The first K-drama that caught the attention of international critics is none other than the sageuk (historical K-drama), The King’s Affection. Truly with honor, The King’s Affection won the first International Emmy Award in the history of K-drama. It has all the elements you could ask for in a sageuk– Joseon dynasty, politics, cross-dressing, gender-bender, as well as comedy, drama, and romance.
In the glorious era of the Joseon Dynasty, twins were unfortunately considered an ominous sign. At that time, Crown Princess Consort gave birth to a boy-girl twin. She had to face a tough choice as the newborn daughter was ordered to be killed. The Crown Princess secretly sends the daughter out of the palace.
A few years later, the girl twin, named Dam-yi, returns to the palace as a maid. The male twin, Crown Prince Lee Hwi, met Dam-yi. But unfortunately, he lost his life due to mistaken identity.
Meanwhile, their mother recognizes Dam-yi and begs her to take her brother’s place. She distances herself from everybody so that no one can doubt her identity. During this time, she crossed paths again with her first love, Jung Ji-woon, a son of a noble family.
It gets more complicated when he becomes his court tutor and later court scribe. Dam-yi fell for him again. On the other hand, Ji-woon started having confused feelings for Lee Hwi, not knowing his real identity.
The remarkable acting by every cast set the standard high. Especially the Extraordinary Attorney Woo fame, Park Eun-bin, who played the lead role of Dam-yi. She stole the show by playing both the roles of male and female.
The transition from commoner to the Crown Prince and then again the princess was an outstanding gender-bender act. From fighting combat to showing emotion, she precisely proved her acting skills.
The idol member of the group SF9, Rowoon, played the character of Ji-Woon. It was refreshing to see his character’s clear feelings for the person he likes, irrespective of gender. Rowoon really shines in comedy roles.
The King’s Affection had a whirlwind start, but according to fans, it lost its spark midway. Somehow, it still holds the attention of the audience till the end because who doesn’t like a happy ending? The credit goes to the stunning cast.
It has political tension in the drama and a tinge of blood, thirst, and action. Not heavy to consider it dark, but rather a light-hearted Sageuk. If you like a light-hearted period drama with a bit of comedy and action, then The King’s Affection is worthy of a watch for you.
The King’s Affection is adapted from the manhwa called Yeonmo (affection) by Lee So-young. If you have completed watching The King’s Affection and want more, then you should not miss this list of drama recommendations.
Watch The King’s Affection on Netflix.
Here is the List of 10 Dramas Like The King’s Affection
The Crowned Clown
The drama The Crowned Clown also has a theme of gender swap or double identity. Unlike The King’s Affection, this drama has a swap between two men.
Set in the Joseon era, when there was a political upheaval and power struggle during the rule of King Lee-hun, the state was in complete disorder. To save the king from assassination, a clown named Ha-Seon, who is a perfect lookalike of the king, was brought to the palace. Ha-Seon was ordered to take the King’s place.
In the past, when Ha-Seon was a child, a devastating epidemic took the lives of his parents. The hungry, starving child was almost dying when a group of clowns saved him. He grew up with the clown and took the occupation of a clown. During this time, he used to play the role of King Lee Hun because of his similar physical features.
Ha-Seon was conscious of people’s doubt surrounding his double identity, but he tricked them pretty well. Meanwhile, he falls for the beautiful but cold-hearted Queen Yoo So-woon. The politics carries the whole show, and each character has their own elements to put. It lights up the reality of people in power and their politics, betrayal, and revenge.
Yeo Jin-goo played both the character of King and the clown. The brilliant portrayal of the two characters was so exceptional that you might feel they are two different people.
Moreover, the story’s pace with slow action was well balanced enough to build suspense with the political motive on it. Overall, The Crowned Clown is a decent sageuk with decent action, romance, and comedy. If you are a fan of Sageuk, then this is a great pick for you.
- Director: Kim Hee-won
- Cast: Yeo Jin-goo, Kim Sang-kyung, Lee Se-young, Jang Gwang, Yoon Jong-suk, Yoon Kyung-ho
- Release Year: 2019
- IMDb Score: 8
- Where to Watch: Viki, Netflix
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The Tale of Nokdu
The Tale of Nokdu is based on the webtoon named Joseon Love Story: The Tale of Nokdu by Hye Jin-yang. It has the same theme of cross-dressing and hidden identity as The King’s Affection.
