Korean crime dramas

Packed with mind-boggling scenes and top-notch performances, the K-drama world of gruesome crimes and mind games will not let you go once you step into it. These 20 Korean crime dramas may drain your brain juice, but they will also leave you to ponder important questions pertaining to morality and empathy.

1. Through The Darkness (2022) 

Korean crime dramas - through the darkness
Image credit: SBS

Main Cast:

  • Kim Nam Gil as Song Ha Young
  • Kim So Jin as Yoon Tae Goo
  • Jin Seon Kyu as Kook Young Soo

Adapted from the titular book written by the first criminal profiler in South Korea, Through The Darkness takes you on an arduous journey between criminals and profilers.

As a profiler, Song Ha Young has to work closely with criminals in order to gain a psychological understanding of them. This often means that he has to face the grim reality of how far humans can go to achieve their inexplicable desires in the most inhumane manner.

Despite years of experience and expertise, Ha Young is stumped as he is unable to make head or tail of serial killers and their crimes. 

2. Somebody (2022)

Korean crime dramas - somebody
Image credit: Netflix 

Main Cast:

  • Kim Young Kwang as Sung Yun Oh
  • Kang Hae Lim as Kim Som
  • Kim Yong Ji as Mok Won
  • Kim Soo Yeon as Ki Eun

What happens when a serial killer meets a genius with Asperger’s syndrome? 

Somebody is a baffling story that revolves around a series of disturbing events following the launch of a dating app. Kim Som, the innovator behind the dating app, is a genius with Asperger’s syndrome. Although she’s intelligent, she has a difficult time connecting with people. 

Som meets Sung Yun Oh through the dating app, and she senses something off about him. However, she finds herself thinking about him more as each day passes, only to get embroiled in a messy situation with him. 

3. Nacro-Saints (2022) 

Korean crime dramas - nacro-saints
Image credit: Netflix 

Main Cast:

  • Park Hae Soo as Choi Chang Ho
  • Hwang Jung Min as Jeon Yo Hwan
  • Ha Jung Woo as Kang In Gu
  • Jo Woo Jin as Byeon Ki Tae
  • Yoo Yeon Seok as David Park

Based on a true story, Nacro-Saints is centred on the drug scene in Suriname run by a Korean drug lord by the name of Jeon Yo Hwan.

Yo Hwan is such a powerful figure that he has seized Suriname through his lucrative drug dealings. Everyone knows that he’s not one to be messed with, but Kang In Gu has no choice but to put his life at stake after he is given a classified mission by the government.

4. Big Bet (2022) 

Korean crime dramas - big bet
Image credit: Disney+

Main Cast:

  • Choi Min Shik as Cha Mu Sik
  • Son Seok Koo as Oh Seung Hoon
  • Lee Dong Hwi as Jung Pal

Big Bet is about Cha Mu Sik making the biggest bet of all time – his life.

Previously known as the King of Casino, Mu Sik finds himself in a pickle when his gambling activities are increasingly suppressed by the National Tax Service. As a result, he decides to run away to the Philippines. 

However, his life changes overnight when he is accused of murder. Oh Seung Hoon, a police officer, is now on the hunt for Mu Sik. With both their lives on the line, who will win the bet and make it out alive? 

5. Taxi Driver (2021) 

Korean crime dramas - taxi driver
Image credit: SBS 

Main Cast:

  • Lee Je Hoon as Kim Do Gi
  • Esom as Kang Ha Na
  • Kim Eui Sung as Jang Sung Chul
  • Pyo Ye Jin as Ahn Go Eun

Taxi Driver focuses on the revenge stories of Kim Do Gi and Rainbow Taxi, otherwise known as the underground organisation he works for. 

Rainbow Taxi is an unobtrusive organisation that serves 1 purpose: to seek revenge on behalf of the victims. Although the means to protect victims are not done legally, the members of the organisation work to the best of their abilities to alleviate the victim’s pain and suffering. 

