Best K-dramas of 2023

Gabriela Silva
Ji Chang-wook and Lee Jung-ha in The Worst of Evil and Moving

As the year draws to a close, K-drama enthusiasts can reflect on a satisfying period filled with gripping storylines that elicited tears, heartbreak, astonishment, and an insatiable desire for more. Let’s delve into the standout K-dramas of 2023.

Some K-dramas have ticked off fans’ needs with tropes like My Demon’s fantasy romance between a handsome demon and a too-busy CEO female lead. Romances, like Destined With You, had fans swooning over the destined love story between the characters. While some K-dramas, like King the Land, check-marked all needed tropes that some fans felt were a bit lackluster.

But there’s no denying that certain K-dramas in 2023 were the most talked-about for months thanks to their riveting storylines and impressive cast. A few certainly come to mind without fail.

Kim Tae-ri’s Revenant was a chilling thriller that was applauded for the actor’s dual ability to portray her character and an evil spirit. Bae Suzy’s Doona! was praised for its outlook on changing love in a time of need that left us wanting more by the finale. But some K-dramas took the cake through and through.

5. Sweet Home Season 2

After three years, K-drama fans got the second installment of Netflix’s Sweet Home. Based on the digital comic Sweet Home on WEBTOON, Song Kang returns to his coveted role as Cha Hyun-soo in Season 2, with a majority of the original cast and new faces. Continuing the storyline, Hyun-soo and the surviving tenants find themselves in a new apocalyptic world.

Having survived the monsters in the building, they soon realize the outside world has no desire to protect them. They must fend for themselves once again. Hyun-soo becomes the bridge between humanity and monsters – hoping to become a hero. Amid the chaos, there’s hope for a cure or possibly a new world order.

Sweet Home Season 2 upped the drama, gore, and action to the extreme, which makes for an even more riveting watch than the first season. With a bigger landscape and more characters, the K-drama developed more complex and invested stories. As it should have, as the complexity of the apocalypse goes much deeper than just Hyun-soo.

Not to mention the detailed use of setting and grotesque monsters and blood. The K-drama explores the reality between what makes us human and real monsters. Song Kang and the cast leave fans excited for Season 3 and what will become of the world. Read Dexerto’s review here.

4. A Time Called You

Starring Ahn Hyo-seop and Jeon Yeo-been, A Time Called You is one of the most complex K-dramas to wrap one’s head around. But it’s also the reason why it makes it one of the best of 2023. The storyline mixes deep-rooted love and a riveting story of time travel. Based on experience, it’s a K-drama storyline never seen before.

Han Jun-hee (Jeon) is still grieving the loss of her boyfriend who died in a plane crash. Soon she begins to see a man resembling him and receives a tape player as a gift. While listening to the tape, she’s transported to the year 1998. Here’s the kicker: she’s not herself, but a high school student named Min-ju.

It just so happens that one of the people she knows, Si-heon, looks exactly like her boyfriend. How can that be? Jun-hee is thrust into a world of complexity and needs to find answers before it’s too late. A Time Called You requires multiple rewinds, close attention to detail, and note-taking to understand the story. While tedious, it’s one of the rare few K-dramas that would leave anyone gasping in utter shock.

3. Mask Girl

Netflix debuted one of the best 2023 K-dramas titled Mask Girl. Based on the original webtoon, the K-drama focused on society’s perception of beauty and how it can turn into disaster and murder. New actor Lee Han-byeol starred as Kim Mo-mi, an ordinary office worker. Despite having dreamed of becoming a celebrity, society’s expectations deemed her ugly.

The only solace she has is her alternate persona: an online webcam girl named Mask Girl. Her only joy is shattered when she makes a mistake and her channel is suspended. Also, one of her coworkers discovers her identity. Mask Girl soon dives into a heavy and dark storyline of how far people would go for beauty as a murder takes place. Mo-mi finds herself trying to pick up the pieces of her life and dreams while trying to run from her demons.

Mask Girl had everyone hooked for its dazzling cinematography and storyline. It took the real-life issue of beauty and plastic surgery and intertwined it with a thriller story of trying to find happiness. Not to mention, the 2023 K-drama has multiple twists and turns no one would have seen coming.

2. The Worst of Evil

Ji Chang-wook, Wi Ha-joon, and Im Se-mi deserve a round of applause for this incredible work in Disney+’s The Worst of Evil. The crime K-drama had fans hooked from the get-go. Set in the 1990s, Park Jun-mo (Ji) is a run-of-the-mill cop whose wife’s family thinks lowly of him because he has no high-ranking title like her.

When presented with an opportunity to infiltrate one of Gangnam’s biggest crime organizations, Jun-mo takes the chance. Jung Gi-cheul (Wi) went from club DJ to running the gang and running narcotics. Jun-mo must get close to Gi-cheul and learn everything he can about the new shipments. But there’s a problem: Yoo Eui-jeong (Im), Jun-mo’s wife, is also put on the case.

It just so happens that she’s Gi-cheul’s first love and is unaware she’s married to Jun-mo. The Worst of Evil was a dynamic and bloody display of action and raw emotion. Ji stunned fans with his ability to portray the fragility of his character entangled with the ruthless killer he had become within the gang.

K-drama fans were left clinging to every moment as even a crime boss had a heart of gold while wondering if an undercover marriage could survive.

1. Moving

Taking the top spot as the best K-drama of 2023 is none other than Kang Full’s Moving. Based on his original webtoon, the successful Disney+ K-drama gives a new outlook to superheroes. Three high school teenagers have developed powers – unaware of the reality behind them.

Kim Bong-seok (Lee Jung-ha) was raised by his mother and tries to control his ability to fly. Unable to control it, he’s overweight and wears weighted plates to stop him from floating. He soon meets Jang Hee-soo (Go Yoon-jung), a new student who can’t get hurt and was raised by her father. Class president Lee Kang-hoon (Kim Do-hoon) keeps himself away and his powers of super strength a secret.

As Bong-seok and Hee-soo develop a strong bond, they are unaware of who their parents really are. Once highly trained secret agents, they left to protect their children from being used by the organization. Years later, they must become ruthless killers again to protect them.

Moving was tagged as one of the best K-dramas of the year thanks to its use of stuntwork, CGI, and outstanding visuals. Not to mention the cast’s heartfelt performances that had fans shedding tears. This K-drama isn’t about fancy capes, but the need to protect the people you love at all costs.

Fans are eagerly awaiting news of Moving Season 2, and whether the creator’s other webtoons will be adapted.

Read more K-drama news here, details about December K-dramas here, and Netflix’s best originals here.