The story revolves around Jeon Nok-du, who lives on an island. He is naturally smart and a good swordsman. He lives with his father and his older brother, but his father hasn’t let him study since childhood. He was also barred from visiting the mainland.
One day, his family members were attacked by a group of female assassins. Jeon Nok-du ran after an assassin to the capital. There, he stumbles upon Dong Dong Ju, dressed as a man who was trying to shoot the King.
To find the assassin, Jeon Nok-du ends up in an all-female widowed village. To enter, he had to take the disguise of a woman. There, he met Dong Dong Ju again. She is a Gisaeng trainee but has no talent at it, and rather she is interested in crafts.
The Tale of Nokdu is only good as a light-hearted romantic comedy. Humor was there throughout the show. Viewers admit the chemistry between the main leads was undoubtedly charming.
The cinematography was exceptional, with the natural beautiful sceneries and costumes. Along with the chemistry between the two young people, the OSTs were just perfect.
- Director: Kim Dong-wi
- Cast: Jang Dong-yoon, Kim So-hyun, Kang Tae-oh, Jung Joon-ho, Kim Tae-woo, Yoon Yoo-sun.
- Release Year: 2019
- IMDb Score: 7.8
- Where to Watch: Viki, Netflix
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Our Blooming Youth
Our Blooming Youth is about two people who were going through some turmoil in their lives. Min Jae-yi is from a prominent family who is engaged to the son of a State Councillor. She prepares herself to learn everything that she needs to be a good wife and daughter.
But tragedy hits her when her family is brutally murdered. Moreover, she was accused of the crime. Fate has other plans when she meets Crown Prince Lee Hwan.
He has a mysterious curse upon him, which he wants to get rid of. Lee Hwan wanted to help her, but in return, she will have to help him break the curse. Jae-yi agrees to help him to break the curse. As they work together, they both slowly fall in love.
It is a social and political K-drama that can easily build suspense. The female lead, Jae-yi, is very smart in solving the mysteries, while Lee Hwan supports her entirely. To solve mysteries, she disguises herself as a man in a few episodes, which seems to be a common plot mechanism in Sageuk.
The romance was slow-paced as they focused on building suspense and mystery. In a devastating stage of their life, they only had each other’s back in their life. It is good to see the slow bonding of their friendship first, then a subtle mutual affection for each other in a mystery-driven set-up.
- Director: Lee Jong-Jae
- Cast: Park Hyung-sik, Jeon So-nee, Pyo Ye-jin, Yoon Jong-seok, Lee Tae-sun, Heo Eon-seo.
- Year of Release: 2023
- IMDb Score: 7.7
- Where to Watch: Viki, Prime Video.
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Love in the Moonlight
Another Sageuk of gender-bender and hidden identity, Love in the Moonlight is a coming-of-age, comedy, historical, romance drama. Hong Ra-on disguises herself as a man to protect her family. She gives dating advice to men. One day, she meets Crown Prince Lee-yeong, not knowing his identity. Similarly, the Crown Prince is also unaware of her true identity.
Later, Ra-on was forced to become an eunuch, and she had no other choice. As she escapes to hide her true self in the palace, the Crown Prince tries to figure out his path to becoming the King. In the process, they become closer, creating an unlikely relationship.
A fluffy, heart-fluttering rom-com of young people in a Sageuk, this drama will make you want more. Besides the romance part, it contains a range of palace politics and betrayals as well. The Crown Prince carried with himself the true lessons to become a great King in palace politics.
Park Bo-gum was great as the prince. He maintained the charm throughout the show as the prince. Besides this, his chemistry with Kim Yoo-jung was perfect. Compared to her age, Kim Yoo-jung did a great job pulling the acting of cross-dressing. Despite their age differences, their chemistry never felt less charming, and they won the Best Couple Award at the 53rd Baeksang Award Show.
- Director: Baek Sang-hun
- Cast: Park Bo-gum, Kim Yoo-jung, Jung Jin-young, Kwak Dong-yeon, Chae Soo-bin, Chun Ho-jin.
