10 Korean Dramas That Are Most Different From Their Originals

Vinod Pandey
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Despite their distinctiveness, a lot of Korean dramas are based on manga, webcomics, novels, or even other dramas. But the screenplay, acting, and filming each add their own special touches to produce the beloved Korean dramas we watch today. 

However, there are instances when the show we are watching may differ greatly from the original. In this article, we're going to examine 10 Korean dramas that deviate the most from their original works. 

10 Korean Dramas That Are Most Different From Their Originals

Korean Dramas MOST DIFFERENT From Their Originals

10. Tale of Nokdu 

‘Tale of Nokdu’ follows the male lead Nokdu, who disguises himself as a woman to run away from his arranged marriage. He ended up in a village full of widows, and later ‘adopted’ Dong Ju, the female lead, as his daughter. 

It’s a sweet and fluffy romance-comedy for a good 10 episodes before we get into birth secrets, revenge, and political schemes. The drama actually follows its source material to the tee, from funny elements to Dong Ju’s iconic bob cut. But it did deliver a surprise: the appearance of a charming second male lead, who had a history with the female lead. 

Thanks to this addition, viewers get to see the classic K-drama love triangle and even an on-screen male-male kiss as the protagonist tries to convince people he’s a girl. 

 9. True Beauty 

In the 2020 K-drama ‘True Beauty’, 18-year-old high school student Im Jookyung learns to improve her life using the art of makeup. She later gets tangled in a love triangle with the school prince - Suho, and his former best friend Seojun. 

After all the ups and downs, she became Suho’s girlfriend, only for him to break up with her as he had to leave the country. Two years later, Suho’s back, Seojun is still in love with Jookyung but decides to sacrifice his feelings and play love guru for the main couple. An ending that leaves a vast majority of the audience crying over second lead syndrome. 

All of these did not happen in the original webtoon though, minus Suho leaving. Suho and Jookyung actually never got together, and during the time he was away, Jookyung became close friends with Seojun. 

They eventually fell in love and got into a relationship with each other! Compared to the drama version, the webtoon is still ongoing, but at least there are fair chances for both team Suho and team Seojun. 

8. Sungkyunkwan Scandal 

This 2010 classic has the female lead Yoonhee pretending to be a boy and enrolling in the prestigious school Sungkyunkwan of Ancient Korea. There, she got close to three eccentric schoolmates, and they together formed the “Jalgeum Quartet'', which is basically a historical F4. 

The series is full of forbidden romance, bromance, innocent gestures and protection, a grand gender reveal, and political dramas in the later half. As things conclude, the quartet has managed to defeat the bad guys, assist the king, and separate to go on different paths. A sweet and wholesome ending after the many events they went through. 

The original novel though, is much lighter: there is little drama outside of school and it is rated 18 plus, for a good reason. Instead of separating, our heroes became politicians together and the final chapter ended with a wedding. 

There’s also good news for fans of the bromance between the second lead Jaeshin and his friend Yongha: in the novel, Yongha is much more frank about his romantic feelings, basically declaring them outright with no hesitation. 

7. 18 Again 

Adapted from the American movie ‘17 Again’, ‘18 again’ retains the gist of the story: a man quit his dream to support his pregnant girlfriend, but as life grew tough, he wished to remake his life. He is thrusted back into his teenage body, attends the same school with his kids, and finally realizes that family is still the most precious to him. 

Extending a 2-hour movie into a 16-episode series means a lot of additional scenes, and ‘18 Again’ is no exception. Instead of focusing solely on the male lead, the drama series also introduces the stories of his wife, daughter, and son, showcasing their struggles and challenges. 

There are also brand new characters: from the kind second lead, the gamer teacher, to the sweet childhood friend of the daughter. The most shocking difference though, is that in the original movie, the main character actually shared a kiss with his own daughter, who is very interested in some sexy times. 

6. Moon Lovers 

Based on the famous Chinese novel ‘Scarlet Heart’, the Korean version ‘Moon lovers’ features a strong cast: from Lee Junki to IU and EXO’s Baekhyun. In the drama, we are following a modern woman who is transported back in time. 

She wakes up in the body of Lady Hae Soo and finds herself tangled with some of the ruling princes of the time. While the drama retains most of the original plot and even one of the most iconic scenes, there are some noticeable differences. 

The drama Wang So is much more violent and harsh compared to the source material. His scar and the iconic mask were also additional details that never existed, and he was never feared for his appearance. The heartbreaking deaths of the 10th prince Wang Eun and his lover Soon Deok also never happened in the original. In fact, they are happily married and the only couple in the series to have a happy end. 

