I just finished rewatching Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency and Bloody Heart – two fantastic historical Kdramas for those who aren’t in the know – for the second time, and I absolutely adored them.
And before that, I rounded up My Dearest (top drama, guys) and The Forbidden Marriage, so I’m not kidding when I say historical Kdramas have literally been the only things taking my time recently.
Despite most sageuk (historical) Kdramas being relatively long and politically intricate, this is easily my favorite genre of Kdramas.
With that said, I’d like to share with you my favorite historical Kdramas of all time. Buckle up and grab your popcorn. I can guarantee you’ll love one (or all) of the Kdramas on this list.
35 Best Historical Korean Dramas You Should Watch ASAP
1. Mr. Queen (2020)
Mr. Queen is one historical drama that will have you in stitches by the time you’re through with episode one.
With incredibly-timed quips and a stellar cast, there’s everything to love in this amazing drama.
In this drama, Jang Bong Hwan, the first-first male lead (it’s a little complicated), is a chef working at the Blue House who wakes up in the body of Queen Cheorin of the Joseon dynasty.
Having no way to go back, he decides to make the most of his life as Queen Cheorin, and if you’ve ever wondered what a switch between a demure maiden and a macho-man-man will look like, you’re in the right place.
The story evolves as Queen Cheorin – with Bong Hwan’s soul – discovers the dark secrets of King Cheoljong and figures out the one who controls the king as a puppet.
I think you’ll love this drama if you fancy retellings and if you missed Shin Hye Sun’s beautiful face.
As a bonus, if you enjoyed Seol In Ah as Jin Young Seo in A Business Proposal, then you’re going to love her here as the not-so-nice Jo Hwa Jin.
2. Bossam: Steal The Fate (2021)
If you needed another clue that I loved this drama, look to the fact that I’ve already rewatched it this year, and that brings the tally up to three rewatches after the first time it aired. Bossam: Steal The Fate is the type of drama you inhale, whether in bits or in its entirety.
In this drama, Ba Woo, played by the talented Jung Il Woo, is a ruffian single father who carries out bossams – the kidnapping of widows in blankets to enforce a new marriage – on behalf of his clients.
But, his fate is changed when he accidentally kidnaps Yi Su Kyeong, a widowed princess living with her inlaws since her to-be husband’s death out of loyalty to their family.
What happens after this is a heart-pounding and soul-wrenching journey to the capital, and I reckon every Kdrama watcher who loves, loves, and loves tropes will appreciate it.
I’ve loved Jung Il Woo since I watched him in Cinderella and The Four Knights and then Haechi, so it’s really no surprise that I gobbled this up and I know you will too!
3. 100 Days My Prince (2018)
In 100 Days My Prince, Crown Prince Lee Yul decrees that all citizens marry before turning 28.
Unfortunately, this happens right before he survives a deadly attack on his life and loses his memory.
Hong Shim, a maiden approaching 28, is then saved by her father before she can be sentenced for disobeying the missing prince’s words, and he presents the amnesiac Won Deuk, who he has brainwashed into assuming another identity as her long-term fiancé.
Whatever you’ve imagined about a prince (who doesn’t know he’s a prince) attempting to slum it with the locals should be multiplied to 900 billion because Won Deuk was going through it.
With so many hilarious moments and romantic scenes that held me in a chokehold for a long, long, long time, this is one extremely good historical Kdrama you’re not going to forget in a hurry.
4. Hwang Jin Yi (2006)
To be honest, I picked this drama because of two things: There’s a younger Jang Geun Suk (can you tell I was positively obsessed with You Are Beautiful?) in it, and it’s one of the fantastic Kdramas available on YouTube.
But, Hwang Jin Yi – loosely based on a real person’s life – won me over with her beautiful dance and resilient spirit. It wasn’t hard to love this drama once I started, and I hope you give it a chance.
This drama revolves around the life of Hwang Jin Yi, the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and a kisaeng.
Not wanting her daughter to follow in her footsteps, the kisaeng sends Jin Yi to a temple to be taken care of by a monk.
But, time and fate bring Jin Yi back to her destiny, and, as a young child, she finds herself mesmerized by the singing and dancing performed by the kisaengs.
