Some of the most popular content on Netflix in 2021 has come from South Korea. Each new month has brought multiple exciting dramas, thrillers, and romances, and below we’ll be listing what we feel has been the very best of South Korean content on Netflix in 2021 so far.
Between K-Pop and K-Dramas, South Korea is really giving Japan and its anime a run for its money on what is having the greatest impact on Western media right now.
Netflix has become one of the largest and most important platforms in the world for non-English language content, helping break down barriers many would have thought impossible to overcome just a decade or two ago. Arguably no country has benefitted more than South Korea, which over the past few years has seen the consumption of its movies and television skyrocket.
It’s thanks to Netflix’s investment of hundreds of millions of dollars into South Korean content which had made some of the titles in the list available to stream.
With 2021’s slate being so big, we thought we’d pick out some of our favorite new K-drama additions this year.
Squid Game (Season 1) N
In our preview for Squid Game, we predicted that it would be the biggest K-Drama to land on Netflix since the release of the zombie-horror series Kingdom. However, we certainly weren’t expecting just how popular Squid Game was truly going to be.
At the time of writing Squid Game has only been available to stream on Netflix for just over three weeks, but the series is on track to become the most-watched Netflix Original in Netflix’s eight-year history of original content. This means that Squid Game will be more popular than Stranger Things, Tiger King, The Witcher, Lupin, Money Heist, and Bridgerton.
You can’t go five minutes without browsing on YouTube or TikTok before you’ll see some reference or video of Squid Game. Some of the games seen in the show, such as Red Light Green Light have been emulated, and can now be found on such sites as Roblox and video games such as Overwatch.
If you haven’t already watched it, then please don’t miss out on watching the biggest Netflix show of the year.
Hundreds of contestants, all in deep financial hardship, are invited to take part in a selection of survival games which will see the winner earn themselves millions of dollars. However, the chance of becoming a millionaire also comes at the risk of losing your life and your humanity.
Hospital Playlist (Season 2) N
Hospital Playlist was already an extremely popular K-Drama on Netflix thanks to how successful the first season was when it arrived in 2020.
Before the first episode of Hospital Playlist even arrived on Netflix, we knew that a second season was on the way. Fans were rewarded for their patience, and the second season was received just as well as the first, and by the slimmest of margins outperforming its first season in the ratings in South Korea.
Unfortunately, we aren’t expecting to see a third season, however, this does mean subscribers have two excellent seasons, and a total of 24 episodes to binged on demand.
Since their time as undergrads in 1999, five doctors have remained good friends for twenty years, working at the same hospital. While their lives are anything but ordinary, they are but in the microcosm of life as they witness life and death on a daily basis. Throughout the years, their love of music resulted in the doctors starting a band together.
Kingdom: Ashin of the North (Special Episode) N
Prior to Kingdom’s release on Netflix subscribers only had the option to watch licensed K-Dramas, or exclusive internationally licensed K-Dramas with the Original tag. Many of these shows were popular in their own right, however, it’s thanks to Netflix’s first fully produced South Korean series Kingdom, that brought millions of more eyes to the genre.
Kingdom truly exemplifies the talent of South Korean filmmakers and is a wonderful representation of how beautiful the country is thanks to the show’s phenomenal cinematography.
Ashin of the North was a welcome distraction while we wait on the news for a potential third season of Kingdom, while at the same time the one-off episode added a rich amount of back story to the show’s most mysterious character yet.
Abandoned by all and at her wit’s end, Ashin returns decades later to avenge her people. Death is just the beginning and her vengeance will be paid in blood.
Vincenzo (Season 1) N
Another powerhouse in the ratings, Song Joong Ki in his role as the suave and intelligent Vincenzo Cassano had millions of K-Dramas fans swooning and hot under the collar.
Week to week Vincenzo’s episodes got better and better, which was reflected in its ratings in South Korea when the tvN series became the ninth highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history.
Many of the weekly K-Dramas perform well, but it takes something special to garner the same level of attention as Vincenzo.
Adapted into the Cassano crime family as a child, Park Ju Hyeong is raised in Italy and given the name Vincenzo. Now an adult, Vincenzo has grown to become a lawyer for the mafia and the families consigliere. But thanks to warring factions within the family, Vincenzo returns to South Korea where he takes on the Babel Group, a powerful conglomerate that has taken ownership of the building where tons of gold remains hidden in the foundations.
Space Sweepers (2021) N
The release of Space Sweepers was not only a massive deal for Netflix, but also for South Korean cinema. Regarded as Korea’s first space blockbuster, it was important to have as many eyes on the movie as possible, which Netflix provided in droves. Millions of subscribers tuned in to watch Space Sweepers, which made the film a smash hit on the platform, and had many of the top ten lists around the world feature the space blockbuster.
An incredibly fun, and extremely well-made movie, it’s astonishing what director Jo Sung-hee and his team at Bidangil Pictures could produce on a humble budget of only $21.2 million.
In the not-so-distant future, Earth is on the brink of destruction, and the only form of currency left is the trash that remains. A team of space sweepers close to collapse suddenly find their luck changed when they find a human-like robot. Thinking they’ve hit the big time, it’s not long before word travels across the galaxy, and soon other crews go on the hunt for the space sweepers in hope of stealing the robot for themselves.
Most Anticipated K-Dramas Still To Come in 2021
There are two more upcoming K-Dramas that we expect to be on this list before the end of the year, those being the action-thriller My Name, and the horror Hellbound.
If you haven’t already, then you need to watch this highlighted clip from My Name. If the fighting choreography from the clip is just a taste of what to expect, then we expect Netflix will have another extremely popular show on its hands.
My Name is centered around Yoon Ji Woo, who after joining an organized crime ring, goes undercover and infiltrates the police, in order to find those responsible for the death of her father.
As for Hellbound, we’d been waiting all year to learn more about the exciting horror drama. Based on the incredibly popular webtoon of the same name, we fully expect Hellbound to be one of the biggest releases of the year, and once we got our first look at the series suffice to say we are fully committed to binging all of the series when it drops in November 2021.
Jung Jin Soo, the head and founder of the new religion Saejinrihwe, preaches that the death angels sent from hell are a revelation from god. His intense charisma attracts many strange and passionate followers. Bae Young Jae, a program director of a broadcasting station is determined to get to discover the truth about Saejinrihwe, meanwhile, Detective Jin Kyung Hoon investigates the mystery behind the angels of death.
What has been your favorite K-Drama on Netflix in 2021? Did we miss your favorite movie or series from our list? Let us know in the comments below!