1. Winter Sonata
Get ready for your heart to melt like snow in the Spring. 'Winter Sonata' is all about character Joon Sang, the son of a famous musician, moving to the more rural parts of Korea with his mother after his troubled past. He develops a close bond with his new found friends until a dramatic turn of events changes things around. This drama made Bae Yong Joon extremely popular in Japan and he received the honorific title of "Yon-Soma."
2. Full House
This romantic comedy came out in 2004 and become widely recognized rather quickly. It has become quite a classic due to its popularity and compelling storyline. An aspiring script writer named Ji Eun lives in a 'Full House,' a nickname given by her late father who built the house for her. While on vacation, her friends sell her house to a famous celebrity whom she happens to meet and fall into a plethora of hilarious situations with during her time away from home. Not only was it considered to be a pioneer of the romantic comedy style in Korea, it helped further the Hallyu Wave.
3. Autumn in My Heart
Another amazing drama which really furthered Song Hye Gyo's acting career, 'Autumn in My Heart' has one of the most raved about story lines due to the "switched at birth" concept. Yoon Joon Suh accidentally drops name cards into the babies crib at a hospital causing the nurse to place them in the incorrect crib. Fast forward to their teenage years, and some unique circumstances, the parents discover their daughters are not related biological and reunite despite their completely different life styles and upbringings. The show received so much popularity that even tourism sites have been built in its honor in Korea.
Airing in 1995, 'Sandglass' is a drama with a thought-provoking storyline that had the people of Korea talking for quite some time. The storyline involves three friends who are entangled by the civilian oppression of politics between the 1970s and 80s of Korea. Its reenactment of the Gwangju Uprising is considered one of the most historical and accurate representations on Korean television til' this very day.
5. Stairway to Heaven
Airing in 2003, this old school goodie depicts romance in a refreshing way. Two childhood friends share a bond that forms into true love after sharing the loss of someone dear to them. However, this love doesn't come easy as the leads face a plethora of threats and issues (such as assault and sabotage from an evil stepmother) that create various hectic scenarios. Fun fact -The drama is the second entry in director Lee Jang Soo's 'Heaven Trilogy' alongside dramas 'Beautiful Days' (2001) and 'Tree of Heaven' (2006).
6. My Girl
The TV series 'My Girl' aired in 2005 and while it is only 12 years old, it became a classic staple of Korean drama. The story line involves Joo Yoo Rin, a Jeju Island girl, trying to live life alongside her troublesome father who is sadly addicted to gambling. Her father runs away in an attempt to avoid debt collectors and leaves Joo Yoo Rin cleaning up his mess - luckily for her she meets a wealthy heir along the way. As expected, the lead actors Lee Da Hae, Lee Dong Wook and Lee Joon Ki became widely recognized stars alongside the Hallyu Wave.
If you're looking for a complex, jaw-dropping storyline, the 2001 Korean drama 'Piano' has got you covered. Involving an intense bond of father and son and an odd, conflicting romance between two step-siblings, 'Piano' escalates quickly as everything changes when widower Shin Hye Rim moves with her two children to Busan and opens a piano school. The drama has a compelling background story in the past that affects the character's present story in various ways.
8. Ladies of The Palace
If you're looking for a more timely piece, 'Ladies of The Palace' is just right. Airing in 2001, the drama is a woman's world as the historic piece takes place in the Joseon era, depicting the hardships of life of women in the 16th century. While it is a bit catty (which, let's face it, we all love that about K-Dramas!), the drama is well-executed in portraying the way power-hungry woman struggled and fought by pulling strings in the back end as the Queen, the court and her relatives all greedily squabbled for power.
9. All In
The 2003 drama 'All In' gained tremendous popularity due to the stellar cast and attention-grabbing storyline. It centers around Kim In Ha's intense hobby revolving around the competitive world of casino gambling. While finding love, fortune, and rivalry along the way, he clashes with multiple people and scenarios that shows his gambling addiction is doing more bad than good. The story line actually pulled influence from a legendary poker player named Jimmy Cha. The drama also received numerous awards, such as the Daesang for Lee Byung Hun, in 2003.
10. Star In My Heart
Coming out in 1997, 'Star In My Heart' was one of the first Korean dramas to make it big and air outside of Korea that helped fueled the Hallyu Wave we know and love today. The drama centers around an orphan named Lee Yun Hee who was adopted into a terrible family and living environment. However she meets the amazing fashion designer Lee Joon Hee who helps her get a kick start in her career and perhaps escape her tragic upbringing. This drama also helped Ahn Jae Wook become the widely recognized star she is today.