list of korean joseon drama

13 Most Underrated Korean Historical Dramas In 2023 | Awesome Period Dramas From Joseon Era And More!

I love watching Korean historical dramas as they’re so well-researched and entertaining. So I’ve got this list of Korean Joseon dramas you can binge on Netflix, viu, or other streaming sites.

If you think of Korean dramas, fluffy romances or thrilling zombie stories come to mind. But K-dramas are more than that. This list of Korean Joseon drama proves this.

What I love most about Korean historical dramas is that they offer a glimpse into Korean culture to a wider audience.

K-dramas are popular in countries like the US, UK, India, Japan, Singapore, and so many other countries.

These historical k-dramas teach the people there about the past, traditions, and rich culture of South Korea.

All while being super entertaining!

So you might be wondering what exactly is a Joseon drama? Joseon or Chosŏn is a Korean dynasty that spanned the course of five centuries – precisely from 1392 to 1897.

Most of the Korean historical dramas or Korean Joseon dramas are based during this time period. Hence the name. 

List of Korean Joseon DramasGenreIMDB Ratings
Mr. QueenComedy8.8/10
Mr. SunshineRomance, Drama, Political 8.8/10
Hwarang: The Warrior Poet YouthRomantic Comedy8.0/10
The King In LoveRomance7.3/10
Queen For Seven DaysRomance, Political7.7/10
Jewel In The PalaceMelodrama8.5/10
Gunman In JoseonAction, Revenge Thriller7.2/10
Empress KiRomance, Drama8.5/10

Korean Historical Dramas 2023

Here is a list of Korean Joseon dramas that I happened to love. These are highly rated by both critics and audiences.

Mr. Queen  

  • Cast: Shin Hye-sun and Kim Jung-hyun
  • Number of Episodes: 20 episodes
  • Rating: 8.6
  • Year: 2020
  • Genre: Comedy

Mr. Queen isn’t your run-of-the-mill Korean Joseon drama, and this is what I love about it. Unlike most Korean historical dramas which are romances or political thrillers, this one is a comedy.

The story takes place both in the past and present simultaneously. It revolves around an up-and-coming chef in Seoul that is one day transported to the Joseon era.

Not only does he wake up in an era that is centuries older than his own. He wakes up as a woman… In the body of none other than the Queen!

The dark secrets he uncovers as a “Mr Queen” in the Joseon era and the awkwardness caused by his modern life melting into his historical one is the crux of the story.

best historical korean drama

Viewers looking for LGBTQ content will also find it somewhat in the show. As our main character retains the preferences of a straight man while he is in the Joseon queen’s body, it gives great scope for awkwardness and mischief.

The plot of the show is lighthearted and yes, the Joseon dynasty Kdrama takes several liberties with actual history. But that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

Don’t go in here if you’re looking for an accurate portrayal of politics or historical culture. This is by all means a fictionalized show heavy on the entertainment factor.

Mr. Sunshine 

  • Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-ri, Yoo Yeon-seok, Kim Min-jung and Byun Yo-han
  • Number of Episodes: 24 episodes
  • Rating: 8.8
  • Year: 2018
  • Genre: Romance and Melodrama

This Korean Joseon drama is set during the twilight years of the Joseon dynasty. It’s the late 1800s, just before the Japanese colonization of Korea.

The story revolves around Eugene Choi, an escaped slave who makes his fortune in America as a US Marine Corps.

When he returns to Korea on a mission, the unexpected happens – he falls in love with an Aristocrat’s granddaughter who is herself part of a political rebellion!

I love Mr Sunshine as it combines the trappings of a regular romantic K-drama with historical accuracy and a very intriguing and intelligent plot.

You’ll not feel bored even for an episode as you’ll be so caught up in the twists and political turns of the show. At the same time, the explosive chemistry between the main leads will keep your interests engaged.

If you like your period dramas to be accurate, then you’ll love Mr. Sunshine! From the costumes to the sets, the show is marvellous when it comes to portraying the historical era correctly.

Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth 

  • Cast: Park Seo-joon, Go Ara, and Park Hyung-sik.
  • Number of Episodes: 20 episodes
  • Rating: 8.0 
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre: Coming of Age, Romance

If you don’t want to watch a complicated, political story and want something more lighthearted, you should give this historical Korean drama a watch.

It revolves around the Hwarangs, its titular group of elite warriors that are sworn to protect the kingdom and the royal family. 

What’s unknown to the other Hwarangs is that their prince and future king is among them too! 

What I especially liked about the Hwarang: Warrior Poet Youth is that this Korean historical drama is that it uses the old-timey era as context to generate comedy and awkward moments that also propel the plot forward.

This k-drama isn’t technically a Korean Joseon drama as it takes place in the 6th Century, during the rule of the Silla dynasty. 

But it’s a very modern show will lots of fun, romance, fluff, and other elements that make Korean dramas so popular worldwide. 

The King in Love 

  • Cast: Im Si-wan, Im Yoon-ah and Hong Jong-hyun
  • Number of Episodes: 40 episodes
  • Rating:8.3
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre: Romance

Oof, love triangles are the worst. Well, at least for the ones who live them. While viewers watching them have the most entertaining time.

And that’s what the King In Love is about, a love triangle between the King, his best friend, and the same woman they happen to love.

best korean historical romance

The story takes place in the Goryeo period. And the sets and costumes look so accurate and amazing, you will be transported to this era! 

I was bowled over by the lovely cinematography and background score while first watching this show.  

Queen for Seven Days 

  • Cast: Park Min-young, Yeon Woo-jin,  Lee Dong-gun
  • Number of Episodes: 20 episodes
  • Rating: 7.9
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre: Romance, Political 

This historical Korean drama has a real-life couple as its main characters. However, there is a bit of fantasy and fiction involved for sure.

Queen Chae Kyung was a real-life figure who was dethroned just 7 days after her coronation.

The story takes place in the pre-Joseon period and revolves around, as the title suggests, King Muryeong’s daughter Soo Baek Hyang.

Righteous and simple, she prefers a quiter life while her ambitious half-sister, Seol-hee plots to become the princess.

The K-drama has over 100 episodes and will make you cry rivers. I definitely recommend watching it if you’re in the mood for something epic.

The Princess’ Man 

  • Cast:  Park Si-hoo, Moon Chae-won, Kim Yeong-cheol, Song Jong-ho, Hong Soo-hyun and Lee Soon-jae
  • Number of Episodes: 24 episodes
  • Rating: 8.1
  • Year: 2011
  • Genre: Romance, Action

Historical dramas often make for fantastic forbidden romances! Who can forget Romeo and Juliet, eh? 

The Princess’ Man has a similar plot as it tells the tale of Se-ryung, the daughter of the would-be king, and Kim Seung-yoo, the son of her father’s biggest rival.

Now that’s what we call complicated!

The Princess’ Man is shorter than most Korean historical dramas with just 24 episodes. And it manages to keep the romance front and center, despite the political plot.

Watch it for something short and sweet!

Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People 

  • Cast: Yoon Kyun-sang, Chae Soo-bin, Kim Ji-seok, Lee Ha-nui
  • Number of Episodes: 30 episodes
  • Rating: 8.2
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre: Romance, Melodrama

Another Korean Joseon drama that highlights the political struggles during that period is Rebel. The story is inspired by the tale of Robin Hood and focuses on the son of a servant, Hong Gil-dong.

Due to his status as a servant, Hong Gil-dong has no hopes of elevating himself in a classist Korean society.

He becomes the leader of a gang of thieves that take money from the despotic king Yeonsangun to give back to the poor.

Gil-dong is also in love with the King’s consort Jang Nok-su, who is his first love. 

Jewel in the Palace 

  • Cast: Lee Young-ae, Ji Jin-hee, Hong Ri-na, Im Ho, Yang Mi-kyung, Kyeon Mi-ri
  • Number of Episodes: 24 episodes
  • Rating: 9.1
  • Year: 2003
  • Genre: Drama

Perhaps one of the most influential historical Korean dramas, Dae Jang Geum or Jewel In The Palace is both critically acclaimed and entertaining.

