The Penthouse has been rocking the charts lately with its universal popularity. Many were already fans of makjangs and melodramas, but many just learned what they were from this K-Drama.
A melodrama is typically a dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events appealing to strong emotions. A makjang can be translated to things like “to take too far” or “to reach a limit”. They are usually defined by exaggerated, sometimes unrealistic events and plotlines that could include fake identities, amnesia, murder, incest, adultery, and more. Think Grey’s Anatomy, Jane the Virgin, Hamlet, Maria la del Barrio, etc.
Now you know what it feels like to be at the edge of your seat, now you know what it feels like to never know what will happen in the span of 10 minutes, much less an hour, and you’re hooked. But The Penthouse Season 2 doesn’t come until February! Fear not, here are 15 makjangs/melos to get your dramatic fix while you wait.
1. The Last Empress
In an alternate universe where Korea is a constitutional monarchy in 2018, Oh Sunny (Jang Na Ra) is a bright musical actress who marries the emperor. She becomes involved in the palace power struggle and a mysterious murder that threatens the monarchy. She teams up with Na Wang Shik (Choi Jin Hyuk), the bodyguard for the royal family, to uncover the crimes the royal family is hiding.
This is somewhat of a parody of makjangs, as it seems pretty obvious that they know what they’re doing. Regardless, it’s extremely dramatic and crazy with a slight historical flare.
2. Money Flower
Managing director Kang Pil Joo (Jang Hyuk) keeps his real identity a secret from the Chungah Group, however, he is actually grooming them for his scheme. His original plan was to make Na Mo Hyun (Park Se Young) fall in love with Jang Bu Cheon (Jang Seung Jo) for revenge but finds himself falling in love with her himself.
A classic company-based makjang, this show is perfectly paced and well cast.
3. I’m Sorry, I Love You
Cha Moo Hyuk (So Ji Sub) was adopted by an Australian family but was abused and homeless at an early age. One day, he comes across Song Eun Chae (Im Soo Jung), the manager for Choi Yu Ne (Jung Kyung Ho), a famous singer in Korea, whom she is secretly in love with. Because of an accident involving his ex-girlfriend, Moo Hyuk is left with 3 months to live, leading him to Korea in search of his biological mother. The discoveries he makes changes his feelings from longing to revenge.
Less of a makjang and more of a melodrama, this show will have you bawling your eyes out in a rollercoaster of emotion.
4. The World of the Married
Family doctor and associate director, Ji Sun Woo (Kim Hee Ae) live happily with her husband, Lee Tae Oh (Park Hae Joon), and their teenage son, Joon Young (Jeon Jin Seo). However, when she discovers that her husband is having an affair and their friends are helping him conceal it, she sets on a path of seeking revenge and recollecting herself.
Possibly one of the highest-rated K-Dramas ever, The World of the Married is one of those shows where it’s almost too difficult to watch, it’s a mess in all the best ways possible.
5. Temptation of Wife
One night, Goo Eun Jae (Jang Seo Hee) got drunk and Jung Gyo Bin (Byun Woo Min) took advantage of her. Eun Jae and Gyo Bin eventually got married but their marriage is not great. Eun Jae’s best friend, Shin Ae Ri (Kim Seo Hyung), openly flirts with Gyo Bin in front of her.
Gyo Bin decided that he did not want to remain married to Eun Jae and tried to kill her. He thought he was successful in killing Eun Jae and moved on with Ae Ri. Months later, Eun Jae is back for revenge but with the identity of another woman, Min So Hee.
Whether it’s from its sheer popularity or the countless idols that have referenced it, you have probably heard of this drama at least once. It is the quintessential makjang and this list would be lost without the iconic show that started many people’s love of drama.
6. SKY Castle
Han Seo Jin (Yeom Jung Ah), Noh Seung Hye (Yoon Se Ah), Jin Jin Hee (Oh Na Ra), and Lee Myung Joo (Kim Jung Nan) live with their families in SKY Castle, a luxury private neighborhood. One day, following Myung Joo’s son’s acceptance into Seoul National University as a medical student, an incident occurs and the family moves out.
Lee Soo Im (Lee Tae Ran) and her “inferior” family move in. Soo Im takes it upon herself to challenge the other women of SKY Castle while uncovering the truth of what happened to Myung Joo’s family.
You knew this one was coming, and we couldn’t help it. SKY Castle is just the absolute perfect drama to give you the same feelings The Penthouse did.
7. Stairway to Heaven
Childhood sweethearts Cha Song Joo (Kwon Sang Joo) and Hang Jung Seo (Choi Ji Woo)’s relationship becomes complicated when Jung Seo’s father remarries. Jung Seo now has a new introverted stepbrother, Han Tae Hwa (Shin Hyun Joon), and a scheming stepsister, Han Yu Ri (Kim Tae Hee).