- Release Year: 2016
- IMDb Score: 7.8
- Where to Watch: Netflix, Viki
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Queen: Love and War
Queen: Love and War is mostly built on thrilling politics and revenge with a slight twist of fantasy. The female lead, Kang Eun-bo, finds herself in a difficult situation when her twin sister is killed. Her father was accused of treason.
Now, she is on a mission to find the killer of her sister and bring out the truth. But in this Joseon Dynasty Era, the only woman who has the power to bring justice and can order a manhunt of a murder case is the Queen. Eun-bo is determined to get that position and participates in the selection of the new Queen.
To win that position, she first needs to get the favor of the Joseon King. King Lee Kyung is rather indifferent towards love. He is more determined to solve political turmoil in the country.
Kang Yun-bo discovers it is quite difficult to win the heart of the king. In the royal court, there are many suitable candidates in favor of the position. When King Lee Kyung first met her, he recognized her from his precognitive dream. The mystery is still unresolved, but the two started an unlikely bond of love.
Queen: Love and War has a great plotline and had a tremendous start. They didn’t deal with the fantasy element logically, and it came out vague. The drama focuses mostly on political tension and power struggles as a whole.
The Business Proposal actor, Kim Min-kyu, was a rising actor at that time, and it was his first drama in a leading role. He fits pretty well as the king. The romance was quite less, but plenty to make you swoon.
- Director: Kim Jung-min
- Cast: Jin Se-Yeon, Kim Min-kyu, Do Sang-woo, Lee Yui-Eum, Lee Si-eon, Lee Hwa-Kyum.
- Release Year: 2019
- IMDb Score: 7.5
- Where to Watch: Viki
The Painter of the Wind
Shin Yon-bok is a great painter who infiltrated the painting village of Dohwaseo disguised as a man. She came to the village on a mission to find the murderer of her father. A senior member of Dohwaseo, Kim Hong-do, discovers Yon-bok’s talent and takes her in. Meanwhile, the king also found her talent and made them the Eyes of the King. Hong-do teaches her to be a great painter.
Upon the King’s order, they go on a mission. All the while, Hong-do finds himself falling for Shin Yon-bok, irrespective of gender. Set in the Joseon era and painting in its theme, The Painter of the Wind has a huge amount of Korean art and paintings. As a sageuk, it’s compulsory to have palace politics, and it didn’t betray the plot.
To tell the romance part, it crosses the boundaries of gender and age. The drama highlights the pure search for soulmates. Released in 2008, The Painter of the Wind portrays boundless love, which is quite unusual in a Sageuk setup. The occasional comedy was also exceptional.
- Director: Jang Tae-Yoo
- Cast: Park Shin-yang, Moon Geon-young, Ryu Seung Ryong, Bae Soo-bin, Im Ji-eun, Kim Eung-soo
- Release Year: 2008
- IMDb Score: 7.8
- Where to Watch: Viki
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The Forbidden Marriage
Lee Heon is the Crown Prince of Joseon who lost his beloved wife seven years ago. He still couldn’t recover from his wife’s death. The whole royal family couldn’t make him remarry. In his despair, the country banned the marriage of all single women nationwide, which is known as the Geumhonryung edict. As a result, people are all enraged over this ban.
One day, a woman named Ye So-rang claims that the spirit of the King’s dead wife is in the palace. She is a swindler. When she got caught, she acted like she was possessed by a spirit. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince heard about the news and ordered to bring her to the palace.
In her interrogation, when asked about the King’s late wife’s spirit, she had no other choice but to act. Ye So-rang acted like she was possessed by the king’s dead wife.
The plot is very simple, and it focuses on entertaining the audience. It entirely revolves around the marriage ban and the character’s stories build upon it. Though it is a slow-paced, straightforward drama, the makers didn’t fail to put multiple genres in it, like romance, comedy, mystery, and politics.
Overall, The Forbidden Marriage is a peaceful and comfortable watch compared to other Sageuk. The most satisfying thing is the ending, a happy ending followed by uplifting the marriage ban.
- Director: Jeong Hoon, Park Sang-woo
- Cast: Kim Young-dae, Park Ju-hyun, Kim Woo-seok, Choi Deok-moon, Yang Dong-Geun, Park Sun-young
- Release Year: 2022
- IMDb Score: 7.5
- Where to Watch: Viki, Prime Video
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The Emperor: Owner of the Mask
The drama revolves around Crown Prince Lee Sun and his fights against the dangerous group Pyunsoo. They even have the power to govern the country from above. This group also controls the water supply by privatizing it.
