Lady pirate Yeo-Wol. Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas

Lady pirate Yeo-Wol. Photo: Lotte Entertainment

Period dramas make me so happy and that definitely also includes the lesser known but just as good Korean period dramas! There’s just something wonderful and magical about watching a drama/movie set in the past – the costumes, the flowery language, the way people did things back then. Sure it’s romanticized (even contemporary films are often unrealistic versions of reality) but the romantic in me has no problem with that. Sagueks (Korean historical dramas) are very popular in South Korea and I love them to bits. Not only is it fascinating to take a “look” into the past and life back then but there’s so much to explore with royals, sword-fights, swashbucklers, palace intrigue, and of course gorgeous costumes.

Ja-In in wedding clothes in War of the Arrows. Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas

Ja-In in wedding clothes in War of the Arrows. Photo: Lotte Entertainment

Here are nine Korean period dramas/films that I’ve enjoyed and would wholeheartedly suggest to any period drama fans out there! May period dramas live on forever!

Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas/Films

(in no particular order)

#1 The Princess’ Man

Se-Ryung in The Princess' Man. Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas

Se-Ryung in The Princess’ Man. Photo: KBS2

Type: 24-episode drama
Where To Find: Dramafever
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some dark thematic elements

RELATED: K-Drama Review: The Princess’ Man – An Epic Romeo and Juliet Like Period Drama

In a Romeo and Juliet meets Zorro inspired story, Se-Ryung falls for young nobleman Seung-Yoo, but her father, Prince Suyang, is set on destroying Seung-Yoo’s family who supports the king and taking the throne of Joseon for his own.

Vigilante Seung-Yoo. Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas

Vigilante Seung-Yoo. Photo: KBS2

The Princess’ Man delivers a gorgeously-shot, emotional story of star-crossed love, vengeance, and self-sacrifice. Moon Chae-Won delivers a wonderful performance as the young Se-Ryung who journeys from youthful innocence to facing a soul-tearing decision to choose her family or her lover. For those who love romantic Korean period dramas, you don’t want to miss this one…

#2 Queen Seondeok

Princess Deokman. Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas

Princess Deokman. Photo: MBC

Type: 62-episode drama
Where To Find: Dramafever, Viki
Rating: PG-13 for violence

The road to the throne has never been easy and Princess Deokman (Queen Seondeok) has her work cut out for her – what with being abandoned as a child because of an evil prophecy and a cruel, but brilliant courtesan keeping her out of the royal court. Luckily Deokman is pretty shrewd herself, plus she’s got a group of handsome warriors fighting on her side!

Warrior Bidam protects Deokman. Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas

Warrior Bidam protects Deokman. Photo: MBC

My first K-drama and thus my first love, Queen Seondeok is a longer drama but a whole lot of fun. This drama is full of strong women with an awesome story of Princess Deokman taking the throne herself without a husband/king. The drama kicks into rollicking high gear a third of the way through the series when angsty antihero Bidam is introduced with Kim Nam-Gil giving us an incredibly memorable performance. A great choice for those thinking about entering into the world of Korean Period Dramas.

 #3 The Pirates

The Pirates. Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas

The Pirates. Photo: Lotte Entertainment

Type: Movie
Where To Find: Netflix, Amazon
Rating: Not rated; I would rate it PG-13 for violence

A pirate group, led by lady pirate Yeo-Wol, is forced to go after a whale that swallowed the Royal Seal just as a bandit group is pursing the same whale. Let the swashbuckling shenanigans ensue!!

Yeo-Wool fighting. Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas

Yeo-Wool fighting. Photo: Lotte Entertainment

In what I call the Korean Pirates of the Caribbean, we have a surprisingly hilarious and exciting story that plays up the wit and adventure that makes swashbuckler films so much fun. Son Ye-Jin plays a great lady pirate – one who is both effortlessly feminine and totally kick-butt while Kim Nam-Gil delivers another great performance with his perfect comedic timing and artless intensity as the leading hero.

 #4 A Tree With Deep Roots

Chae-Yoon. Nine Sweeping Korean Period Dramas

Chae-Yoon. Photo: SBS

Type: 24-episode drama
Where To Find: Dramafever, Viki
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some dark thematic elements

Chae-Yoon, a former slave, lost his father and all his friends as a child because of the brutal Grand King Taejong. Now Chae-Yoon’s going to kill his son, King Sejong. Meanwhile, King Sejong is planning something unheard of while a lethal cult is out for blood in the palace.

Chae-Yoon protects Dam-Seo. Photo: SBS

Chae-Yoon protects Dam-Seo. Photo: SBS

THIS drama! Still my favorite Korean Drama ever. This show packs an emotional punch to the gut that leaves you reeling until the very end. The political intrigue and deep philosophical questions are perfectly unpacked through fabulous characters, riveting relationships, a sharp script and gut-wrenching acting. It will seriously keep you on the edge of your seat to the end! One of the most epic Korean period dramas out there.

 #5 War of the Arrows

Ja-In practicing archery. Photo: Lotte Entertainment

Ja-In practicing archery. Photo: Lotte Entertainment

Type: Movie
Where To Find: Netflix, Amazon
Rating: R for a lot of blood, violence and a brief attempted rape scene (nothing explicit).

