From the iconic jumpsuits of Squid Game to the supernatural beings of Hellbound, Korean shows dominated global popular culture in 2021.
Overall, global viewing hours of Korean shows grew six-fold last year, compared to 2019. To date, Squid Game is the biggest show Netflix has ever launched, reigning as the most viewed show in 94 countries at its peak. In fact, 95% of Squid Game’s viewership came from outside Korea, and many of these viewers went on to explore other Korean content.
Two months after Squid Game, Netflix launched Hellbound, whose premiere clocked 43.48 million viewing hours. Hellbound was among the Top 10 Netflix shows in 93 countries, and ranked number one in 34 countries. Sci-fi mystery The Silent Sea also made it to the number one spot on the weekly non-English Top 10 lists for its premiere.
Credit for this growing global interest goes to the talented Korean creators that have teamed up with the streaming service. From 2016 to 2021, they’ve launched more than 130 Korean titles. As a result, Netflix has become a compelling destination for fans of Korean content, who know that it is the home of diverse and high-quality Korean storytelling.
As this fanbase increasingly includes viewers from all over the world, Netflix continues to collaborate with Korean storytellers to bring the K-wave to new heights. This is why there are more than 25 compelling Korean shows launching this year.
Viewers can look forward to All of Us Are Dead, in which zombies invade a high school; Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area, an adaptation of the popular Spanish series; and the action-packed thrills of Seoul Vibe, a film where the adventures of a special-ops team take place against the backdrop of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
Juvenile Justice deals with a judge who dislikes juvenile delinquents, later realizing the troubles children face in society and how society is circumventing them to become better people. Kim Hye-soo( Hyena, Signal) plays Sim Eun-seok, the charismatic judge newly appointed to a district with the highest juvenile delinquency and makes unorthodox decisions to existing judgments. She later tries to send a message that society is also responsible for juveniles’ immoral and illicit acts.
Twenty Five, Twenty One is a 16 episode drama of youths who lost their dream to the zeitgeist of 1998, a drama of their dilemma and growth. They called out each other’s names for the first time when they were twenty-two and eighteen. Now they’ve each become twenty-five and twenty-one. The fine line between a heart-fluttering first love and a heart-warming friendship gives them butterflies. Their sparkling love and growth, as well as the chemistry and hardships among the five friends, remind us of our intense yet beautiful youth. The drama starting Kim Tae-ri, Nam Joo-hyuk, Kim Ji Yeon, Choi Hyun Wook, Lee Ju Myung is set to air Saturday and Sunday on February 12th.
Forecasting Love and Weather starting Park Min Young, Song Kang, Yoon Bak and Yura is a cheerful romance drama of people at the Korea Meteorological Administration who break, fall and get back on their feet every day. The story narrates Jin Ha-kyung, who decides never to commit to an office romance after a brutal break-up, again falling into a relationship with a newcomer in the team Lee Si-woo who is different but attractive in his own way. With a star-studded cast of Park Min Young and Song Kang, this is one of the most anticipated Romantic Comedies in the first half of 2022.
Thirty Nine is a down-to-earth life and romance drama that touches deep into the friendship, love and life of three friends who are about to turn forty. A coincidence in their high school years brought the three of them together to become BFFs. Cha Mi-jo (played by Son Ye-jin) Jeong Chan-young (played by Jeon Mi-do) and Jang Joo-hee (played by Kim Ji-hyun) are very close friends who have been through both the good and the worst times together. Mi-jo now works as a Dermatologist, Chan-young as an acting coach and Joo-hee as a cosmetics sales manager. One fine day, when they are all 39, life takes a turn for the worse and they have to get ready for goodbye. The 12 episode drama starring Son Ye-jin, Jeon Mi-do and Kim Ji-hyun is set to air Saturday’s and Sunday’s on February 12th.
The grim reapers who used to escort the dead now save those who want to die. An afterlife fantasy drama, Tomorrow depicts how a long-time unemployed Choi Jun-woong accidentally bumps into grim reapers on a special mission and becomes a contract worker at their Crisis Management Team to help them out on their mission.