Gradually, Tae Hwa falls in love with Jung Seo and Yu Ri pursues Song Joo. Nothing can shake the love between Jung Seo and Song Joo, not even Song Joo’s departure to America. When he returns, Jung Seo is hit by a car and believed to be dead. After losing her memory in the crash, Tae Hwa relocates her and gives her a new name. Five years later, the night before his engagement to Yuri, Song Joo sees someone who looks exactly like his long lost love Jung Seo.
Many found this drama last year when it was heavily referenced in Crash Landing on You. It is another classic that takes you on a lot of twists and turns.
8. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
When a total eclipse occurs, Go Ha Jin (IU) is transported back to the Goryeo Dynasty during King Taejo (Jo Min Ki)’s rule. She wakes up in the body of 16-year-old Hae Soo who is in the house of 8th Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha Neul), her cousin’s husband. She soon befriends several of the princes and meets the ostracized 4th Prince, Wang So (Lee Joon Gi).
Tired of modern problems in modern dramas? No problem! This historical drama will tear your heart to shreds slowly but surely.
Byun Ji Sook (Park Soo Ae) has always had a hard life since her father is constantly in debt and being chased by loan sharks. When a series of events brings Ji Sook to Seo Eun Ha, a woman from a wealthy family who resembles Ji Sook, she assumes Eun Ha’s identity and begins to live her elite life. She meets Choi Min Woo (Joo Ji Hoon), an heir who is mistrusting of the people around him but is drawn to Ji Sook.
Don’t let this drama’s simple plot deceive you, it is so much more than that and you will be anxious for each new episode.
10. Woman of Dignity
Woo Ah Jin (Kim Hee Sun) enjoys a luxurious life after marrying into a rich family. She gains the trust of her father-in-law, President Ahn (Jung Sang Hoon), who she hires a caregiver, Park Bok Ja (Kim Sun Ah), to look after. However, Bok Ja seduces President Ahn and takes over the household.
This drama is practically guaranteed to get your blood boiling and have you yelling at the stupid little characters on your screen.
11. A Hundred Year Legacy
A family has been running a rundown shop called Old Noodles for three generations. This drama attempts to reaffirm the family values of a wayward family that only stick together for the sake of making money.
Yes, another family company drama that will make you stressed beyond belief. At least there’s an amazing cast, right?
12. The Innocent Man
Kang Ma Roo (Song Joong Ki) has been betrayed by the love of his life, Han Jae Hee (Park Shi Yeon). Years after, Ma Roo begins to live a life of self-indulgence. He discovers that his ex never looked back and married another man for wealth, so he sets off to take revenge. To execute his revenge, he approaches Seo Eun Gi (Moon Chae Won), the daughter of the man Jae Hee married.
Song Joong Ki was in a makjang?! Yes, just before Descendants of the Sun, Joong Ki starred in The Innocent Man and you have been sleeping on this drama this whole time.
Jo Min Hyuk (Ji Sung) is a rich man who burns with revenge after he finds out his lover was killed in an accident. Yoo Jung (Hwang Jung Eum) is a woman who takes the blame for that accident instead of her boyfriend and goes to prison. This is a story of betrayal and difficult love.
We all probably know Hwang Jung Eum as a quirky, happy character from many of her popular dramas. However, she truly shows diversity and heat in this amazing makjang.
14. Love in Sadness
Yoon Ma Ri (Park Han Byul) married into wealth with a seemingly perfect life. Ironically, her husband, Kang In Wook (Ryu Soo Young), is an obsessive, abusive lunatic. When he pushes her too far, she reaches out for help from Seo Jung Won (Ji Hyun Woo), a plastic surgeon. When he agrees to help her escape, they fall in love. But In Wook, who is obsessed with her, isn’t going to let her get away.
From just the title and short plot summary, you can tell you’re in for a ride in this insane drama.
15. Once Again
Frugal father Song Young Dal (Chun Ho Jin) and nagging mother Jang Ok Boon (Cha Hwa Yun) have been married for many years and have 4 adult children: stuntman Joon Sun (Oh Dae Hwan), housewife Ga Hee (Oh Yoon Ah), pediatrician Na Hee (Lee Min Jung), and intern Da Hee (Lee Cho Hee). Na Hee works with her husband Gyu Jin (Lee Sang Yeob) at the same hospital.
They have since drifted apart and their married life is not going well. Joon Sun and Ga Hee are both divorcees and have returned to live with their parents, while Da Hee is engaged to be married soon. Mysterious kimbap restaurant owner Kang Cho Yeon (Lee Jung Eun) joins the fray and opens up shop in the Yongju Market.
While this one is probably the tamest, the heart in this drama is amazing. It’s funny, it’s annoying, it’s sad, it’s anger-inducing, it’s everything you need in a drama.
16. Everybody, Kimchi!
A housewife who put all of her hopes and dreams on her husband is suddenly abandoned by him. Despite the betrayal of her husband and the hardships she encounters, she starts a Kimchi business to start anew.
We refuse to make a makjang K-Drama list without the infamous “kimchi slap”. The drama itself is a pretty standard makjang, but the kimchi slap scene put this drama in the history books.