In 2022, Korean Dramas continued to expand their cultural dominance worldwide.
You might wonder then—what are the Best Korean Dramas of 2022?
To that end, Cinema Escapist has curated 2022’s top Korean dramas—across a variety of genres including thriller, romance, crime, action, comedy, and more. These K-dramas also feature top stars like Kim Tae-ri, Song Joong-ki, Kim Go-eun, Nam Joo-hyuk, and more.
We based our choices on a few factors. First, we only picked Korean dramas that premiered in 2022. Of those dramas, we then looked for titles with good entertainment value and broad international on international streaming platforms like Netflix. Finally, in line with Cinema Escapist’s editorial spirit, we made sure to include K-dramas with some degree of social consciousness or artistic innovation.
Using these factors, we’ve selected 12 entries for 2022’s best Korean dramas. Check out our list, which includes streaming links (when available/region dependent)!
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12. Reborn Rich
Korean: 재벌집 막내아들 | Starring: Song Joong-ki, Lee Sung-min, Shin Hyun-bin | Genre: Business, Fantasy
Pretty boy actor Song Joong-ki injects his star power into Reborn Rich, which became one of 2022’s most-watched K-dramas thanks to his dedicated fans. At the start of the drama, Song plays a conglomerate employee named Hyun-woo. After discovering an illegal slush fund belonging to the Chairman, Hyun-woo gets killed to prevent him from speaking out. However, he then gets reborn as the youngest son of the conglomerate chairman in 1987, with all memories intact—and now has a chance to exact revenge on those who killed him.
While the time-travel worldbuilding in Reborn Rich feels a bit shaky (what happens if reincarnated son Hyun-woo meets real Hyun-woo?), the drama still offers a decent amount of thrills with each episode ending in a cliffhanger. Song and his fellow cast’s acting are also commendable.
11. Business Proposal
Korean: 사내 맞선 | Starring: Ahn Hyo-seop, Kim Se-jeong, Kim Min-gue, Seol In-ah | Genre: Romance, Comedy
Business Proposal is another noteworthy 2022 Korean drama. Adapted from an eponymous webtoon, the show centers around a woman named Shin Ha-ri (Kim Se-jeong), who finds herself on a blind date with the CEO of her company (played by Ahn Hyo-seop). In order to save face, Ha-ri introduces herself with a fake name, setting off a chain of hilarious misunderstandings. The show is full of entertaining moments and light-hearted comedy, thanks to its talented cast and clever plot twists. For those who enjoy romantic tropes and laugh-out-loud moments, Business Proposal is a great choice.
12. Alchemy of Souls
Korean: 환혼 | Starring: Lee Jae-wook, Jung So-min, Go Yoon-jung, Hwang Min-hyun | Genre: Fantasy
Alchemy of Souls is a production by the Hong sisters, who’ve racked up writing credits for numerous hit dramas like Hotel Del Luna. Set in a fictional country full of magic and mages, this K-drama follows Jang Uk (Lee Jae Wook), a nobleman who is unable to use magic, but finds an unlikely teacher in Mu Deok (Jung So Min)—his servant, who’s actually a skilled assassin. With videogame-like special effects and a complex plot full of unexpected twists, Alchemy of Souls will please fans of fantasy K-dramas.
Korean: 썸바디 | Starring: Kim Young-kwang, Kang Hae-lim, Kim Yong-ji, Kim Soo-yeon | Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Psychological
If you’re looking for a departure from formulaic saccharine romance K-dramas, consider Somebody. This 2022 Korean drama introduces us to a woman named Kim Sun (Kang Hae-lim), who developed a chatbot called “Someone” as a kid and later gets recruited to adapt that chatbot into a dating app called “Somebody.” However, Kim notices a series of deaths linked to the app, and soon comes into contact with a mysterious architect named Sung Yun-oh (Kim Young-kwang).
Somebody is a full-fledged Netflix production, meaning it wasn’t forced to be as tame as titles from Korean companies. It’s dark, violent, filled with sex, and not afraid to tackle mature themes like alienation and psychopathy. The drama supposedly drew inspiration from American Psycho, and has a Silence of the Lambs-esque vibe with a brooding modern twist.
