Top Korean Historical Drama: 10 You Should Watch Right Now (Plus Five More This 2023)!

top korean historical drama the bailiwick academy

Do you like watching Korean dramas like me? I prefer historical dramas–sadly, I’m the only one in the family who wants to watch any top Korean historical drama

I don’t know why I’m into Korean historical dramas, actually. Maybe it’s because I love history. I would watch a lot more, except I’m usually busy. 

And just so I know what to binge-watch in my free time, I reached out to ten people* who appreciate K-dramas. So what are the best Korean historical dramas I (and you) should watch? Read on for drama series suggestions that will have you rubbing elbows with Korean royalty, albeit via your screens.

* Responses may have been edited for brevity.

Note: This article was originally published back on June 24, 2021. It’s been updated today, April 22, 2023.

What are the top Korean Historical drama series that are a must-watch?

Empress Ki 

empress ki the bailiwick academy top korean historical drama
Photo from

“I really like this because it tells the story of the titular character Ki Sung Nyang ascending to power, even with class restrictions at the time. She was able to change the system – such a strong woman!”

Chef Amir Langbay Valdez, Bailiwick instructor/head of Cake Buddies by Buboy and Yang

The TV series Empress Ki is about the historical figure Empress Ki, in case you haven’t figured it out yet. She was from an aristocratic family of the Goryeo dynasty and was the Imperial Concubine of Toghon Temür (played by Ji Chang-Wook). The series shows how Ki Sung Nyang (played by Ha Ji Won) overcame being just a servant to being the empress of the Yuan Dynasty.

As is the tendency with most movies and TV series based on history, there will always be artistic interpretation. That means Empress Ki may not be the most historically accurate series. It will, however, send you to research the true events that happened – and that’s always a good thing to me!

And if you just want to watch a series about a strong, ruling woman, then this one’s for you. It also has a love triangle factor, which I’m sure plenty of people will appreciate.


kingdom the bailiwick academy top korean historical drama
Photo from

“I liked Kingdom first of all because it’s based on history. And second, even if it’s historical, the themes – like politicking –  are still relevant even up to now.” 

– Jacqueline Pascual, owner of Jacq’s Florals

Okay, so this may not be the best historical Korean drama based on a true story. But I’m pretty sure it’s a top Korean historical drama with a horror factor. After all, it has zombies!

This K-drama is set in the Joseon era. Ju Ji-hoon plays Crown Prince Lee Chang, who has to deal with not only political enemies but also zombies that are caused by an herb called the “resurrection plant”.

Sounds intriguing, right? Political machinations, horror, adventure, and fantasy – Kingdom has it all. It might be something you can rope your husband into watching with you! Hey, Mother’s Day is coming up soon–he can make it his gift to you!

Jewel in the Palace (The Top Korean Historical Drama for Me!)

“I liked that it was fast-paced with very clear storylines. You’ll get a glimpse of the palace life as different members of the court. Also, the series showcased the food culture of Korea. The best part is that Jang-geum (the main character) was depicted as a strong, intelligent, tenacious, hardworking, and independent woman.  It’s uplifting and touching. I also loved the costumes and locations. It’s definitely a K-drama worth watching!”

– Karen May Reyes, make-up artist

I have to say that this one is my favorite out of all these historical drama series on this list. Why? Well, because it features a lot of food, of course!

This Korean historical drama is based on the life of Jang-geum. Jang-geum, played by Lee Young-ae, is an orphaned kitchen cook. Back then, women had little influence, so it was amazing that she became the King’s first female physician.

She also had to learn various cooking techniques to try and cure the King’s various ailments. This isn’t a new series, as it emerged in the Philippines in 2003. This show started the wave of Korean shows being shown here.

Jewel in the Palace is also the 10th highest-rated Korean historical drama of all time, according to Wikipedia. Watch this show for another strong woman figure, plus, again, a lot of delicious food!

Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth

hwarang the poet warrior youth kdrama the bailiwick academy
Photo from

“First of all, it’s a historical drama, which I found interesting. I also loved the story, and the cast was really talented! It had a lot of great lines/dialogue. I like its story arc about the inevitability of destiny and fate and how parallel that is to the power of our individual choices.”

