After binge-watching endless hours of romantic K-dramas or melodramas, it’s time to switch it up. This meaning it’s time to watch something a bit more eery, serious and spine-chilling. Besides the popular romantic K-dramas and melodramas, South Korea also creates thriller series that will have you on the edge of your seat. These thriller series have a certain nuance that isn’t seen on American television.
The villains manage to make the room feel chilly and make going to the bathroom in the dark a no-go. There are many thriller series to sink your teeth into, but where to start. Here’s a list of K-drama thrillers that will surely cause intrigue and will have the heart beating with anticipation.
Updated on June 19th, 2021, by Gabriela Silva: With so many K-dramas available on streaming platforms, where do fans start? When in need of an eery and dramatic drama that interweaves, murder, corruption, and even the supernatural, look no further than a thriller K-drama. Throughout the years there have been many well-known suspense thrillers to binge and the list only gets bigger and bigger as die-hard fans will spend hours in front of a screen.
15 Sweet Home (2020)
This K-drama thriller gained mass popularity on Netflix for its apocalyptic storyline complete with grotesque monsters. Sweet Home is a Netflix must-watch as the tenants of a building find themselves locked in and fearing the outside world.
Overnight, the world descended into chaos with a deadly disease that turns humans into the worst monsters. The building’s tenants must learn to survive while also keeping watch as anyone can become can turn. In the midst of it all is a distraught male character who has all the abilities of a monster but struggles to keep his humanity.
14 Mouse (2021)
The intriguing part about most thriller K-dramas is that they don’t need a romantic element to keep viewers’ attention. The 2021 drama, Mouse is anything but flowers and sunshine as it revolves around a heinous serial killer with ties to one of Korea’s more infamous murderers.
The rise of this new gruesome serial killer has a steadfast cop and police detective on the hunt for a suspect. As they follow the bloody path of the killer, they never expected an even greater evil to be lurking in the shadows. The drama also plays upon the psychological question of whether a killer is born or created.
13 Hell Is Other People (2019)
Hell Is Other People is also known by the name, Strangers from Hell. The psychological thriller K-drama is based on a popular webtoon and even mimics certain scenes from the illustrated pages. The drama revolves around a young man in his 20s who moves to Seoul.
Still struggling financially, he can only afford accommodations in a skeptical and cheap dormitory called Eden Studio. During his stay, he gets an eery feeling that the tenants who reside there have a dark secret. Spiraling into slight madness, bizarre occurrences take place.
12 Dark Hole (2021)
Dark Hole will have viewers on the edge of their seats with a mystery, thriller, and dark fantasy story. Lee Hwa-Sun (Kim Ok-Vin) is a detective in Seoul whose life is turned upside down when receiving a call from the person who murdered her husband. She’s told to go to Mujishi but there’s a problem.
The residents of the town are closed off as many transformed into heinous mutants after breathing in mysterious dark smoke from a sinkhole. With a dire need to catch her husband’s killer, she ventures to Mujishi and joins forces with a former cop-turned driver.
11 The Penthouse: War In Life (202o)
The Penthouse: War In Life became one of Korea’s top watched dramas that ranked in the Top 50 Korean television series per nationwide viewers and one of the few series to have more than one season. Audiences will be kept on their toes as the drama ranges from thriller, mystery, suspense, crime, and revenge as it tells a deadly story of trying to become number one and cover-up.
The drama takes a look at a group of wealthy families living in the same building complex. Each character has their own dark past, deadly demons, and thirst for ambition. When a tragic death occurs during a party, the families and the matriarchs will do whatever necessary to protect their children and image.
10 Rugal (2020)
Rugal is a mix between thriller and artificial intelligence. An elite detective’s world crumbles when he comes home to find his wife murdered by a group of men of a criminal organization. The detective got too close to investigating a group called Argos. As a form of retaliation, Argos sends masked men to gouge out his eyes. Ouch!
This show is a classic yet riveting story of revenge. The detective gets equipped with artificial eyes by a group called NIS. Like most commons storylines, the detective then becomes part of a special team that seeks to take down Argos and organized crime.
9 Extracurricular (2020)
Now available on Netflix, Extracurricular revolves around making the wrong decision that leads to heinous consequences. The show is dark, eery and worth a watch. While the concept isn’t new, the way the show’s story is structure and how it escalates will catch one’s attention.
Not everyone is who they say they are. A model high school student leads by a good example for his peers. He has good grades, well-mannered, and liked by teachers. But in reality, he lives a double life of crime. When a classmate takes an interest in his secret, to end her blackmail he does what he has to even if it’s deadly.
