Sad Korean dramas

Not everyone knows that crying can help to improve your sleep quality and boost your immune system. That’s why we all need a good cry on bad days to relieve some stress. Here are 20 sad Korean dramas that will bring you on an emotional rollercoaster ride when you need to release those pent-up emotions. 

1. Thirty-Nine (2022)

Sad Korean dramas - thirty-nine
Image credit: JTBC

Main Cast:

  • Son Ye Jin as Cha Mi Jo
  • Jeon Mi Do as Jeong Chan Young
  • Kim Ji Hyun as Jang Joo Hee

Thirty-Nine is a slice of life drama that depicts 3 best friends who stand together through the ups and downs in life.

Cha Mi Jo has it all as she comes from a wealthy family, and has a successful career as a dermatologist.

Her closest friends are Jung Chan Young and Jang Joo Hee. Chan Young works as an acting coach while Joo Hee is a department store manager.

Their close-knit relationship takes a hit after one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and we get a glimpse into the true struggles of these women who are on the brink of turning 40. 

2. Doom At Your Service (2021)

Sad Korean dramas - Doom At Your Service
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast:

  • Park Bo Young as Tak Dong Kyung
  • Seo In Guk as Myul Mang/Kim Sa Ram

After Tak Dong Kyung, an ordinary citizen why works as an editor for a web novel company, is diagnosed with a fatal illness, she wishes upon a shooting star in a drunken state for the world to be doomed.

Myul Mang is a deity who is a messenger between gods and humans. He takes an interest in Dong Kyung’s wish, and because he’s sick of his fate, he chooses to fulfil her wish and ends up signing a contract with her. But the duo is oblivious to what fate has in store for them.

3. Move To Heaven (2021) 

Sad Korean dramas - move to heaven
Image credit: Netflix

Main Cast:

  • Lee Je Hoon as Cho Sang Gu
  • Tang Jun Sang as Han Geu Ru

Han Geu Ru is a young man with Asperger’s syndrome, and he works for his father’s company, “Move To Heaven”, that helps to sort out items left by deceased people.

After the sudden death of his father, Geu Ru is thrown under the care of his uncle Cho Sang Gu, and they are forced to work together. Although Sang Gu is an ex-convict and an underground MMA fighter, he is kind-hearted and loyal although he refuses to admit it. 

Through their work, they discover the secrets of the deceased as they clean up their rooms and try to fulfil their last wishes for them.

4. Youth Of May (2021)

Sad Korean dramas - youth of may
Image credit: KBS2

Main Cast:

  • Lee Do Hyun as Hwang Hee Tae
  • Go Min Si as Kim Myung Hee
  • Lee Sang Yi as Lee Soo Chan
  • Keum Sae Rok as Lee Soo Ryeon

Youth Of May is a period drama set against the backdrop of the Gwangju Uprising.

The paths of the easygoing Hwang Hee Tae, who is a top medical student, and Kim Myung Hee, a kind-hearted nurse, cross. The drama not only portrays their innocent love story, but it also serves as a tribute to the victims and survivors of one of the most turbulent periods in the history of South Korea.

5. Navillera (2021)

Sad Korean dramas - Navillera
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast: 

  • Song Kang as Lee Chae Rok
  • Park In Hwan as Shim Deok Chul
  • Na Moon Hee as Choi Hae Nam
  • Hong Seung Hee as Shim Eun Ho

Starring heartthrob Song Kang, Navillera tells the story of 2 individuals trying to pursue their dreams at very different points in their lives.

Sim Deok Chul is a 70-year-old man who has had a lifelong dream of performing ballet, but had to put a hold on his aspirations to support his family. He then decides to pursue his dream again and meets Lee Chae Rok, a 23-year-old dancer whose desire for ballet is slowly fading away.

The 2 of them support and inspire each other as they forge an inseparable bond.

6. Hi Bye, Mama! (2020)

Sad Korean dramas -
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast:

  • Kim Tae Hee as Cha Yu Ri
  • Lee Kyu Hyung as Cho Gang Hwa
  • Ko Bo Gyeol as Oh Min Jung
  • Seo Woo Jin as Cho Seo Woo

In Hi Bye, Mama!, a pregnant Cha Yu Ri dies in a tragic accident. She is survived by her daughter, Cho Seo Woo, and her husband, Cho Gang Hwa.

Yu Ri, who decides to stay on earth as a ghost until her husband remarries, is given a second chance at life. But she only has 49 days to live and in that period of time, she tries to gain closure before she has to move on. 

Prepare lots of tissue, as this drama will definitely leave your tears flowing, and your heart aching. 

7. 18 Again (2020)

Sad Korean dramas - 18 again
Image credit: JTBC

Main Cast: 

  • Lee Do Hyun as the 18-year-old Hong Dae Young
  • Yoon Sang Hyun as Hong Dae Young
  • Kim Ha Neul as Jung Da Jung 

A remake of Hollywood movie 17 Again starring Zac Efron, 18 Again tells the story of Hong Dae Young, who is fired from his job and on the verge of divorce. He loses his direction in life and prays to become young again.