– Kate Trinidad, lawyer

This historical K-drama is set in the Silla period. Queen Ji So forms a group called the Hwarang to protect the kingdom and the royal family. That’s the gist of the story.

It sounds like it has a lot of political intrigues again… but do you want me to be honest? I think it’s worth watching because of the cast of the boys! They’re all so handsome.

And who doesn’t want some eye candy mixed with an intriguing storyline? I sure do! It’s another series you can rope the men in your life into watching since this has plenty of adventure and bromance.

Mr. Queen 

mr. queen kdrama the bailiwick academy
Photo from

“I loved the scenes where the main character was trapped in a woman’s body! So funny! I also loved the food presented from the Joseon Dynasty.”

– Sabrina Go, boss of a business owner

If you read that, then yes, it’s true. Mr. Queen is a historical comedic slash drama. Jang Bong-hwan (Choi Jin-hyuk) is a chef in the present world. One day, he wakes up in the body of Kim So-yong, Queen Cheorin (played by Shin Hye-sun) in the Joseon era.

Imagine the panic and the hardship of a man navigating life in a woman’s body. It’s funny, as long as it never happens to us, am I right? It’s actually a very Filipino shtick if you think about it.

And, of course, since it’s a Korean drama, there are also politics, intrigue, and a plot that will keep you watching.

Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

the bailiwick academy Moon Lovers Scarlet Heart Ryeo kdrama
Photo from KDramaBuzz

“I am really into Korean history, which is why I started watching it. I loved the concept and the flow of the story… and of course the very handsome actors!”

– Patricia Ann Triñanes, social media manager/digital marketer

This drama series tells of Go Ha-jin (played by Lee Ji-eun) who gets transported back in time during a total solar eclipse. She arrives in the Goreo Dynasty, in the body of Hae So. She befriends the princes, especially 8th Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha-neul), and Wang So (Lee Joon-gi), the “wolf dog” 4th Prince who hides his face behind a mask.

Yes, that’s the start of a love triangle right there.

The period also happens to be very dangerous for Go Ha-jin, as (you guessed it) there are political intrigues and machinations. A little trivia: apparently, this period drama didn’t do so well in Korea, but it did pretty well in other countries. That trivia alone makes me want to watch it!

Love in the Moonlight 

love in the moonlight the bailiwick academy korean drama
Photo from

“Love in the Moonlight made me go back to watching K-dramas. The pacing of the story is just right and the characters developed at the right moments. The cast portrayed their roles so well that even their facial expressions alone touched my heart. You will regret not finishing the series. I’m not familiar with Korean historical things, but watching this made me interested to learn about Korean kingdoms and dynasties.”

– Sheila Ganzan, healthcare writer

This series is based on the novel “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.” It’s a cute romantic comedy and a coming-of-age story. It stars Park Bo-gum as Crown Prince Lee Yeong and Kim Yoo-jung as eunuch Hong Ra-on.

And if that confused you, here’s an explanation coming up. You see, Hong Ra-on (or Hong Sam-nom as she is also known) was raised as a boy by her mother. That’s how she ends up as the eunuch companion of the Crown Prince.

Think of it as the opposite of Mr. Queen. This time, the female character here tries her best to pass off as male.

The two main actors are also just so adorable together. That’s more than enough reason for me to invest in this K-drama.

Moon Embracing the Sun 

Moon embracing the sun kdrama romance the bailiwick academy
Photo from

“I love the unpredictability of the events in the story! I also loved the love story element, of course. It really hits you in the heart!” 

– Cece Mariano, wedding coordinator, Kiss the Girl Events

This series is also known as “The Moon that Embraces the Sun” or “The Sun and the Moon”. The series stars Kim Soo-hyun as Lee Hwon, King of Joseon, and Han Ga-in as Lady Heo Yeon-woo / Shaman Wol.

