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Top 20 Most Successful and Highest Rated Korean Drama

Updated on December 26, 2016

Korean dramas are becoming more and more popular. Whatever the genre is - romantic comedy, melodrama, action, suspense, thriller, fiction, fantasy, or historical period, there's always something for you in the wide world of K-dramas. In the history of K-dramas, there are some which are popular for being the highest rated - receiving high viewership ratings because of being the best and the greatest. Because of their wide popularity, these dramas became the most memorable, most unforgettable, and most recognizable dramas that we surely love to re-watch from time to time. In this article, find out the top 20 most popular, most successful, and highest rated K-dramas from 2000-2016.

20. Deep Rooted Tree

Deep Rooted Tree, also called as Tree with Deep Roots, is a 2011 historical drama series starring Jang Hyuk, Shin Se-kyung and Han Suk-kyu. The plot of the story is based on the novel of the same name by Lee Jung-myung. It aired on SBS from October 5 to December 22, 2011 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 24 episodes. It has a high viewer rating of 27.5% for its final episode on December 22, 2011.

19. A Gentleman's Dignity

The drama, A Gentleman's Dignity, is a 2012 romantic comedy series starring Jang Dong-gun, Kim Ha-neul, Kim Min-jong, Kim Su-ro, and Lee Jong-hyuk. It is about the careers and love lives of four men in their forties who have been friends since 18, as they go through love, breakup, success and failure. It aired on SBS from May 26 to August 12, 2012 on Saturdays and Sundays at 21:55 for 20 episodes. It recorded a high rating of 30.5% on July 21, 2012 on its 17th episode.

18. The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince

A hit drama popularly known as Coffee Prince, is a 2007 romantic comedy series starring Yoon Eun-hye, Gong Yoo, Lee Sun-kyun, and Chae Jung-an. Based on the novel of the same name written by Lee Sun-mi, it is about a woman who dresses like a man in order to get work and her encounter with the young company master and their supposedly 'forbidden homosexual love'. The 11th episode of the drama, which aired on August 6, 2007 had a viewership rating of 32.1%.

17. My Love from the Star

My Love from the Star is a 2013-2014 hit series starring Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun. This romantic fantasy story is about an alien who landed on Earth in the Joseon Dynasty and, 400 years later, falls in love with a top actress in the modern era. The story was written by Park Ji-eun. It became a huge hit and extremely successful in Korea and Asia, and the actors won several awards for the drama. It has a record-breaking viewership rating of 33.2% for its final episode.

16. Boys Over Flowers

Boys Over Flowers is a popular teenage romantic-comedy drama starring Lee Min-ho, Ku Hye-sun, Kim Hyun-joong, Kim Bum, Kim Joon, and Kim So-eun. It is based on Japanese shoujo manga series, Hana Yori Dango written by Yoko Kamio. It is a modern-day Cinderella tale of a poor but tough schoolgirl who attracts the interest of the four ultra-rich and ultra-handsome princes of the school known as F4. The drama attracted high viewership ratings especially on its 18th episode, with 35.7% which aired on March 9, 2009.

15. Secret Garden

A 2010 hit drama, Secret Garden is a romantic, comedy, fantasy, and action series starring Ha Ji-won, Hyun Bin, Yoon Sang-hyun, and Kim Sa-rang. This modern day Cinderella story is about a crossing of social classes with a department store CEO Kim Joo-won falling for a stuntwoman named Gil Ra-im. The drama won numerous awards and the ratings was a big success, with a whooping 38.6% for its final episode in January 16, 2011.

14. Descendants of the Sun

2016's ultimate hit drama is Descendants of the Sun, starring Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-kyo, Jin Goo, and Kim Ji-won. It is a romantic-comedy, melodrama, and action series that features the love story of a soldier and a doctor, and their struggle to keep their relationship. It was a major hit in Asia and is praised for having a high record of viewership rating, surpassing the 2014 drama, My Love from the Star. The drama has a recorded viewership rating of 41.6% for its final episode.

13. Iris

Iris is an action, romance, and thriller drama starring Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-hee, Jung Joon-ho, Kim Seung-woo, Kim So-yeon and T.O.P (Big Bang). The series was a critical and commercial success, with an average viewership of over 30% in addition to ranking as the top program consistently every week after its debut. The highest viewership recorded was 41.8% on its final episode. The drama received recognition of highest honors at the 2009 KBS Drama Awards.

12. Temptation of Wife

Temptation of Wife, also called Lure of Wife, is a romance-affair drama starring Jang Seo-hee, Byun Woo-min, Kim Seo-hyung, and Lee Jae Hwang. It was a highly watched drama in 2008. Although there were controversies about the questionable content of the drama, it currently remains to be one of the most highly watched dramas averaging around 30% each day. The highest viewership rating is 42.3%. The lead actress, Jang Seo-hee won the Daesang (Grand Prize) at the SBS Drama Awards.

11. Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven is a 2003 romance melodrama television series starring Choi Ji-woo, Kwon Sang-woo, Kim Tae-hee, and Shin Hyun-joon. This drama is the second entry in director Lee Jang-soo's Heaven Trilogy which included Beautiful Days in 2001 and Tree of Heaven in 2006. It aired on SBS from 3 December 2003 to 5 February 2004 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 20 episodes. This popular, hit drama received an average viewership rating of 38.8%, and 45.3% for the final episode.

