South Korean work culture is traditionally characterized by its rigid hierarchy, unwavering loyalty demands, and grueling working hours. However, the rise of Korea’s startup sector has brought about promising working conditions that prioritize a better work-life balance. The popular Korean drama “Start-Up” has significantly showcased an alternative working culture in Korea. Despite these positive changes, traditional practices still persist, as reflected in many Korean office dramas that continue to captivate viewers. Those with experience in Korean companies can especially relate to these portrayals of office life. For those interested in gaining insights into Korean work culture, watching these dramas can provide valuable perspectives. Furthermore, the common theme of office romances in many Korean dramas adds intrigue and entertainment, enhancing the appeal of these shows.
Here are some notable Korean office dramas that offer insights into Korean work culture:
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim (2018)
Considered the best Korean office drama, ‘What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim’ revolves around a man who is the vice president of his family’s company. As a wealthy, intelligent, and handsome individual, he exudes arrogance. However, when his secretary, who has been with him for years, decides to quit, their relationship takes an unexpected turn. This drama provides a glimpse into Korean office culture, including the dynamics between male and female colleagues, along with a touch of office romance.
My Secret Romance (2017)
This Korean office drama follows the son of a wealthy family who runs a large company but avoids long-term relationships. However, when a woman he previously had a short-lived fling with starts working at his company, he becomes determined to win her back. The series delves into the pressures of working within a family business and the expectations for a son to uphold familial standards.
Misaeng: Incomplete Life (2014)
While it’s third on the list, ‘Misaeng’ is among the most underrated Korean dramas ever. Focusing solely on Korean work culture, the story centers around a former child GO prodigy who starts working as an intern at a trading company. Viewers witness his struggles and triumphs as he navigates the challenges of a traditional Korean company.
While ‘Pinocchio’ (2014) might not seem like a typical Korean office drama, its standout cast of Korean actresses and unique storyline set it apart. It follows a smart man who, as a child, lost his mother and was saved by a man who mistakenly believes the man is his deceased eldest son. Raised by his grandfather alongside his granddaughter, who has a condition causing her to hiccup when she lies, the man grows up to become a taxi driver but later decides to pursue a career in journalism, much like his mother.
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017)
While not a conventional Korean office drama, ‘Strong Woman Do Bong Soon’ delves into the boss-employee dynamic. The series follows a girl born with superhuman strength who dreams of creating video games. After saving a bus driver from thugs, she is hired as a bodyguard by the CEO of a video game company. Alongside her role as a bodyguard, she gets the opportunity to work in the planning department of the gaming company.
My Shy Boss (Introverted Boss) (2017)
This Korean office drama revolves around the CEO of a public relations company who is timid and unknown to his employees. When a woman joins the company, her vibrant energy and outstanding work attract attention. However, her sole interest lies in uncovering the CEO’s true identity.
Protect the Boss (2011)
‘Protect the Boss’ is an underrated Korean office drama that revolves around a woman struggling to find a career due to her lack of a prestigious university education and a strong resume. Despite these setbacks, she manages to secure a job as a secretary and eventually falls in love with her boss, who comes from a wealthy family. This drama depicts the classic employee-boss romance, guaranteed to keep viewers engaged.
Another excellent choice for fans of Korean office dramas centered around secretaries, ‘Jugglers’ tells the story of a woman working as a secretary while managing a community website for secretaries. When her boss’s wife mistakenly assumes her husband is having an affair with the protagonist, a false scandal spreads throughout the company. She then gets reassigned to another boss who discovers their shared traumatic experience while residing in the same house.
The Queen of Office (2013)
‘The Queen of Office’ is a remarkable Korean office drama that primarily appeals to women. It follows a highly skilled woman who excels in various areas and works as a temp worker. A foreign-educated MBA is hired to revitalize a struggling corporation, leading to their eventual collaboration and the development of romantic feelings, despite their contrasting personalities.
She Was Pretty (2015)
‘She Was Pretty’ centers around a man who was once ugly and overweight as a child. He reconnects with a girl who used to be his friend, but both of their appearances have drastically changed since then. The man has become handsome, while the girl is no longer considered attractive and struggles to find employment. She eventually secures an internship at a fashion magazine, only to discover that the man is an editor at the same publication.
These Korean office dramas offer diverse storylines that shed light on different aspects of Korean work culture, providing viewers with an entertaining and educational experience.