Maybe it’s my impatience for new episodes of Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, or maybe it’s the complete dearth of K-drama romances lately (aforementioned Strong Woman excluded), but I’ve found myself thinking back on some of the best romances I’ve seen in dramas. If you’re looking for some of the best K-drama couples to fill your time while you wait for the neverending stream of legal/office dramas to end, here are my 10 favorite Korean drama couples of all time!
1. Healer: Chae Young Shin and Seo Jung Hoo
If you’ve ever read anything on this blog, you had to know this was coming. Healer‘s couple is everything I ever wanted in a K-drama romance. Shared trust, mutual support, shy glances, easy friendship, passionate kisses….If this romance doesn’t work for you, you should probably get your heart checked out to make sure you aren’t actually a robot. (And I’m sorry to be the one to break the robot news to you.)
2. Coffee Prince: Go Eun Chan and Choi Han Kyul
Coffee Prince was the very first drama I ever saw, and you can see where that led me (5 years later, blogging about it in my pajamas instead of vacuuming like I should be doing). What drew me to K-dramas was the way we got to see the full progression of the couple’s relationship in this series instead of rolling the credits the minute they got together. Han Kyul’s confession of “I don’t know if you’re a man or an alien” remains one of the most passionate, pleading, and heartfelt romantic moments of any K-drama, ever.
3. Queen In Hyun’s Man: Choi Hee Jin and Kim Boong Do
There are a lot of time travel dramas out there, but I don’t know that any capture that feeling of a love that spans the ages quite like Queen In Hyun’s Man. Here we have two leads who get along with each other and care for each other from the moment they meet. It’s no surprise that these two actors started dating at the end of the series (though they later broke up)—their chemistry was obvious.
4. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo: Kim Bok Joo and Jung Joon Hyung
This drama aired fairly recently, but I doubt it will drop off my personal list of the best couples any time soon. These two have such an easy, natural chemistry, and the show avoided one of the biggest pitfalls I see in so many K-dramas: instead of wasting a bunch of time keeping the couple apart, the bulk of the series focused on showing us just how much they enjoyed being around each other.
5. It’s Okay, That’s Love: Ji Hae Soo and Jang Jae Yeol
Several of the couples on my list are young, puppylike romances, and part of the reason for that is that many K-dramas seem to have a hard time showing what actual adult romances look like. Not so with It’s Okay, That’s Love. Here we have a couple dealing with actual issues like sex and mental illness in ways that don’t feel immature or shallow. And the kissing. Oh, the kissing.
6. King 2 Hearts: Lee Jae Shin and Eun Shi Kyung
7. Cheer Up!/Sassy Go Go: Kang Young Do and Kim Yeol
These two. They just put a smile on my face. They manage to capture exactly what it feels like to be 18 and dating for the first time—the flirty post-its, the embarrassing blushes, the irrepressible grins (with a healthy dose of cute eye smiles all around). They’re just so stinking adorable that I could watch scenes between these two all day, every day.
For the record, this couple just edged out Eun Ji’s other youth romance, Answer Me 1997. While there are a lot of things I love about Answer Me 1997 as a whole, the relationship was a little too shouty to make the list. Still, for those Shi Won/Yoon Jae shippers out there, I give you this conciliatory screen shot:
8. Marriage, Not Dating: Joo Jang Mi and Gong Gi Tae
Marriage, Not Dating is probably my favorite K-drama romcom of all time, and it introduced me to the massively charming Han Groo (who is off having twins, which is wonderful for her but sad for my TV screen). I love how Jang Mi and Gi Tae seem like real people, and the show managed to keep up the comedic spark between them without devolving into a sea of tears at the end.
9. The Princess’s Man: Lee Se Ryung and Kim Seung Yoo
Okay, so I don’t actually remember a ton of the details of this couple, but what I do remember is being swept up in the sheer force and grandeur of the romance. I sometimes have a hard time connecting with the romance in historical dramas because everyone’s so buttoned up and formal, but the fictional characters let this one focus more heavily on the love story. If you’re looking for epic, this couple will give you epic and then some.
10. Birth of a Beauty: Sa Geum Ran and Han Tae Hee
Look. Sometimes the best shows don’t have the best couples, and sometimes bad shows have good couples. Brith of a Beauty isn’t a show I generally recommend to people, but I genuinely love the interactions between Geum Ran and Tae Hee. I got through all the piles and piles of nonsense on that show through the sheer power of their chemistry—and that’s really saying something.
This list was nearly impossibly hard to compile. I wish you could see how much I agonized over including this drama and excluding that one (all at the expense of showering or finishing that ever-present vacuuming). But coming to the final conclusions left me with some interesting insights.
- This list overlaps with four of my favorite K-drama kisses and four of my favorite male leads who aren’t jerks. Go figure—if you don’t populate your dramas with cruel male leads and actually let your characters kiss, you have a better chance of having a good couple!
- No actor or actress made the list twice (though I did cheat and mention two Eunji dramas).
- The oldest show on the list is Coffee Prince from 2007. The most recent is Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo from 2016. While I have seen quite a few classic K-drama romances, a lot of them either really play up the noble idiocy or have controlling male leads that kept them off the list. The one I considered including is Dalja’s Spring (also 2007), but ultimately even that one was too draggy to make the cut.
- As it turns out, a lot of my favorite dramas have one character who’s pulling most of the weight and making the show work. Off the list with them! Everyone pulls their weight around here!
- Strong Woman Do Bong Soon isn’t over yet, but if it keeps going at this pace, it might just make the cut. It’s a balanced relationship with mutual respect and swoon-worthy chemistry. Don’t ruin it, show!
I know some of you will have opposing opinions about this list! Let me know who your favorite K-drama couples are!