Summer’s officially ending, which means several things: the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder, and kids are back in school. And what better way to celebrate (or mourn) the return to school than with some of our favorite school-based dramas? So whether you’re in high school, college, or are many years out of both, the below K-dramas are sure to get you feeling nostalgic for school. Let us know what you think in the comments below, and as always, we welcome your recommendations on what we should watch next!
1. True Beauty
What would you do if you found the secret to high-school fame, but all it took was changing your face? In this romantic comedy K-drama, high school girl Lim Ju Gyeong masters the art of makeup by watching YouTube videos, turning herself into the goddess of high school. She would rather die than have anyone see her face without makeup, but when classmate Lee Su Ho sees her bare face, she soon discovers that she is worthy of love with or without makeup. True Beauty is truly the sweetest, most uplifting drama on this list, showing you that it doesn’t matter what anyone else says about you as long as you love yourself. Also the second lead syndrome is SO strong in this drama so prepare yourself!
2. My ID is Gangnam Beauty
Similar to True Beauty, this K-drama follows the story of a college student Kang Mi Rae who seeks to escape the incessant bullying by undergoing excessive plastic surgery. But she discovers that it takes time to build the confidence to match her beautiful looks even after the plastic surgery. When she sees Do Kyung Suk, a fellow classmate from her middle school days, at her new university, he helps her realize that beauty is what lies beneath the skin. This is another drama that focuses on the darker themes of bullying and insecurities as one girl works to build self-confidence with the help of her friends.
3. Reply 1988
This drama begins in 1988 and follows a group of five high school students and their families living in the same neighborhood. One of the friends, Sun Deok Sun, is the middle child in a poor family who struggles to find her passion in life. While ranking 999th in school, she is a vibrant, friendly girl who captures the attention of two of her neighborhood friends, Kim Jung Hwan, a soccer player whose family comes into wealth overnight, and Choi Teak, an international baduk superstar. This coming-of-age K-drama follows the struggles and heartbreaks, and the successes and triumphs of these inseparable friends and their families. As they go to school to learn academics, it is out of the classroom that they learn what truly matters: love, friendship, and accepting who you are. Reply 1988 is perfect for anyone looking to get a taste of life in a small, Seoul neighborhood in the 80s.
4. Extra-Ordinary You
Eun Dan-Oh’s life is far from perfect. While she is the high school daughter of a wealthy family, she also has a terminal heart condition that inevitably means she won’t live past her teenage years. But when she finds out that she is the character of a comic book story (a supporting character no less), she is determined to take fate into her own hands and find true love in her life, regardless of what the comic book writer forces her to do. Extra-Ordinary You is so clever and unique, and I felt gripped trying to determine who the writer was. The experience of high school romance and drama felt completely real like I was reliving it for the first time. This K-drama is an excellent watch for anyone looking for a mystery with a strong female lead who’s willing to do whatever it takes to live life on her terms.
5. Moment of Eighteen
What would you do for a fresh start? When Jun Woo transfers to a new school, he’s traumatized from being bullied. So, when friendly Soo Bin greets him, he’s hesitant to get close to her in case his past comes back to haunt him. But as she slowly begins to break down his walls, she notices that there’s a goofy, cute, innocent side to him that she quickly falls for. However, it seems as if history is about to repeat itself and he must decide if his first love is worth fighting for. This show has all the angst and drama you’d expect from high schoolers. It captures the innocence and excitement of first love while tackling deeper issues about the impacts of bullying. Moment of Eighteen is a must-watch for anyone looking for a high school K-drama with darker themes.
Heirs came out several years ago but it is still extremely popular and well-loved today. Cha Eun-Sang ventures on a trip to the States to find her sister when she stumbles upon the wealthy heir of a prominent Korean conglomerate, Kim Tan, who soon falls in love with her. They arrive back in Korea and realize they are going to the same high school, but tensions flare when Kim Tan’s ex-best friend (and now sworn enemy), Choi Young-Do, begins to pick on Eun-Sang to irritate Tan, only to fall in love with her too. Meanwhile, Kim Tan is forced to choose between his responsibility of pursuing the family business or pursuing his love for the ordinary Eun-Sang. Heirs is a classic rich-man-poor-woman love story that follows the struggles of class differences in high school.
7. Best Mistake
Kim Yeon Do, desperate to get a boy from her past to leave her alone, uploads a picture of a random guy on social media pretending that this is her new boyfriend. However, she doesn’t realize that the random guy she chose was Ji Hyun Ho, the resident school bad boy. Ji Hyun Ho isn’t exactly happy about appearing as someone’s boyfriend overnight, but as they become closer he starts to develop real feelings for Kim Yeon Do. Best Mistake is so sweet (and also super short) that you’re not going to want to stop watching this. It has a simple plot, but that adds to the innocence of young love in a school setting.
8. School 2015: Who Are You
After identical twins Go Eun-byul and Lee Eun-bi are separated at birth, they grow up having completely different experiences. Kind Eun-Bi grew up in an orphanage, being bullied at school while snippy Eun-Byul was adopted and went to Seoul’s most prestigious school. Due to an accident while on a school trip, Eun-bi loses her memory and swtiches places with Eun-Byul, who has disappeared. As the two sisters navigate life, they realize the importance of family and having good friends. If you are looking for a K-drama with all the high school drama School 2015:Who Are You is a great option.