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Top 15 Best Sageuk (Historical Korean Dramas)

Updated on September 19, 2017

Who wouldn't feel the greatness of the past while watching historical K dramas? Seeing the kings, queens, scholars, and warriors in their lavish costumes brings the royal feel. The setting, which features the palace, the markets, the streets, and houses where the common people live is also amazing. But the most brilliant of all, every story of the past which was brought to life through dramas is so much appreciated, thanks to the skills and talents of many Korean actors and actresses.

Are you a big fan of watching Sageuk (historical Korean drama)? If yes, then challenge yourself if you'll agree with this list. Here is the top 15 list of most popular, most beloved, most amazing, most stunning, and simply the best Sageuks in the history of K dramas.

15. Faith

Also known as The Great Doctor, this drama is a fusion of fantasy, history, and medical genre. It features the story of Yoo Eun-soo, a 33-year-old plastic surgeon in the year 2012 and her time-travelling adventure in the past. She travels back in time to the Goryeo period (700 years in the past) afterGeneral Choi Younghe leader of the royal guard brought her from the present time. As she stay in the past, she finds herself falling in love with the young, handsome general.


  • Lee Min-ho - General Choi Young
  • Kim Hee-sun - Yoo Eun-soo
  • Yoo Oh-sung - Gi Chul
  • Ryu Deok-hwan - King Gongmin
  • Park Se-young - Queen Noguk

14. Dong Yi

This drama is about the story of Dong-Yi (later known as Choi Suk-bin) and King Sukjong. Based on a true story, she started by working as a lowly water maid inside the palace. But she's no ordinary maid. Her warm personality, sincerity and exceptionally keen mind help her in solving difficult court intrigues. Later, while solving a case, she meets the king who introduces himself as a court judge. Gaining the favor of the king, she becomes a royal concubine with the rank of Suk-bin.


  • Han Hyo-joo as Dong-yi
  • Ji Jin-hee as King Sukjong
  • Lee So-yeon as Jang Hui-bin
  • Bae Soo-bin as Cha Chun-soo

13. Arang and the Magistrate

A drama of history, thrill, romance, and a little horror, Arang and the Magistrate is based on the folklore of Arang, who died unjustly and returns as a ghost in order to reveal the circumstances surrounding her death. Arang lost all her memories when she became a ghost and is unable to rest in peace until she finds out how she died. But when she finds out that Kim Eun-oh is able to see her, she begs for his help.


  • Lee Joon-gi - Kim Eun-oh
  • Shin Min-ah - Arang/Lee Seo-rim
  • Yeon Woo-jin - Joo-wal
  • Hwang Bo-ra - Bang-wool, shaman

12. Tree with Deep Roots

Based on the novel of the same name by Lee Jung-myung, it took its name from the poem Yongbieocheonga that says that trees with deep roots do not sway, the series tells the story of a royal guard named Ddol-bok investigating a case involving the serial murders of Jiphyeonjeon scholars in Gyeongbok Palace while King Sejong comes to create the Korean written language.


  • Jang Hyuk as Kang Chae-yoon/Ddol-bok
  • Han Suk-kyu as King Sejong
  • Shin Se-kyung as So-yi/Dam

11. The King’s Daughter, Su Baek Hyang

This is a historical drama depicting the life of Soo Baek-hyang, the daughter of King Muryeong of Baekje. Baek-hyang, born as the elder daughter of King Mu-ryeong, is unable to retain her title of princess due to her ambitious younger sister, Sol-hui. Despite the situation, she remained humble and hard-working. However, the fate given to her is one that will affect not only her life and her family's lives, but the entire nation as she struggles to find her place in life and fight for love.


