
In this twisted world, dating is a dangerous game.
“Love Alarm” combines the drama of “Gossip Girl” with the darkness of “Black Mirror” to create a compelling show that confronts the toxic potential of social media.
“Love Alarm” is available to watch on Netflix.
Quirky love story ‘Extraordinary You’ plays with the rules of storytelling as its comic book characters rebel against the tropes of romantic dramas
This escapist fantasy follows Eun Dan-oh (Kim Hye-yoon), a high school student whose life appears average — until she discovers she’s a character in a comic. Even worse — she only has a bit part, her life doomed to be shaped by the dramatic love story between two of her classmates.
“Extraordinary You” uses its creative concept to explore ideas around self-determination. Dan-oh starts out powerless, but she grows and changes beyond her predetermined characterisation as she unravels the mystery of the comic’s origin.
The show has a great time sending up classic K-drama romance tropes, making this clever story a lot of fun.
“Extraordinary You” is available to watch on Viki.
‘The Inheritors’ transports the scheming and style of ‘Gossip Girl’ to the elite families of Seoul
Expect plenty of power plays, intense plotting and extravagant style in this show about Seoul’s elite class of chaebol conglomerate families.
In keeping with its dramatic, soapy storyline, “The Inheritors” explores deep class divides, intense sibling rivalry and the dangerous consequences of excess.
Many of the characters walk a fine moral line as they lie and deceive each other to climb to the top. Despite this, the show succeeds in humanising the cast of beautiful rich kids as they contend with family politics and first love.
“The Inheritors” is available to watch on Netflix.
‘My First First Love’ is a quirky take on the college house share
When Yun Tae-o (Ji Soo) starts college, his parents let him live in his grandfather’s huge old house. Tae-o anticipates impressing dates with his fancy pad, but he doesn’t factor in some unexpected visitors.
When three of his friends – his recently homeless childhood crush Han Song-i (Jung Chae-yeon), aspiring musician Choe Hun (Oh Tae-oh) and naïve runaway rich girl O Ga-rin (Choi Ri) show up at his door seeking a place to crash, he agrees to let them stay.
The show follows the chaos and conflict that ensues in the unconventional house share, as the four friends weather life’s ups and downs and learn to live together. As the story unfolds, secrets spill out and romances blossom between them.
The cast has great chemistry and comedic timing, making “My First First Love” the perfect show to watch when you need to unwind.
“My First First Love” is available to watch on Netflix.
A mysterious rebel takes on the crooked academic system in ‘School 2017’
Although Ra Eun-ho (Kim Se-jeong) struggles academically, she dreams of becoming a webtoon artist. But creativity isn’t prized at her high school, where every student is ranked based on their exam results.
“School 2017” explores friendship and first love against the backdrop of a fiercely competitive school that turns students into rivals and creates a social hierarchy around academic achievement.
With classroom fights, kids writing until their fingers bleed and a mysterious renegade hero, this show is an action-packed critique of South Korea’s education system.
“School 2017” is available to watch on Viki.
Teenage vampires try to fit in at high school in ‘Orange Marmalade’
The vampires in this show may have vowed to follow a strictly non-human diet plan, but they remain ostracised by society.
The story shifts from contemporary drama to period piece, and the characters’ first lives in the Joseon dynasty.
In this reality, Jae-min and Ma-ri fall in love for the first time, and their forbidden romance intertwines with the overarching conflict between humans and vampires.
“Orange Marmalade” balances its more fantastical elements with a thought-provoking exploration of prejudice and injustice.
The humanity of Ma-ri’s life is always emphasized, with anxious parents, dates, and dreams of becoming a musician, making this a cute, albeit unconventional teen romance.
“Orange Marmalade” is available to watch on Viki.
‘Reply 1997’ is a trip down memory lane for a group of 90s kids who came of age with boy bands and dial-up internet
This nostalgic drama is framed around a reunion dinner where six friends in their thirties reminisce about their school days during the 90s.
“Reply 1997” evokes nostalgia for 90s K-pop and simpler times while exploring quintessential teenage troubles around friendships and family conflict. This is a heart-warming show that brilliantly captures a specific time in South Korean pop culture.