The Most Successful Internationally-Recognized K-Dramas
Thu, April 22, 2021

The Most Successful Internationally-Recognized K-Dramas

K-drama viewership was more confined within Asia where the values and cultures overlap so that each show is understood well enough by the audience. / Photo by: Zyn Chakrapong via Shutterstock


Thanks to their unique stories and irresistible charm, K-drama has taken the world by storm. In the past, K-drama viewership was more confined within Asia where the values and cultures overlap so that each show is understood well enough by the audience, but as the market grew and streaming services opened their doors for more diverse stories, so did K-drama viewership across the globe. 

Now, there is a lot to be said for the many successful shows in the last decade, but what about the most successful K-dramas of all time, recognized internationally?

Jewel in the Palace (2003) 

Highest Rating: 57.8% 

Even though it was released in 2003, “Jewel in the Palace” is still a timeless and wonderful show. The show is first on this list according to HubPages, a website producing original, in-depth, useful and media-rich articles on important topics. Before it peaked to the 57.8%, it started off at 46.3% but quickly won over the hearts of viewers for its historical fiction leanings as well as the actually helpful cooking tips and tricks on the show that illustrated just how beautiful Korean culture is. 

It was also the very first K-drama that inspired so many other K-dramas to be produced until now, allowing them to be more recognized around the world. 


Jewel in the Palace started off at 46.3% but quickly won over the hearts of viewers for its historical fiction leanings. / Photo by: raker via Shutterstock


Lovers in Paris (2004) 

Highest Rating: 57.6% 

Classics are classics for a reason; they are timeless pieces that stand the test of time in their grace, beauty, and storytelling. This is what “Lovers in Paris” is known for and is actually part of a trilogy TV series by writer Kim Eun-sook. Its popularity allowed it reach a 57.6% rating, although the first part is the most recognizable and memorable one in the series, which were “Lovers in Prague,” released in 2005, and “Lovers,” released in 2006. It stars Kim Jung-eun, Park Shin-yang, and Lee Dong-gun. 

Jumong (2006)

Highest Rating: 52.7% 

Of course, everyone loves a good action series. Ground that in Korean culture and you’ve got yourself an incredibly amazing sageuk series. Running from 2006 to 2007, Jumong is a legendary historical period drama that, according to HubPages, was initially supposed to only run for 60 episodes, but MBC decided to extend it past that, with its official episode count reaching a behemoth 81. 

HubPages states, “Although it is fictionalized, the drama is still considered as one of the best historical period series and received several awards.” Its final episode eventually got a 52.7% rating. 

Moon Embracing the Sun (2012) 

Highest Rating: 47.0%

K-drama stories tend to lean on supernatural elements, too, and that’s mostly because most Asian cultures are animistic. That is also exemplified in 2012’s “The Moon Embracing the Sun,” described by South Korean news source KoreaBoo, as “a historical drama telling the love story between King Lee Hwon (Kim Soo Hyun) and a female shaman named Wol (Han Ga In)." The story, which was written by Jung Eun-gwol, became a big hit for its forbidden love trope, and even got to prove itself worthy in the K-drama world after winning multiple awards. 

Secret Garden (2010) 

Highest Rating: 38.6% 

And here we have the ol’ switcheroo. “The Secret Garden” walked so that many others like it could run. Simply put, it’s one of the most wonderfully portrayed body-switch stories ever made as it is very true and committed to the theme and also because of the stellar performances of Ha Ji Won and Hyun Bin. According to KoreaBoo, during the show’s run, the two characters “received rave reviews for perfectly capturing each others’ personality and role when they switched souls.” 

Boys Over Flowers (2009) 

Highest Rating: 35.7% 

“Boys Over Flowers” did not have a very new concept when it came out. It has already been done before. The story has already been retold a couple of times before it was taken in under South Korean wing. But that didn’t stop the showing from being any less successful. Based on a Japanese shoujo manga series, “Hana Yori Dango,” by Yoko Kamio, the story revolves around the positive and ambitious Geum Jan Di (Ku Hye-sun) as she “attends a prestigious high school through a scholarship” where she “encounters the F4 gang, a group of four rich and good-looking boys who are considered to be the kings of the Shinhwa High School,” writes the website Wonderlist. 

My Love From the Star (2013) 

Highest Rating: 33.2%

Running from 2013 to 2014, this series stars Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun and tells the story of an alien who landed on Earth in the Joseon Dynasty. It gets crazier, because not only is he an alien from another planet, he lives through 400 years and meets and falls in love with a top actress in the modern era. This show became such a success in Korea and Asia and even won several awards.