  • Seo Hyun-jin as Soo Baek-hyang / Seol-nan
  • Seo Woo as Seol-hee
  • Lee Jae-ryong as King Muryeong
  • Jo Hyun-jae as Myung-nong, later King Seong
  • Jun Tae-soo as Jin-moo
  • Myung Se-bin as Chae-hwa
  • Yoon Tae-young as Goo-chun

10. Sungkyunkwan Scandal

If you want a 'Boys Over Flowers' story set in the past, then this one is the right drama. A historical, romantic-comedy drama based on Jung Eun-gwol's bestselling 2007 novel The Lives of Sungkyunkwan Confucian Scholars. It is about a girl who disguises herself as a boy while attending Sungkyunkwan, the Joseon Dynasty's highest educational institute, where no women were allowed. Inside the institution, she is surrounded by the three most handsome men (and together with her they are known as Jalgeum Quartet). To keep her secret from being discovered, all the while trying to hold her true feelings towards the upright Lee Sun-joon.

What makes this drama amazing?

Funny, sweet, and romantic. Park Min-young and Park Yoochun is a wonderful pair, but Yoo Ah-in and Song Joong-ki's brotherly love is something to die for!


  • Park Min-young as Kim Yoon-hee (nicknamed Dae-mul)
  • Park Yoochun as Lee Sun-joon (nicknamed Ga-rang and Wang Seo Bang)
  • Yoo Ah-in as Moon Jae-shin (nicknamed Geol-oh)
  • Song Joong-ki as Gu Yong-ha (nicknamed Yeo-rim)

9. Iljimae

A period-action drama set in Joseon era, Iljimae is loosely based on the comic strip Iljimae, published between 1975 and 1977, written by Ko Woo-young based on Chinese folklore from the Ming dynasty about a masked Robin Hood-esque character during the 1600s. It features not only the thrilling actions but the romance between the protagonist, Iljimae and his beloved Byeon Eun-chae.

What makes this drama amazing?

Intense action. Thrilling and exciting. The gangster atmosphere and the action scenes will give you chills. Park Shi Hoo's character is someone you'll hate to love, but you'll end up loving anyway.


  • Lee Joon-gi as Lee Gyeom/Yong/Iljimae
  • Han Hyo-joo as Byeon Eun-chae
  • Lee Young-ah as Bong Soon
  • Park Si-hoo as Cha-dol/Byeon Si-hoo

8. Empress Ki

The story revolves around Gi Seungnyang, a Goryeo-born woman who ascends to power despite the restrictions of the era's class system, and later marries Toghon Temür (Emperor of Mongol Empire) to become an empress of the Yuan dynasty, instead of her first love, Wang Yu. Though the plot was not specific in line with the historical facts, it managed to highlight the deep love the Emperor embedded in Lady Ki and how she secured a powerful figure.

What makes this drama amazing?

Ha Ji-won as Empress Ki is simply powerful. She is shown as a woman with high ambition, but is also a woman with a heart to love. Great story, nice costumes, amazing actors, and pretty Ha Ji-won.


  • Ha Ji-won - Ki Seung-nyang
  • Joo Jin-mo - Wang Yoo
  • Ji Chang-wook - Toghon Temür
  • Jin Yi-han - Tal Tal
  • Baek Jin-hee - Tanashir

7. Yi San

Also known as Lee San, Wind of the Palace, it dramatizes the life of Korea's King Jeongjo, the 22nd ruler of the Joseon Dynasty. King Jeongjo is remembered in Korean history for his kindness and sympathy with the plight of the common man, in spite of his own pampered upbringing as royalty.

What makes this drama amazing?

A great depiction of King Jeongjo's life. He experienced a painful and sad childhood because of what happened with his father, the Crown Prince Sado, and it's just heartbreaking how he begs King Yeongjo to forgive the Crown Prince. But he remains kind and generous, which makes us fall in love with his character.