Check out our review on the 1st episode here

6. Mouse (2021) 

Korean crime dramas - mouse
Image credit: tvN 

Main Cast:

  • Lee Seung Gi as Jung Ba Reum
  • Lee Hee Joon as Ko Moo Chi
  • Park Ju Hyun as Oh Bong Yi
  • Kyung Soo Jin as Choi Hong Joo

Lauded as one of Lee Seung Gi’s best works to date, Mouse is a mind-boggling story about psychopaths.

Following a string of murder cases by a serial killer on the loose, the nation is crippled by fear and chaos. When Jung Ba Reum and Ko Moo Chi are tasked to investigate the case, Ba Reum’s life changes entirely after he meets the serial killer for the first time. 

You can read our review on the 1st episode here

7. Bad And Crazy (2021) 

Korean crime dramas - bad and crazy
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast: 

  • Lee Dong Wook as Soo Yeol
  • Wi Ha Joon as “K”

Starring Lee Dong Wook from Goblin and Wi Ha Joon from Squid Game, Bad And Crazy follows 2 police officers who are, quite literally, bad and crazy. 

Soo Yeol is a ruthlessly motivated police officer who knows no limits when it comes to fulfilling his tasks and goals. With the sudden appearance of police officer “K”, Soo Yeol is coerced into working with him despite their contrasting personalities and working styles. 

“K” is all about serving justice. This means that when justice is not served, he turns into an unrecognisable monster.

8. Crime Puzzle (2021)

Korean crime dramas - crime puzzle
Image credit: seezn

Main Cast:

  • Yoon Kye Sang as Han Seung Min
  • Go Ah Sung as Yoo Hee 

Based on the Korean webtoon of the same name, Crime Puzzle revolves around Yoo Hee and Han Seung Min.

Yoo Hee is a criminal profiler who works closely with detectives, victims, and criminals to create a psychological profile of suspects. Seung Min works as a professor and criminal psychologist, and he used to date Yoo Hee.

Despite his successful career, Seung Min’s life changes overnight after he comes clean about killing Yoo Hee’s father. However, Yoo Hee is certain that he didn’t murder her father. The 2 main characters, who were once lovers, meet again as a profiler and a suspect.

9. Beyond Evil (2021)

Korean crime dramas - beyond evil
Image credit: JTBC

Main Cast: 

  • Shin Ha Kyun as Lee Dong Shik
  • Yeo Jin Goo as Han Joo Won

Beyond Evil is centred on 2 protagonists, Lee Dong Shik and Han Joo Won. Detective Lee is older and more experienced than Detective Han, but he has no choice but to work under Detective Han following his demotion. 

Despite his young age, Detective Han is considered the cream of the crop. However, his life is not as plain sailing as it seems – he has a secret that can’t be shared with anyone. 

Detectives Lee and Han become closer after they team up to investigate and solve a serial murder case. This case turns out to be more complex than they’d thought it would be as it’s linked to a serial murder case that took place two decades ago.

10. Vincenzo (2021)

Korean crime dramas - vincenzo
Image credit: tvN

 Main Cast: 

  • Song Joong Ki as Vincenzo Cassano 
  • Jeon Yeo Been as Hong Cha Young
  • Ok Taec Yeon as Jang Jun Woo

Vincenzo is named after the protagonist of the drama, Vincenzo Cassano. His Korean name is Park Joo Hyung, but he goes by the name of Vincenzo after being adopted by an Italian couple. 

Vincenzo works as a lawyer for the mafia in Italy, but following an internal conflict, he escapes to South Korea where he meets Cha Young, a passionate and resolute lawyer.

The plot becomes complicated yet intriguing when Vincenzo begins to catch feelings for Cha Young, all the while trying to retrieve gold bars from an almost-condemned building.

