K-dramas have gained more attention in the past few decades, gathering millions of viewers for their immaculate art direction, charismatic villains, revenge-centered plots, knights in shining armor, love triangles, and supernatural or special appearances by our favorite K-pop Idols. The show is acclaimed for its production, standout cast, and themes, but they aren’t appreciated for its villains. Let’s see what the top ten underrated K-dramas with standout villains are.
1. Do Jae-Hwan- Kill It
Kill It is a South Korean drama released in 2019, starring Nana and Jang Ki-Yong. The story is about Kim Soo-hyun who is an elite assassin but is disguised as a veterinarian, and Do Hyun-jin, who is a reliant police detective. The main antagonist of the drama is Do Jae-hwan, the adoptive father of Hyun-Jin. Jae-hwan's character is a cold-hearted and intense master manipulator who operates an organ-harvesting operation, a controversial topic in Korean dramas.
2. Wang Choon-Soo- Wok Of Love
Wok of Love is a K-drama released in 2018, starring Jung Ryeo-won, Lee Jun-ho, and Jang Hyuk. It centers on Dan Sae-woo, a bankrupt heiress who gets a job as a wok hand at a Chinese restaurant operated by Seo Poong. Seo used to be a sous chef, but he got fired by Wang Choon Soo, who is the main chef. Secondary characters were nuanced, and Wang Choon Soo, played by Im Won-hee, gave a commendable performance as the ambitious, jealous, selfish, and sophisticated chef who stops at nothing to eliminate his competition.
3. Do Joon-Young- My Mister
My Mister is also known as My Ahjussi and is a raw, bleak, and violent drama that tackles themes like aging, elderly care, injustice, corporate greed, and addiction. In this Park Dong-Yoon is a passionate structural engineer, and Lee Ji-An, a temp at his firm, owns a violent loan shark to take care of his bedridden grandma. Do Joon-young, played by Kim Young-min, is Dong-hoon’s college junior and also his current manager. He is a detestable antagonist who not only weasels his way to the top but also has an affair with Dong-hoon’s wife, purely out of spite.
4. Various Criminals- Through The Darkness
Through the Darkness, they are also known as Those Who Read Hearts of Evil was released in 2022. It has many criminal cases and is filled with villains such as Jo Kang-Moo, a serial killer. The drama is about Song Ha-Young a criminal profiler at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and Gook Young-Soo, who is the leader of the Criminal Behavior Analysis team. This show like others doesn’t focus on one or two antagonists but on several suspects, mainly psychopathic serial killers who are explaining their backstories and unveiling their layers from time to time.
5. King Yeonsangun/ Crown Prince Lee Yung- Queen For Seven Days
Queen for Seven Days is based on actual events and is a poignant dramatization of political intrigue and forbidden love. Lee Dong-Gun performs an unforgettable performance as Crown Prince Lee Yung, the primary antagonist. Historical K-dramas with power struggles always produce exceptionally manipulative and shrewd court villains, most of whom are looking to harm the royal family; however, this trope is reversed in this drama. The prince who then becomes the king is paranoid, and obsessed with the thought of having hidden enemies who are looking to murder or dethrone him, mainly the innocent half-brother.
6. Jo Moo-Chul- That Winter, The Wind Blows
The Winter, the Winds Blows is a romantic melodrama released in 2013, starring Song Hye-Kyo and Zo In-Sung. Oh Young is a blind heiress who lives in isolation with her sick father and his manipulative secretary. Oh Soo is a gambler and con artist who passes himself off as her lost brother just to get the inheritance. Jo Moo-chul played by Kim Tae-woo is one of the many villains who is a ruthless gangster with past ties to Soo and his dead girlfriend, Moon Hee-joo. Moo-Chul is a violent criminal, but he has his reasons for his anger. When he was young, he was in love with Hee-joo, but she was with Soo.
7. Neungyang- The Tale Of Nokdu
The Tale of Nokdu stars Kim So-hyun and Jang Dong-Yoon, is a historical rom-com revolving around Jeon Nok-du, a young man who likes to crossdress in a village only with women so that he can investigate the circumstances of his birth. He falls for Dong Dong-joo, who is a clumsy courtesan trainee who has her hidden agenda. Kang Tae-oh portrays Prince Neungyang, who comes from a disgraced family. Neungyang evolves from a fallen prince who has a passion for cooking to an ambitious fighter who takes the throne by staging a coup. He must assert himself as a ruthless and legitimate ruler but can’t forget his affection for Dong-joo.
8. Queen Regent Jiso - Hwarang The Poet Warrior Youth
It is set in the kingdom of Silla and is based on a historical group of elite warriors; it wasn’t well received by critics despite its star-studded cast. Kim Ji-Soo plays the main antagonist, the elegant Queen Jiso, who has kept her son hidden from the public eye for eleven years. She delivers a chilling and award-worthy performance. She wants to hold the power until he is of age, but when it is the time to finally ascend the throne, she decides to end her life rather than being one of his subjects.
9. Lee In-Jwa- The Royal Gambler
The Royal Gambler, also known as Jackpot, is an underrated sageuk starring Yeo Jin-goo, Jang Keun-suk, and Jun Kwang-Ryul. The story follows a king and his son who engage in a gambling match with high stakes. Lee In-jaw is played by Jun Kwang-Raul, who is a character that is based on an actual military official during the reign of King Yeongjo. In-jwa's character is ruthless and radical with his twisted vision about how the kingdom should operate. He uses his minions to discredit anyone in the royal family as he sees fit.
10. Yi Bang-won- My Country: The New Age
It is set in the transitional period between the end of the Goryeo dynasty and the beginning of Joseon and the blood that shed. Amid years, two best friends who come from different backgrounds turn into enemies. Jang Hyuk, portraying Prince Yi Bang-won, is quite charismatic as one of the main antagonists. He is the king’s illegitimate son, who longs for his approval but only gets contempt. He takes the viewers on a roller-coaster of emotions, ruthlessly eliminating all obstacles to become the official heir. He is pretty protective of his soldiers and saves the protagonist's life several times.