The Best K-Dramas Set in Historical Settings

The rise in popularity of K-Dramas is an undeniable phenomenon. Although many shows follow pleasantly cliched storylines, they somehow present themselves with intricate twists. Whether it’s the recent hit Broker, Pachinko Where squid game, they still have the most star-studded cast who are exceptional at delivering heartbreaking emotions and comedic sketches. Some of the best elements included in K-Dramas are the historical aspects often used in storylines. Ranging from extremely serious comedies to typical romantic comedies that take place periodically, these K-Dramas also intrigue the viewer to learn more about Korean history. Seeing new K-Dramas with historical aspects take over the world, let’s look at the best K-Dramas that are set in historical settings.

5 Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung (2019)

Written by Kim Ho-Soo and starring handsome Shin Se-Kyung and dashing Cha Eun-Woo, Rookie historian Goo Hae-Ryung is a show that completely encapsulates the lifestyle of traditional eras. The story follows Goo Hae-Ryung as a historian despised due to her gender and her involvement with the prince. The drama has a funny and playful aspect, which is strongly accentuated by the frequently played sound effects, while the characters move. It shows a more modern mindset compared to real life at that time. Although having a comic aspect, he does not hesitate to talk about serious subjects considered taboo. Additionally, the chemistry between the two leads makes this show the most enjoyable and continues to improve as it progresses.


4 Kingdom (2019)

Directed by Kim Seong-hun, Kingdom is a cinematic masterpiece, with many scenes filmed aesthetically in the dark, with fire as the only light source, further adding to the horror. It shows the story of a kingdom worried about its ailing king and crown prince Yi Chang (Ju Ji-Hoon) as their only hope of protecting them from a disastrous plague. The storyline is exceptionally unique, showing the concept of a zombie apocalypse in medieval times.

Currently, with two seasons, Kingdom includes political intrigue, such as the historical rivalry between the Korean peninsula and Japan, which makes the scenario even more dense and enjoyable. This, coupled with the threat of zombies running faster than Usain Bolt, is the perfect recipe for gory horror fans. Fans who consider Kingdom as the best zombie show can also watch spin-off movie called Kingdom: Northern Ashin, waiting for the new seasons.


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3 Empress Ki (2013)

Featuring idols Han Ji-Won and Ji Chang-Wook, Empress Ki is loosely based on a true story and is written by Jang Young-Chul. It follows the story of a woman who navigates life in the face of possible slavery, living as a boy, becoming the king’s bodyguard, and eventually becoming an empress. The show explores themes of politics, wars and love. The 51-episode drama has viewers wondering who she loves between the King of Korea and the Emperor of China. However, the show shows the resilience and power of a strong woman, which viewers hardly see, especially in dramas set in ancient times. Set in Chinese Yuan Dynasty, Empress Ki is sure to impress viewers, many of whom choose to rewatch it, no matter how long it lasts. It honors the last Mongol Empress Ki, who after her husband’s death assumed the throne and became one of the most powerful women of the Yuan dynasty.

2 Moon Lovers: Scarlet-Hearted Ryeo (2016)

Written by Cho Yoon-Young and starring Lee Joon-Gi and Lee Ji-Eun (IU), Moon Lovers: Scarlet-Hearted Ryeo is the most beautifully tragic roller coaster you can ride. It shows the story of Hae-Soo, who is transported from the future to the Goryeo Dynasty. She witnesses love, politics, and rivalries between princes in a struggle for throne and love.

As soon as the 4th Prince’s main character, Wang So (Lee Joon-Gi), appears onscreen, viewers are instantly hooked on the facial expressions, despite his mask. Moreover, Ji-Eun Lee makes viewers feel the same emotions as her character Hae-Soo. When Hae-Soo desperately writes letters to King Wang So and receives no response, viewers can definitely feel the same heartbreaking emotion. On the plus side, it also includes comedic scenes like the iconic fight between the 10th prince, Wang Eun (Byun Baek-Hyun), and our leading lady, Hae-Soo (Ji-Eun Lee). The show leaves us on a cliffhanger, with Wang So telling Hae-Soo that he will meet her in the future and Hae-Soo waking up in his current body. Fans can anticipate the storyline that a new season will pursue, although nothing is certain.


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1 Mr. Queen (2020)

A hilarious romantic fantasy drama written by Park Gye-ok, Mr Queen stars Hye Sun-Shin as Kim So-Young and Kim Jung-Hyun as King Cheoljong. It tells the story of a modern leader trapped in the body of a queen in the Joseon era, and what follows is pure mayhem in the best possible way.

This drama is said to be on another level, with the spirit top-notch dialogue and chemistry between the two wires. The beautiful cinematography is most visible in the So-Young cooking scene, with camera angles panning over different ingredients. Hye Sun-Shin particularly renders the character of So-Young, playing a man in a woman’s body, becoming so real to viewers with her acting skills. The plot is unique and original, changing the perception of periodic dramas. The charm of this show makes 20 episodes seem too little for this comedy gold drama.

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