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Your Guide to Viki, the Go-to Streaming Destination for K-Dramas and More

We dive into Viki's robust library of old, new, and popular titles.
  • Clockwise: Guardian: The Lonely and Great God; Strong Girl Bong-Soon; What's Wrong With Secretary Kim; Reborn Rich (Photos: Viki)
    Clockwise: Guardian: The Lonely and Great God; Strong Girl Bong-Soon; What's Wrong With Secretary Kim; Reborn Rich (Photos: Viki)

    The continued rise in popularity of Asian content, especially Korean dramas, makes it necessary to look outside of the Netflixes, Hulus, Disney+s and Prime Videos, which can only satisfy so much of that hunger for entertainment programming. Thankfully, there is a streaming service out there that aims to serve that growing need: Rakuten Viki.

    More simply referred to as Viki, the subscription streaming service is a prime destination for Asian entertainment from countries such as South Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, and other regions that aren’t easily accessible via other streamers. Launched in 2007, the platform has experienced steady growth in its subscriber base, acquiring more than 75 million users, and is a worthy alternative to mainstream streaming services, offering more than 1,000 Korean TV shows and 200 movies to stream in K-content alone. There is just as much to discover from other countries too, with curated lists to help identify programs that may fit a user’s particular niche or algorithm-reliant recommendations to help navigate the overabundance of choices.

    What works to Viki’s benefit is its robust library of old, new, and popular titles, including a healthy mix of original programming produced exclusively for the service. For fans and newcomers to Asian content, it’s a gold mine — plus, the offerings are subtitled in dozens of languages. Additional content can be unlocked based on subscription tier. Adding a new streaming service to your repertoire can be a daunting task, so we’ve taken the extra step of recommending nine of Viki’s best K-content offerings, ranging from buzzworthy reality competitions to beloved dramas and culture-defining shows.

    Boys Over Flowers

    Widely considered a K-drama classic, Boys Over Flowers is credited for being one of the first shows to help shepherd the rising popularity of Korean entertainment on an international stage. A Cinderella story at its core, the 2009 Korean adaptation of the Japanese manga centers around a working-class girl (Koo Hye-sun) who gets caught up in the lives of a popular group of rich, good-looking male students called the F4 (Lee Min-ho, Kim Hyun-joong, Kim Bum, and Kim Joon) at a prestigious high school. There have been several other takes on the manga, including the equally superb 2018 Chinese drama Meteor Garden and the 2005 Japanese series, but this version of Boys Over Flowers gets the spotlight for its cultural impact.

    Boys Planet

    Survival singing competition shows make up a major part of Korean entertainment with dozens of K-pop girl and boy groups being born out of them. They often mimic the intensive, no-frills, and challenging K-pop trainee programs that young hopefuls must survive in order to make it to the final lineup. Think of these shows as South Korea’s version of Making the Band or Popstars. While Viki has many survival programs to choose from, such as 2020’s I-LAND (which produced Enhypen), Boys Planet is an ideal gateway into the format.

    Not only did it create one of 2023’s most popular rookie groups, Zerobaseone, but it features a global mix of 98 contestants from a variety of countries — including South Korea, Canada, U.S. and Japan — as they vie for one of the final nine spots. Tears and joy fill the 13 episodes of Boys Planet, which incorporated viewer voting to help determine the lineup. And knowing how well the group has done less than one year in existence (its first EP is the best-selling K-pop debut in history) is inspiring enough.

    Descendants of the Sun

    Generally speaking, wartime military dramas can be polarizing. Despite that, Descendants of the Sun proved to be worth the investment and came at a crucial time when Korean entertainment was gaining steam globally. The well-received 2016 series follows Yoo Si-jin (Song Joong-ki), captain of the Korean special forces unit, who falls in love with trauma surgeon Kang Mo-yeon (Song Hyu-kyo) after a coincidental meeting at the hospital.

    Their different life perspectives and moral values prove too challenging for their relationship initially; he’s been conditioned to take down imminent threats, she wants to save lives. However, when they reunite after some time, their differences become their saving grace. It was a major hit domestically and internationally, and definitely played a role in boosting Korean programming’s standing in the world.

    Guardian: The Lonely and Great God

    Sometimes referred to as Goblin, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God is another K-drama classic featuring a stacked cast, a unique premise, and compelling characters. Written by popular screenwriter Kim Eun-sook (The Glory, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God), the 2016 fantasy drama revolves around Kim Shin (Gong Yoo), once a formidable military general and now a centuries-old cursed goblin stuck waiting for his mortal bride to pull the sword from his chest and end his immortality.

    Complications arise when he encounters Ji Eun-tak (Kim Go-eun), a young woman who possesses the ability to communicate with spirits, and ends up falling in love with her. There’s also a grim reaper (Lee Dong-wook) and Eun-tak’s chicken shop boss (Yoo In-na) who have their own side romance, making them more than capable second leads. This isn’t even scratching the surface of what transpires over Guardian’s 16 episodes — and things do get a little weird — but its originality and rewatchability is exactly why it’s a must-see. Three specials, including a director’s cut, are on Viki for extracurricular viewing.

    Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth

    Historical dramas can be hit or miss, but Hwarang is a special case due to the unique combination of K-pop stars and, at the time, rising actors in its large ensemble. Whoever was in charge of casting hit the nail on the head by bringing BTS’ V (in his first acting role), Shinee’s Minho, Park Seo-joon, and Park Hyung-sik together on the small screen. It takes a bit for the story to get going, but once it does, it’s very difficult to stop. Set some time in the early centuries, Hwarang follows a group of elite male warriors who are brought together by the queen to serve the Silla kingdom — and to protect the hidden king from assassins and conspirators.

    Things get interesting midway through the 20-episode drama when it’s disclosed to the hwarang, in very dramatic fashion, that the faceless king is among their ranks, leading to high-stakes power plays, covert moves, and plenty of distrust. There are also storylines involving romance, fake identities, and tense familial relationships. Hwarang can be silly at times and some of its plot leaves a lot to be desired, but this historical drama is meant to entertain and not be a history book replacement.

    Reborn Rich

    It’s hard to predict what will catch lightning in a bottle. Reborn Rich was the lucky recipient of both viewer and critical acclaim when it debuted in 2022, finishing out its run as one of the highest-rated Korean cable dramas of all time. Viewership more than quadrupled for the finale compared to Episode 1.

    Based on the webtoon, the fantasy drama centers on Yoon Hyun-woo (Song Joong-ki), a loyal secretary of a chaebol family who is senselessly murdered after they frame him for embezzlement in order to cover up tax crimes. He is later reincarnated as the family’s youngest grandson and uses his inside position to his advantage, plotting revenge to take down their corporation while also seeking justice for those responsible for his murder. It’s a rare accomplishment for a K-drama to cross borders when it comes to accolades, but Reborn Rich did it in 2023, earning an International Emmy nomination for Best TV Movie or Miniseries.

    Strong Girl Bong-soon

    It’s hard to top Strong Girl Bong-soon, which, seven years after it premiered, remains a beloved K-drama with a passionate following. Luckily, Viki is the sole streaming destination with rights to the 2017 series, which stars Park Bo-young as the eponymous heroine who inherits superhuman strength and Park Hyung-sik as the wealthy CEO who falls in love with her despite it. Strong Girl Bong-soon has a lot going for it: The chemistry is off the charts between the two romantic leads, the central villain has a twisted obsession with the main heroine, and genuine stakes are involved when her powers are accidentally misused, causing her to go through an existential crisis.

    It’s a wholly unique premise with outrageous, sometimes cartoonish supporting characters (a good thing in this case); a comically chaotic family with a power-wielding matriarch; and even showcases its protagonist as she pursues a career in video game development. Rarely do K-dramas inspire additional seasons or spin-offs, but this one did. In 2023, both Park Bo-young and Park Hyung-sik made cameos in Strong Girl Nam-soon.


    It is not unusual for K-dramas to be inspired by webtoons, but W kicks it up a notch and makes the webtoon format its main plot. Toggling between the webtoon world and the real world, the 2016 drama explores what happens when someone gets sucked into a fictional alternate universe and gets caught up in the narratives within it. Inventiveness is definitely not lacking in the K-drama world, that’s for sure.

    The main players are Kang Cheol (Lee Jong-suk), the self-made millionaire CEO who exists as the lead character of the popular webtoon W, and Oh Yeon-joo (Han Hyo-joo), a surgeon in the real world who begins to look for answers after her father, the famous creator behind W, suddenly disappears. Clearly, Cheol is stuck in the webtoon for a reason, so their fateful meeting within the pages of the comic is kismet. The characters are literally caught between two worlds, making for a novel take on modern romance.

    What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim

    One of the most popular titles on Viki, 2018’s What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim is the perfect gateway drama for those still testing the waters when it comes to Korean content. Starring Park Seo-joon and Park Min-young, the webtoon-inspired series follows a buttoned-up, narcissistic vice chairman of a successful conglomerate whose world is turned upside down when his trusted secretary abruptly turns in her resignation. Suppressed romantic feelings emerge as he fights to keep her from quitting, creating meme-able scenes featuring humorous, outlandish antics; it’s the classic take on “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”

    Of course, it wouldn’t be a K-drama without a mix of genres, from broad comedy to dark mystery to psychological thriller, and the requisite layers of childhood trauma (a kidnapping incident is a source of conflict) and deep-seeded family tension (an estranged brotherly bond causes rifts). Though things slow down narratively as the series reaches its end, there’s a reason why What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim continues to stand the test of time.

    Philiana Ng is a Los Angeles-based writer covering TV, celebrity, culture and more. Her work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Entertainment Tonight, TV Guide, Yahoo Entertainment, and The Daily Beast, among others.

    TOPICS: Strong Girl Bong-soon, Viki, Boys Over Flowers, Descendants of the Sun, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth, K-Dramas, Reborn Rich