11. My Name (2021) 

Korean crime dramas - my name
Image credit: Netflix 

Main Cast:

  • Han So Hee as Yoon Ji Woo
  • Ahn Bo Hyun as Jeon Pil Do
  • Park Hee Soon as Choi Mu Jin

My Name follows the story of Ji Woo, who witnesses her father’s death right in front of her eyes. This becomes a watershed moment in her life, and she is now driven by only 1 purpose – to find the killer.

After she withdraws from school, she joins a gang led by her father’s best friend, Choi Mu Jin. He is the leader of the biggest and most lucrative drug ring in Korea. 

In order to speed up the process of catching the killer, Mu Jin helps Ji Woo to go undercover as a police officer in the Drug Investigation Unit. There, Ji Woo meets Detective Pil Do for the first time, and they begin to uncover the messy truth behind her father’s murder case. 

12. Voice 4 (2021) 

Korean crime dramas - voice 4
Image credit: tvN 

Main Cast:

  • Lee Ha Na as Kang Kwon Joo
  • Song Seung Heon as Derek Cho / Cho Seung Ho

Voice 4 focuses on the story of Kwon Joo, the main character who works as the head of the emergency 112 call centre. She has enhanced auditory perception, which allows her to catch the smallest details from the calls, and this ability comes in handy when she wants to find the culprit.

However, her ability becomes challenged when a serial killer with the same enhanced hearing ability appears. This prompts her to work closely with Detective Cho to catch the serial killer.

13. Flower Of Evil (2020)

Korean crime dramas - flower of evil
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast: 

  • Lee Joon Gi as Baek Hee Sung
  • Moon Chae Won as Cha Ji Won
  • Jang Hee Jin as Do Hae Soo
  • Seo Hyun Woo as Kim Moo Jin

Flower Of Evil follows the perfect and ideal married couple, Hee Sung and Ji Won. On the surface, they have it all – a successful career and a loving family. However, their happy marriage shatters into pieces when Hee Sung’s odd behaviour plants a seed of doubt in Ji Won’s mind.

Ji Won is a homicide detective who has been looking into a serial murder case that took place 15 years ago. As she pieces together the fragments of this murder case, she learns more about her husband’s hidden past and true identity.

14. Extracurricular (2020)

Korean crime dramas - Extracurricular
Image credit: Netflix 

Main Cast:

  • Kim Dong Hee as Oh Ji Soo
  • Park Joo Hyun as Bae Gyu Ri
  • Jung Da Bin as Seo Min Hee
  • Nam Yoon Su as Kwak Ki Tae

Extracurricular revolves around Ji Soo, an exemplary high school student. He gets good grades in school and is well liked by his teachers. But no one knows that his facade conceals an unlawful lifestyle.

Ji Soo is tight on cash as his parents are neither physically nor emotionally present to support him financially. In order to afford his university tuition fee, he turns to an easy yet illicit way of earning money. 

His decision comes at a cost, and the crime he commits becomes more complicated as it involves his classmates, Gyu Ri, Min Hee, and Ki Tae, along the way. 

15. Private Lives (2020)

Korean crime dramas - private lives
Image credit: JTBC

Main Cast:

  • Seo Hyun as Cha Joo Eun
  • Go Kyung Pyo as Lee Jung Hwan
  • Kim Hyo Jin as Jung Bok Gi

Private Lives is centred on a group of nimble-witted swindlers who learn about a piece of confidential information that could potentially put the country in danger. 

Blessed with both looks and brains, Joo Eun is a young yet experienced swindler. She supports her family by deceiving others. 

In contrast to Joo Eun’s job, Jung Hwan manages a detective agency. The plot gets complicated when he starts to catch feelings for Joo Eun without having any knowledge about her private life.