Miraculously, his wish comes true and he suddenly finds himself in his 18-year-old body. In the beginning, he is excited to start his life anew, but then realises that he cares too much for his children and wife to lead a new life so he interjects himself into their lives with his new identity.

Despite being interjected with comedic and lighthearted moments, this drama touches on strong notes of familial and romantic love that are bound to tug on your heartstrings.

8. The Light In Your Eyes (2019)

Sad Korean dramas - The Light In Your Eyes
Image credit: JTBC

Main Cast: 

  • Kim Hye Ja as Kim Hye Ja
  • Han Ji Min as young Kim Hye Ja
  • Nam Joo Hyuk as Lee Joon Ha

Hye Ja is an aspiring announcer whose life gets derailed after turning into a 70-year-old woman, and gaining the special ability to manipulate time. 

Lee Joon Ha is an aspiring reporter trying to overcome obstacles to fulfil his dreams. He’s also in love with Hye Ja. But Hye Ja’s transformation puts a halt to the budding relationship. 

As Hye Ja learns to deal with her new reality, her family and friends gradually accept and embrace her for who she is. 

9. Angel’s Last Mission: Love (2019)

Sad Korean dramas - Angel’s Last Mission: Love
Image credit: KBS

Main Cast: 

  • Shin Hye Sun as Lee Yeon Seo
  • Kim Myung Soo as Dan
  • Lee Dong Gun as Ji Kang Woo
  • Kim Bo Mi as Geum Ni Na

Dan is an angel. As a punishment for meddling in human affairs, he is given the mission to help an arrogant ballerina, Lee Yeon Seo, who’s turned blind after an accident find true love before he can return to heaven.

At first, Dan thinks that his mission is impossible but quickly changes his mind after he ends up falling for her himself. 

10. Mr. Sunshine (2018)

Sad Korean dramas - mr. sunshine
Image credit: Netflix

Main Cast: 

  • Lee Byung Hun as Eugene Choi
  • Kim Tae Ri as Go Ae Shin
  • Yoo Yeon Seok as Goo Dong Mae
  • Kim Min Jung as Kudo Hina

Mr. Sunshine follows the story of Eugene Choi, a boy who was born into slavery in Joseon. He escapes to the United States after the 1971 Shinmiyangyo incident and becomes a United States Marine Corps officer.

Fate would have it that he has to return to Joseon for a mission. There, he crosses paths with Go Ae Shin, an aristocrat’s granddaughter.

The two star-crossed lovers soon find themselves facing obstacles, as the difference in their classes and an arranged marriage threaten to tear them apart.

11. My Mister (2018)

Sad Korean dramas - my mister
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast: 

  • Lee Ji Eun (IU) as Lee Ji An
  • Lee Sun Kyun as Park Dong Hoon

Drowned in debt, Ji An struggles to support her grandmother and works at the same construction company as Park Dong Hoon.

One day, she sees Dong Hoon receiving a stack of gift certificates, and tries to steal them from his desk to pay off her debts. However, her plan takes an unexpected turn.

In a dark and harsh world, Ji An and Dong Hoon develop a sense of kinship as they find warmth and solace in each other.

This heartfelt drama explores the intricate relationship between the duo, and it will hit you with all the feels.

12. Hymn Of Death (2018)

Sad Korean dramas - Hymn Of Death
Image credit: SBS

Main Cast: 

  • Lee Jong Suk as Kim Woo Jin
  • Shin Hye Sun as Yun Sim Deok

Based on a true story, Hymn Of Death is centred on Yun Sim Deok, Korea’s first professional soprano singer, and Kim Woo Jin, a stage drama writer.

Against the backdrop of the Japanese occupation, the drama depicts the tragic love story of the two as they try to get through the tumultuous period.

Countless obstacles stand in the way of Woo Jin and Sim Deok’s happiness, and the sombre mood of the drama is bound to strike a chord in you. 

13. Mother (2018)

Sad Korean dramas - mother
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast: 

  • Lee Bo Young as Kang Soo Jin
  • Heo Yool as Kim Hye Na / Kim Yoon Bok
  • Lee Hye Young as Kang Yeong Shin / Cha Yeong Shin
  • Ko Sung Hee as Shin Ja Young

Mother is a heartbreaking story that examines motherhood and deals with dark topics such as child abuse. 

Kim Hye Na is abused by her mother, Shin Ja Young, but pretends that she is all right in front of other people.

Kang Soo Jin, a substitute teacher at Hye Na’s elementary school gets wind of her situation and decides to take matters into her own hands by kidnapping the child, and attempting to become her mother. 

This drama portrays the hardships Hye Na has to go through just to escape her misery, which will definitely make you emotional. 

14. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (2018)

Sad Korean dramas - the smile has left your eyes
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast: 

  • Seo In Guk as Kim Moo Young
  • Jung So Min as Yoo Jin Kang
  • Park Sung Woong as Yoo Jin Gook
  • Seo Eun Soo as Baek Seung Ah

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes is packed with emotional and tragic moments that we guarantee will turn on the waterworks. 

It revolves around 2 orphans who have no recollection of their childhood, and they start to untangle their past when they meet again as adults.

