So I had the idea for pairing up books with KDramas that have a similar premise or vibe a while ago, but it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The other day though, I was watching a KDrama and I had the perfect book equivalent, so I figured I had better put some more thought into it! I had a little bit of a hard time with this because I read a lot of high fantasy, but fantasy KDramas tend to be low/urban fantasy, like ghosts or time travel.
If you don’t know what a KDrama is, it is a Korean drama! KDramas tend to just be one season, as opposed to Western television shows, which can be many season long. This is definitely one of the appeals of KDramas to me. I don’t want to have to wait for another season and potentially have the story get drawn out so much that it’s ruined. Another thing about KDramas that are a little different is that there are a lot more rom-coms, which is exactly what I want to be watching. I don’t know if I’m just missing them, but it seems like there are very few shows in the US at least that have romance as the central plot.
WARCROSS // MEMORIES OF THE ALHAMBRA
The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. (Goodreads)
Memories of the Alhambra tells the unique and suspenseful love story of Yoo Jin Woo and Jung Hee Joo. Strong spirited Yoo Jin Woo is the CEO of an investment company with a degree in engineering and a knack for developing video games. He has an adventurous and competitive spirit. Suffering after his best friend betrays him, he takes a business trip to Granada, Spain in search of the mysterious inventor of an innovative augmented-reality video game. He ends up at a hostel that Jung Hee Joo owns. Hee Joo is a former classical guitarist who came to Spain to further her studies. After the death of her parents, she takes on various jobs to support herself, including running the old hostel . They are both drawn into a series of strange and unexpected events. (MyDramaList)
These both have heavy elements of augmented reality gaming, which is why I immediately thought of Warcross when I was watching Memories of the Alhambra. Warcross definitely has a more established game with millions of players, whereas in MotA, the game is super new and there are only a few players. I also thought that they were similar because they have male characters who are morally gray and do a lot of questionable things. Emika hunting down a hacker in Warcross feels very similar to Jin Woo in MotA tracking down the creator of the game. Overall, I think MotA is a little more dark and depressing, but they both have some romance and a lot of AR gaming.
THE FLATSHARE // BECAUSE THIS IS MY FIRST LIFE
Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window… (Goodreads)
A house-poor man and homeless woman become housemates in a drama that examines the institution of marriage and the problems that young people face today. Nam Se Hee is a single man in his early 30’s. He has chosen to not marry. He owns his home, but he owes a lot on his mortgage. Meanwhile, Yoon Ji Ho is a single woman in her early 30’s. She does not own a home and envies those that do. She has given up on dating due to her financial struggles. Yoon Ji Ho begins to live at Nam Se Hee’s house. They become housemates. (MyDramaList)
While Se Hee and Ji Ho from Because This is My First Life don’t share a bed like Tiffy and Leon from The Flatshare do, the vibes of their house-sharing situations are really similar! In both, a man who has an apartment needs extra money, so he get a roommate, who just so happens to be a woman who disrupts their regular routine. Also in both, there is a focus on things in the characters lives other than romance.
THE HATING GAME // WHAT’S WRONG WITH SECRETARY KIM
Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman
Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.
Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.
If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth-shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.
Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game. (Goodreads)
The series revolves around the narcissistic Lee Young Joon, the vice president of a company run by his family. He is very self-absorbed and thinks highly of himself, so much that he barely acknowledges the people around him. Lee Young Joon has a capable and patient secretary Kim Mi So who has remained by his side and worked diligently for 9 years without any romantic involvement. However, Mi So now wants to set her life & focus on herself so when she decides to resign from her job, hilarious misunderstandings ensue. After 9 years of their strictly-workplace relationship, can it now develop in something more? (MyDramaList)
This match-up isn’t a perfect fit, but I think a lot of the elements are similar. In The Hating Game, Lucy and Joshua are mostly in equal positions and they are competitive, so their relationship is more rivals to lovers. In What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim, Mi Soo works for Young Joon and they have a decent work relationship. They are both office romances though!
A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER // SUSPICIOUS PARTNER
The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.
But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth? (Goodreads)
Noh Ji Wook is a unique prosecutor. He is handsome, hard-headed and intelligent who strives hard to be successful. He is the perfect example of what a prosecutor should be. Later, he becomes a lawyer. Eun Bong Hee is a prosecutor trainee. Once a former taekwondo instructor, she trained to become a lawyer. She is confident and strong, but naive. She is assigned to work under Ji Wook. They work together on a mysterious case involving a sly psychopath murderer. As they’re working as a team, they develop affection between them. (MyDramaList)
The cover and the poster have such different tones, but I promise, these feel similar to me! There are definitely some differences, mainly Suspicious Partner being about trained adults and AGGGtM being about teenagers, but I think they are similar because of the topics they handle. Both sets of characters are trying to solve a murder, specifically a murder where one of the people investigating was tied to the person who was murdered. Suspicious Partner definitely deals with more cases than that, but it is where the story stems from. It also has a lot more romance than AGGGtM.
THE UNHONEYMOONERS // MARRIAGE, NOT DATING
Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.
Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.
Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky. (Goodreads)
Wealthy plastic surgeon Gong Ki Tae is a successful and happy bachelor who does not want to find himself a wife. He believes that his life is perfectly planned, and being single is the only option he accept. However, his family is badgering him to marry. In an effort to get his parents off his back about the constant string of blind dates and marriage prospects, Ki Tae purposely brings Joo Jang Mi home to meet his parents posing as his girlfriend, certain that they’ll never approve of her. (MyDramaList)
KDramas are where my love of the fake relationship trope started, so it was hard to pick one to go with The Unhoneymooners! However, I think that Marriage, Not Dating is light-hearted and funny, like The Unhoneymooners. While the reasons for the pretend relationships are different, it is so fun to watch/read both couples realize that they aren’t pretending anymore.
MIRROR SIGHT // QUEEN IN HYUN’S MAN
In a magical confrontation, Karigan is jolted out of Blackveil and wakes in a darkness blacker than night. She’s lying on smooth, cold stone, but as she reaches out, she realizes that the stone is not just beneath her, but above and around her as well. She’s landed in a sealed stone sarcophagus, some unknown tomb, and the air is becoming thin.
Is this to be her end? If she escapes, where will she find herself? Is she still in the world she remembers, or has the magical explosion transported her somewhere completely different? (Goodreads)
Kim Boong Do is a scholar who had supported the reinstatement of Queen In Hyun when Jang heebin’s schemes resulted in her being deposed and replaced as King Sukjong’s queen consort. He travels 300 years into the future of modern Seoul and meets Choi Hee Jin, a no-name actress who is expecting a career renaissance through her role as Queen In Hyun in a TV drama. (MyDramaList)
This comparison is a little different than the rest because Mirror Sight is the fifth book in the Green Rider series. However, it heavily features time travel, as does Queen In Hyun’s Man! Both of these have someone travelling into the future of their world, seeing how things change, and trying to alter that when they go back to their time. Both also feature great romances! Queen In Hyun’s Man is a little different because Boong Do can travel back and forth in time, whereas Karigan from Mirror Sight is stuck in the future. They both struggle with adapting to the technological and cultural changes that the future holds.
If you are interested in any of these KDramas, Memories of the Alhmabra is a Netflix series, so it should be available there internationally. Because This Is My First Life is also on Netflix, at least in the US. For the others, check Viki.com!
Would you watch any of these based on the comparisons I made? If you watch KDramas as well, let me know if you have any book to KDrama comparisons of your own!