Basically, Lee Hwon is the Sun, and Shaman Wol is the Moon. They met each other when the shaman was still Lady Heo Yeon-woo and actually fell in love. The Dowager Queen doesn’t like it, though.

That’s why she orders a shaman named Jang Nok-yeong to cast a spell on Yeon-woo so that she dies and is buried. The spell is temporary, though; Yeon-woo is revived by Nok-yeong. However, she gets amnesia and becomes the Shaman Wol.

She returns to the palace to cure the Dowager Queen’s grandson and meets Lee Hwon again. And if you’re with me so far, that’s the start of political intrigues and the fight to make things right.

The King: Eternal Monarch 

the bailiwick academy the king eternal monarch kdrama lee min ho
Photo from

“I really enjoyed the plot twists! They kept me on the edge of my seat. I was excited to see it weekly. It has science and time travel, and I enjoyed the way some characters didn’t turn out to be the people I thought they were. And, of course, Lee Min Ho. Hehe!”

– Kia Santiago, copywriter

This series is set in two parallel worlds. Emperor Lee Gon (played by Lee Min-ho) is the ruler of the Kingdom of Corea. When Lee was a child, his half-uncle Lee Lim staged a coup, killing Emperor Lee’s father.

His uncle also wanted the mystical flute called the Manpasikjeok, which gives the power to cross to other worlds and time travel. The child was saved thanks to a mysterious figure who shot at the coup plotters. The flute is also halved.

The figure then drops an ID card and disappears. Years later, Emperor Lee discovers an alternate reality where the Republic of Korea exists. And in that reality, he discovers the figure who saved him.

Wow, that was a long type. This sounds like a very exciting K-drama! And based on the picture, the visuals are amazing!

At the very least, like Kia said, the presence of Lee Min Ho throughout the series will be a comfort. If he’s your type, anyway.

The Princess Hours

princess hours goong the bailiwick academy top korean historical drama
Photo from

“It’s a take on an alternative Korean universe, which I found very creative. It’s about an arranged marriage between the crown prince and a commoner. I also really love the hanboks in the series!”

– Sarah Lopez Alano, dentist

Princess Hours might have been the highest-rating Korean historical drama of all time – at least in 2006. But that’s just conjecture on my part. It was definitely a hit in Asia, though.

The story is set in alternate Korea, where royal families still exist. The focus is on Crown Prince Lee Shin. Because Shin’s father is badly sick, Shin is required to find a consort so he can become the new emperor.

He finds out that he was betrothed to commoner Chae-kyeong by his grandfather. He also discovers that his new wife is headstrong and knows nothing about living the royal life. They eventually fall in love with each other throughout the series.

It’s a typical rich and poor romance story, but I’m still genuinely curious about how the story ties everything together. And I’m curious how they imagined modern Korean monarchy.

This List Of “Top Korean Historical Drama” Is Only A Starting Point.

I’m sure there are a lot more historical Korean drama series that are not on this list. And I’m also sure that if I type in Google “top 10 Korean historical drama 2020”, I’ll get different results from when I type in “top historical Korean drama 2017”.

But like I said, I have limited time. So maybe if I do manage to finish watching the top 10 Korean historical drama series listed here, that’s the time I’ll go look for more to watch. As long as they tell the story of Korea in its historical days, I’m up for it!

Feel free to send me any suggestions you may have too!

Update: Additional Top 5 Korean Historical Drama

Hey, it’s 2023, two years from when this post was originally published, so I thought I’d update it with five more I was able to watch. Ready?

Kingdom: Ashin of the North

Photo from Fossbytes 

If you watched Kingdom like I did, you’d know that there was a cliffhanger at the end with a woman looking at all of the main characters, right? Well, this show focuses on that woman, named Ashin, played by actress Jun Ji-hyun.

Ashin is a woman from the northern region of Joseon who looks for revenge after her tribe is wiped out by a mysterious disease. And as she investigates, she learns the secret of the resurrection plant.

Think of this show as a prequel to all that happened during Kingdom. You’ll uncover not just Ashin’s backstory but also how it’s all connected to the events of the main show. And hey, girl power in any form is always welcome to me!