An office romance drama, Business Proposal, is based on a globally famous web novel and webtoon of the same name with a total 320 million views. An office romance of a perfect CEO who’s got both the looks and the brains and an average employee who becomes his blind date will certainly keep you away from quitting your job! An average employee Shin Ha-ri (played by Kim Se Jeong) goes on a blind date in her friend’s stead as a sassy girl, only to find her blind date to be the CEO of her company, Kang Tae-moo (played by Ahn Hyo-Seop). After the two run into each other on their blind date, they each struggle in their own way at the office as the CEO and the employee, which can sometimes be sweet, thrilling and even tense.
The Sound of Magic, based on the popular webtoon Annarasumanara, is a touching drama about Yoon Ah-yi, a girl who had to grow up too fast, and Rieul, a mysterious magician who — although grown up — wants to remain as a kid. Ji Chang-wook plays Rieul, a mysterious magician who lives in an abandoned amusement park, Choi Sung-eun plays the role of Yoon Ah-yi and Hwang In-youp will play Yoon Ah-yi’s classmate Na Il-deung. The Sound of Magic will be directed by Kim Sung-youn whose impeccable storytelling skills were shown in the hit series, Itaweon Class. He teams up again with writer Kim Min Jeong, who worked with him on Love in the Moonlight.
Remarriage & Desires is a satire of Korean society governed by desire. Set at the exclusive matchmaking agency Rex catering to the top echelons of society, ambitious souls hope to upgrade their status by marrying or remarrying into the ranks of the elite. They aspire to nab someone from the “Black” tier, the highest group consisting of the top 0.001 percent of the population. With a star-studded cast of Kim Hee-Seon, Lee Hyun-Wook, and Jung Eungene, Remarriage and Desires shrewdly portrays the commercialized dating/marriage business and society’s perception in which we live.
A Model Family is a story about a man on the brink of bankruptcy and divorce stumbling upon a car loaded with cash. The incident has him crossing paths with the second-in-command of a drug organization. Jung Woo, Park Hee-soon, Yoon Jin-seo and Park Ji-yeon lead this thrilling illustration of an ordinary family coincidently putting hands on illegal drug money. The scene-stealing synergy between acclaimed actors Jung Woo – who plays the man discovering the cash – and Park Hee-soon – who plays the second-in-command of Drug Cartel – is a must-watch ready to captivate the audience.
Glitch tells the story of Hong Jihyo, who attempts to track down her missing boyfriend with the help of members of a UFO club. In the process, she comes face to face with a mysterious secret. Writer Gin Han-sai who enthralled audiences and critics with the much-lauded Netflix series Extracurricular. The series will be directed by Roh Deok, known for her genre-crossing agility, and Jeon Yeo-been plays the lead role of Hong Jihyo, and NANA plays Bora.
Based on real-life events, the story is about an ordinary entrepreneur who has no choice but to risk his life in joining the secret mission of government agents to capture a Korean drug lord operating in The Accidental Narco. The Accidental Narco marks Director Yoon Jong-bin’s first foray into series and first collaboration with Netflix. A star-studded cast including Ha Jung-woo, Hwang Jung-min, Park Hae-soo, Jo Woo-jin and Yoo Yeson-seok is on deck, along with mounting anticipation as The Accidental Narco is the first collaboration between Ha Jung-woo and Hwang Jung-min.
The Fabulous is a highly realistic romance that explores the dreams, love, and friendship of young people who devote their lives to working in the fashion industry, where fashion often means passion. Love to Hate You is about the war-like relationship between a woman who hates losing to men and a man frantically suspicious of women who later discover life remedies behind their opposite characteristics. Starring Kim Ok-bin and Teo Yoo, Love to Hate You depicts the love and emotional sympathy that triumphs over the broader mistrust between the opposite sex.
Money Heist: Korea-Joint Economic Area narrates a genius strategist and his talented crew – composed of top-class thieves – attempting to pull off an unprecedented heist in the Korean Peninsula. The story portrays unexpected twists and turns as the crew stage a hostage while facing inexplicable challenges. All eyes are focused on the background and definition behind the title Joint Economic Area.
A murder case revolves around the social dating app – Somebody, triggering a developer of the app, and her friends to entangle in inexplicable issues surrounding a mysterious figure named Yoon-oh. Prominent director Jung Ji-woo spearheads the production – marking his first foray into series and collaboration with Netflix – along with writer Han Ji-wan renown for his ability to write excellent thriller genre scripts. Star Kim Young-kwang leads the cast with a group of fresh new names – Kang Hae-lim, Kim Yong-ji and Kim Su-yeon.