Unlike most dramas that concentrate on politics or romance, this show tells the (real) story of Jang-geum, the first female physician in the Joseon dynasty.

Apart from its feminist theme, The Jewel In The Palace is also known for placing the spotlight on Korean traditional medicine and Korean cuisine. 

best historical korean drama on netflix

Deep Rooted Tree 

  • Cast:  Han Suk-kyu, Jang Hyuk and Shin Se-kyung
  • Number of Episodes: 24 episodes
  • Rating: 8.3
  • Year: 2011
  • Genre: Mystery, Romance

This Korean Joseon drama is based on the historical novel of the same name written by ee Jung-myung. It revolves around a slave turned royal guard called Ddol-bok.

Ddol-bok swears revenge on King Sejong for unknowingly causing the death of his in-laws and their slaves, the latter of whom were Ddol-bok’s family.

It also includes real historical details about the creation of the Korean alphabet Hangul and how the commoners in Korean society come to use it. 

Six Flying Dragons 

  • Cast: Yoo Ah-in, Kim Myung-min, Shin Se-kyung, Byun Yo-han, Yoon Kyun-sang, Chun Ho-jin
  • Number of Episodes: 50 episodes
  • Rating: 8.9
  • Year: 2015
  • Genre: Political Drama

This historical drama focuses on the real-life character of Yi Bang-won, a prince who was to later become Taejong of Joseon, the third king of the Joseon dynasty. 

Six Flying Dragons dramatize his ascent to the throne and how he laid the foundation of the Joseon dynasty.

korean historical drama based on true story

Empress Ki 

  • Cast: Ha Ji-won, Joo Jin-mo, Ji Chang-wook, Baek Jin-hee
  • Number of Episodes: 51 episodes
  • Rating: 8.5
  • Year: 2013
  • Genre: Romance

If you want a riveting story with a strong female lead, this is it! 

Empress Ki chronicles the life of Gi Seungnyang, a commoner living in the Goryeo dynasty who overcomes the shackles of the class system and manages to rise to power.

She marries Toghon Temur, the Emperor of the Mongol Empire, and becomes Empress herself. 

But while the Emperor is deeply in love with her, gi Seungnyang still has feelings for her first love Wang-Yu.

Gunman in Joseon

  • Cast: Han Joo-wan, Jeon Hye-bin, Nam Sang-mi, Lee Joon-gi
  • Number of episodes: 22
  • Rating: 7.2/10
  • Year: 2014
  • Genre: Drama

Most Underrated Historical K-Drama

If you’re looking for a series to binge watch this weekend, then this one’s for you! All I hear is “vengeance” when I think of this Korean drama featuring life in the 19th century.

The story revolves around Yoon-kang, who was on a mission to get his revenge after he lost his father, one the best swordsman in the 19th century, who was tragically killed and thereafter had to face the enslavement of his younger sister, who was also later killed.

All he cared for then, was revenge. He gave up his sword and decided to become a shooter and very soon after he became a hero among the people.

Packed with adventure, action and drama, the Gunman in Joseon is a series that will keep you gripped to your seat!

 Ruler: Master of the Mask

  • Cast: Yoon So-hee, Kim So-hyun, Yoo Seung-ho, Kim Myung-soo
  • Number of episodes: 40
  • Rating: 7.4/10
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre: Romance, Melodrama

Must-See Historical Korean Drama

If you like romantic comedies, but with a twist of melodrama, then Ruler: Master of the Mask should be your first pick!

The series revolves around the story of a crown prince, Lee Sun, who was masked and raised privately in order to be protected from the Pyeonghwa society. 

After 16 years when he grew up into a young lad and decided to secretly leave the palace unmasked, in order to find out the reason behind him being masked for the past 16 years. 

He found out about the Pyeonghwa society and fought them because they manipulated his country illicitly.

As the series progresses, Lee Sun falls in love with an official’s daughter Lady Han Ga-eun.

What is the difference between a serious historical Korean drama and a romantic historical Korean drama?

