These Were Netflix’s Most Popular K-Dramas of 2020

Across Asia, Netflix saw a nearly 150 percent average rise in K-drama viewing after countries enforced quarantine measures.

11 December 2020, 6:49am

The rise of hallyu or the K-wave has been unstoppable. This year, we saw the Bong Joon-ho thriller Parasite take home four Oscars — including the first Best Picture for a non-English language film — and BTS make history by becoming the first K-pop group to reach no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earn a Grammy nomination for the single “Dynamite.” Then there’s TV. 

K-dramas have been growing increasingly popular globally but it looks like even more people discovered them while stuck at home during the pandemic. It all started with Crash Landing on You, which premiered in 2019 but became the gateway K-drama for many by the time it ended in early 2020. After giving in to their curiosities and giving K-dramas a shot, many are now hooked.

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According to data from Netflix, the streaming platform saw a nearly 150 percent average rise in K-drama viewing across Asia between March - July this year — the height of quarantine measures in many cities — compared to January - February. Netflix said that in 2020, Asia watched Korean content four times more than in 2019. It’s also reportedly the genre that rose the most in popularity in the United States, Canada, Portugal, and Spain, with 2.5 times more viewing.

For the uninitiated, K-dramas are TV shows from South Korea that usually run for one 16-episode season. Despite what the name suggests, they’re not always dramas. There are a lot of romantic comedies like What's Wrong with Secretary Kim? — the most popular Korean title on Netflix Japan this year — coming of age stories like Itaewon Class, and even thrillers like the period zombie series Kingdom

If you’re looking to try something new in 2021 or want to look back on some of the biggest K-dramas released on Netflix in the past year, here’s a list of the most popular ones in Asia, based on data from January to November. These shows were among the 10 most popular K-dramas on the platform in five or more countries in the region, so get ready to binge. 

Kingdom (Season 2)

Most popular in South Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Set in Japan during the Joseon dynasty, Kingdom centers around Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon), who struggles to keep his people safe amid the spread of a mysterious plague that brings the dead back to life as blood-thirsty monsters.

The King: Eternal Monarch

Most popular in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore. 

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) is a king who governs the Kingdom of Corea. One day, he crosses a magical barrier and finds himself in present-day South Korea. There, he meets Jeong Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun), an undercover detective. The two team up to close the doors between their worlds. 

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Most popular in Taiwan. In the top 10 for over 100 days in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun), a caretaker at a psychiatric ward, lives with his older brother, Moon Sang-tae (Oh Jung-se), who is on the autism spectrum. While working at the hospital, Gang-tae meets famous children’s book author Ko Moon-young (Seo Yea-ji) and they eventually fall in love. But as the story unravels, Moon-young and the two brothers discover they have a shared painful past that’s keeping them from finding true peace within themselves.

Record of Youth

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Record of Youth follows the lives of three young and ambitious adults who dream of making it in the fashion and entertainment industry. Sa Hye-joon (Park Bo-gum) and Won Hae-hyo (Byeon Woo-seok) are unsuccessful actors who meet and befriend An Jung-ha (Park So-dam), a budding makeup artist. Together, the trio navigate the ruthless world of showbiz.

Start-Up

Most popular in Indonesia.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Start-Up centers around Seo Dal-mi (Bae Suzy), a young and ambitious woman with big dreams of becoming a successful CEO. She joins Sandbox, a Seoul-based start-up incubator, where she confronts her estranged sister (Kang Han-na). Along the way, she finds herself entangled in a messy love triangle with genius programmer Nam Do-san (Nam Joo-hyuk) and venture capitalist Han Ji-pyeong (Kim Seon-ho). 

Hi Bye, Mama!

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

After dying in a tragic accident and living as a ghost for five years, Cha Yu-ri (Kim Tae-hee) is given 49 days to come back to life as a human. But when she returns to her family, she discovers that her husband has married a new woman. 

Mystic Pop-up Bar

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Blending fantasy and comedy, Mystic Pop-up Bar tells the story of a mysterious bar run by a centuries-old woman, Weoul-jul (Hwang Jung-eum), with the help of a former afterlife detective, Chief Gwi (Choi Won-young) and part-time employee Han Kang-bae (Yook Sung-jae). The trio enter customers' dreams to help them heal from their emotional troubles.

The School Nurse Files

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Ahn Eun-young (Jung Yu-mi) is a school nurse with the power to see human desires and feelings that take the form of jelly-like monsters. When evil spirits are unleashed from the school building’s basement, Eun-young teams up with teacher Hong In-pyo (Nam Joo-hyuk), to protect the students. 

The World of the Married

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Ji Sun-woo (Kim Hee-ae) seems to have everything — a successful career as a doctor and a seemingly picture-perfect family. But her life is turned upside down when she discovers that her husband Lee Tae-oh (Park Hae-joon) has been having an affair. 

Tagged:

TV, POP CULTURE, Netflix, Entertainment, Asia, 2020, K-Drama

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