Starring Kim woo-bin, Black Knight illustrates an air polluted world in 2071, where people depend on respirator masks to breathe. Only one percent of the human race has survived, and a strict social stratification has been established in the deserted lands of the Korean Peninsula. Delivery drivers play a crucial role within this system, and for refugees, becoming a delivery driver is their only hope for survival. Amid desolation, Black Knight tells the story of a legendary delivery driver 5-8 with exceptional battle skills and refugee Sawol who dreams of following in his footsteps..
Amongst the Korean films slated to arrive in Netflix this year is Love and Leashes, a film about a different kind of romance between a man with a unique taste and a woman who stumbles upon his secret. Seo Hyun, who recently played a shapeshifting swindler in Private Lives, will star in her first film, Love and Leashes. Jung Ji-woo, played by Seo Hyun in the film, is a woman who leads a racy romance by engaging in a “special” relationship with her co-worker after she accidentally learns about his secret peculiarities. Performing outstandingly across an array of genres like in the musical Swag Age: Shout, Joseon!, the drama Please Don’t Date Him, Imitation, rising star Lee Jun-young will play the role of Jung Ji-hoo, a man with unusual tastes. Lee Jun-young will add vibrancy and excitement in the role as his character’s charm and figure, adored by his female co-workers, hide his secret and unique taste.
A breathtaking spy action film Yaksha: Ruthless Operations unfolds as a merciless man known as “Yaksha” crosses paths with a prosecutor on a special inspection mission in Shenyang, a city in China notorious for espionage. Director Na Hyun makes his long-awaited comeback after directing The Prison, which has swept audiences off their feet with stunning action scenes and a tightly wound plot, and adapting Inseparable Bros into a delicate and heartwarming story. Sul Kyung-gu plays the callous head of the overseas espionage team, also known as the man-eating Yaksha, who accomplishes his goals by hook or by crook. Park Hae-soo, a global star from Squid Game, plays the role of Ji-hoon, a prosecutor demoted to Shenyang for playing it by the book.
Carter is a new original film about an agent suffering from memory loss who is thrown into the middle of a mysterious mission. At the helm of the series is director Jung Byung-gil, whose skilled hands have produced many unique action films.
Joo Won, who played powerful roles in Good doctor, Yong-pal, transforms into an action hero in Director Jung Byung-gil’s new work. In the popular drama Alice, which involved car chases and hand-to-hand combat, Joo Won exhibited his great skill in performing action scenes. The role of Carter will challenge him with even more extreme and exciting action. In the film, Carter is a top agent who awakens one day with a complete loss of memory, but is then thrown into the mission of a lifetime. Joo Won will portray the character’s inner struggle as he deals with the uncertainties of his mission.
Action blockbuster Seoul Vibe narrates a talented crew of baby drivers – known as the Sangedong Supreme team. With the world’s eyes drained to the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, the illegal transactions of capital (funds) is a significant issue. A special operation driven by the Sangedong Supreme team initiates to unravel the corruption behind the slush funds. An all-star cast – Yoo Ah-in, Ko Kyung-pyo, Lee kyoo-hyung , Park Ju-hyun, Ong Seong-wu– portrays this incredible chase in the city of Seoul tightly packed with breathtaking action scenes.
In 1999 – the last year of the 20th century – seventeen-year-old Bo-ra finds her first love: a sweet, pure but heartbreaking relationship. Years later in the 21st century, news about her first love revives her teenage romance that she once thought had forgotten. The 20th Century Girl narrates the lives of the youth in their 20s, filled with vivid moments of love and friendship. Starring the popular Kim You-jung, Byeon Woo-seok, Park Jung-woo, and Roh Yoon-Seo, this pit-a-patting film will be directed by Bang Woo-ri, who won the Best Short Film award for Mrs.Young at the Blue Dragon Awards.
JUNG_E portrays a desolated Earth in the 22nd century that is no longer inhabitable due to climate change. Amid the chaos, an internal war breaks out in the shelter built for human survival. Victory – meaning the end of the war – now hinges on finding a way to clone the legendary mercenary JUNG_E into a scalable robot. Orchestrated by Director Yeon Sang-ho of Train to Busan, Peninsula, and Hellbound, and with a colorful cast – Kang Soo-youn, Kim Hyun-joo, Ryu Kyung-soo JUNG_E portrays a unique theme combined with dystopia, cloning, and technology.
Photos courtesy of Netflix.