10 Problematic K-Dramas We Love To Hate & The Issues They Have

Most problematic Korean dramas to watch

I started watching Kdramas a long, long time ago – wayyyy before it became “cool” – and I’ll be the first to tell you that some of them are super problematic. 

I’m talking about dramas that are incredibly tone-deaf (like Hate To Love You) and racist to boot (anyone remember that WEIRD scene in Shooting Stars?)

Anyway, this time around, I’ve listed 10 Korean dramas I loved on a whole, but I genuinely couldn’t overlook how incredibly problematic the plot was.

And as with most things, this is subjective and while you might not have an issue with A, I could see it as a gag order.

Are Kdramas problematic? Here are 10 Korean dramas with off-base plots: 

1. Boys Over Flowers

This drama is a classic adaptation of a very popular Japanese manga, and it follows the romance between a poor girl and a rich boy who is the leader of a notorious group of bullies. 

The cliches, stereotypes, and unrealistic scenarios were over the top, and the male lead is super abusive, possessive, and immature, while the female lead became submissive, naive, and dependent, even though she had been very strong-willed in the beginning. 

This drama has been criticized for promoting bullying, sexism, and materialism, and it’s very easy to see why – it’s chock-full of the wrongest things. 

2. Backstreet Rookie

This romantic comedy slash slice of life drama follows the relationship between a convenience store owner and a part-time worker who is a high school student. 

The drama is full of humor, romance, and drama, but also has some problematic elements such as the age gap and the evident power imbalance between the main couple, the sexualization and harassment of the female lead, and the racism and homophobia of some characters. 

No matter how I looked at it, there was entirely too much offensive and inappropriate content, it was tone-deaf, and the message was just everywhere.

3. My Love From the Star

In this fantasy romance drama, an alien who landed on Earth 400 years ago and a top actress who’s being canceled by the entire entertainment murder fall in love. 

There was an adequate balance of humor, romance, and mystery, but it also had some problematic elements like the objectification of the female lead and the trivialization of mental health issues. 

4. The Heirs

Just like Boys Before Flowers, The Heirs/Inheritors is another classic adaptation of a manga and it follows the romance between a poor girl and a rich boy who is the heir of a large corporation. 

And, of course with teen romance dramas of this age, the tropes, cliches, and unrealistic scenarios were there, but it felt like this drama really leaned into the fantastical because every single character was so delusional. 

5. Cheese in the Trap

This drama is based on a webtoon of the same name and tells the story of a college student who falls in love with a mysterious and popular senior. 

The drama explores the dark side of human nature and the psychology of relationships. 

The male lead is a manipulative rich boy who lacks empathy and the female lead is a hardworking but passive girl who often gets victimized by others. 

Cheese In The Trap, the drama adaptation, received backlash for its poor adaptation, inconsistent plot, and the second male lead syndrome in this one was HEAVY – and if you ask me, the backlash was well-deserved.

6. Nevertheless

Nevertheless follows the complicated relationship between a woman who doesn’t want to date and a man who is a serial dater.

I felt that the male lead, played by Song Kang, was often manipulative, selfish, and unfaithful, while the female lead was entirely too naive, indecisive, and weak-willed. 

I was super frustrated by the lack of communication, respect, and growth between the main couple, but I stuck with it (out of peer pressure) and I still didn’t enjoy the ending. 

7. True Beauty

Also based on a webtoon of the same name, True Beauty tells the story of a girl who hides her insecurities behind makeup and a boy who sees her true face. 

In a subtle, lighthearted way, the drama delves into themes of beauty, self-esteem, and bullying, but there were also some unnecessary problematic elements like the stalking, blackmailing, gaslighting, and slut-shaming. 

For a drama that set out to do the opposite, I couldn’t help but feel that True Beauty only continued to reinforce those harmful beauty standards, stereotypes, and cliches.

8. Vagabond

This drama is an action thriller that follows one man’s investigation of a plane crash that killed over 200 civilians. 

While it’s chock-full of suspense, action, and romance, it also had some problematic elements like the depiction of foreign countries, the use of violence and torture, and the lack of logic and consistency. 

This is easily one of my favorite dramas and trust me when I say it pains me to say this, but the poor ending, ending, and editing made it rather disappointing to watch. 

9. The Penthouse

Penthouse really doesn’t need an introduction, because if you haven’t heard of this insanely problematic makjang thriller, then I have to ask: what planet did you come from and what do you want from the Earthians? 

It follows the lives of wealthy and ambitious families living in a luxury apartment complex. 

The drama is full of violence, betrayal, revenge, and murder, and the characters are mostly evil, greedy, and ruthless. 

I couldn’t help but feel that this drama glamorized crime in the worst possible way, while promoting classism and so many other viewers were triggered by its graphic and disturbing scenes. 

10. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

In this historical romance Korean drama, a modern-day, down-on-her-luck woman travels back in time to the Goryeo dynasty and gets involved with the royal princes. 

Romance and tragedy were the orders of the day in this drama, and I genuinely couldn’t overlook the way the male lead’s jealousy, obsession, and cruelty, the female lead’s naivety, indecisiveness, and martyrdom, and the depiction of violence, rape, and murder were presented.

The writing and editing were weak at almost every point and I genuinely could have lived with some very problematic plot points. 


What do you think? Have you ever watched a problematic Kdrama and thought: Nah, shouldn’t have done that? 

I’ve just listed 10 I found so, so disturbing that they stood out, but there are some others with even tinier moments that don’t pass the vibe check.

Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below and check out the related posts for even more amazing content.

Happy watching!

Sora

I'm the girl for the job if you want amazing drama recommendations (no, really!), OST recs that will leave you deep in your feelings, and genuine drama talk that you can only get from a viewer with lots of biases. I'm always on the lookout for new dramas to watch, so don't hesitate to leave a comment with something you think I'll enjoy and I'll send a reply ASAP. Thanks for visiting!

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