The magic of first love (butterflies and all), the rollercoaster ride of teenage friendships, frustrating academic pressure, inspiring ambition — romantic high school Kdramas explore it all. We’re watching a way through a few that have captured the hearts of viewers worldwide.
If classic teen shows and movies like Gossip Girl and Clueless have taught us anything, it’s that there’s a certain allure to coming-of-age stories that make them worth a rewatch (or two). And the Korean entertainment industry — known for its versatility — has tapped into this to produce some of the world’s most nostalgic, heartwarming shows.
Set in high schools, these Kdramas see the leads pursuing their dreams with a fierce determination while stuttering through first dates, burning the midnight oil together before an important examination, and relying on each other through family complications, amongst others. Best part? From enemies-to-lovers to love triangles — they explore almost every romantic trope there is. Add to this, high-production values, engaging plot twists, and rib-tickling comedy, and you’ve got yourself a title worth losing sleep over. Here’s a look at a few that are on our watchlist.
Best romantic high school Kdramas for your next TV binge
Directed by: Kim Sang-Hyeop
Cast: Moon Ga-young, Cha Eun-woo, Hwang In-youp, Park Yoo-na
Release date: 9 December 2020
Synopsis: High school student Lim Ju-Kyung (played by Moon Ga-young) tackles insecurity about her appearance by working on her make-up skills. She ends up learning how to enhance her beauty and earns a reputation for being ‘naturally’ good looking in the process. With the dream of being a cosmetologist firmly planted in her mind, she navigates life and school. Along the way she befriends and falls for the good-looking top student Lee Su-Ho (played by Cha Eun-woo) who’s known for being a bit stand-offish. Also in the picture? The tough-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside Han Seo-jun (played by Hwang In-youp) — So-ho’s former best friend who falls for Ju-Kyung.
Twenty Five, Twenty One
Directed by: Jung Ji-hyun
Cast: Kim Tae-ri, Nam Joo-hyuk
Release date: 12 February 12 2022
Synopsis: The year is 1998 and Na Hee-do (played by Kim Tae-ri) is a talented member of the Seonjung Girls’ High School fencing team. However, after the team is dissolved due to a financial crisis, she moves to Taeyang High School to train with her idol Ko Yu-rim (played by Kim Ji-yeon) who’s a high school fencing gold medalist. The two eventually become rivals, working towards their respective dreams with unwavering dedication. Along the way Hee-do meets and falls for Baek Yi Jin (played by Nam Joo-hyuk) a hardworking young man who juggles part-time jobs to make ends meet.
Directed by: Shim Na-yeon
Cast: Ong Seong-wu, Kim Hyang-gi, Shin Seung-ho, Kang Ki-young
Release date: 22 July 2019
Synopsis: Choi Jun Woo (played by Ong Seong-wu) copes with loneliness and is not quite good at expressing his emotions well. He hence appears aloof to most people despite being kind and warm. His life takes a turn when he’s blamed for a violation he did not commit and is forced to switch schools. Once at Cheonbong High, he resolves to keep a low profile until he meets Yoo Soo-bin (played by Kim Hyang-gi) — a stellar student with an overbearing mother who dreams of her independence. The two navigate the challenges of growing up, leaning on each other and discovering love and friendship. Also in the picture? Ma Hwi-young (played by Shin Seung-ho) who’s gritty on the outside but is as uncertain as his peers on the inside.
Directed by: Kang Shin-hyo, Boo Sung-chul
Cast: Lee Min-ho, Park Shin-hye, Kim Woo-bin
Release date: 9 October 2013
Synopsis: High school student Kim Tan (played by Lee Min-ho) is the heir to the wealthy Jeguk Group and engaged to heiress Yoo Rachel (played by Kim Ji-won). While his brother manages the family business, he’s exiled to the US. There he comes across Cha Eun-sang (played by Park Shin-hye) a down-to-earth, intelligent girl from humble means who’s enrolled in Jeguk High School on a welfare scholarship and is in the US to search for her sister. The two fall in love. Things get complicated, however, when his former best friend-turned-nemesis Choi Young-Do (played by Kim Woo Bin) — intelligent and feared by his classmates — takes an interest in Eun-Sang.
Directed by: Kim Sang-hyeop
Cast: Kim Hye-yoon, Rowoon, Lee Jae-wook, Lee Na-eun, Jung Gun-joo, Kim Young-dae, Lee Tae-ri
Release date: 2 October 2019
Synopsis: In this Kdrama, high school student Eun Dan-oh (played by Kim Hye-yoon) copes with a congenital heart condition. One day, she discovers that she’s a character in a fantasy webtoon world titled Secret. In it, she’s one of many side characters that’s engaged to a man who despises her. To make matters worse, her story seems at the mercy of an omniscient Writer. Determined to take control of her life and find love, she navigates this new world. Along the way she meets fellow side character Ha-ru or student number 13 (played by Rowoon), who saves her life several times and helps turn it around. The two fall in love.
Directed by: Lee Na-jung
Cast: Kim So-hyun, Jung Ga-ram, Song Kang
Release date: 22 August 2019
Synopsis: A dating app called Love Alarm determines whether you’ve a crush on someone within a ten-minute radius and announces it to everyone around. In the midst of this rather unique environment is the hardworking high-school student Kim Jojo (played by Kim So-hyun) who’s juggling several personal adversities. Her fellow student Lee Hye-Yeong (played by Jung Ga-ram) has a crush on her. Also in the picture? His rich childhood friend Hwang Sun-oh (played by Song Kang), a model and student who also falls for Jojo.
Directed by: Lee Eung-bok and Kim Seong-yoon
Cast: Bae Suzy, Kim Soo-hyun, IU
Release date: 3 January 2011
Synopsis: Six students attending a prestigious academy dream of one day debuting as K-pop idols. They work to improve on their singing, dancing, and songwriting skills — coping with the emotional and physical repercussions of their gruelling schedules. Along the way, they develop feelings with each other as well.
Sassy Go Go/Cheer Up!
Directed by: Lee Eun-jin
Cast: Jung Eun-ji, Lee Won-keun, Chae Soo-bin, Cha Hak-yeon, Ji Soo, Chae Soo-bin
Release date: 5 October 2015
Synopsis: At the prestigious Sevit High School, Kang Yeon-doo (played by Jung Eun-ji) leads the street dance club Real King. Students in this crew stick together and have poor academic performance. Meanwhile, Kim Yeol (played by Lee Won-keun) is the President of ‘Baek Ho’ — an exclusive club composed of students from the top 5 percent of the school. When the two groups are forced to come together to create a cheerleading squad, they struggle to put their differences aside. Along the way they discover love.
Which of these high school stories are you adding to your next Kdrama binge?
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All images: Courtesy Netflix/Prime Video
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the most romantic high school kdrama?
Love Alarm, True Beauty, Twenty Five, Twenty One, and Extraordinary You are popular romantic high school dramas.
2. What is the No 1 Korean romantic Drama?
Crash Landing On You, What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim, Descendants Of The Sun, and Hometown Cha Cha Cha are amongst the most popular Korean romantic dramas.
3. What is the best high school Kdrama?
The Heirs, At Eighteen, Love Alarm, True Beauty, Twenty Five, Twenty One, and Extraordinary You are amongst the best romantic high school dramas.
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India