Determined to become the best kisaeng of Joseon, Jin Yi begins her training under the best court dancer, Im Baek Moo. But her life takes an unexpected turn when she falls in love.
This historical Kdrama is full of love, music, sad music, tragedy, some love, more sad music, more tragedy, and even more sad music.
If you’re not bawling your eyes out by the final episode, then you can change my name.
5. Moonshine (2021)
The premise of this drama is that a new law is announced in Joseon which prohibits the making, selling, and buying of alcohol.
Inspector Nam Young, a do-gooder through and through, gets embroiled in a scandal of epic proportions with Kang Ro Seo, a poor, young woman who takes to secretly making and distributing alcohol for a profit, the nonchalant crown prince Lee Pyo, who frequents the underground bars almost as much as the ordinary man, and a host of other characters that support their trade in one way or the other.
Their story takes an exciting turn when the trio finds a hidden stash of alcohol, and their race to avoid the authorities becomes a life-or-death affair.
With close brushes with the law (and some crazy, entitled criminals) and a moral conflict at the root of the lead’s role, this was an immensely satisfying watch.
6. The King’s Affection (2021)
The OST of this drama is superb, and I absolutely loved the ending. I won’t spoil anything, but The King’s Affection is one of those dramas you have to watch and re-watch at least once a year.
This drama opens up with the Crown princess giving birth to twins in Joseon, where twins are considered to be ominous – and naturally, the female twin is to be killed.
To save her daughter, she sends her away, but through fate or luck, her daughter ends up working in the palace as a maid named Dam Yi.
One day, Dam Yi meets her twin brother, who lives as the crown prince, and they start switching places.
Unfortunately, her twin brother is mistakenly killed outside the palace while he’s dressed as a girl, and she’s dressed as him in his chambers.
Their mother finds out about the ruse and pleads with Dam Yi to live as her brother, and she does this successfully for years.
Until she meets Ji Woon, the son of one of the treacherous nobles, and she falls in love with him. If you think you’re immune to heartbreak, think again.
This historical Kdrama made me cry so much I could have powered a whole city with the salty liquid.
7. Queen Love And War (2019)
If you loved Kim Min Kyu in A Business Proposal, then you’re going to love this. Sure, there’s no moment where he takes off his glasses in that oh-so-sexy way, but trust me when I say he was practically on fire.
The way he would charge in in less than two seconds to remove her from uncomfortable situations and the way he didn’t shy away from ever letting her (and everyone that cared to listen) know in whatever way he could that he loved her was simply amazing.
Reader, trust me when I say you’ll enjoy this one (almost) as much as I did.
In Queen: Love And War, Kang Eun Bo wants to find the one who killed her twin sister, but only a queen has the power to order the search for a murderer, and she decides to become the queen.
She tries to get closer to King Lee Kyung, but with so many women vying for his attention, it’s not the easiest thing to do.
This is another historical Kdrama that I could bet my favorite pen would thrill viewers.
8. The Red Sleeve (2021)
Before we go into the summary of this Kdrama, I’ll have to be honest: The Red Sleeve’s romantic plotline feels more like an aside, so if you’re diving in in hopes of seeing many heroic moments, then you might get a little bit disappointed.
If you’ll stay for the political intrigue and the court dynamics, this is just the one for you.
Lee Jun Ho shines in his role as Crown Prince Yi San, a troubled young man haunted by the death of his father, who his cruel grandfather killed.
Unlike his grandfather, Yi San wants to become a benevolent king after sitting on the throne.
He falls in love with Seong Deok Im, a court lady assigned to his palace, and offers to make her his royal concubine.
There’s a lot of intrigue, and this drama might even feel like you’ve been slammed with a somewhat thriller plot, but it’s worth it – I promise.
I think my favorite thing about historical Kdramas is the numerous lives they dream up for a singular character in history.
Jeongjo Of Joseon, whose personal name was Yi San (played here by Jun Ho), has been depicted in several other capacities, which I’ll definitely explore in a future post.
Suffice it to say that this Kdrama is definitely worth watching, and I hope you take a chance on it,
9. Arang And The Magistrate (2012)
I love, love, love Arang and the Magistrate, and while it has been a hot minute since I watched it, it still remains one of my favorite Kdramas.