Earlier, when Lee Sun was born, the King, Yi Yoon, used to hide his face in a mask and raised him secretly to protect him from the group. Sixteen years later, when he grew up, he left the palace to find the reason for his hidden identity. There, he meets and befriends a high-ranking official’s daughter, Han Ga-eun.
After some time, the Pyunsoo group murdered the King. Lee Soon escaped while the group took control of the whole kingdom, using drugs and poisonous ingredients on the court members. When the kingdom was dismantled, Crown Prince Lee Soon pledged to take revenge on the group and reclaim his position.
The drama had great potential but contained some loopholes. There were a lot of twists and turns, and it stretched the story too much. The acting of the whole cast was promising, even the villains. The location and cinematography was phenomenal.
- Director: Park Won-gook, Noh Do-cheol
- Cast: Yoo Seung-ho, Kim So-hyun, Kim Myun-soo, Yoon So-hee, Heo Joon-ho, Park Chul-min.
- Release Year: 2017
- IMDb Score: 7.3
- Where to Watch: Kocowa
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This laughing monster of a drama, Mr. Queen, started in the modern day. Jang Bong-hwan is a famous Chef in South Korea. He works for big politicians at the Blue House’s Presidential residences. One day, after an awful accident, he finds himself in the body of a young queen, Kim So-yong, in the Joseon era.
The reigning monarch, Cheol-jong, is a very kind and polite person. He is the ruler but in the name only. The late King Sunjo’s Queen, Sun Won, is surely ruling the kingdom in his position.
Bong-hwan, desperate to return to his body, takes on a mission to cook for Queen Sunwon and win her heart. Shortly after that, Bong-hwan discovers the secret of So-yong while the king is not what he is. He has a very different dark side.
It’s truly a gem of Sageuk comedy. Mr. Queen exceeds the expectation in so many ways that it has set its standards very high. It keeps the audience seated or maybe rolling on the floor the whole time. The romance is satisfactory, the humor is witty, and the fantasy, politics, and suspense are all brilliant.
The female lead stole the show. Shin Hye-sun ate her role and left no crumbs. All the Mr. Queen cast members did their part pretty well. Extra credit goes to the scriptwriter and author for giving a gem of a work. Truly recommended for everyone, even people who don’t like Sageuk.
- Director: Yoon Sung-sik
- Cast: Shin Hye-sun, Kim Jung-hyun, Bae Jong-ok, Kim Tae-woo, Jo Yeon-hee, Seol In-ah.
- Release Year: 2020
- IMDb Score: 8.6
- Where to Watch: Netflix, Viki.
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Kim Yun-hee is a smart, responsible, and hardworking woman. After her father’s death, she took responsibility for her family, besides maintaining her education. Her younger brother’s illness got worse, and they might have to face eviction.
For such reasons, Yun-hee decided to take the exam for men’s only national examination when women were not allowed to study and work. She took the disguise of a man and went to give exams as a substitute for test-takers. But she took the exam under the name of her brother.
She meets Lee Sun-Joon on the day of the exam, who caught her being the substitute. He belongs to a noble family. Both of them passed and got into Sungkyunkwan University.
Unlucky enough, she is put together with Sun-joon as her roommate in the University shared room. Hiding her true identity, she became friends with the playboy Goo Yong-ha and the rebellious Moon Jae-shin. Yun-hee slowly starts falling for Sun-joon.
It has a good pace that keeps you rooted, one incident after another. The female lead is smart and talented, unlike other Sageuk heroines who need saving from the hero. The drama raised some social issues and challenges to gender equality, sexuality, and Confucian learning that are not usually common in sageuk.
The cast and acting were flawless, especially the Quartet. Sungkyunkwan Scandal has a lot to offer and is recommended for every historical drama lover.
- Director: Kim Won-seok, Hwang In-hyuk
- Cast: Park Yoo-chun, Park Min-young, Song Joong-ki, Yoo Ah-in, Jun Tae-soo, Seo Hyo-rim.
- Release Year: 2010
- IMDb Score: 7.8
- Where to Watch: Viki
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