• Pop Culture

5 Common K-Drama Tropes We Can’t Get Enough Of

Jan 22, 2023 by Gracey Maala

3 min read


Seeing a familiar occurrence is no longer surprising if you've already watched a long list of K-Dramas. Korean drama culture has developed its own set of tropes that you'll likely see in many titles. While many series, especially older ones, tend to feel a bit copycat-like, newer ones have begun to incorporate their plot twists for novelty—while still using older tropes and cliches because viewers still adore them.

Here are some classic tropes we won’t get tired of watching!

Friends turned lovers

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“Friends to lovers” is a typical romantic trope that involves two people in an established friendship becoming romantic partners. It’s common in Korean dramas where the characters start out as friends, then develop deeper feelings for each other over time. The build-up to their relationship is usually slow and steady, making the outcome even sweeter.

What to watch: Fight For My Way, Reply 1988, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, School 2017


From an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan



As the saying goes: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But we all know the “ugly pretty girl” trope– when the lead character would only be beautiful if she had a total makeover.  Like in the ugly duckling tale, the character already has potential beauty; it’s just that her beauty is hidden under an imperfect getup, unflattering glasses, or a lack of effort. After her transformation, we see that people treat her better, that her life becomes more fulfilling, and that she comes closer to realizing her true beauty.

Watch to watch: True Beauty, She Was Pretty, My ID is Gangnam Beauty


A bad boy falls for a good girl

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It’s a pretty common saying that the opposite attracts. Dramas also often use the bad-boy-good-girl trope, and viewers never seem to get tired of it! The bad boy usually needs his promisingly shining female counterpart—the one who can make him change his ways, fall in love, and see another side of life.

What to watch: Boys Over Flowers, Flower of Evil, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, The Master’s Sun


The love triangle

Courtesy of Viu

The love triangle trope is one of the most prevalent and usually present in every K-Drama. It is when two characters compete with one another for the heroine's love and attention. The drama surrounds the idea that viewers need to find out who the main character will end up with or which of the two love interests is better suited for the main character!

What to watch: Cheer Up, Reply 1988, True Beauty, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, Who Are You - School 2015


Rich boy & poor girl

Courtesy of Viu

A Cinderella story. Once upon a time, a poor girl encounters a wealthy young man and falls in love with him (or the other way around). When they fall in love, neither one cares about their differences in wealth except for the family or society! Well, it’s a common struggle! So will their love be enough to let them live happily ever after?

What to watch: The Heirs, Boys Over Flowers, Goblin, What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim


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