10. Autumn In My Heart

One of the pioneers of Korean melodrama. Autumn in My Heart is a 2000 romantic drama, starring Song Seung-heon, Song Hye-kyo and Won Bin. This is the first installment of season-themed tetralogy Endless Love drama series directed by Yoon Seok-ho. It was very successful and popular, with an average viewership ratings of 38.6% and reaching a peak viewership of 46.1%. It aired on KBS2 from September 18 to November 7, 2000 on Mondays and Tuesdays for 16 episodes.

9. Queen Seondeok

A popular historical drama, Queen Seondeok is a 2009 sageuk starring Lee Yo-won, Go Hyun-jung, Uhm Tae-woong and Park Ye-jin. The drama features the life of Queen Seondeok of Silla. It aired on MBC from 25 May to 22 December 2009 on Mondays and Tuesdays at 21:55 for 62 episodes. The viewership ratings for the show topped TV charts almost every week during its run, and the highest rating is 46.7% on its 49th episode.

8. Moon Embracing The Sun

Also known as The Sun and the Moon, this popular 2012 historical drama stars Kim Soo-hyun, Han Ga-in, Jung Il-woo and Kim Min-seo. The historical-fantasy drama is adapted from the novel of the same name written by Jung Eun-gwol. It depicts the forbidden love story between a fictional king of the Joseon Dynasty and a female shaman. This multi-awarded drama has a viewership rating of 47.0% on its 18th episode on March 1, 2012.

7. A Brilliant Legacy

Also known as Shining Inheritance, this is a 2009 hit television series starring Han Hyo-joo, Lee Seung-gi, Bae Soo-bin and Moon Chae-won. It was among the top-rated Korean dramas of the year; it maintained its number one spot in the viewership ratings chart for 20 consecutive weeks and reached a peak rating of 47.1% for its last episode. It aired on SBS from April 25 to July 26, 2009 on Saturdays and Sundays at 21:45 for 28 episodes.

6. My Name is Kim Sam Soon

Also popular as My Lovely Sam-soon, it is a 2005 romantic comedy starring Kim Sun-a (who gained 15 pounds for the role), Hyun Bin, Jung Ryeo-won and Daniel Henney. The hilarious comical but cheesy romantic drama series was a huge hit, with an average viewership rating of 37.6%, and its peak rating of 50.5% (for the final episode) makes it the 26th highest rated Korean drama of all time. Kim Sun-ah won numerous awards, including the Baeksang Arts Awards Grand Prize for TV, and the Grand Prize at the MBC Drama Awards.

5. King of Baking, Kim Tak Gu

Also called Bread, Love and Dreams, or simply Baker King, is a 2010 romance, melodrama, and family series starring Yoon Shi-yoon, Eugene, Joo Won, and Lee Young-ah. It is about the motivational story of a young man who pursue his dream of becoming a baker while facing many difficulties in life. The series was one of the most watched shows in South Korea in 2010, with a final episode viewership rating of 50.8% becoming the 25th highest rated drama of all time.

4. Unexpected You

Also known as 'My Husband Got a Family'. It is a 2012 romantic-comedy and family TV series starring Kim Nam-joo, Yoo Jun-sang, and Youn Yuh-jung. During its more than five-month run, it topped the weekly ratings chart for 25 consecutive weeks and reached a ratings peak of 45.8% (TNmS) and 52.3% (AGB Nielsen). The series ranked number one overall on the 2012 yearly TV ratings chart. It aired on KBS2 from February 25 to September 9, 2012 on Saturdays and Sundays at 19:55 for 58 episodes.

3. Jumong

A legendary historical period drama, Jumong is a sageuk series from 2006 to 2007 about the life of Jumong, founder of the kingdom of Goguryeo. It was originally scheduled for 60 episodes, but MBC extended it to 81 because of its immense popularity. Although it is fictionalized, the drama is still considered as one of the best historical period series and received several awards. This drama has an average rating of 41.83%, and the highest viewership rating is 52.7% for its final episode.

2. Lovers in Paris

Lovers in Paris is a 2004 romance drama series starring Kim Jung-eun, Park Shin-yang and Lee Dong-gun. It is the first of three TV series in the Lovers trilogy by writer Kim Eun-sook and director Shin Woo-chul. This was followed by Lovers in Prague (2005), and the third, simply titled Lovers (2006). The series was very popular during its run, with its peak viewership rating of 57.6% making it the 11th highest rated Korean drama of all time (by episode).

1. Dae Jang Geum

Also known as Jewel in the Palace, it is a 2003 historical fiction drama series starring Lee Young-ae as Jang Geum. She plas the role of an orphaned kitchen cook who went on to become the king's first female physician. The drama gained extreme popularity and became a huge success, with an average viewership rating of 46.3% and a peak of 57.8% (making it the 10th highest rated Korean drama of all time). Lee Young-ae won the Grand Prize/Daesang at the 2003 MBC Drama Awards for her remarkable performance.

What is your favorite high-rated Korean drama?

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