Squid Game induced the Korean Wave by breaking records and introducing a riveting dystopia that examines the socio-political and socio-economic inequities. Directed by Huang Dong-hyuk, this brilliant survival thriller opened the gates to interesting content available for streaming on Netflix.
K-Dramas have become synonymous with romantic cliches. However, there exists a niche market of Korean thrillers that push the conventional boundaries of the genre. From corruption to power hierarchy, these shows examine humanity and society.
Of course, with the introduction of the thriller Squid Game, the world was opened up to a ream of Korean culture. Much of that has now been extrapolated via K-Pop and other Korean-focused cultural moments.
If you are a Squid Game fan and want to watch other Korean thrillers with bated breath, here are six such thrillers on Netflix that will interest you:
Best Netflix Korean thrillers that are not ‘Squid Game’
6. Vagabond (Yoo In-sik, 2019)
After losing his nephew to a tragic plane crash, Cha Dal-gun travels to Morocco to attend the funeral of the victims. However, he soon stumbles upon a mysterious video that forces him to investigate the crash, which is nothing like it seems. Along with the National Intelligence service, Cha embarks on a thrilling and unpredictable quest that unravels massive corruption and power play.
Starring Lee Seung-gi and Bae Suzy- both won major awards at Korean Award show for their brilliant performance- the drama is a perfect balance of action and heart. Not only does it highlight the blatant corruption of bureaucracy but also highlights how paltry the lives of common people are when controlled by those in power.
5. Sweet Home (Lee Eung-bok, Jang Young-woo, Park So-hyun, 2020)
Like most other K-Dramas, Sweet Home is based on a Korean webtoon of the same name. The series focuses on a high school loner named Hyun, who has lost his family to unforeseen circumstances. It details his journey as he races against time to save humanity from the clutches of monstrous beings who have overtaken the world.
Starring Song Kang, Lee Si-young, Lee Jin-wook and Lee Do-hyun among others, Sweet Home sometimes does lose its way with unusual graphics, but the central question remains: who are the real monsters? Amidst a chaotic apocalypse, the series examines social hierarchy and humanity.
4. Flower of Evil (Kim Cheol-kyu, 2020)
Lee Joon-go and Moon Chae-won reunite again following Criminal Minds in this thriller romance. Lee is a man with a mysterious past who hides behind the face of a loving husband and a doting father. However, a string of murders rouses suspicion, and his detective wife soon goes on to find out the truth.
Cruel yet moving, eerie yet heart-wrenching, the series progresses in a slow-burn fashion. With plenty of gripping scenes that will keep the viewers on edge, the actors are brilliant and effortless in their roles.
3. Save Me (Kim Sung-soo, 2017)
While cults are generally a big part of horror and thriller genres, it is especially relevant in South Korea due to the prevalence of the Daegu cult. The show focuses on a family who move to a small town which is run by a dangerous cult which threatens to tear the family apart, bringing to the fore the ugly nature of the cult.
Dark and compelling, the series is one of the best Ki-Drama thrillers out there. Intense, realistic and sometimes extremely eerie, the series will frustrate viewers with the naivete of the believers and raise questions about religion and faith via the complicated character arcs it introduces.
2. Beyond Evil (Shim Na-yeon, 2021)
Two courageous cops push their official boundaries to catch a serial killer. However, they are soon forced to look beyond their ideals while exploring the identity of the serial killer, which brings forth questions regarding the monstrosity of human nature. This award-winning series features complicated characters led by the brilliance of Shin Ha-kyun and Lee Do-hyun.
Dark, philosophical and grimy, the series pushes the limits of a classic whodunit and features unreliable narrators who constantly question the audience’s beliefs, leaving them frustrated, flustered and aching for more. Absolutely maniacal and confounding, the series deserves to be watched by one and all.
1. Kingdom (Kim Eun-hee, 2019)
Human nature is inherently evil, and nothing brings out its ugliness better than this Korean drama. Set in the Joseon dynasty, the show focuses on the zombification of people due to a mysterious plague. Amidst rising socio-political and socio-economic tension, the show is a brilliant portrayal of how power corrupts one and all.
Kingdom explores the concept of malice and evil in an ambiguous manner, highlighting how politics does not differ much in life or death. Violent, bloody and disturbing, the series highlights injustice, greed, inequity, and humanity at large.