As we come to the end of 2021, many have already dubbed it as the year that South Korea broke its way into the mainstream throughout the globe. Thanks to hits like Squid Game and Hometown Cha-Cha we’re likely going to see other streamers get in on the trend. Here’s a rundown of the biggest Korean shows on Netflix in 2021.
How are we going to determine the biggest hits? Well, we’re going to do it based on top 10 data and hourly data released by Netflix. It’s not a perfect guide as there is missing data in the case of hourly data but this should give you an overall picture of what’s been trending on Netflix this year out of South Korea.
Note: this data is correct as of December 7th, 2021 – it’ll be updated and adjusted towards the end of 2021.
2021 Top 10 TV Position: #1
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: 2.157 billion hours and still rising
In a surprise to nobody, Squid Game was undoubtedly the biggest show on Netflix this year to come out of South Korea. Produced solely for Netflix, the project comes from Hwang Dong-hyuk who notably spend a decade trying to get the show produced.
It was a global sensation rocketing up the top 10 charts and being the number 1 show in nearly every region around the world at one point or another. It’s the number 1 Netflix show in 2021 with Lupin coming in second.
The show is notably one of the very few that breaks out in the United States and the United Kingdom. It spent 77 days in the US TV top 10 and 70 days in the UK TV top 10.
2021 Top 10 TV Position: #15
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: Data not available.
Week to week Vincenzo only went from strength to strength amassing an audience of millions worldwide. Sadly, as Vincenzo aired in the Spring we have no hourly viewing data, but given the stats of some of the K-Dramas below in this list, it would have been in the hundreds of millions.
The series was so popular in South Korea it is currently ranked as the tenth highest-rated cable drama of all time. In countries throughout Asia, Vincenzo spent hundreds of days in the top 10s lists of nations such as Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia.
2021 Top TV Position: #31
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: 271,820,000 Million Hours and Counting
While Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha didn’t reach the same heights as Vincenzo, it only missed out by several inches. The romantic drama did an excellent job of adapting the popular South Korean film Mr. Handy, Mr. Hong, and was rewarded with some excellent ratings by ranking as the fourteenth highest-rated cable drama of all time.
With over 271 million hours viewed and counting, it’s an astonishing achievement for weekly Korean shows on Netflix.
2021 Top TV Position: #46
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: 194,140,000 Million Hours and Counting
Netflix released hit after hit between September and November of 2021, the second of which was My Name. After billions of hours of Squid Game were consumed by subscribers worldwide, many couldn’t wait to find their next K-Drama binge, and they didn’t have to wait long before being able to consume all eight episodes of the crime-thriller.
Han Oh See was already an incredibly popular actress thanks to her shining roles in shows such as 100 Days My Prince, Abyss, The World of the Married, and Nevertheless. However, none of these roles were as physical as My Name, which saw the actress gain 22lbs of muscle for the role, pushing her to the very limit.
2021 Top TV Position: #47
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: 111,000,000 Million Hours and Counting
When writing the previews for Squid Game and Hellbound, we couldn’t predict which of the two was going to be the most successful. Obviously, no one could have predicted the lightning in the bottle that is Squid Game, however, Hellbound also caused quite the stir online, with many hoping to see a second season.
Hellbound was a triumphant television return for actor Yoo Ah In, who was last seen in the popular drama Chicago Typewriter. Yoo Ah In also recently starred in #Alive as Oh Joon Woo, but his Bleach hair is a stark contrast when compared to his Hellbound counterpart.
2021 Top TV Position: #61
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: 59,360,000 Million Hours and Counting
Between Sweet Home, Love Alarm, and Nevertheless, actor Song Kang has starred in some extremely popular K-Dramas on Netflix. The same can be said for actress Han Oh See, who later in 2021 went on to kick ass in My Name.
While the K-Drama struggled in the ratings in South Korea, it performed exceptionally well on Netflix around the world.
Hospital Playlist Season 2
2021 Top TV Position: #62
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: 72,060,000 Million Hours and Counting
Another smash hit in the ratings, Hospital Playlist barely sits under Vincenzo in the list of the highest-rated K-Dramas. However, season 1 does outrank season 2 by only one place, with both seasons sitting 12th and 13th respectively.
The King’s Affection
2021 Top TV Position: #71
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: 74,360,000 Million Hours and Counting
At the time of writing The King’s Affection is still being broadcast, which means we could see the period drama rise even higher on the list, potentially beating the likes of Hospital Playlist and Nevertheless. The series has earned lots of praise thanks to the acting charms of Park Eun-Bin and K-Pop star Rowoon.
Sisyphus: The Myth
2021 Top TV Position: #77
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: Data not available
As one of the earliest K-Dramas on Netflix in 2021, we can only determine how popular the show was by where it ranked in the top tens. The series didn’t make the top tens in the USA or UK, however, the show did perform extremely well in Asian countries. In particular, Sisyphus: The Myth remained in the top ten for over two months in Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The Uncanny Counter
2021 Top TV Position: #90
Total Hours Viewed Global Top 10s: Data not available
We’ve seen many webtoon adaptations on Netflix over the past couple of years, and arguably few have been as fun as The Uncanny Counter. During its run, the show became OCN’s highest-rated drama of all time, earning itself a well-deserved second season.
If you want to see what Netflix has in store for you in 2022 and beyond with regards to its Korean lineup, take a look at our big preview.