  • Lee Seo-jin - Yi San/King Jeongjo
  • Han Ji-min - Seong Song-yeon
  • Lee Jong-soo - Park Dae-su
  • Kyeon Mi-ri - Lady Hyegyeong
  • Park Eun-hye - Queen Hyoui

6. The Princess' Man

The 'Romeo and Juliet' of Korean historical drama, it is about the forbidden romance between the daughter of King Sejo, named Lee Se-ryung and the son of Sejo's political opponent Kim Jong-seo, named Kim Seung-yoo. Despite the rivalries between two families, Se-ryung and Seung-yoo found each other and fell in love. But the star-crossed lovers had encountered too many hardships and difficulties along the way, until time came when Seung-yoo's life is in danger. Will they end up the same way as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet did?

What makes this drama amazing?

Great chemistry between Moon Chae-won and Park Shi-hoo. Chae-won is so pretty like Juliet, and Shi-hoo is so cool like Romeo. Plus, they are all great actors. You may end up cursing the enemies because you'll definitely don't want them to get in the way of the two lovebirds.


  • Moon Chae-won as Lee Se-ryung
  • Park Si-hoo as Kim Seung-yoo
  • Kim Yeong-cheol as Grand Prince Suyang
  • Hong Soo-hyun as Princess Kyunghye

5. The Moon That Embraces the Sun

The historical-fantasy drama is adapted from the novel of the same name written by Jung Eun-gwol. It tells of a secret, poignant love story between a fictional king of the Joseon Dynasty and a female shaman against the backdrop of a Korean traditional palace; and the conflicts and conspiracy of vying political powers.

What makes this drama amazing?

Great costumes, props, and setting is already a given. What makes this so amazing is the intense drama brought by great actors. Kim Min-seo's acting is always intense, and Kim Soo-hyun is just so adorable.


  • Kim Soo-hyun as Crown Prince/King Lee Hwon
  • Han Ga-in as Heo Yeon-woo
  • Jung Il-woo as Prince Yang-myung
  • Kim Min-seo as Yoon Bo-kyung

4. Queen Seon Deok

This drama is about the life of the Great Queen Seon Deok of Silla based on history. Deokman (Queen Seondeok’s childhood name) was born a twin but was abandoned as a baby. She was later brought back to the Silla palace, where she joined forces with her twin sister Princess Chonmyong to oppose Mi-shil, who wanted to seize power. Her struggle and battle against the political enemy brought her the title of being the first female ruler of Silla.

What makes this drama amazing?

Amazing story. Great acting. Lee Yo-won's portrayal of Queen Seon Deok is just perfect. No one can bring her into life with those royalty and strength. Go Hyun-jung as Lady Mishil is so hardcore, you'll end up gritting your teeth while hating her until the very end.


  • Lee Yo-won as Princess Deokman. Queen Seondeok
  • Go Hyun-jung as Lady Mishil
  • Uhm Tae-woong as Kim Yushin
  • Park Ye-jin as Princess Cheonmyeong
  • Kim Nam-gil as Bidam
  • Yoo Seung-ho as Kim Chunchu

3. The Bridal Mask


The 'Zorro' of Korean drama, Bridal Mask is an action period based on the popular Korean manhwa by Huh Young-man. The setting takes place in Seoul, Korea during the 1930s Japanese colonial era. It follows the story of Lee Kang-to, a rising star in the police force and works with the Japanese police to capture “Bridal Mask,” a mysterious freedom fighter who fights for independence wearing a Korean Bridal Mask. As he go on chasing the Bridal Mask, he found out that it was actually his older brother.

What makes this drama amazing?

It's so tragic. Lee Kang-to's life is so messed up, and Joo Won's acting clearly said it all. He's such an amazing actor, he can be a villain and hero at once. Also, the brother-like relationship of Lee Kang-to and Kimura Shunji is just heartbreaking. It's sad how these two characters ended up hating each other, when they know how much they trust and care for each other more than everyone else. Park Ki-woong is also intense. This drama is not so romantic, but overall, it's amazing.


