[PICK] 5 Korean Mystery Dramas Inspired by Suspense Books & Webtoons

mystery korean drama
Credit: tvN, OCN, Netflix

Edited by Seo Hayne
Translated by Cho EK

Mystery K-Dramas
Credit: tvN, OCN, Netflix

Novels and fictions are great inspirations for TV dramas. Interesting stories in books have been steadily adapted into dramas, whether or not they have been well known to people for a long time. In particular, mystery is an excellent genre for long-winded dramas because it makes it difficult for us to predict where the play is headed. It keeps attracting the viewers’ attention as they keep wondering what’s next, and the viewers can guess how the story would conclude. And of course, converting a well-written novel into a drama does not always come out successfully. I will introduce five dramas that perfectly bring the tense stories in the text and cartoons to the small screen.


The Road: The Tragedy of One (2021)

Mystery K-Dramas
Credit: tvN

Written by Japanese author Rintaro Norizuki in 2013, The Tragedy of One is a mystery novel that explores dark and selfish human nature through a man who makes heartless choices even after going through the tragedy of his son’s abduction. Its drama adaptation, The Road: The Tragedy of One, begins the tragedy when national TV anchor Baek Soo Hyeon (Ji Jin Hee)’s son gets kidnapped during his important prep for a special scoop report. The drama unfolds the psychological warfare between Baek Soo Hyun and other characters hiding their secrets and casts a mystery that ensues one after another. According to one of the directors, the drama is set to emphasize “each character’s desperate needs” while keeping the tension of the original work.


365: Repeat the Year (2020)

Mystery K-Dramas
Credit: MBC

365: Repeat the Year combines time travel and survival games. It is based on Inui Kurumi’s sci-fi mystery novel of the same name written in 2004. Following the basic narrative structure from the fiction, such as the main character’s death after leaving a certain point in the past, it tweaks details and the story’s ending. Ten resetters, including a homicide detective (Lee Jun Hyeok) and a webtoon writer (Nam Ji Hyun), get caught up in a mysterious case. They go back a year ago with the help of a psychiatrist (Kim Ji Soo) who suggested time travel. This drama was applauded as brilliantly reinterpreting the original work with its unpredictable ending and mystery surrounding the case. However, the series garnered an average of low viewership ratings because the drama was difficult to watch from the middle due to its genre’s nature.


Justice (2019)

Mystery K-Dramas
Credit: KBS

Justice is the story of a lawyer (Choi Jin Hyuk), who lost his family due to undue power and money, making a deal with a devilish man (Son Hyun Joo) for revenge. It is based on the web novel of the same name by Jang Ho, who was well-received for his unexpected twists and vivid descriptions. The drama starts with a sexual harassment case committed by a child from a high-society family. It maintains tight tension by addressing the serial murders, kidnappings of actresses, and the politicians and businesspeople behind such criminal cases. It was pointed out that the ending of the grandiose crime was somewhat lax. However, through two men who pursued their desires in different ways from the same starting point, this drama left a meaningful message that true justice results from one’s own choices.


Hell Is Other People (2019)

Mystery K-Dramas
Credit: OCN

‘Gosiwon’ is a type of residence in Korea. Although the monthly rent is cheap, it is a place where privacy is not even dreamed of as the rooms are cramped next to each other. Author Kim Yong Ki’s webtoon Hell Is Other People, which has accumulated 800 million views, is mainly set in Gosiwon, inhabited by low-income people. The story starts from the main character’s suspicion that one of his neighbors might be a murderer in a limited space of his gosiwon building where you can literally feel your neighbor’s breaths. This 10-episode drama intensely depicts the horrors of a young man (Im Si Wan) who moved to Seoul. He comes to live in an old and shabby gosiwon through a hell created by others. Although the drama’s violent scenes were criticized, it was praised for closely portraying the process of an ordinary young man’s mind deteriorate, being encroached on by the hell created by others.


Sweet Home (2020)

netflix sweet home
Credit: Netflix

The Netflix original series Sweet Home almost perfectly reproduces the webtoon of the same name premiered in 2017 by Kim Kan Bi and Hwang Young Chan on the screen. A high school student (Song Kang) loses his family in an accident and witnesses unidentified monsters in his new apartment. He has to fight for survival with the remaining residents. The survivors are trapped in an isolated space and go through fear and confusion, as to when and where monsters will appear, who and how they will turn into monsters. In particular, the visuals of monsters deformed by people’s inherent desire are vividly realized, increasing the immersion of the play. The cast brilliantly realized each character’s personality. Also, unlike the original, it ended with an open ending, which made me anticipate and look forward to the next season.


Editor Seo Hayne: I like actors as they faithfully lead through their long running-time. I also like idols who accomplish everything on stage within 3 minutes.

Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.

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