Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you probably know a little about the Hallyu wave, a.k.a. the spread of South Korean pop culture around the world. Whether it’s a 12-step K-beauty routine or the catchy hook of a BTS song, you’ve probably come across some element of Korean pop culture in your daily life. One of the most popular and widespread aspects of the Hallyu wave? The Korean drama, or K-drama, craze.
Known for their interesting storylines and intense (but sometimes predictable) plot twists, K-dramas are popular across the globe. Korean dramas can go from super sappy to incredibly heartbreaking to “WTF, what was that?” in a heartbeat, and that variety is exactly what keeps viewers coming back for more.
2018 was a good year for K-dramas across genres (Familiar Wife! Mr. Sunshine! The Undateables!), but 2019 is already coming in pretty hot, and some of everyone’s favorite actors are back on our screens and in our hearts. Without further ado, here are five of the best Korean dramas of the year thus far.
“ThAt CaME oUt LaSt yEAr.” Okay, but it wrapped up in February, so it still makes the cut. I don’t make the rules.
This series follows the journeys of four women and their families as they try to maintain the status quo among the upper crust of South Korean society. The drama revolves around one mother’s obsession with getting her daughter into an elite university by any means necessary…sound familiar? This one is a nice mix of romance, soapy drama, and comedy, so if you enjoy human-interest stories, Sky Castle is definitely the K-drama for you.
The Last Empress
Do you enjoy stress? Have you ever found yourself shouting at your TV/computer screen at characters who can’t hear you? Do you have a lot of free time on your hands, or time that you should spend being productive that you will instead devote to doing something else in the name of self-care?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you need to watch The Last Empress right now. With 52 episodes, this drama is not for the weak of heart; people who prefer a neat plot should probably steer clear because the storyline is very…involved, to say the least.
In an alternate universe, South Korea is still under the rule of a constitutional monarchy, and the royal family has its fair share of dangerous secrets that could be exposed by its new empress, a bright musical theater actress with a one-sided crush on her husband. Throw in a bodyguard harboring a huge chip on his shoulder and a fake identity, and you’ve got yourself a really wild ride. 10/10 would recommend if you, like me, live for drama.
Related article: The K-Pop Sex Scandal: Here’s Everything You Need To Know
Romance Is A Bonus Book
Girl needs job. Girl lies about her education and background to get a job. Girl meets handsome and super talented boy who also happens to be her boss. Girl and boy butt heads. Girl and boy fall in love. Chaos and cuteness ensue.
As someone who has dated a co-worker in the past, I can personally testify that office romances are typically a terrible, terrible idea; I once got into a heated screaming match with my ex on the second floor of the office’s parking garage during our lunch break, and our boss just happened to be walking by. I repeat, terrible idea. However, Korean dramas make workplace dating seem fun and even plausible! Romance is a Bonus Book in particular is so good that it almost makes me reconsider my staunch stance on dating at work.
Related article: 8 Ways K-Pop Star Taeyeon Slayed Instagram With Her Outfits
Touch Your Heart
I’m somewhat biased because I am an unabashed Lee Dong Wook stan, but Touch Your Heart is really, really fun to watch. Things take place in a high-powered law firm, where a washed-up actress works as a secretary for a cranky attorney. The two leads have great chemistry—they’ve played star-crossed lovers in another drama—and they’re both extremely good-looking. Plus, it’s another workplace love story! Is the universe trying to send me a sign?
The Fiery Priest
What do you get when you put a wayward priest, a detective who should have lost his job awhile ago, and a sheisty prosecutor in one room? The Fiery Priest! This 40-episode drama is far from over, but the shenanigans that have unfolded so far have been nothing short of amazing. If you’re into action-packed crime shows that are also really funny, this is right up your alley.
Related article: K-Pop Festival HALLYUPOPFEST Is Back This May
Honorable mention: Haechi
It doesn’t make my top five, but Haechi is super interesting. This drama is tells the story of a prince trying to reclaim the throne during the Joseon Dynasty. Historical period dramas, called sageuks, tend to require a lot of focus because they’re fictionalized historical accounts. If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to get lost in the details. Save this one for a rainy day.
This article originally appeared in Marie Claire