  • Joo Won as Lee Kang-to/Sato Hiroshi/Lee Young
  • Jin Se-yeon as Oh Mok-dan/Esther/Boon-yi
  • Park Ki-woong as Kimura Shunji
  • Han Chae-ah as Ueno Rie/Lara/Chae Hong-joo

2. Jumong

The series examines the life of Jumong, founder of the kingdom of Goguryeo. Few details have been found in the historical record about Jumong, so much of the series is fictionalized. The fantastic elements surrounding the original Jumong legend (such as those concerning his birth) have been replaced with events more grounded in reality.

What makes this drama amazing?

It's simply legendary. The set is prestigious. Action, thrill, and romance is balanced, so this drama gives it all. Song Il-gook is a man of action that you'll surely love.


  • Song Il-gook as Prince Jumong
  • Han Hye-jin as Lady Soseono
  • Kim Seung-soo as Prince Daeso
  • Jun Kwang-ryul as King Geumwa

1. Jewel in the Palace

This drama tells the tale of an orphaned kitchen cook who went on to become the king's first female physician. In a time when women held little influence in society, young apprentice cook Jang-geum strives to learn the secrets of Korean cooking and medicine in order to cure the King of his various ailments. It is based on the true story of Jang-geum, the first female royal physician of the Joseon Dynasty. The main themes are her perseverance and the portrayal of traditional Korean culture, including Korean royal court cuisine and traditional medicine.

What makes this drama amazing?

Seeing Jang-geum's lovely and calm face is simply heartwarming, isn't it? Lee Young-ae is so sweet, innocent, beautiful, intelligent, but fierce. While the leading man, Ji Jin Hee, is so charismatic. You'll also end up cursing the villain, Lady Choi, thanks to Hong Ri-na's antagonistic talent.


  • Lee Young-ae as Jang-geum
  • Ji Jin-hee as Min Jeong-ho
  • Hong Ri-na as Choi Geum-young
  • Im Ho as King Jungjong

That's it!

Did we miss your favorite Sageuk? Recommend them by leaving a comment below, or vote for your favorite historical drama on the poll.

What is the best historical Korean drama?

See results


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    • Anny W profile image

      Anny Taylor 

      3 weeks ago

      I agree with Jewel in the Palace as number one! It's my all-time favorite.

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      i agree with some of the dramas and in their order like empress ki,dong yi, faith, jewel in the palace,queen soendoek,princess man,yi san,bridal mask, tree with deep roots and moon that embraces the sun.for the others on list,i a yet to watch them. i also recommend royal gambler,flower in prison,jang ok jung live in love,warrior baek dong su,ruler master of the mask, shine or go crazy,queen for seven days,gu family book and my sassy girl. for me,moon lovers wasn't bad but not that very good same goes for moonlight drawn by the clouds and hwarang.i was really bored with mirror of the witch

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Queen for 7 Days should be this list's number 1. I've watched more than a half of this list, and QFSD is just the best Saeguk drama for me to date.

      After a decade of watching asian dramas, it's actually my 3rd most favorite drama of all times.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Like below comments I think moon lovers should absolutely be on this list. As an international fan, in my area, blogs and websites were exploding by MLSHR's posts. It was the first in popularity in many web polls in my country not only during its airing but also in that year. So I think it deserves to be here.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      You forgot MOON LOVERS: SCARLET HEART RYEO!!! It may not have had top ratings in Korea but it was a hit in the international scene. ☺

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      i can only agree with some of the dramas.. such as Bridal Mask, Sungkyungkwan Scandal, Tree Deep Roots, Moon Embrace Sun, Princess's Man.. but most don't deserve their place, such as Faith, Iljimae, Arang Majistret... and why in hell there's no Slave Hunter (Chuno) and Six Flying Dragons ?!??!! and Anna, Moon Lovers suck big time .. as for others unmentions is simply because i haven't watch them yet

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Please consider MOON LOVERS: SCARLET HEART RYEO because of that kdrama I laugh, cry, smile, thrilled and cry again. I just really loved it. The best of all kdramas ived watch. Thanks!


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