10 K-Dramas Based On Non-Korean Novels And Shows

Did you know that these K-Dramas weren’t originally a Korean work?

Many TV shows are actually remakes or adaptations nowadays. However, many international fans may not even notice that the K-Drama they’re watching wasn’t originally a Korean work.

Let’s explore 10 dramas that were based of of non-Korean novels and shows!

1. 18 Again

Jung Da Jung (Kim Ha Neul) and Hong Dae Young (Yoon Sang Hyun) have worked hard to build a happy home together. However, fed up with Dae Young’s incessant nonsense, Da Jung is at her wits’ end. When Dae Young announces that he’s been fired, Da Jung gives up completely and files for divorce. Dae Young starts to feel regret but suddenly his body is transformed into that of an eighteen-year-old, while his thirty-seven-year-old mind is intact. Given the chance to re-do his life, Dae Young (Lee Do Hyun) changes his name to Go Woo Young and enrolls himself in his children’s school.

Fans of both High School Musical and Zac Efron were elated to hear that there was going to be a Korean remake of the movie 17 Again this year. And it did not disappoint. It’s been described as “exactly what was expected, but interesting and unique enough to keep watching”.

| IMDb

2. The World of the Married

Everything seems perfect in the life of doctor and associate director, Ji Sun Woo. She lives happily with her handsome husband, Lee Tae Oh, and their teenage son, Joon Young. However, when she discovers that her husband is having an affair and their mutual friends are helping him conceal it, she seeks revenge.

It surprised many to find out that this was a remake of the show Doctor Foster. Really, it felt like it was made for Korea. Korea has shows called “makjangs” which describes a show that is over-the-top and often not realistic. The plot of the original just fit in perfectly with Korea’s love of the extreme as this drama is the highest-rated Korean drama in history.

| Amazon

3. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

When a total eclipse of the sun takes place, Go Ha Jin (IU) is transported to the Goryeo Dynasty during King Taejo’s rule. She wakes up in the body of 16-year-old Hae Soo and finds herself in the house of 8th Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha Neul), who is married to her cousin. Although she knows she shouldn’t get involved in fights over the throne, she becomes a pawn in the struggle, as several of the Princes fall in love with her.

While based on the Chinese novel, Bu Bu Jing Xin by Tong Hua, this K-Drama changed quite a few things. For starters, they obviously had to change it to fit Korean history instead of Chinese history. However, one of the biggest changes fans were upset with is that they did not include the sequel set in the modern-day. This show is only one season, but the Chinese version had two and many were hoping to see it.

| Amino

4. City Hunter

Lee Yoon Sung (Lee Min Ho) works on the international communications team in the Blue House. He plans revenge on five politicians who caused his father’s death and becomes a “City Hunter”.

Many adaptations of this manga have been made but Lee Min Ho certainly brought popularity to the Korean adaptation. Many people loved 80s anime so it’s easy to see why many would try to replicate it.

5. The Great Seducer

In an act of revenge, Kwon Shi Hyun (Woo Do Hwan) makes a bet with his friends to seduce Eun Tae Hee (Red Velvet‘s Joy), who believes people swayed by love are pathetic. After Tae Hee meets Shi Hyun, her view on love starts to change. As Shi Hyun’s secret deepens, he starts to fall in love with Tae Hee.

It may surprise some that this drama is actually loosely based on a 1782 French novel called Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Many adaptations have been made and all are notably distinct from the original (as expected from adapting something from over 200 years ago). The theme is similar but the execution is notably different.

6. Mr. Queen

Jang Bong Hwan (Choi Jin Hyuk) is a chef that wishes to find a job cooking for the country’s top politicians in the Blue House. After an accident, he finds himself in the body of a young queen from the past, Kim So Yong (Shin Hye Sun). So Yong’s husband is King Cheol Jong (Kim Jung Hyun), however, he is only king in name as Queen Dowager Sun Won (Bae Jong Ok), has taken advantage of him. 

This drama has caused many controversies as it is an adaptation of the Chinese novel Tai Zi Fei Sheng Zhi Ji by Xian Chen. The company has stated that the only element they took from the novel was that a man turns into a historical queen. Regardless of the controversy, the drama is doing fairly well and is significantly different than the novel.

7. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes

Kim Moo Young (Seo In Guk) is an assistant in a Korean brewery who becomes a suspect when a woman’s suicide turns out to be murder. His life begins to change when he meets a kind advertising designer named Yoo Jin Kang (Jung So Min), who wishes to be closer to Moo Young. Jin Kang has a brother, a homicide detective named Yoo Jin Gook (Park Sung Woong). He strives to “reveal” who Moo Young really is and to keep his sister away from him.

Some may not have known that this popular series from 2018 was actually a remake of the 2002 Japanese TV series One Million Stars Falling from the Sky. The original was a lot darker than the Korean remake but Seo In Guk brought the drama to fame.

| MyDramaList

8. Boys Over Flowers

Geum Jan Di (Goo Hye Sun) comes from a poor family who owns a dry-cleaning shop. One day, she visits Shinhwa High School, a school for the wealthy, and saves a student trying to commit suicide because of bullying. For her heroic act, Jan Di receives a swimming scholarship and starts attending the school. In school, she meets F4, the most popular and powerful group of boys at the school. Her life at school starts miserable, as she doesn’t fit in with other students because of her status, and later becomes worse when she is labeled as the new bullying target of the F4.

| MyDramaList

Yes, the most popular K-Drama in Korea was actually adapted from a manga! Hana Yori Dango by Yoko Kamio has had many adaptations, but the Korean drama is perhaps the most well known of all.

9. Life on Mars

One day, the leader of a crime investigation team, Han Tae Joo (Jung Kyung Ho), has an accident. When he wakes up, he finds himself in the winter of 1988. He doesn’t know why, but he is now a detective working at a police station in a small city. To get back to the present day, he tries to solve the cases that come to him.

This is a remake of the UK series Life on Mars and was actually pretty well received. Korea changed a few small things but everyone was very happy with the result.

10. Entourage

A famous, handsome celebrity depends on his three friends and boss who try to help him in his struggles as an actor and a man.

This show was created as a direct remake of HBO‘s iconic Entourage. It did not do that well with ratings but international fans thought it was a nice difference in Korean television from the usual plots.

How many did you know about?