K-dramas to take you back in time

Inspirational tales of royalty from the Goryeo, Joseon, Goguryeo, and Balhae eras, elaborate costumes, and ornate settings reminiscent of a bygone era, make up some of the best Korean historical dramas, commonly referred to as K-dramas.

And, if you’re a fan of all things Korean as well as a history buff, you’re sure to explore this particular group of binge-worthy K-dramas.

As it stands, Korean dramas have gained global acclaim due to their strong storyline and powerful performances over the past few years.

Covering a range of genres, including thriller, fantasy, romance, horror and noir, their availability on OTT platforms (including ViuNetflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu), has bridged the gap between Korean content and international audiences.

Plus, with the runaway success of shows like squid games (2021-), Crash landing on you (2019-2020) and Vincenzo (2021–), viewers are looking for more Korean shows with gripping stories.

Among all the genres, one specific genre that stands out and gets global attention lately is historical Korean dramas.

These shows seem to evoke a new wave of theatergoers. With themes revolving around mundane working-class life or a king’s court plagued by conspiracies and enemies, these historical Korean dramas take you back in time to relive the magnificence of the era.

Here are some of the best historical Korean dramas to binge-watch right now

The crowned clown (2019)

Image Courtesy: IMDb

This Korean drama centers on the King of Joseon, Yi Heon (Yeo Jin-gu), who escapes the kingdom to save his life from a conspiracy. When the power struggle reaches the throne, Heon’s doppelganger is crowned king.

Directed by Kim Hee-won, The crowned clown is a dark and intense political drama that features actors Se-yeoung Lee as Yoo So Woon and Hae-hyo Kwon as non-Yeo Shin Chi Soo in key roles.

This is a remake of the 2012 historical drama film Masquerade by director Chang-min Choo.

Nokdu’s story (2019)

best historical k-dramas
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Set in the Joseon era, this historical romantic comedy series is about a man who cross-dresses as a woman to find details of his birth in a women-only village.

The drama follows a series of hilarious events that take place in the kingdom and is based on Hye-Jin Yang’s 2014 webtoon of the same name.

Directed by Kim Dong-hwi, Nokdu’s story brings out some of the best on-screen performances through characters like Jeon Nok Du, Dong Dong Joo, Cha Yul Mu and King Gwang Hae played by Dong-Yoon Jang, Kim So-Hyun, Tae-oh Kang and Jun- ho Jeong.

Moon Lovers: Scarlet-Hearted Ryeo (2016)

best historical k-dramas
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Based on the Chinese novel Bu Bu Jing Xin from Tong Hua, this historical K-drama is about a 21st-century woman who is transported to the Goryeo era in ancient Korea.

She wakes up in the body of 16-year-old Hae Soo (IU), and meets seven princes of the kingdom, including the 8th Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha-neul), the 4th Prince Wang So (Lee Joon-Gi), the 13th Prince Baek Ah (Nam Joo-hyuk) and 14th Prince Wang Jung (Ji Soo). It is there that she experiences the intricacies of love, friendship and palace politics.

Directed by Kyoo-tae Kim, Moon Lovers: Scarlet-Hearted Ryeo marks one of singer and songwriter IU’s best performances alongside Lee.

Empress Ki (2013)

best historical k-dramas
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Based on the true story of Öljei Khutuk Khatun, this gripping historical epic follows Ki Seung Nyang/Empress Ki (Ha Ji-Won), who finds herself wrapped up in a world of war and politics in the Yuan Dynasty.

Directed by Han Hee and Seong-joon Lee, Empress Ki chronicles the life of a woman born in Goryeo (Won), who rises to power despite being born as a warrior and serving at court.

Other notable characters include Ta Hwan/Emperor Togon (Ji Chang-Wook), Lady Park (Hye-Rin Han), and Wang Yoo (Ju Jin-Mo).

100 days my prince (2018)

Directed by Jong Jae Lee and Sung-Woo Nam, this historical K-drama tells the story of a crown prince who loses his memory and lives the life of an ordinary man in a village.

Crown Prince Lee Yool (Kyung-soo Do) meets Hong Shim (Nam Ji-Hyun), the oldest spinster in his kingdom, and after accidentally marrying her, he begins to live an ordinary life as a husband. During this phase, he experiences the mundane journey of retrieving his memory.

Rookie historian Goo Hae Ryung (2019)

best historical k-dramas
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This period drama revolves around the story of Goo Hae Ryung (Shin Se-Kyung), a free-spirited 19th-century historian who wants to succeed in her professional life.

While continuing her journey to become the best historian in her village, she becomes entangled with Prince Yi Rim (Cha Eun-Woo), and a new romantic controversy begins at Nokseodang Palace.

Rookie historian Goo Hae Ryung includes other impressive performances from Ji-Hoon Lee as Officer Min Woo Won, Gi-woong Park as Crown Prince Yi Jin, and Ji-Hyun Park as Song Sa Hee.

Six flying dragons (2015-2016)

best historical k-dramas
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Directed by Kyung Soo Shin, Six flying dragons is a long-running historical drama centered on the story of Yi Bang Won (Yoo Ah-in) and his role in founding the Joseon Dynasty in ancient Korea. It depicts the conflicts he faces as he embarks on a journey to become king.

This period drama also reunites actors Yoo and Shin Se-Kyung, who previously played the roles of Kang Young-gul and Lee Ga-young in the South Korean TV drama. The king of fashion (2012).

The Great Queen Seondeok (2009)

best historical k-dramas
Image Courtesy: IMDb

Set around the ancient kingdom of Silla from 632 to 647 CE, the story revolves around the titular character Deokman/Queen Seondoek (Yo-won Lee) and her rise to become the first female ruler of the ancient Korea.

Directed by Geun-hong Kim and Hong Kyun Park, the drama follows Deokman’s childhood where she was forced to leave the country and reside in exile. Later, she begins a journey to her kingdom to eventually find her twin sister.

The Great Queen Seondeok features notable performances from Jeong Woong-in, Jeong-hyeon Kim, Dam Ryu, and No-min Jeon as Mi-Saeng, Ha-Jong, Go-do, and Seol-won respectively.

(Main and featured image courtesy: IMDb)

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