No matter if you just want to join the conversation, compare reviews or catch up with recaps, there are lots of possibilities out there to feed a K-drama obsession. Nowadays you can find a dazzling amount of information on the web – in fact, it can be quite overwhelming sometimes.
So I created this guide to help you find the info you’re looking for and ways to connect to other K-drama fans.
Kocowa (United States only)
Which streaming websites are available to you depends on where you live. Kocowa, Dramafever and Viki are the big players in the United States (where we are located) – the last two are also accessible in other countries but with different country-specific conditions. Other companies stream dramas in different parts of the world, but without any firsthand experience, we can’t really say anything about them.
The growing popularity of dramas has actually made streaming – at least in the United States – a lot more difficult, confusing and expensive. This is due to the licensing deals made by the Korean TV stations. Some dramas are licensed exclusively to only one streaming site, others are available on several ones. You can even watch a few Asian dramas (sometimes exclusively) on big global streaming outlets like Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube; however, these companies usually have only a small selection. You can find a much bigger selection on these three drama-focused content providers:
Kocowa (Korean Content Wave) is a joint venture of the three big Korean TV networks (KBS, MBC, SBS). It is available only in the United States and streams only Korean content from those three TV stations. It focuses on current dramas and also offers K-pop and variety shows. New episodes are subtitled fast. But you won’t find dramas from Korean cable channels (like tvN, JTBC, OCN) or other Asian countries, nor a full backlist of older dramas from KBS, MBC and SBS.
Dramafever and Viki offer U.S. users a wide selection of K-dramas and Chinese dramas (in addition to a few dramas from other countries), some of them exclusive, some not. Dramafever is particularly strong on older K-dramas and even allows you to download a few on your mobile device. Viki cooperates with Kocowa so you have a wide selection of current K-dramas from KBS, MBC and SBS.
Subscription fees (there are some free options), technical specs and offerings keep changing so check them out to see what works for your individual situation. And, of course, it’s always useful to search the web for possible competitors and better options in your geographical area.
Soompi K-drama Forum
Soompi’s K-drama forum is a long-time favorite place for discussion among fans.
Of course, Wikipedia is the obvious go-to site for facts. Generally, it’s a great source of information about K-dramas but there are two caveats: Not all dramas have their own Wikipedia entry in English, and some entries, especially for older dramas, give you the complete plot. Ouch! So, be careful and skim the entry for possible spoilers first.
If you don’t find the info you’re looking for on Wikipedia, try this database. It covers Asian dramas and it is well organized but it’s very bare-bones. Really, just the facts.
Mystified by some of the words in K-drama subtitles? Baffled by terms in K-drama blogs? Like other subcultures, dramaland has its own vocabulary – a mix of Korean language and fanspeak. For watching dramas, the Dramabeans glossary is sufficient but if you want to understand the intricacies of fan language, The Fangirl Verdict’s page is better.
Asian Addicts Anonymous
If you want to explore the world of K-drama related blogs and websites even more, check out NeeNee’s extensive link list for Asian entertainment related sites.
This is a Korean movie and drama database with lots of useful info about K-dramas. I like the news page and the blog with reviews of Korean films and drama episodes plus items on Korean culture and lifestyle. You can also search for actors and actresses but the most useful aspect is the search option for reviews. A unique feature is the list of addresses and contact info for management companies, distribution companies and production companies (including TV stations) in Korea.
This is an information hub about Asian dramas in general. You can find reviews of TV shows and movies, news, trailers, articles and forums. And you can open an account and create your own drama list to track what shows you’ve watched or plan to watch. They also provide recommendations based on the dramas you liked – a cool idea but the feature didn’t work that well for me.
Most blogs about Korean dramas focus on reviews and recaps and sometimes also provide ratings and a news section. While it’s ultimately a very personal decision which blogs to follow (either you are on the same wavelength as the blogger – or not), I hope that the information below makes it easier to quickly assess if a particular blog is right for you.
There are five sections in my write-ups:
- Created: It’s helpful to know how long the blog has been around, especially if you are interested in info about older dramas.
- Run by: While the names of the people in charge might not mean much to you at first, it’s useful to know from the start how many contributors are working on the blog. For example, if there’s only a single writer then the blog posts show a far more consistent personal taste, and if you share that taste you can trust her judgments implicitly.
- Recaps / Reviews / Ratings: If you’re looking for info about a less well-known drama, chances are better at blogs with lots of entries in this category. Reviews and ratings have their own problems, which I discuss at the bottom of this page.
- Special: Here I describe unusual content that makes a particular blog stand out.
- Notes: Anything else I want to say that doesn’t fit into the other categories.
K-dramas can be inspiring and so there are quite a few blogs out there.
So, how to decide which ones to include in the list?
I came up with these minimum requirements:
- The blogs have to be mainly about Korean dramas. That means that I excluded ones that focus on other forms of Korean entertainment, on celebrities or on Korean culture and society.
