Okay, so yeah, ANYONE who watches television probably knows what I am talking about with this genre… These have become increasingly popular the last several years as South Korean producers search for their next big crime or medical hit… That means there are a TON of shows for other nations to watch who love this genre!
Procedurals are exactly what you think they are… Based on medical or criminal situations they have cases that a team solves each episode. Americans are known for these types of shows as the US population eat these up! There is ONE BIG DIFFERENCE though…
You know that case in the background that NEVER gets solved?! Yeah, THAT ONE… It’s a sore point that creates more twists than a popular YA series!! I’ve quit many an American procedural
*cough, The Mentalist, cough* because these cases just never end… You’ll watch a season finale only for the next season’s premiere to twist and reopen the case!
Okay, okay the one big difference is… dun, dun, dun… Korean procedurals END! So those cases… they get solved by the end of the season! The politics in the medical dramas END too! This makes it INCREDIBLY satisfying to watch!
For procedural lovers these law enforcement and medical dramas are the best gateway to becoming a K-drama fan!! They can be fun to watch because they are deeply character driven and yet you still get this sense of the Korean culture and ways. ANNNNDDD… due to the focus on characters you still get caught up in Korean actor love (what better way to cement a fandom?!)
Law Enforcement Dramas are more than your garden variety detective stories like the American Law & Order franchise. Because of the limited run of a series there has to be a solid premise at the core of the show.
It’s not just a prosecutor’s office investigating cases… It’s a vampire prosecutor who can see the last moments of death from a drop of blood! (This is THE first ever K-drama I ever watched!) It’s a vigilante who investigates and corners villains and gets them to admit their guilt on tape… in order to uncover the ring who took out his spy dad… (The second K-drama I ever watched!) There are also supernatural ghosts, paranormal powers to read minds and time travel! There are serial killers and the couple who take them down.
City Hunter is based on a Japanese manga and is still wildly popular! In this South Korean reboot, two spy friends successfully complete a mission in North Korea only for those in power to wipe them out. Jin-pyo survives due to his friend and kidnaps Moo-yul’s infant son, and flees to train the boy intensively in combat. Yoon-sung returns as an adult to fulfill his adoptive father’s plan for revenge. Lee Min-ho is KILLER in this (not a killer) and the romance adds while not interfering with the outcome of Yoon-sung’s justice! If you like action, this will win you over!
Tunnel is a recent 16 episode time travel thriller where a police detective mysteriously disappears in 1986 and appears in 2016 all due to the case he was working on! As he joins the team in 2016 he’s forced to work with his prickly and cold partner, an elite lieutenant detective. GAH!! This is setup so well that I flew through the episodes. There is this lovely bromance that develops and old friendships, plus MAJOR motivation to return to his own time, but only if he can catch this serial killer…
Bad Guys was so popular they rebooted the show for a second season with a new cast!! A detective with morality issues forms a team of criminals to work off their time by solving the worst cases in violent crime. One is a genius level serial killer who can’t remember his crime, another is a mob boss who crushed his way to the top in 25 days and the last is a hit man with a perfect record who suddenly turned himself in. It MORE than deserves the praise it has received!!
Signal made its actors HUGE stars! A mysterious walkie talkie allows a detective in 2000 to communicate with a cold case profiler in 2015. WOW! I heard this was excellent and have been wanting to try it. With the power of foresight and hindsight they solve crimes and maybe even prevent them from ever taking place. This is certainly one that the older generation will relate to!
Each story has its own twist on the typical detective format… something a little different from the typical which sucks you in because you KNOW its NO gimmick!
Medical Dramas are quite similar to the ones we see coming from America. There is a medical case and the team or doctor must figure out the best treatment and then work on the obstacles which prevent that treatment from happening… Mainly poor equipment, lack of experience or knowledge, and many times politics.
In recent years the twists on these dramas have been quite fascinating, entering the mental illness area of medicine (a favorite of mine!) We still see the soap opera centered romance doctor dramas but we know that at the end of 16-20 episodes we’ll get a satisfying ending.
Good Doctor was surprisingly authentic and believable!! Joo Won is the source of that as the lead, Shi-on. An autistic savant with genius-level memory and keen spatial skills he trains to be a pediatric surgeon and because of his unusual mental and emotional condition is given 6 months to prove himself capable. You want an underdog to root for this is the show you’ll want to stream…
Hospital Ship is a recent 20-epsiode drama about a hospital ship that takes care of the people living on the series of small islands off Korea. This team, through a series of misfortune due to doing the right thing, gains a surgeon! As she works to return to her place she finds the possibility of love… Ha Ji-won is SOOO good in this!! And her co-stars are surprisingly able to match her!
It’s Okay, That’s Love is a mental health centered drama. A successful author of mystery novels suffers from obsessive–compulsive disorder. She is a psychiatrist in her first year of fellowship. They start out enemies but slowly see how right they are for each other as bickering becomes love. Jo In-sung is a favorite actor of mine (aren’t they all?!) and I’ll watch him and his co-star, Gong Hyo-jin, in anything, so together was simply magnificent!
Kill Me, Heal Me is about that wonderful condition we love to watch about called dissociative identity disorder. Cha Do-hyun, a warm and lovely businessman has 6 identities and desperately tries to his that from his family and friends. With the help of Ri-jin, a first-year psychiatric resident, he hopes to secretly gain control over his life. GAH! This is so popular and has some rally stellar actors starring, this show is on my bucket list to watch…
If you want to see a slice of life with some real consequences these are for you… Either way we get a shot of hospital intrigue and romance to satisfy those medical urges!!
For the same reason law enforcement and medical dramas are a favorite in America (and are exported all over the world) is why South Koreans love them! And procedurals are one of the ONLY way you’ll see a 2nd season of a k-drama… They often return with another season of a premise, sometimes with the same team and sometimes with a totally new cast… all in hopes of consistently releasing a show that can capture the #1 ratings in their time slot. And we only BENEFIT from this…
So if you need to start with a k-drama that will take you to comfortable places… a law enforcement or medical procedural is the PERFECT drama to get in deep!
Do you watch American crime or medical procedurals on TV?
Stone faced men or fierce Asian beauties face off against incredible odds… and win! They are perfect to convert male significant others with something they know… while still having the potential for romance. It’s a great change of pace where the danger or mystery draws our couple together.
Thanks for Reading XOXO
Start here! Learn about the different genres of k-dramas in the Hallyu wave!
This is the historical genre! You don’t like history?! Don’t worry, you’ll enjoy these!!