2023 has a lot to live up to when it comes to television. With House of the Dragon and Rings of Power headlining a year that also saw the end of Better Call Saul and Dead to Me, it’s been easy to forget how strong Korean offerings have been throughout 2022.
K-drama audiences were treated to new favourites in Twenty Five Twenty One and Little Women, and heading into 2023, our docket of east-Asian media looks even fuller than usual.
And that’s especially as the market heats up, with Disney shifting its focus east in order to compete with Netflix’s major investment in Korean originals, while Prime Video gobbles up Korean cinema’s best films. This is no longer a one-horse-race and we, the viewers, are bound to be the beneficiaries.
So, as we bid goodbye to 2022, here are our most anticipated Korean TV shows coming to our screens in 2023.
Mask Girl | Netflix
Netflix is set to continue its relative monopoly on Korean TV in 2023, and among its more interesting originals slated for next year is Mask Girl.
Go Hyun-jung (Dear My Friends) plays Kim Mo-mi, an office worker overcome by insecurity in her day-to-day life. Despite her misgivings about her appearance, however, she spends her nights performing live online shows in a mask. But when a co-worker develops feelings for the mysterious woman in the mask and goes missing, Mo-mi’s already complicated life takes a dark turn.
This drama is rumoured to be for a more adult audience and also stars Nana (of After School fame) and Ahn Jae-hong (Reply 1988).
Queen Maker | Netflix
Opposites attract when two women set aside their differences to team up and fight injustice. It’s an old song in Korean thrillers, but with Kim Hee-ae (The World of the Married) and Moon So-ri (Life) in the lead, this female-led drama may set itself apart from the pantheon of compelling Korean thrillers in Netflix’s catalogue.
With one a high-flying business woman within the establishment and the other a labour rights lawyer running for office, the conflicts in Queen Maker feel like a match for this year’s Little Women.
A Time Called You | Netflix
Jeon Yeo-been (Vincenzo) and Ahn Hyo-seop (A Business Proposal) star in this drama based on the Taiwanese series, Someday or One Day.
Following the death of her boyfriend, Jun-hee (Ahn) travels back to 1998 and into the body of high schooler Min-joo. When the most popular boy in school bears a striking resemblance to her dead beau, Jun-hee finds herself navigating the complexities of grief and teenage romance as a woman out of time.
If time-travel feels overdone in western media, A Time Called You might be the balm you need. Korean TV seems to handle time-travel much better than shows do in the West, and a heavy dose of 90s nostalgia can only help. Expect a lot of tears with this one.
Vigilante | Disney+
Disney had a rocky start to its rollout of Korean originals in 2022. Staggered global releases and terrible marketing meant most of its Korean shows went unwatched.
An expanded slate of programming in 2023 will hopefully arrest this trend though – the most anticipated of which may be Vigilante, which sees Nam Joo-hyuk (Twenty Five Twenty One) take on the role of a police academy rookie who, grieving his mother’s murder, takes to the streets for bloody revenge.
Based on the popular webtoon of the same name, Vigilante suggests Disney might be leaning into its Marvel brand with superhero- and supernatural-led Korean originals, especially with superhero drama Moving also set for a 2023 release on the platform.
The Girl Downstairs | Netflix
Another show in Netflix’s extensive docket, The Girl Downstairs follows Won-joon as he moves to a new flat to start college only to discover his neighbour is a former celebrity, played by Bae Suzy (Start-up), who has fled the limelight to catch up with her studies.
As much as he tries to ignore her, Won-joon can’t help but become fascinated by her storied, and somewhat mysterious, life.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a typical Korean romance in this list. But while The Girl Downstairs promises a trope-filled romp full of the usual suspects of Korean love stories, there’s a hint we might be in for some twists and turns over The Girl Downstairs‘ runtime.
Celebrity | Netflix
One for those who can’t stand to miss YouTube drama, Celebrity explores the darker side of influencer culture in Korea.
Park Gyu-young leads an impressive cast in a series that looks behind the curtain of celebrity to examining the insecurity, the heartaches, and fear at the heart of being famous in the internet age. All, we expect, wrapped in the warming blanket of Korean TV tropes.
Park should be a familiar face for K-drama fans, as a rising star of Netflix’s Korean catalogue with lead roles in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, Sweet Home and Romance is a Bonus Book. Expect to see more of her heading into 2023 and beyond.
The Interest of Love | Netflix
Directed by Jo Young-min (Do You Like Brahms?), The Interest of Love is an ensemble romance adapted from Sarangui Ihae by Lee Hyuk-jin.
With a cast of heavy-hitters that includes Yoo Yeon-seok (Mr Sunshine) and Keum Sae-rok (Youth of May), the series follows four co-workers as they navigate a complex, and sometimes scandalous, office romance within a regional bank.
It’s got everything we need from Korean romance. There’s a police officer, someone who doesn’t believe in love and a major corporation that will probably get in the way of romance. Expect a group of beautiful people falling in and out of love.
The Interest of Love released its first episode on December 21 and runs until mid-February 2023.
Call it Love | Disney+
While Disney looks set to focus on K-pop documentaries in 2023, one drama that stands out from its 2023 schedule is Call it Love (a literal title, we don’t have an official translation yet).
The series pairs Kim Young-kwang (Pinocchio – yep there’s a Korean one) and Lee Sung-kyung (While You Were Sleeping) in a romance that looks like it has real heart.
In the face of adversity, Kim and Lee come together and help each other grow and understand each other despite difficult beginnings. On the surface, Call it Love sounds like a typical enemies-to-lovers story.
While Disney has been reticent in its first year of Korean programming to deviate from clichéd themes, Call it Love has real shades of My Mister – a series that turned K-drama tropes on their head in one of the best Korean shows ever.
All of Us Are Dead season 2 | Netflix
Second seasons aren’t common in Korean TV, however. But with Netflix dedicating major resources to the Korean market, the streamer appears keen to squeeze out as much from its originals as possible.
We’re already set for Squid Game season 2, likely in 2024, but there’s rumblings that 2022’s breakout hit, All of Us Are Dead, might reanimate in late-2023. We’re more than ready for a second dose of the zombie high school drama, in which everyone either wants to eat or kiss each other.
The first season proved enormously popular at the beginning of 2022 and, given the cast’s age, it makes sense to push out new seasons quickly. So, be on the lookout for the next installment of this inventive horror next year.
Gyeongseong Creature | Netflix
Enough romance, more monsters. It’s 1945 and Seoul is under Japanese occupation. Having travelled across China and Manchuria in search of missing persons, Chae-ok – played by Han So-hee (Soundtrack #1) – tracks her missing mother to Gyeongseoung (an older name for Seoul) where she meets Tae-sang, a handsome bachelor played by Park Seo-joon (Itaewon Class).
Together they explore the underworld of occupied Seoul, where they uncover a strange creature apparently born from the greed of the city’s inhabitants.
If this all sounds like a mess of history, romance and science-fiction, that’s exactly that it is and it looks amazing. So good, in fact, that a second season is already confirmed.