5. Liar Game

This time, Korea takes Liar Game on the challenge of adapting the famous long-run manga ‘Liar Game’ into a TV series. Starring naive university student Dajung, the drama has her enter a survival game where competitors have to trick each other to win the hefty prize money. 

Right from the get-go, we can spot huge differences: the original male lead is not an ex-criminal like in the drama, there was no hidden camera audition, and instead, our female lead was just sent straight into the game. The drama ‘Liar Game’ was also broadcast on public television, while the original game was an illegal underground survival with much higher stakes. 

Even the second lead was originally not in play: there were only masked hosts in the manga. The final distinction was in the grand finale: As the drama characters found their lives actually endangered and guns were drawn, the manga characters discovered that all the threats they received were fake, and it was ‘just an experiment’ all along. 

4. Cheese in the Trap 

Just like the original webtoon, the 2016 K-drama ‘Cheese in the Trap” follows the hard-working university student Hong Seol and her seemingly kind upperclassmen Yoo Jung. As she discovered Jung’s real face, however, her life grew more miserable, and she had to take time off school, only to come back to a completely different Jung and his complicated past. 

While characters in the drama seem to be taken straight out of the webtoon with accurate hairstyles, fashions, and brilliant acting, we can’t say the same about the plot. The drama’s sequence of events is all switched up: past events are brought to the current timeline, Seol and Jung start dating way earlier compared to the original, the second lead Inho is given more spotlight, and the list goes on. 

But the most noticeable change lies in how the drama ends. In the drama, Seol and Jung broke up, and despite Seol sending him emails for years, he never responded until the very final scene. This is a huge contrast to the sweet webtoon ending, where we get to see Seol in Jung’s arms at her graduation ceremony. 

3. Mr. Queen

Inspired by the Chinese novel ‘Go Princess Go’ and later the famous Chinese web drama of the same name, Mr. Queen attained extreme popularity with its witty plot and charming characters. But compared to the original, Mr. Queen was a completely new story: the only similarity is the basic idea that a modern man was forced into a woman’s body, and found himself married to another man. 

In the drama, the female lead is a professional chef in the present and continuously uses her cooking skills to her advantage. But in the novel, such a skill was never mentioned. She was also not married to the king, but to the crowned prince, and the lead’s goal was never to defeat two evil queens, but to ascend to the throne. 

The differences are endless, from characters to major plot events, but the most significant is the ending. Mr. Queen ends on a controversial note, with the female lead being sent back to her male body in the present day. 

However, in the original novel, she stays, and has multiple children with the male lead, living ‘happily ever after’. The Chinese web drama version even went further with three original endings, so if you are interested, check them out and find your favorite. 

2. Sweet Home 

In the Netflix adaptation of Sweet Home popular Korean webtoon ‘Sweet Home’, the audience gets to see Song Kang and Lee Do Hyun on the same small screen. Like its source material, ‘Sweet Home’ revolves around Cha Hyunsoo, a high school student who moves to a new apartment after his family is killed in an accident.

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He finds himself in the middle of an apocalypse soon after, with infected people becoming monsters and going on murder rampages. Compared to the webtoon, the drama switched quite a few things up. First, we have a new main character - the former firefighter Yikyung, who actually never appeared in the comic. 

The original female lead Jisoo now only serves a supporting role, and the entire reason why Hyunsoo was able to resist the monster went completely unmentioned. While the drama mostly focused on monster fighting, the webtoon dug deeper into human relationships, each of the character’s past, their motives, and the actual cause of the apocalypse. 

We also have a different ending: in the drama, the military arrives and carts away the survivors, while Hyunsoo is on the run with another half-monster. The webtoon meanwhile introduces two endings: one where Song Kang and Do Hyun’s characters die together, and another where they both survive in a military camp. The webtoon also explained the meaning of the name ‘Sweet Home’, so if you are curious, give it a read. 

1. Kingdom

This Netflix original series has taken the world by storm with its signature twist, that is: putting zombies in a historical setting. In the drama, we follow crowned prince Lee Chang, who is trying to investigate his father’s mysterious illness. He ended up encountering a zombie outbreak as well as a political plot. 

The prince also found an ally in Yeong Shin, a tiger hunter who was among the first to discover the zombies. But little do people know, this masterpiece was actually based on a webcomic called ‘The Kingdom of the Gods”, which was written by the screenwriter herself. 

In the original comic, we still have a prince and his companion. However, the prince is a literal child, and his buddy is a blind and buffy bandit. There was also not much political drama nor strategies involved, for the comic was all about brute force and artful martial arts. 

In fact, ‘Kingdom’ differs from its source material so much, that many viewers even said they are two whole different stories, just set in the same world. 

Wrapping Up

So, did any of the differences surprise you? Do you prefer the drama version or the originals? Just comment down below.


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