The primary difference between a serious historical Korean drama and a romantic historical Korean drama lies in their focus, tone, and narrative emphasis:

Serious Historical Korean Drama:

  1. Focus on Historical Accuracy: Serious historical Korean dramas, often referred to as “sageuk” dramas, prioritize historical accuracy. They aim to depict a specific time period in Korean history with attention to detail regarding costumes, settings, and cultural norms.
  2. Complex Plot: These dramas tend to have intricate and multi-layered plots that revolve around historical events, political intrigue, power struggles, and societal issues. They may incorporate real historical figures and events into the storyline.
  3. Character Development: Character development in serious historical dramas often emphasizes the growth and transformation of characters within the historical context. Main characters may face moral dilemmas or confront complex societal norms.
  4. Themes: Themes in serious historical Korean dramas can range from loyalty, honor, and sacrifice to themes related to the era depicted, such as Confucianism, social hierarchy, and traditional values.
  5. Limited Romance: While romantic subplots may exist in serious historical dramas, they are typically not the central focus. Romance tends to take a backseat to the broader historical and political narrative.

Romantic Historical Korean Drama:

  1. Focus on Romance: Romantic historical Korean dramas, often called “sageuk romances,” prioritize the romantic relationships between characters. These dramas use a historical backdrop as a setting for love stories.
  2. Simplified History: While they maintain some elements of historical accuracy, romantic historical dramas often take creative liberties with historical events and may prioritize storytelling over strict historical authenticity.
  3. Love-Centric Plot: The central plot revolves around romantic relationships, often featuring love triangles, forbidden love, or star-crossed lovers. The emotional journeys of the main characters are key to the narrative.
  4. Character Relationships: The character dynamics in romantic historical dramas primarily revolve around romantic interests, their interactions, and how love challenges societal norms or obstacles within the historical context.
  5. Themes: Themes in these dramas often include love, passion, and the power of love to overcome obstacles. They may also explore themes of class differences, social prejudice, and the clash between tradition and personal desires.
  6. Visual Appeal: Romantic historical dramas often place a strong emphasis on costume design, cinematography, and picturesque settings to enhance the romantic atmosphere.

In summary, the key difference between serious historical Korean dramas and romantic historical Korean dramas is their narrative focus.

Serious historical dramas prioritize historical accuracy, complex plots, and themes related to history and society, with romance as a secondary element.

Romantic historical dramas, on the other hand, prioritize romantic relationships and use history as a backdrop to enhance the love story, often with creative liberties taken for storytelling purposes.

Ultimately, the choice between the two types depends on your preference for either a more historically grounded narrative or a romantic, emotionally charged storyline.

FAQs about Korean Historical Dramas

Is hwarang based on a true story?

Yes and no. Yes, the Hwarang really existed. As in there were groups of elite mean sworn to protect and accompany the king and these men were called the Hwarang. But all of the incidents and storylines shown in the K-drama are fictional and do not bear resemblance to any real-life events.

Which historical Kdrama is best?

There is a wide range of kdramas are available. Each show has its own charm and reason to watch. If you are more historical based, you can enjoy My Sassy Girl, Jang Ok Jung, Living by Love and so on. If you are more romantic comedy genre fan, you can enjoy Princess Hours, My Princess and so on. If you are more mystery and thriller genre, you can enjoy Secret Garden instead.

Who plays the queen in Hwarang?

The character of Queen Jiso, the ruling monarch of Korean is played by the actress Kim Ji-Soo. In the show Queen Jiso is the one who founds the secret group of the Hwarang.

Korean historical dramas aren’t just biographies or boring documentaries. 

The setting of these dramas might be during the Joseon era but the plot is always fresh and relevant. 

There are Korean historical romances, thriller dramas, and even political intrigues. So you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Why You Should Trust Koreatruly?

All our editors including the author of this article, Song-i do extensive research on the products reviewed and recommended in the article. We also use these products ourself to give you accurate, first hand information without any prejudice or bias. Koreatruly has also got a team of medical reviewers and skincare experts to help give accurate advice and provide research-based facts concerning a product, its formulation or ingredients.

Also Read:

Why Is Korean Drama so Popular

Best Funny Korean Dramas

Best Korean Ghost Dramas

Similar Posts