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. It is a work in progress, so there will be a good amount of adding and tweaking. If you’d like to receive updates, send me an email. Or just follow my blog.
These are the two big players in the United States, and they’re also available in some other countries. Both stream older and current K-dramas with subtitles in English (and some other languages). The service is free if you don’t mind being exposed to commercials but for a fee you can avoid the brainwashing and enjoy your dramas without interruptions. You can usually find most popular dramas on both sites but older stuff might be available only on one of them (and sometimes on neither). Subscription fees, technical specs and global 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
I find the general Soompi page way too bloated and overrun with celebrity news but the K-drama forum is a long-time favorite place for discussion among fans.
Dramabeans Open Thread
There’s an open thread discussion every Friday on Dramabeans. Join the fun.
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. Very useful and up to date (January 2016).
Asian Drama Blogs
What a great idea: A website that lists (and links) the most recent single posts from Asian drama blogs.
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 (like K-pop), on celebrities (sorry, Soompi) or on Korean culture and society (reality is vastly overrated).
- The blogs have to be active – if they haven’t posted anything substantial in the last three months, they are out (no living in the past).
- The blogs need to be reasonably well-written.
- The blogs should not be overloaded with ads (bye bye to those super-annoying commercials that some blogs place between their posts).
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 10 blogs (more are coming soon!) in chronological order:
Run by: javabeans and girlfriday, currently eight additional contributors (awcoconuts, dramallama, Fanderay, gummimochi, HeadsNo2, LollyPip, odilettante and purplecow)
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
• The blog’s creators offer more insight into K-dramas in general via their ebook Why do dramas do that?
• A weekly open discussion thread
• A weekly page listing the percentage of viewers for each drama in Korea.
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
Kaede + Jun
Run by: kaedejun
Recaps/Reviews/Ratings: More than 35 full/partial recaps, more than 40 reviews, more than 45 first impressions (meaning just a review of the beginning of the drama), more than 120 K-drama ratings plus a few Japanese-drama and Taiwanese-drama ratings
Special: More than 40 reviews of Korean movies
Notes: The most efficient way to access the recaps/reviews/ratings info is to go to the “Korean” pull-down menu.
The Talking Cupboard
Run by: Jasmine, Mary and Mimi
Recaps/Reviews: 15 recaps, more than 70 reviews, teasers, first impressions
• Section about Korean history and historical dresses (helpful for historicals)
• Photo gallery of Korean actors
• Magazine/fashion photo spreads
• Link list of Korean fashion magazines
• List of instagram accounts of Korean actors/actresses
Notes: The best way to access all the info is to go to the directory page.
Created: 2011 (2008)
Run by: Orion (also a writer and community manager for HanCinema)
Reviews: More than 250 previews/reviews of K-dramas
Special: More than 150 reviews of Korean movies
Notes: Reviews that are a bit more critical, which can be really refreshing after reading constantly enthusing ones. Orion is also very active on social media (her twitter account is @OrionsRamblings).
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.