Six Flying Dragons

Photo from Plex

This drama is set in the late 14th century during the founding of the Joseon Dynasty. And if you’re a fan of shows that don’t necessarily have just one or two main characters, you’ll enjoy this! You’ll be able to follow the story of six individuals who played key roles in establishing the new dynasty. 

The main characters include Yi Bang-won (played by Yoo Ah-in), a prince who will do whatever it takes to ascend the throne, and Lee Bang-ji (played by Kim Myung-min), a commoner who becomes a powerful general. The show is known for its strong performances, intricate plot, and dynamic action scenes.

Queen Seondeok

I can’t believe I didn’t mention this during my first initial list–this, after all, was shown in the Philippines! And, of course, I love it because, again, woman power!

This story is set in the 7th century, during the period of Queen Seondeok (played by Lee Yo-won). It tells about her dramatic rise to power as the first female king of Silla, her efforts to unite the kingdom, and her struggles to protect her throne from usurpers and other political enemies.

You can be sure that the showrunners took plenty of artistic licenses, but that doesn’t make this any less entertaining to watch!

Queen for Seven Days

Photo from Viki

If you want to watch something that’s sure to grind at your emotional core, look no further than this Korean historical drama. This is about the tragic love story of Queen Dangyeong and King Joongjong during the Joseon Dynasty. The two were forced to separate after just seven days of marriage due to political reasons, and their story is one of heartbreak, betrayal, and sacrifice.

The show stars Park Min-young as Queen Dangyeong and Yeon Woo-jin as King Joongjong, and their performances are a must-watch. Throw in stunning cinematography and an intricate plot, and you might get the courage to watch this–even if it WILL break your heart.

Tamra, The Island

Photo from Viki

I’m not really sure if this counts, but hey, it’s still during the Joseon era, so it’s still a Korean historical drama! Oh, and well, it has many aspects of romantic comedy but still has dramatic elements. So I guess it counts!

It’s about the story of William, a scholar who travels to Tamra Island to escape his arranged marriage. In the process, he falls in love with a local woman named Jang Beo-jin. There are plenty of plot twists and hijinks as the show goes on, but the story’s unique setting and tone make it a refreshing departure from other historical period dramas.  

In short, I don’t think my description will do it justice. Better watch it for yourself!

Want to eat authentic Korean food while watching a top Korean historical drama from this list?

For me, watching historical K-dramas is never complete without food. And the tastiest way to enjoy the best Korean historical romantic drama is to eat Korean food! 

Sure, you can indulge in Korean egg drop sandwiches or breaded Korean corn dogs. But hey, we’re talking about Korean period dramas, right? Why not make the whole viewing experience more authentic by eating food that, for a long time, was only available to royalty?

Why not indulge in Chef Him Uy De Baron’s class, Seoul Food?

Enroll in this class and get food that has a delightful combination of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors:

  • The very soft and very succulent Galbi Jjim beef short ribs 
  • Pork and Cheese mandu dumplings that are soft, crispy, and juicy inside
  • Chap Chae, made with authentic potato starch noodles, and the juiciest and freshest ingredients

Each dish in this class will make you feel like you’re right in the show you’re watching with your favorite characters. Talk about a cheaper way of going to South Korea, am I right? 

And whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned cook already, rest assured that these recipes will be easy to do–Chef Him made sure that you’re only going to get end results that are delicious!

So what are you waiting for? Sign up at The Bailiwick Academy today, make authentic Korean food, and appreciate history all at the same time!


Keep coming back to The Bailiwick Academy blog for more kitchen tips, tricks, and much more!

4 thoughts on “Top Korean Historical Drama: 10 You Should Watch Right Now (Plus Five More This 2023)!”

  1. Pingback: What is the Best Gift to Give on Valentine's Day? [2023 edition]

  2. Pingback: Korean Egg Drop Sandwich - Egg-citing! - The Bailiwick Academy

  3. Pingback: Halloween Homemade Food Ideas! - The Bailiwick Academy

  4. Pingback: How to be a Happy Working Mother - The Bailiwick Academy

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.