- The blogs have to be active – if they haven’t posted anything substantial in the last three months, they are out.
- The blogs need to be reasonably well-written.
- The blogs should not be overloaded with ads.
In addition, it’s nice if they can bring something special to the table, either content- or style-wise.
So, here’s the first batch of blogs in chronological order:
Run by: javabeans and girlfriday
Recaps/Reviews/Ratings: Close to 300 recaps (more than 180 full recaps, more than 90 partial), end-of-year reviews (from 2007), more than 230 ratings
• A weekly open discussion thread
Notes: This is the most important Korean drama blog. Extra bonus for javabeans’ and girlfriday’s writing style (witty and entertaining).
A Koala’s Playground
Run by: koala
Recaps/Ratings: More than 40 K-drama recaps plus a few Japanese dramarecaps, more than 160 ratings
Special: Good drama news section
Notes: The only other blogger who also really likes Lie to me. Yay!
Run by: Five main contributors: Clockwatcher, Goodange, Leila, Rinchan and Tessieroo
Recaps/Reviews/Ratings: More than 50 recaps/reviews (and a few for Japanese dramas and Taiwanese dramas), more than 40 ratings for K-dramas and a few for J- & TW-dramas
• Articles on dramas (for instance, posts on best kisses or the male perspective on K-drama)
• Magazine/fashion photo spreads
The Fangirl Verdict
Run by: kfangurl, Lady G
Reviews/Ratings: More than 120 reviews and ratings, including year-end reviews 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
• Photo spreads of Korean actors (see the K-Loves and Pure Pretty sections)
• Fan fiction dramas (see the Dream Dramas section)
• Articles on dramas (for instance, musings on food in K-drama or on the quality of current dramas)
The Problematic of the Unproblematic
Created: 2012 (2010)
Run by: Becca, JoAnne, kakashi, Nabi
Recaps/Ratings: More than 35 recaps, more than 160 ratings
Special: SqueeCaps (very emotionally invested recaps, with many gifs)
Notes: Weekly rants-and-raves conversation. Often very critical ratings – great fun to read the contributors’ different opinions about each drama.
The Cat That Watches TV
Run by: Axerine, kooriyuki and Sab
Recaps/Reviews/Ratings: More than 140 recaps/reviews (and that includes first impressions, half-time comments, post-show reviews, episode- and weekly comments), more than 130 ratings
• More than 30 reviews of Korean movies
• More than 10 reviews (including first impressions, highlights) of variety shows
The Drama Corner
Run by: snow
Recaps/Reviews/Ratings: Five full recaps, more than 30 reviews, more than 25 first impressions/episode discussions, more than 60 ratings
Special: Separate OST (Original Soundtrack) reviews
Notes: I like that OSTs are reviewed, too. Music is an important aspect of dramas that often gets overlooked.
HOW TO JUDGE REVIEWS AND RATINGS
Drama reviews and ratings tend to be less critical than film criticism. I think this is due to the fact that while a film critic can usually endure the two hours of sitting through an excruciatingly bad movie (and then publish a crushing review), most drama viewers simply drop a drama after a few episodes if they don’t like it. Who wants to lose 16 – 20 hours of your lifetime suffering through a terrible drama? So it’s mostly the fans who watch the whole thing and then give it exuberant ratings. Sure, there are always some who don’t like the ending or the plot development or the tone changes and still watch the whole thing and then write critical reviews – but these tend to be only a few.
Then maybe viewership ratings in Korea might be an indicator for the quality of the show? Well, no. Or maybe. Potentially. A lot of really popular dramas in Korea are not very successul internationally – and some dramas with a big international following hardly made an impact in Korea. However, if you forget about the absolute numbers and just look if the weekly viewership in Korea is steady or even rising, then this could be … possibly … sometimes … in rare circumstance … an indication that this might be a drama worth watching.
The best way to find new dramas that you might like is simply to follow a reviewer with similar tastes. Sample many websites/blogs and find reviewers who are on the same wavelength. That means looking up some dramas you really liked and some dramas you really hated and comparing them with the reviews you’re reading. The more review pages I read the more surprised I am by the sometimes wildly different ratings of the same show.
HOW TO START YOUR OWN BLOG
If you look around the Korean drama blogging scene, you realize that blogs come and go quite a bit. The classic scenario goes like this: Somebody stumbles across Korean dramas, is completely fascinated and starts a blog. And puts in many hours of her free time writing reviews,recaps and other articles. After a few months or sometimes even a couple of years and many, many dramas later, the fascination dwindles: What seemed foreign and intriguing in the beginning becomes normal, the formulaic structures of dramas become more obvious and one pretty face gets substituted with another. Or real life re-establishes itself with its demands, and the blog is eventually abandoned.
So, if you’re thinking about starting your own blog, the simple truth is: There’s a much better chance for long-term blog survival if you join forces with other writers and publish a blog together. And here’s more advice from Thundie about creating a Korean Drama blog.