6. Military Prosecutor Doberman
Korean: 군검사 도베르만 | Starring: Ahn Bo-hyun, Jo Bo-ah, Oh Yeon-soo, Kim Young-min, Kim Woo-seok | Genre: Military, Legal, Mystery, Action
Ahn Bo-hyun and Jo Bo-ah unite to star in Military Prosecutor Doberman, where they play a pair of military prosecutors who deal with crimes in South Korea’s military. Though the series starts off unevenly, it eventually gains its footing through surprising twists in character development and more daring attempts at social commentary.
At first, Military Prosecutor Doberman primarily focuses on corruption in South Korea’s military, but it eventually touches on more sensitive issues like sexual assault and bullying. While the show’s commentary on these manners pales in comparison to D.P. (which ended up on our list of 2021’s best Korean dramas), it probably appeals to a broader audience.
9. My Liberation Notes
Korean: 나의 해방일지 | Starring: Kim Ji-won, Son Seok-koo, Lee Min-ki, Lee El | Genre: Slice-of-Life, Melodrama, Family
My Liberation Notes is a family-centric Korean drama that explores the pressure faced by young adults in South Korea. The show, written by Park Hae-yong of My Mister, follows three adult siblings who work in Seoul and have a long daily commute there from their rural hometown of Sando. They must live in Sando due to high real estate prices in Seoul, and struggle with other issues like marriage pressures, debt, and Korea’s soulless corporate culture. Despite the bleakness of these issues, the show manages to avoid cynicism, and instead explores how its characters find their own flavor of peace and self-liberation.
8. Under the Queen’s Umbrella
Korean: 슈룹| Starring: Kim Hye-soo, Kim Hae-sook, Choi Won-young, Moon Sang-min, Ok Ja-yeon | Genre: Historical, Education
Under the Queen’s Umbrella is a Joseon-era historical K-drama with a rather modern appeal. The show focuses on a Queen (played by Kim Hye-soo) who must compete with others at the royal court to properly educate her sons to achieve success in palace politics.
If this sounds a lot to you like how modern Tiger Parents prep their children for college admissions in East Asia and beyond, you’re not alone. Many viewers have described Under the Queen’s Umbrella as a Joseon version of 2018’s SKY Castle, which centered on rich parents employing cutthroat intrigue to get their kids into Korea’s top universities and became one of the most popular K-dramas of all time.
5. Our Blues
Korean: 우리들의 블루스 | Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-ah, Cha Seung-won, Han Ji-min | Genre: Drama, Romance, Melodrama, Slice-of-Life
Our Blues doesn’t feel like a typical K-drama, and that’s a good thing. The show is more of an anthology which dances between the stories of over a dozen interconnected individuals who live on Jeju Island, off Korea’s southern tip. An ensemble cast—Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-ah, Cha Seung-won, Uhm Jung-hwa, alongside many others—assumes roles across all walks of life: truck drivers, business owners, pearl divers, and so forth.
There’s a tranquil and melancholy, but never depressing, vibe to Our Blues, like drinking warm coffee on a rainy day. The show manages to meaningfully address a litany of social issues across its 20 episodes, from ableism to suicide and child abuse, while still giving those who want romance in their K-dramas something to feel good about. It’s no surprise that Our Blues became one of the highest-rated Korean dramas of 2022.
4. Twenty One Twenty Five
Korean: 스물다섯 스물하나 | Starring: Kim Tae-ri, Nam Joo-hyuk | Genre: Youth, Romance, Historical, Coming-of-Age
In 1997, South Korea plunged into the Asian Financial Crisis, which Koreans to this day call the “IMF Crisis” due to harsh bailout terms imposed by the International Monetary Fund. It’s amidst this historical trauma that Twenty One Twenty Five kicks off with its story of two young lovers.
Kim Tae-ri plays Na Hee-do, a high school fencer with gold medal aspirations, while Nam Joo-hyuk plays Baek Yi-jin, a college dropout. The IMF Crisis has disrupted both of their dreams: Na’s high school fencing program gets defunded amidst fiscal austerity, while Baek’s family goes from “riches to rags”, forcing him to drop out of college and get a job.