It’s sort of a blend of different elements, but one thing I can assure you is that the romance in this drama is superb, and there’s no overarching political bent to speak off.
You’ll enjoy this drama if you like historical Kdramas with a mystery storyline.
So, Arang is a ghost who doesn’t remember her life as she is stuck somewhere in the middle, and for her to find peace, she has to find out how she dies.
Enter Kim Eun Ho, the town’s new magistrate, played by Lee Joon Gi, who is the only person able to see her.
Soon enough, they’re trading favors, and what follows is a Kdrama you won’t forget in a hurry.
10. My Sassy Girl (2017)
Hye Myung is a headstrong princess with a bad reputation who often sneaks out of the palace to get drunk and get clues to help in her search for her mother, who was dethroned and exiled.
One of her out-of-palace stints leads her to Gyeon Woo, a scholar known as the “national treasure of Joseon” in the most ridiculous way – she throws up on his clothes, faints, and he has to carry her to a hotel.
She wakes up, assaults him because she believes he tried to touch her, and is promptly whisked away by her efficient guard.
Needless to say, both hate each other with a burning passion from the beginning, but love starts peeking through the shadows when fate forces them into different awkward situations.
This is one of the best historical dramas you’ll want to have on your watchlist if you like drama, romance, and a healthy dose of politics.
11. The Great Ambition (2002)
The Great Ambition revolves around two brothers, Park Jae Young (Jang Hyuk) and Park Si Young (Han Jae Suk).
Knowing the truth about their father’s business, Park Si Young decides to use all the dirty tricks in his book to gain control over his family business.
His effort pays off, and he becomes known as a strong businessman, but the only person he’s unable to control is Park Jae Young, his righteous brother who disapproves of his business ethics.
If you want a historical Kdrama that explores a crushing family dynamic that will keep you on your toes all through, then you don’t want to miss The Great Ambition.
12. The King’s Face (2014)
This drama is loosely based on the life of Prince Gwanghae (Gwanghaegun of Joseon) and the trials he faces as he works towards the throne of Joseon.
All hell breaks loose when Prince Gwanghae, the son of a concubine, becomes the crown prince, and for the next 16 years, he tries to survive the constant death threats and dethronement conspiracies floating around him.
On top of that, he faces the threat of losing his childhood ladylove to his own father, King Seonjo (Seonjo of Joseon), who sees him less as a successor and more as a rival.
This is one of the more political Kdramas on this list, and I promise that you’re going to enjoy it. There are bits of romance here and there and a healthy dose of political intrigue that’s sure to keep you up at night.
13. Empress Ki (2013)
Empress Ki is quite possibly one of the most popular historical saeguks in history, and with good reason. With an array of talented cast, and a heart-wrenching plotline, this drama scored a ten across the board in my books, and I just know for sure that you’re going to enjoy it.
The drama, based on actual events, tracks the journey of Ki Seung Nyang, a Goryeo-born woman who rises to become the empress of a powerful dynasty in a foreign land.
In this drama, Seung Nyang is taken to Yuan against her will to serve as a palace woman. Despite her lowly status, she rises to power and marries Emperor Toghon Temür after overcoming all hurdles and conspiracies created by the first wife of the emperor.
The final episode of this Kdrama devastated me, and I haven’t been able to watch it since the first time. I can assure you that by the time you’re through with this drama, the OST is going to be like Pavlov’s bell. That’s to say; you’re going to shed buckets once you hear the first notes of any of the songs on the track.
14. Faith (2012)
After marrying Noguk, a Yuan Princess, King Gongmin starts the journey back to Goryeo under the protection of his royal guards headed by Choi Young (played by Lee Min Ho).
Their procession is attacked, and the devastated King orders Choi Young to bring a doctor through the magic portal to save the new queen.
The portal takes Choi Young to modern-day Seoul, where he meets Yoo Eun Soo, a doctor. He forcefully brings her to Goryeo with a promise to safely send her back once she saves the queen.
Back in Goryeo, the duo is presented with different hurdles, and political discord is rife with conspiracies left and right shrouding the mysterious ambush.