Joseon’s best archer, Nam-Yi is in a race against time when invading Manchus (Chinese) kidnap his sister.

War of the Arrows. Photo: Lotte Entertainment

War of the Arrows. Photo: Lotte Entertainment

War of the Arrows delivers an intense, epic story with an interesting twist on the usual sword flick by using archery instead. There are some awesome visuals here. I’m a huge sucker for strong sibling relationships and Nam-Yi’s devotion to Ja-In was a great emotional drive for the story.

 #6 Masquerade

King Gwanghae meets his look-alike. Photo: CJ Entertainment

King Gwanghae meets his look-alike. Photo: CJ Entertainment

Type: Movie
Where To Find: Amazon
Rating: Not rated; I would give this a PG-13 for brief crude humor and some dark thematic elements

In this Prince and the Pauper influenced tale, King Gwanghae becomes unconscious from poisoning and his advisors decide to use a peasant look-alike, Ha-Seon, until the king wakes up. Ha-Seon must learn how to act and be a king on the fly… but what happens when he starts taking his job seriously?

Lee Byung-Han as Ha-Seon. Photo: CJ Entertainment

Lee Byung-Han as Ha-Seon. Photo: CJ Entertainment

You might know Lee Byung-Han as the Korean actor who’s acted in several Hollywood films (G.I. Joe, Red 2, and Terminator Genisys). In Masquerade, Byung-Han reminds us that he’s more than an action star with a wonderful performance that literally carries this movie. There are a lot of comic moments as Ha-Yeon learns to be a king – and a whole lot of emotion unpacked as he starts standing up against the vast corruption of the rich and powerful. Another wonderful pick for those who love Korean Period Dramas!

 #7 The Three Musketeers

Dal-Hyang and Prince Sohyeon face off. Photo: TvN

Dal-Hyang and Prince Sohyeon face off. Photo: TvN

Type: 12-episode drama
Where To Find: 
Dramafever
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some dark thematic elements

Dal-Hyung just wants to make his family happy and get a military job. He gets more than he bargained for when he ends up aiding the three musketeers – Crown Prince Sohyeon and his guards. Soon he’s caught up in political intrigue and a brewing war.

Crown Prince Sohyeon. Photo: TvN

Crown Prince Sohyeon. Photo: TvN

I recently watched this gem of a drama and fell deeply in love. I’m a sucker for swashbucklers and this show brought all the fun, romance and drama I wanted! Lee Jin-Wook is swoon worthy as the cryptic prince (who plays the Athos character) and Jung Yong-Hwa is adorable as the sweet, innocent Dal-Hyung (D’artagnan). All for one and one for all!! Also fair warning, the show ends on a slight cliffhanger but TvN sadly canceled the second season.

 #8 Six Flying Dragons

Warrior Bang-Yi. Photo: SBS

Warrior Bang-Yi. Photo: SBS

Type: 50-episode drama
Where To Find: Dramafever, Viki
Rating: PG-13 for violence, dark thematic elements and a rape scene (nothing explicit shown)

An epic focusing on the young Yi Bang-Won, who helps his father start a new dynasty amidst a failing corrupt government and five other “dragons” who shape the new nation. Yet tragedy is looming in the end as Yi Bang-Won eventually becomes one of Joseon’s most ruthless kings.

Yi Bang-Won and Boon-Yi. Photo: SBS

Boon-Yi and Yi Bang-Won. Photo: SBS

I don’t have enough adjectives to describe how fantastic, mesmerizing, intelligent and emotional Six Flying Dragons is. From the writers of A Tree With Deep Roots, we have an incredible prequel that tells us the story of King Taejong (Yi Bang-Won) and the “dragons” who helped him start a nation including two kick-butt warriors, a fearless, resourceful peasant girl, a strategist whose heart burns for the common people, and Taejong’s father, a general with a fierce sense of loyalty. Action-packed sword-fights, epic political/royal intrigue, smart writing, fabulous characters – well worth the watch. I do encourage anyone to give the show some time to build up the awesomeness as the first four or five episodes deals with the backstory and is a bit slower than what’s in-store. Every fan of Korean period dramas should see this one!

 #9 Tamra, the Island

Beo-Jin and Wlliam. Photo: MBC

Beo-Jin and William. Photo: MBC

Type: 16-episode drama
Where To Find: Netflix, Dramafever
Rating: PG-13 for some violence and some mild crude humor

Jang Beo-Jin lives on Tamra where she’s a female diver along with all the women of her village. Beo-Jin spends her time dreaming of a different life. One day she finds a washed up blond man on the beach. She decides to care for him secretly. Meanwhile, an exiled nobleman is living with Beo-Jin’s family and he seems to be looking for something.

Park Kyu. Photo: MBC

Park Kyu. Photo: MBC

A sweet coming of age story, Tamra, the Island brings on a lot of fun, humor and cuteness as Beo-Jin befriends stranded English youth William and also deals with the stuffy Park Kyu. The drama grows more serious during the second half but still gives us a lot of sweet moments.


Has any of these costume dramas piqued your interest? Have you seen a some of these already? What are your favorite Korean period dramas? I’d love to know your thoughts!!

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