Through the budding relationship between Na and Baek, Twenty One Twenty Five offers a soothing and measured walk down memory lane of late 90’s and early 2000’s Korea, weaving in historical events like 9/11 to show how the tides of time beat ceaselessly at the rock of relationships. Through a framing narrative that involves Na’s young daughter in the present day, the drama does a good job of appealing to audiences across age spectrums: young people experiencing life today, and those who grew up during the 90’s who want to reminisce about their youth. That broad appeal likely led Twenty One Twenty Five to become one of the most-watched Korean dramas of 2022.
3. All Of Us Are Dead
Korean: 지금 우리 학교는 | Starring: Yoon Chan-young, Park Ji-hu, Cho Yi-hyun | Genre: Zombie, Action
If you’re looking for a Korean drama that invites binge watching, look no further than All of Us Are Dead. This show—which centers on a group of students who get trapped at school during a zombie outbreak—is the most action-packed and thrilling K-drama of 2022.
All of Us Are Dead feels like a more youthful, television-length counterpart to 2016’s smash hit Train to Busan. Like Train to Busan, the show’s characters represent different sides of human nature, and the zombie apocalypse forces those characters to clash in memorable, gut-wrenching ways that we won’t spoil in this blurb.
You don’t need to be a dedicated Korean drama fan to appreciate All of Us Are Dead either. As a Netflix-produced show, it eschews the slow pacing and excessive romance that traditional K-dramas often contain. In fact, All of Us Are Dead became the third most-watched non-English series of all time on Netflix soon after its debut, speaking to its broad appeal.
2. Little Women
Korean: 작은 아씨들 | Starring: Kim Go-eun, Nam Ji-hyun, Park Ji-hoo, Wi Ha-joon | Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Loosely adapted from American author Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel of the same name, Little Women offers a refreshing female-centric story that will hopefully have as much of an impact on gender representation as its namesake. This drama centers on three sisters from the Oh family: In-Joo (Kim Go-eun), In-kyung (Nam Ji-hyun), and In-hye (Park Ji-hu). Each sister pursues her own ambitions, but an incident regarding a bag of money sets them on a collision course with one of Korea’s richest families, and tests their relationships.
Little Women stands out for its preponderance of well-developed female characters; this is a drama that certainly passes the Bechdel test. Even if you ignore the drama’s feminist appeal, it’s simply good entertainment, with loads of suspense and adventure to boot. Another fun fact: Little Women is written by Chung Seok-kyung, who also wrote the scripts for some of Korea’s best feature films in recent memory (ex. The Handmaiden, Decision to Leave).
1. Extraordinary Attorney Woo
Korean: 이상한 변호사 우영우 | Starring: Park Eun-bin, Kang Tae-oh, Kang Ki-young | Genre: Legal, Romance
Our choice for the #1 top Korean drama of 2022 goes to Extraordinary Attorney Woo. We picked the show not only because it’s entertaining, but also because it’s sparked more societal reckoning than any other K-drama on this list.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo focuses on a lawyer named Woo Young-woo who has high functioning autism. After experiencing bullying as a child and discrimination on her job search (despite earning a law degree from Korea’s best university), Woo ends up getting a position at a Seoul law firm that handles a variety of criminal cases that allow audiences to learn about different aspects of South Korean society.
We end up seeing Woo use her talents to help a North Korean defector, resolve marriage disputes, defend autistic clients, and more. Through all this, Park Eun-bin portrays attorney Woo with nuance and aplomb, helping audiences worldwide better understand what it’s like to be autistic in South Korea.
It’s with this note of autistic representation that we’ve chosen to highlight Extraordinary Attorney Woo. With its runaway popularity on television and Netflix worldwide, the show has given a degree of humanity and visibility to autism that few other Korean dramas (or shows from any country, for that matter) do. This is especially important in the show’s homeland, where heavy stigma against autism still exists today.
However, there’s also valid criticism that Extraordinary Attorney Woo reinforces certain stereotypes about autism, by setting the potential expectation that all autistic individuals will be like attorney Woo. Criticism though means people are having conversations about the treatment of autistic individuals in society and media as a result of this show—and that’s the first step to change. While flawed in its quest to provide entertainment, Extraordinary Attorney Woo has sparked dialog that we hope will lead to positive impact, bit by bit.
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Want more K-dramas? Check out our lists of 2020 and 2021‘s best Korean dramas. Or, check out our list of 2022’s Best Korean Movies!