If you want a time-travel historical Kdrama that perfectly blends romance with action, then Faith should definitely be on your watchlist. This is one of the OG saeguks, so if you’ve watched it before, this is the sign you’ve been waiting for to re-watch it now!
15. Moon Embracing The Sun (2012)
In Moon Embracing The Sun, Crown prince Lee Hwon (played by Kim So Hyun) falls in love with Lady Heo Yeon Woo at first sight, and she is announced as the crown princess.
But to secure more hold on the throne, the queen orders the head shaman to cast a spell of fatal sickness on Lady Heo so that she can make a girl from her clan the crown princess.
The kind head shaman does as ordered but later resurrects Lady Heo from her grave. She survives but loses her memories, and years later, she returns to the palace as Shaman Wol.
This historical Kdrama took the world by storm, and with good reason. Featuring an array of talented actors and an OST that may (read as: will definitely) make your heart feel like it’s been exposed to raw fire, you definitely do not want to miss this drama.
16. The Tale Of Nokdu (2019)
Having strict instruction from his father, Jeon Nok Du (Jang Dong Yoon) stayed on an island his whole life and never once put a foot on the mainland.
After an attack on his family by a group of female assassins, he ends up chasing the female killer to the capital.
Nok Du finds out that the only way to enter that village is to disguise himself as a woman, and the story evolves as he finesses his way into the town disguised as a woman and starts to uncover the many secrets about his birth.
17. Tinted With You (2021)
While working on a mysterious canvas as an assignment, Jung Eun Ho (Jun) ends up traveling back in time, and he meets Lee Heon, a deposed prince.
Lee Heon (Yoo Hyun Woo) is scared of being murdered by his older brother, who wants to secure the throne permanently. The both of them grow closer as they try to avoid the unending conspiracies in the royal palace hatched against Lee Heon.
18. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)
Go Ha Jin, a 21st-century down-on-her-luck woman, wakes up in the body of Hae Soo, in the Goryeo dynasty, and in the house of Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha Neul).
While living as Hae Soo, she becomes closer to the various princes, and they get up to all kinds of mischief and fun together.
Despite wanting to stay away from the politics, Hae Soo finds herself right in the middle of it as Wang Wook and Wang So – the brothers she has come to cherish in different ways – fight for the throne.
If you watch Kdramas at all, then there’s no way you haven’t heard of this drama.
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo quite literally took the world by storm when it was released, and it still causes significant ripples in the community today.
This Kdrama is the perfect blend if you want deep romance and political intrigue wrapped in a thoroughly engaging plot – You don’t want to miss this!
19. Hwarang (2016)
Kim Sun Woo (Park Seo Joon) was living a contended life in the countryside until his best-friend, who had been separated from his noble family, talked him into going to the capital.
Unfortunately, he’s killed and through a series of events, Sun Woo eventually has to live as his friend and after being scouted by the Queen, he joins Hwarang, an elite group created by Jiso, the regent queen.
In Hwarang, he meets the many different boys (including the King, even though he wasn’t aware of his identity until later on), and I loved every minute of it.
The bond between the group starts to grow deeper, and the story evolves as these warriors fight together against potential usurpers of the throne.
20. Tree With Deep Roots (2011)
King Se Jong (Han Suk Kyu), in trying to save his in-laws from his father’s wrath, accidentally causes their deaths.
Every enslaved person from his in-law’s house dies, but two manage to escape the mayhem, but they don’t know about each other.
Years later, they return to the palace as a warrior and court lady to affect their revenge.
This Kdrama is based on a novel with the same title by Lee Jeong Myeong, and trust me when I say it was spectacular.
I haven’t read the book, but this drama impressed me in ways I cannot explain, and you really need to watch this historical Korean drama if you’re in the mood for a revenge story that will make you sob.
21. Inspiring Generation (2014)
This riveting historical Kdrama is set in the 1930s during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai.
One day, Shin Jung Tae’s father is killed right before his eyes.
He is then accused of killing his father, and his prosecution results in a conviction. J
ung Tae then decides to take revenge and get justice, and to do that, he starts training to become a fantastic fighter.
22. Lovers Of The Red Sky (2021)
Guys, this drama is the bomb, and this isn’t cap.
