The fall season is upon us, which means one thing: an import of new K-dramas on Netflix.
Thus far, 2023 has been a bit of a sleepy year for Korean dramas. While there have been some bonafide hits — including The Glory and King the Land — no one series has completely overtaken the K-drama world or hijacked the more casual international K-drama audience either. But the year isn’t over yet, and Netflix has some major titles coming as part of their fall release schedule. Here are the five upcoming Korean dramas that you should be watching this fall on Netflix.
A Time Called You
Release date: Sept. 8
Episode count: 12
Recommended for fans of: While You Were Sleeping (the K-drama, not the 1995 Sandra Bullock romantic drama), Mr. Queen, Signal
The inspiration for timey-wimey romance A Time Called You is a popular Taiwanese drama called Someday or One Day, but Korean pop culture has its own history of mixing time travel and romance to great success. Il Mare, the 2000 romance drama film about a man and a woman who share a house in different points of time, would go on to inspire the 2006 Hollywood film The Lake House. (It also starred a young Lee Jung-jae, long before Squid Game made him recognizable to most Western audiences.) And it’s not particularly uncommon to stumble upon a modern K-drama that casually incorporates time travel into its plot. (See: The King: Eternal Monarch or Mr. Queen for particularly well-executed examples.)
Still, there’s something special about a K-drama — or any drama — that uses time travel as a central conceit, and A Time Called You definitely qualifies. The series stars Jeon Yeo-been (Vincenzo, Glitch) as Han Jun-hee, a woman who is grieving the death of her boyfriend, Ko Yeon-Jun (Dr. Romantic 2’s Ahn Hyo-seop) a year after the fateful incident. When Jun-hee unexpectedly travels back in time to the year 1998, wakes up in the body of an 18-year-old girl called Min-ju, and meets a boy who looks exactly like her dead boyfriend, a time-travel mystery romance ensues.
Song of the Bandits
Release date: Sept. 22
Episode count: 12
Recommended for fans of: Mr. Sunshine, Kingdom, My Country: The New Age
Billed as a Korean Western and a “wild action spectacle” by Netflix, Song of the Bandits is one of the most anticipated K-dramas of the season. The show is set in a region in China historically known as Jiandao, where some Koreans fled to escape Japanese occupation in the early 20th century. Today, the region in China is known as the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, and is home to more than 800,000 ethnic Koreans.
The series is an action period drama set in the 1920s, and will follow some of the Korean refugees who fled to the “lawless land” of Jiandao (also known as Gando to Koreans) and unite to protect their settlement from harm. Kim Nam-gil (Memoir of a Murderer, Queen Seondook) stars as Lee Yoon, a Korean serving under the Japanese military who decides to become a bandit to protect the people of Jiandao. Girls Generation member Seo-hyun (Jinxed at First) costars as Nam Hee-shin, a woman hiding her true identity as she works for the Japanese-controlled railway bureau. Expect plenty of intrigue and gunfights from this one, which could be 2023’s Mr. Sunshine — or, perhaps, be good enough to be spoken of without comparison.
Release date: Oct. 20th
Episode count: 8
Recommended for fans of: Crash Landing on You, Notting Hill, To My Star
Adapted from a Webtoon comic of the same name, Doona! is the story of a former idol called Lee Doo-na (Start-Up’s Bae Suzy) who has become a recluse after her abrupt retirement from the limelight. When she meets ordinary university student Lee Won-joon (My Country: The New Age’s Yang Se-jong, back from mandatory military service), who lives in her apartment building, the two fall for one another.
Compared to the other recommendations on this list, Doona! is a relatively small-scale story, but those can make for the very best K-dramas. Adding to the anticipation of Doona!, webtoon author Min Song-ah is adapting her own story for the screen, and Crash Landing on You director Lee Jung-Hyo is behind the camera.
Release date: TBA
Episode count: TBA
Recommended for fans of: The Terror: Infamy, Kingdom, The Guest
In terms of new Netflix K-dramas coming out this fall, this is the big one. It stars two of Korea’s most recognizable international stars: Park Seo-joon (Itaewon Class, Concrete Utopia), set to make his MCU debut this fall in The Marvels; and Han So-hee (Nevertheless, My Name, Jungkook’s “Seven” music video). It presumably has a solid budget, given its cast and promotion, and has already been renewed for a second season.
The premise is pretty good, too, and crafted by Dr. Romantic scribe Kang Eun-kyung. Gyeongsang Creature is set in historic Seoul, which was occasionally called “Gyeongsang” during the Joseon dynasty and, more officially, during Japanese occupation. Taking place in the spring of 1945, at the tail end of Japan’s forced annexation of Korea, Gyeongsang Creature will pair real-life history with supernatural drama, much in the same way The Terror did for two excellent seasons on AMC. It follows Park’s Jang Tae-sang, a wealthy pawn shop owner who knows everything that goes down in the city, and Han’s Yoon Chae-ok, a bounty hunter who tracks down missing people, as they go up against monsters who have been plaguing the city. Presumably, they will fall in love in the process. (Tae-san and Chae-ok, not the monsters… we assume.)
Sweet Home season 2
Release date: TBA
Episode count: TBA (probably 10)
Recommended for fans of: Sweet Home Season 1, Hellbound, Alice in the Borderland
Of course, it’s not just new series that will be coming to Netflix this fall. We’re also getting the return of some already established fan favorites, including Sweet Home. One of Hollywood’s more hotly debated influences on the Korean TV industry is a move away from the one-and-done format. Previously, Korean dramas almost always ran for a a single season. On the rare occasion when they were very popular, they might get a few additional “special” episodes, but, for the most part, it was single, complete seasons all the way. Since U.S.-based streamers like Netflix have started investing in Korean dramas on the production level, it has become more common for K-dramas to be constructed with multiple seasons in mind, changing the pace and shape of the traditional K-drama format.
Sweet Home, the first Netflix K-drama to rank in the Top 10 in the U.S. back when it premiered in 2020, was seemingly always conceived as a multi-season show, with the first season of the horror drama leaving room for additional story. Already considered one of the best Webtoon adaptations of all time, Sweet Home follows a group of survivors trapped in an apartment complex during a zombie-like outbreak that sees people turning into mutated monsters. The series has a great ensemble cast, and stars Song Kang (Nevertheless, Forecasting Love and Weather) as Cha Hyun-su, a severely depressed young man who moved into the building just before the outbreak, following the tragic deaths of his family members. Sweet Home is already greenlit for a third season, so if you’ve yet to check out the supernatural K-drama, here is the sign that you absolutely should. The show is a breathless apocalyptic thriller that never makes viewers choose between the visceral suspense of its grotesque horror and the character-driven drama of its survivor ensemble.