Noting that South Korean pop culture has become at least as loved outside the Republic as within it should brook no argument in 2021. It all started with the international rise of K-pop, a broad umbrella term for just about any popular music coming from Korea—I’ve spoken to friends with young kids in at least five countries who are all exhausted by their unabated obsession with BTS—though South Korean films had a reverent following stateside long before Parasite’s history-making Academy Award victory. As with art from any country or culture, not all South Korean entertainment is gold, but the TV and movies the country is exporting are more than able to compete on a global scale.
Case in point: Squid Game, the buzzy survival drama that has captured the world’s attention in a big way. In terms of viewers who sampled the first episode, Netflix says that it’s the most popular in the streamer’s history, beating the previous record-holder, the similarly buzzy Bridgerton, by nearly 30 million viewers. Those are serious numbers (and the Google search traffic tells a similar story).
Even before Squid Game hit, Netflix was betting big on K-dramas—and while being spoiled for choice is a good thing, but it can be tough to know where to begin. Here are some of the best and most popular shows on Netflix right now (there are plenty more coming, don’t worry) that represent the breadth of South Korean TV: horror, rom-com, ccience fiction, period drama…whatever you’re into, you can probably find a distinct Korean-language take.