If you missed/loved Ahn Hyo Seop in Business Proposal, then you’re going to love him even more in Lovers of the Red Sky.
In this drama, he’s in all his fiery glory, complete with red eyes and a dazzling smile.
This drama revolves around two extremely gifted people – Hong Cheon Gi (Kim Yoo Jung), a blessed painter, and Ha Ram (Ahn Hyo Seop), a talented astrologer.
I won’t go into details so that I don’t end up spilling the entire plot but suffice it to say that their destinies are intertwined.
Through a bad stroke of faith, they end up switching positions in life, and they’re thrust into two battles – one between brothers and the other against supernatural forces.
This sounds extra vague, but trust me when I say you’re going to love it! Historical Kdramas have a special place in my heart, and Lovers of the Red Sky is one Kdrama I can come back to a dozen times.
23. The Crowned Clown (2019)
In this drama, a paranoid king installs a lookalike on the throne to preserve his life.
But, things get complicated when his enemies start to like the ‘new’ king and his way of doing things.
And to make it even worse, the lookalike king and the queen start having feelings for each other.
24. Jang Ok Jung (2013)
Before I start not-so-bullying you into watching this drama, I feel it’s important to mention that the OST of this drama is beautiful.
Beautiful enough that the tune floats to me at the most random times and I keep picturing several scenes in my head, and I feel like bawling.
This drama is based on the early life of Joseon’s most infamous royal concubine Jang Hee Bin.
It tells the story of her life before she became a concubine – when she was living as the palace maid Jang Ok Jung, responsible for making clothes for royals.
Crossing the lines of the social structure, she falls in love with Prince Lee Soon, and what follows is a romance for the ages and a political tussle that once again proves that Joseon politicians were the sliest and ruthless fellows.
This is one of the best historical Kdramas you should watch if you’re in the mood for some tears.
25. The Royal Gambler (2016)
Prince Dae Gil (Jang Geum Suk) is sent into exile and forced to live the life of a commoner.
Determined to take revenge on the king for his exile, he decides to use his gambling skills to win his way back into the palace.
The drama evolves as Dae Gil and King Yeonjo (Yeo Jin Goo) face each other in a gamble.
While Dae Gil bets on his life, King Yeonjo has his whole kingdom at stake.
26. The Scholar Who Walks The Night (2015)
While fighting with Gwi, the vampire kingmaker, Sung Yeol (Lee Joon Gi), loses his betrothed and is turned into a vampire.
Because of this, he lives as a guardian vampire and can walk in daylight with the help of his black robe.
He then meets Jo Yang Sun (Lee Yu Bi), and both try to find a secret memorandum of the late crown prince with directions on how to kill Gwi.
Eventually, Sung Yeol falls in love with Sang Yun but is unaware that his goal to kill Gwi can only be achieved if he sacrifices Yang Sun.
27. Queen For Seven Days (2017)
Based on the life of Queen Dangyeong, Queen For Seven Days follows the story of Chae Kyung (Park Min Young), who becomes Queen Dangyeong after marrying King Jungjong.
But their happiness is short-lived, and the Queen’s family falls victim to the conspiracies of rival politics and is accused of treason.
Eventually, Queen Dangyeong is dethroned and exiled after being the queen for just seven days.
28. Jewel In The Palace (2003)
Also based on the life of a real person, this drama tells the success story of Seo Jang Geum, a Joseon woman, and how she managed to excel in a male-dominated profession.
Despite being a girl from the low class, she overcomes the gender discrimination prevalent in the rigid society of that time and becomes the first female royal physician.
Her skills, exploits, and knowledge earned her the title of “The Great Jang Geum,” granted by the king himself.
29. Nobleman Ryu’s Wedding (2021)
Ryu Hu Seon’s (Kang In Soo) life takes an unexpected turn when he finds out his new wife is actually a man.
It turns out that his bride disappeared before the ceremony, and to save the honor of the family, her brother Choi Ki Wan (Han Se Jin) takes her place.
Ho Seon decides to keep up the ruse in order to fulfill the last wish of his sick mother, and they cooperate to keep the secret of Ki Wan’s identity hidden.
30. Secret Royal Inspector And Joy (2021)
Ra Yi Eon (Ok Taec Yeon) had a simple dream of opening a dumpling shop, but he ends up passing the civil service examination and was appointed as a royal inspector.
