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15 Iconic K-Drama Soundtracks That are Instantly Recognizable

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

Is there a K-Drama theme song that calls up scenes in your mind the second you hear it? Korean TV dramas have been popular around the world for over two decades, and a part of that enduring popularity goes to the music.

Korean drama productions put great effort into high-quality original soundtracks tailor-made for the characters, stories and themes. Some K-Drama OST songs and scores are so instantly recognizable that they have become as famous as the dramas themselves. Take a trip down memory lane with 15 iconic Korean drama soundtracks selected by our editors!

Be Melodramatic

"In the swaying flowers, I felt the scent of your shampoo…" There's no better song to get us to Be Melodramatic than Jang Beom June's "Your Shampoo Scent In The Flowers." In 2019, writer-director Lee Byeong Hun adapted his film Twenty into a female version slice-of-life romcom series about three best friends and roommates – played by Chun Woo Hee, Jeon Yeo Been and Han Ji Eun – sharing the hustle and bustle of their work and love lives. With its catchy sing-along melody, "Your Shampoo Scent In The Flowers" still rises in the charts whenever spring arrives. Besides this smash hit, the soundtrack features various songs well blended into the drama – Yu Seung Woo's "Fake" and ZEEBOMB's "Far From Melo" mark funny moments, Kwon Jin Ah's "Consolation" and Shin In Ryu's "Undecided" play during times of despair, Ha Hyun Sang's Moonlight speaks for lonely hearts, and Slow Step signifies the characters getting back on track. Don't forget the cute opening Dear My Friend sung by the main cast!

Boys Over Flowers

Almost paaaaradise! Every live-action drama iteration of Kamio Yoko's manga Hana Yori Dango yields some pop hits, and Korea's 2009 take on Boys Over Flowers served up a buoyant soundtrack that gets stuck in your head fast. With Oh Joon Sung as music director and main composer for the soundtrack, Boys Over Flowers leans in on K-pop idol confections. Love it or hate it, T-max's cheesy but oh-so-catchy opening theme Paradise that announced the entry of F4 is a total nostalgic classic, and requisite walk-up song for every wannabe flower boy posse. Ending themes "Because I'm Stupid" and "Making a Lover" are peak SS501, while SHINee's Stand By Me forever makes us smile. The hidden gem of the soundtrack: Tree Bicycle's One More Time.

Dae Jang Geum

Dae Jang Geum, the period series starring Lee Young Ae as the first female royal physician of Joseon Korea, is one of the most iconic Korean dramas of all time, so it only makes sense that it has an iconic soundtrack to match. The legendary early 2000s historical series that started the Korean Wave may not have pop theme songs to karaoke to, but the drama's majestic score instrumentals and folk singing added to its cultural impact and introduced global audiences to the beauty of traditional Korean music. Even if you haven't watched Dae Jang Geum, if you follow Korean entertainment, you've likely heard its main title theme Onara being referenced on other shows, especially when an impressive spread of Korean cuisine is being brought out.

Guardian: The Lonely and Great God

POV: Goblin Gong Yoo and grim reaper Lee Dong Wook emerge from the darkness, walking in slow motion towards you. You know what song is playing in the background. The soundtrack of tvN's sensational fantasy drama Guardian: The Lonely and Great God is so stacked with memorable hits that Heize and Han Soo Ji's opening theme Round and Round isn't even the biggest song on the tracklist. That honor goes to Chan Yeol and Punch's moody ending theme Stay With Me, which is immediately recognizable from the first notes. Also on the soundtrack are favorites like Crush's Beautiful, Sam Kim's Who Are You, Soyou's I Miss You and Ailee's "I Will Go to You like the First Snow."

Hospital Playlist

Marking director Shin Won Ho and screenwriter Lee Woo Jung's fourth work together, Hospital Playlist continued their successful formula of intriguing plot, lively characters, witty humor and crowd-pleasing song remakes. The series follows the "99s" friend squad – Jung Kyung Ho, Yoo Yeon Seok, Kim Dae Myung and Jeon Mi Do – who show their serious sides as doctors in the same hospital, and their unserious sides jamming in a band. Most of the songs from this hit 2020 drama charted high, from heart-fluttering love songs like Jo Jung Suk's Aroha, Joy's "Introduce Me a Good Person" and Kyu Hyun's "Confession is Not Flashy," to emotional tunes like Jeon Mi Do's "I Knew I Love," Kwon Jin Ah's Lonely Night, Urban Zakapa's "Beautiful My Love" and Whee In's "With My Tears." Of course, we can never get enough of the 99s' band performances of "Me to You, You to Me," Canon and "Oh! What a Shiny Night"!