16. Graceful Friends (2020) 

Korean crime dramas - graceful friends
Image credit: JTBC

Main Cast: 

  • Yoo Joon Sang as Ahn Goong Chul
  • Song Yoon Ah as Nam Jung Hae
  • Bae Soo Bin as Jung Jae Hoon
  • Han Da Gam as Baek Hae Sook
  • Kim Sung Oh as Jo Hyung Woo
  • Kim Hye Eun as Kang Kyung Ja

Graceful Friends follows a group of middle-aged couples. Goong Chul is married to Jung Hae, and they are the living embodiment of a perfect couple. However, their relationship drastically changes following the murder of a golf coach. 

To make matters worse, the murder parallels another fatal incident that involved Goong Chul and his friends 2 decades ago.

17. Live (2018) 

Korean crime dramas - live
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast: 

  • Jung Yu Mi as Han Jung Oh
  • Lee Kwang Soo as Yeom Sang Soo

Live focuses on Jung Oh and Sang Soo, two police officers who work to the best of their abilities to uphold integrity and serve justice.

Jung Oh comes from a broken family, but she doesn’t let her background pull her down. She knows how to stand her ground and isn’t afraid of going against male chauvinism within the police force.

Sang Soo is a simple and humble police officer, but things are often not in his favour as he gets caught up in a dispute with his superior. As Jung Oh and Sang Soo work together, they encounter and solve cases that are beyond the ordinary. 

18. Vagabond (2019)

Korean crime dramas - vagabond
Image credit: SBS

Main Cast: 

  • Lee Seung Gi as Cha Dal Geon
  • Bae Suzy as Go Hae Ri / Elsa
  • Shin Sung Rok as Gi Tae Ung

Vagabond revolves around the main characters Dal Geon and Hae Ri. Dal Geon raises his nephew following his brother’s death. One day, his beloved nephew dies in a plane crash en route to Morocco from Incheon. This incident causes Dal Geon’s life to crumble into pieces. 

Hae Ri works as an undercover agent at the Korean embassy located in Morocco. Heartbroken by his nephew’s death, Dal Geon turns to Hae Ri for help. They join hands to unfold the hidden truth behind the plane crash, and find out who is accountable for the unfortunate death of his nephew. 

19. Doctor Prisoner (2019) 

Korean crime dramas - doctor prisoner
Image credit: KBS2

Main Cast:

  • Namkoong Min as Na Yi Je
  • Kwon Na Ra as Han So Geum
  • Kim Byung Chul as Sun Min Shik
  • Choi Won Young as Lee Jae Joon

Doctor Prisoner focuses on the protagonist Na Yi Je, who is a recognised doctor specialising in emergency care. However, when Yi Je gets embroiled in a medical malpractice, his medical licence gets revoked. As a result, he decides to quit his job at the hospital. 

With a plan in mind, Yi Je applies for a job at a prison and starts anew as a prison doctor. During his time there, he gets all the influential prisoners to be on his side, including past celebrities and gangsters. He seeks revenge against the hospital with their help, and ultimately, aims to get his medical licence back.

20. Stranger (2017) 

Korean crime dramas - stranger
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast:

  • Jo Seung Woo as Hwang Shi Mok
  • Bae Doo Na as Han Yeo Jin

On the surface, Hwang Shi Mok comes across as a cold and aloof prosecutor due to the brain surgery he had as a child. Although he is unexpressive, he is a competent prosecutor who lives by the book.

Despite his years of experience as a prosecutor, he is now faced with a mind-boggling murder case that marks his first encounter with lieutenant Han Yeo Jin. They work hand in hand to investigate the serial murder case and find out who the culprit is.

Korean crime dramas that will keep you in suspense 

These crime dramas are densely packed with suspenseful and exasperating scenes, but the plots aren’t over the top. Instead, these dramas will make you see things not just from the protagonists’ point of view, but also from the criminals’ and victims’ shoes and give you an insight into the complexity of human nature. 

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Cover image adapted from: seezn, JTBC, Netflix
This article was written on 8th December 2021 and updated on 7th March 2023. 

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