He is then tasked with carrying out a secret mission to uncover the corruption in the polity, and together with Kim Jo Yi, a woman seeking her freedom after being tied down to an unreasonable husband and mother-in-law, they embark on a journey to find and expose all the corrupt people and right all their wrongs.
31. Maids (2014)
Guk In Yeop (Jung Yoo Mi), the only daughter of a nobleman, is famous in Joseon for her beauty and grace.
But, her father is accused of treason one day, and she turns into an enslaved person.
Struggling to adjust to her new life as a maid, she befriends her fellow enslaved people in order to survive, and she becomes very close to her former handmaiden.
One of those enslaved people is Moo Myeong (Oh Ji Ho), a mysterious man with a secret nobody knows.
She eventually falls in love with him, and she’s thrown head-first into a valley of secrets, betrayal, and deceit.
While this is one of the lesser-known Kdramas on this list, best believe it packs a punch.
This fascinating historical Korean drama will appeal to you if you like a healthy mix of romance and politics.
32. King Maker: The Change of Destiny (2020)
Kingmaker: The Change of Destiny revolves around two people who are blessed with the ability to predict the future by reading a person’s fate.
Choi Chun Joon (Park Si Hoo) is one of those actors you can’t help but smile when you look at, and, my god, did he body this role of psychic.
A soft romance blooms between himself and Lee Bong Ryun (Ko Sung Hee), a princess who is exploited by the ruling family for her shamanistic abilities.
The two come together to rewrite the country’s history, and this turned out to be one of my favorite watches of 2022.
If you like a historical drama that wades into political grounds a fair bit and a romance that’s at once sweet and painful, then you’re going to love this.
33. Splendid Politics or Hwajung: The Princess of Light (2015)
This drama was my introduction to fierce, innovative, and capable women in Korean dramas.
When Jang Myung (Lee Yeon Hee) was about to be born, there was a prophecy that the baby in the queen’s womb would be the ruler of Joseon.
To everybody’s disappointment, the baby was a girl, and the prophecy was immediately shelved.
Upon the king’s death, Prince Gwanghae (Cha Seung Won) emerges to the throne, and his first act is to cut off any potential candidates for the throne permanently.
Jang Myung manages to escape and ends up sold as an enslaved person, so she decides to live as a slave boy and works at a mine, while biding her time until she delivers her righteous revenge.
Needless to say, this Kdrama is absolutely bonkers, and I know you’ll enjoy it.
If you want a female lead that doesn’t suffer fools gladly and a historical Kdrama revenge plot you can actually get with, then this is the drama for you.
34. Cruel Palace (2013)
Jo So Yong (Kim Hyun Joo) uses her charm and wit to woo King Injo’s (Lee Deok Hwa) affection and becomes his royal concubine.
She takes advantage of his weaknesses and seizes control of the inner court, becoming a sort of shadow leader.
The only person bold enough to stand up to her is the crown prince Sohyeon (Jung Sung Woon), and she eventually kills him.
For So Yong, there’s nothing like too much power, and she overturns order in the royal court.
You’ll probably hate So Yong while watching, and, really, this isn’t a drama of redemption.
If you fancy a high-quality historical Kdrama where the ‘evil’ person runs the show, then you’re absolutely going to love this.
35. Haechi (2019)
Despite being the most intelligent and benevolent among all princes, Yi Geum (Jung Il Woo) is regarded as a half-bred prince because of his mother’s status.
His general disinterest in politics drives him away from the capital, but he returns after his father and half-brother die to set things right.
This is the drama where I first fell in love with Jung Il Woo, and seeing him in Bossam: Steal the Fate (which I talked about earlier) only solidified him in my books.
He’s a spectacular actor, and his range is super impressive, and once you’re fine watching this must-see historical Kdrama, I just know you’ll love him as much as I did.
How many of these dramas have you watched? How many do you think you’d be watching? Let me know in the comments below.
The deal is that saeguks are incredibly easy to get into, and I guarantee that any of these interesting historical Kdramas are a perfect option.
So, make sure to check out one (or all) of them and don’t forget to check out the related posts for even more recommendations.