I'm Sorry, I Love You

Starring So Ji Sub and Lim Soo Jung, the 2004 Korean Wave classic I'm Sorry, I Love You helped establish that early K-Drama image of angst-ridden, heart-wrenching romantic melodramas, and its soundtrack is just as emotional. Park Hyo Shin's representative ballad "Snow Flower" epitomizes the restrained yet overwhelming feelings of the tear-your-heart-out winter love story about two lonely souls falling in love as time runs out. Also on the I'm Sorry, I Love You soundtrack are Bada's "One Day Has Passed," Jung Jae Wook's "The First Time" and Kim Sung Pil's "Precious Person." Most notably, there's the dramatic string and piano instrumental "Last Choice," which is among the most recognizable K-Drama scores – you've likely heard it as BGM numerous times.

Itaewon Class

"I can fly the sky! Never gonna stay! Until I fall down exhausted!" Gaho's empowering anthem "Start Over" is from the JTBC drama Itaewon Class, which stars Park Seo Joon as an ex-convict who opens a bar-restaurant in hopes of defeating a food conglomerate and avenging his late father. At his restaurant, he connects with other people who are fighting against this irrational world. Itaewon Class's hot-blooded storyline is duly accompanied with fiery and powerful rock sounds performed by Ha Hyun Woo, The Rose's Woo Sung, Lee Chan Sol and The Vane, while soft ballads such as Sondia's Maybe, Kim Feel's "Someday, The Boy" and V's Sweet Night tug at the heartstrings. Though Itaewon Class's plot development may have received mixed reviews, the drama's soundtrack is undoubtedly one of the best in recent years.

My Love from the Star

"You are my destiny, you are." Sweeping across Asia in 2013, the blockbuster fantasy romance My Love From the Star starred Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun as a stoic alien and sassy actress who fall in love against the odds. Besides its inventive story (by Queen of Tears screenwriter Park Ji Eun) and unbeatable star chemistry, the drama brought all the feels with those heartrending love songs. Lyn's stirring ballad My Destiny is so iconic that its chorus serves as the default BGM for falling in love moments. My Love From the Star's hit soundtrack definitely rolls out one of the best K-pop ballad lineups ever with Hyolyn's "Goodbye," Huh Gak's "Tears Fallin' Like Today," Sung Si Kyung's "Every Moment of You," K.Will's "Like a Star," Just's I Love You and Younha's "My Love from the Star."

My Mister

My Mister, the winner of Best Drama and Best Screenplay at the 2019 Baeksang Arts Awards, stirs up emotions not only with its bleak plot and tragic characters, but also its tender music that aligns with the dark mood and somber tone of the drama. Led by Lee Sun Kyun and Lee Ji Eun (IU), the series centers around an "ahjussi" and a young woman who shoulder different burdens and find solace in each other's company while dealing with harsh reality. Despite not having a fancy singer lineup, the My Mister soundtrack received a lot of love, especially then-newcomer Sondia's viral hit "Grown Ups" in which she sings in her silvery timbre about losing direction in life while becoming an adult. Jung Seung Hwan's "An Ordinary Day," JeHwi's Dear Moon, O.WHEN, Vincent Blue's "Rainbow" and Kwak Jin Eon's "My Self In My Heart" reflect the protagonists' journey from feeling despair to finding light in darkness. Instrumentals "When Mind Wants to Rest" and "My Family" are also fan favorites.

Reply 1997

From their first collaboration with Reply 1997 in 2012, director Shin Won Ho and screenwriter Lee Woo Jung established their own style of rendering nostalgia through setting, period details and, most notably, music. Singers Jeong Eun Ji and Seo In Guk made their breakout acting debuts in this high-rating tvN romantic comedy about childhood friends navigating changing relationships in high school, along the way bringing back memories of K-pop fan culture in the 1990s. Besides starring in the drama, Eun Ji and Seo In Guk sang two duets for the soundtrack. Their fresh remake of COOL's All For You, in particular, won several Best OST awards, and remains one of the most romantic K-Drama duet themes to this day. The full Reply 1997 OST includes 90s pop classics that match with the drama background, from hits by the protagonist's most "hated" idol group SechsKies to other famous artists like Fin.K.L and Jo Sung Mo.