8 Kingdom (2019)
Kingdom is a 2019 political horror thriller that has fans talking. The show is a first for Netflix in creating an original Korean series. It’s based on a webtoon series titled The Kingdom of Gods. The storyline is what has people hooked and is a well-deserved watch. It takes place back during the 1590s and opens up with the crown prince uncovering a political conspiracy.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he starts to suspect foul play in the death of his father. While conducting his own investigation, he must also uncover the origin of a mysterious plague. To add even more drama, the plague brings people back from the dead as blood-thirsty monsters.
7 Vagabond (2019)
Vagabond does have a bit of a romantic relationship storyline but it’s leveled out with the intense thriller action. This is a story of loss and conspiracy that will have audiences on a chase of corruption and conspiracy. Cha Dal-Geon (Lee Seung-Gi) once dreamed of being a successful actor while taking care of his nephew. His life changes when the plane his nephew was on suddenly crashes.
Riddled with grief, he stumbles upon a passenger who was meant to be on the plane. He soon starts to wonder if the plane was sabotaged. NIS agent Go Hae-Ri (Bae Suzy) is tasked with helping the families of the deceased passengers. She joins forces with Dal-Geon to uncover a sinister truth.
6 Watcher (2019)
Watcher is a crime series from 2019 that fits the mold of a thriller and a bit more. The show will have audiences wanting more a the end of every episode to uncovering the truth. The storyline is based on a crime that was committed 15 years prior. Kim Yeong-Goon’s (Seo Kang-Joon) mother was heinously murdered and the police suspect his father of the crime.
His father is found convicted. Fifteen years later, Yeong-goon is now an officer and along with the original detective and lawyer of the case, they remeet. They band together to uncover what really happened all those years ago.
5 Nobody Knows (2020)
Get ready to go down a path of sadness, guilt, redemption, and a story centered around a serial killer. The 2020 crime show, Nobody Knows has many thrilling elements that will have audiences hooked. Cha Young-Jin (Kim Seo-Hyung) has lived for 19 years in a deep hole of guilt and regret. She feels responsible for the murder of her best friends by Stigmata, the infamous serial killer.
Vowing to get justice for her friend and knowing the killer will one day come after her, she joined the police force and became a diligent detective. After years of waiting, the killer is back and Young-jin must stop him before it’s too late and goes after someone she cares about.
4 Defendant (2017)
This legal drama will have people hooked on a thrilling journey to prove a man’s innocence. Defendant follows the story of Park Jung-Woo (Ji Sung) a leading prosecutor and head of the violent crimes investigative division. He has a reputation for never losing a case.
One day he wakes up finding himself in prison convicted on death row. The problem is he has no idea how he got there due to suffering from amnesia. It’s a race against time to prove Jung-woo’s innocence and uncover the truth.
3 Possessed (2019)
This show is for fans who like a bit of the supernatural tied together with mystery and thrill. Sometimes ghosts and the other world make for a more interesting storyline and series. Two unlikely individuals meet and team up to solve crimes. Kang Pil-Sung (Song Sae-Byeok) is a good detective but is fond of bad words and can be a bit lazy.
He meets Hong Seo-Jung (Koh Joon-Hee) who hides her psychic abilities from others. They partner up and take on a difficult case involving the ghost of a murderer from 20 years ago.
2 Tell Me What You Saw (2020)
Tell Me What You Saw is strictly categorized as a thriller and suspense series. That is exactly what audiences will get from this chilling and dark series. Oh Hyun-Jae (Jang Hyuk) was once highly regarded as a criminal profiler known for solving uncrackable cold cases. His world shattered when his fiancée is killed in an explosion set by a serial killer.
Unable to deal with the grief, he shuts off from others. One day a new killer emerges with the same MO. While another detective is on the case, he meets Cha Soo-Young (Choi Soo-Young), a detective with a photographic memory. She teams up with Hyun-Jae to seek retribution for his fiancée and stop the killer.
1 Save Me (2017)
Save Me should definitely be on people’s must-watch list for its spine-chilling thriller storyline. The show would give anyone the creeps and plays upon a common storyline fear. A family moves to a suburban town after their business fails. They soon meet the followers of a religious cult posing as a church. Soon the parents are hypnotized by the false image they present.
In reality, the church is riddled with abuse, violence, brainwashing, and possibly murder. After the suicide of the family’s son, things spiral out of control and the cult takes advantage. Years later, deeply rooted in the cult, the daughter wants out and gets the attention of four classmates she met the first day in town.
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