Kim Moo Young works at a beer microbrewery and has a superb memory. He is later accused of murder and meets Yoo Jin Kang, the sister of a detective.

As Jin Kang enters Moo Young’s life, more secrets are uncovered, and their lives take a decisive turn. 

15. Prison Playbook (2017)

Sad Korean dramas - prison playbook
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast:

  • Park Hae Soo as Kim Je Hyuk
  • Jung Kyung Ho as Lee Joon Ho
  • Jung Hae In as Yoo Jeong Woo
  • Krystal Jung as Kim Ji Ho

Kim Je Hyuk is the best baseball pitcher in Korea and he has fame, fortune, and a flourishing love life. 

However, his life takes a turn after he witnesses his sister being sexually harassed, which leads him to beat the man to death.

Instead of flying off to the US to join a major league team, Je Hyuk finds himself spending a year in prison, where he meets a handful of strangers who change his life. 

Despite tackling dark topics about crime, Prison Playbook‘s storyline is infused with warmth and hope.

16. Chicago Typewriter (2017)

Sad Korean dramas - Chicago Typewriter
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast: 

  • Yoo Ah In as Han Se Joo
  • Im Soo Jung as Jeon Seol
  • Ko Kyung Pyo as Yoo Jin Oh
  • Kwak Si Yang as Baek Tae Min

Han Se Ju is a bitter and arrogant man who is also a bestselling author. However, he falls into a slump and is unable to write his next book. He then meets Jeon Seol, who is his biggest fan, and Yoo Jin Oh, who is a talented but mysterious ghostwriter who can bail Se Ju out of his predicament. But Jin Oh’s help comes with a condition.

The characters start to find out more secrets about their past lives, and it illuminates the friendship between the trio through the tumultuous times as Chicago Typewriter is set in two timelines – the Japanese occupation in the 1930s, and the 21st century.

17. Uncontrollably Fond (2016)

Sad Korean dramas - uncontrollably fond
Image credit: KBS

Main Cast: 

  • Kim Woo Bin as Shin Joon Young
  • Bae Suzy as Noh Eul
  • Lim Ju Hwan as Choi Ji Tae
  • Lim Ju Eun as Yoon Jeong Eun

Uncontrollably Fond is a classic drama with a bittersweet premise. It tells the story of 2 lovers who have endured many heartbreaks together, and their complex past gets in the way of their relationship.

Shin Joon Young and Noh Eul were best friends during their childhood, but were separated due to unfortunate circumstances. 

Years later, fate decides to bring Joon Young, who has become a top actor and singer, and Noh Eul, a documentary producer, together once again. 

18. Goblin (2016)

Sad Korean dramas - goblin
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast: 

  • Gong Yoo as Goblin / Kim Shin
  • Kim Go Eun as Ji Eun Tak
  • Lee Dong Wook as Grim Reaper / Wang Yeo
  • Yoo In Na as Sunny / Kim Sun

Fans of Korean dramas will likely have watched or heard about Goblin.

Featuring the actor who has aged like fine wine, Gong Yoo, Goblin tells the story of a 939-year-old immortal goblin who is in search of his bride. 

Kim Shin, who had been accused of treason and subsequently executed, was then cursed with immortality so that he will have to experience the pain of seeing his loved ones leave him over and over again.

The only way to put an end to his suffering is when his bride removes the sword embedded in his chest. However, their road to happily ever after isn’t that easy. 

19. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)

Sad Korean dramas - Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Image credit: SBS

Main Cast:

  • Lee Joon Gi as 4th Prince Wang So
  • Lee Ji Eun (IU) as Go Ha Jin / Hae Soo
  • Kang Ha Neul as 8th Prince Wang Wook

Also known as the quintessential historical drama, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo is a drama that holds a special place in the hearts of many K-drama fans.

An unfortunate incident sends Go Ha Jin back in time to the Goryeo era, where she takes on the identity of Hae Soo.

She first develops a connection with Wang Wook, a kind-hearted and considerate prince.

However, amidst a battle for the throne between the princes, Hae Soo has a change of heart and finds herself becoming more drawn to Wang So, an aloof and seemingly cold prince.

20. Reply 1988 (2015)

Sad Korean dramas - reply 1988
Image credit: tvN

Main Cast:

  • Lee Hye Ri as Sung Duk Seon
  • Ryu Jun Yeol as Kim Jung Hwan
  • Ko Kyung Pyo as Sung Sun Woo
  • Park Bo Gum as Choi Taek

Reply 1988 is centred on the lives of a group of inseparable friends who grew up in a neighbourhood called Ssangmundong. The drama brings on all the nostalgic feels as it takes place in the year 1988.

The slice of life, heartfelt drama reinforced the simplicity of life and focuses on the camaraderie between family members, friends and neighbours.

Sad Korean dramas that will torture your hearts

If you’re ever in need of a good cry, this list of sad Korean dramas is your go-to, as they will make your heart ache in all the good and bad ways. With themes such as star-crossed love and familial love, these dramas are sure to make you bawl your eyes out.

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Cover image adapted from: tvN, JTBC, KBS

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