Secret Garden

Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won's 2010 fantasy romantic comedy Secret Garden from acclaimed writer Kim Eun Sook depicts the unlikely romance between an arrogant CEO and a stuntwoman after they swap bodies. Secret Garden's chart-sweeping soundtrack goes well with the quirky comedy, lovey-dovey interactions and emotional moments of the troublesome lovers, ranging from soft ballads like Sung Si Kyung's "You Are My Spring" to the lively intro with Kim Bum Soo's "Appear," not to mention "Tear Seat" and "Liar" by Yoon Sang Hyun's Hallyu star character Oska. Baek Ji Young's soulful "The Woman" and "The Man" convey two perspectives with the same song, and Hyun Bin also offered his own rendition of "The Man." Even if you haven't watched Secret Garden, you'll know "Only Scratches" if you're a Running Man fan – it's Kwang Soo's signature BGM!


Much like the sublime time-slip crime suspense drama itself, the haunting music of Signal shines with tenacious hope amid world-weary grit. From Jung Cha Sik's bluesy and weather-beaten folk rock opening "I Will Forget You" to Jang Beom June's acoustic-leaning "Looking Back," INKII's explosive lament "The One Who Must Leave" and Yi Sung Yol's rock ballad "Blooming," every evocative song brings you back to the somber, suspenseful mood of the series. Kim Yoon Ah's modern rock gem "The Road" pulsates with a driving bassline that echoes the pain and determination of one who walks lost on the lonely path. Along with the score by Kim Jun Seok and Park Sung Il, Signal's music is anchored in a gritty and melancholic rock sound rare among K-Drama soundtracks, making it stand out all the more.

Something in the Rain

Other titles in this list may have well-known songs that even those who haven't watched the drama will know, but that's not exactly the case with Something in the Rain. Anyone who has watched the 2019 JTBC series starring Son Ye Jin and Jung Hae In, however, is unlikely to forget how crucial the music is to every fiber of its atmospheric love story. Something in the Rain's carefully crafted soundtrack creates a lingering, encompassing mood via tender ballads by American singer-songwriter Rachel Yamagata, English oldies on the obscure side of classic (Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man and Bruce Willis's Save the Last Dance for Me), and gentle instrumentals with a coffee shop ambience. For more meticulously curated K-Drama soundtracks that put you in the mood for love, add director Ahn Pan Suk's other works One Spring Night and The Midnight Romance to the rotation.

Temptation of Wife

When you need a song for that makjang moment, Temptation of Wife's theme song "Never Forgive" is the only answer. SBS's hit 2008-2009 daily drama packed in the soap opera twists of marital strife, betrayal and revenge. Besides the iconic "Never Forgive" that added an extra melodramatic flourish to every episode, the soundtrack features other emotional songs performed by Cha Soo Kyung like "Blue Wish," "I Can Only See You" and Let It Be, all tied together by a dramatic strings-heavy score from Yoo Young Sun & The Connexion. Beyond the K-Drama realm, the Mandarin version of "Never Forgive" performed by Li Jialu is equally famous as the theme song of Temptation of Wife's Chinese remake Home Temptation.

Who Are You: School 2015

Who Are You: School 2015, the sixth installment of KBS's "School" series, casts Kim So Hyun in dual roles as separated identical twins whose destinies change after an accident. The younger sister starts a new life as her twin who was adopted into a rich family, while probing into the accident and enjoying things she never had before. As underrated as the drama, School 2015's soundtrack comes with many songs to discover, starting with the unforgettable theme song Reset by Tiger JK and Jin Sil. Wendy and Yuk Ji Dam's Return, and "Blow Away" by Baechigi and Punch also fit the drama's mysterious vibe of "resetting" life. Yoon Mirae and Younha lend their voices to slow ballads that resonate with the protagonists' sad encounters, while Remember by Byul and "Named" by SHINee's Jong Hyun and Tae Min are sweet tunes that capture young love. Last but not least, Yook Sung Jae's Love Song best represents his character's feelings for the heroine.

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Published May 28, 2024

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