Sometimes the most romantic OTPs can be found in K-dramas you didn’t expect at all – a.k.a. non-romance series. These characters weren’t even tagged as a “couple” and the series’ focus isn’t even their relationship. But for some reason, romantic sparks fly all around them whenever they are in one frame. And even if some are non-canonical ships, the on-screen magic is undeniable that fans can’t help but root for them (even if that means they had to resort to transformative works instead).
Before the heart’s month ends, let me list down all swoony K-drama pairings in a non-romance series.
All of us are Dead: Choi Nam-ra (Choi Yi-hyun) and Lee Su-hyeok (Lomon) / Nam On-jo (Park Ji-hu) and Lee Cheong-san (Yoon Chang-young)
Genre: Zombie apocalypse
Picture this: Aloof class president Nam-ra and former school delinquent Su-hyeok kissed by the classroom window. Swoony, isn’t it? But there’s a catch, zombies are actually outside the classroom waiting to eat them. But that doesn’t taint all the NamHyeok moments that become romance relief to this fast-paced thriller series.
All of us are found dead too in giddiness when On-jo and Cheong-san finally shared their first kiss… in a middle of a zombie chase but still, it was one for the books.
Prison Playbook: Kim Je-hyuk (Park Hae-soo) and Kim Ji-ho (Krystal Jung) / Lee Jun-ho (Jung Kyung-ho) and Kim Je-hee (Im Hwa-young)
Genre: Dark Comedy
The flashback scenes on Je-hyuk and Ji-ho’s love story is bittersweet because the couple really suit each other. The unexpected plot twist on Je-hyuk’s life tested them and put a pause on their romance but all’s well that ends well for this couple that do deserve a happy ending.
If Je-hyuk’s sudden imprisonment affected his love life, it was also the same with his best friend Jun-ho in a positive way. As Je-hyuk’s trusted person, Jun-ho took it upon himself to take care of Je-hyuk’s sister, Je-hee, which turned into a secret (and very cute) romance between them.
Flower of Evil: Do Hyun-soo (Lee Joon-gi) and Cha Ji-won (Moon Chae-won)
Genre: Suspense melodrama
Lee Joon-gi and Moon Chae-won have explosive chemistry in their other non-romance series Criminal Minds. So when they reunited, I cheered in joy because they’re finally a married couple here. The twist though is that their characters’ relationship is marred by secrets and past crimes. Their scenes together, however, could still rival that of couples in romance series.
Vincenzo: Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joong-ki) and Hong Cha-young (Jeon Yeo-been)
Genre: Dark Comedy
Throughout the series’ run, Vincenzo and Cha-young were busy fighting a psycho chaebol and his minions. And somehow, despite the obvious progression in their relationship, I thought these two wouldn’t have a happy ending. Thankfully K-drama deities didn’t waste their chemistry and decided they deserve each other.
Nokdu Flower: Baek Yi-kang (Cho Jung-seok) and Song Ja-in (Han Ye-ri)
Genre: Historical drama
Given that the story was set in the late 1800s, it wasn’t at all surprising that the relationship of Yi Kang and Ja-in was doomed from the start. The Japanese invasion, the current class system, and all other external factors kept this pair from having their peace but that’s what makes their love story epic and unforgettable.
If all the other pairings in this list became canon, the last two pairs are – very, unfortunately – did not become romantically canon but still, they are pairs worth mentioning.
Stranger: Hwang Si-mok (Cho Seung-woo) and Han Yeo-jin (Bae Doo-na)
Genre: Crime Thriller
Si-mok and Yeo-jin’s relationship is as complex as the cases they handle. It’s layered like the series’ story. Si-mok and Yeo-jin understand each other in a way no one else can. Whether there was romantic feelings involved remains unclear. What’s clear though is that these characters do bring the best out of each other.
Law School: Han Joon-hwi (Kim Bum) and Kang Sol (Ryu Hye-young)
Genre: Legal drama
What’s up with juridical dramas that churn out swoony couples here and there without making them canon? Joon-hwi and Sol are also victims of “we could have been a great slow-burn romance but we didn’t become official” like Si-mok and Yeo-jin. They could have just put a one-minute scene just to confirm all the crumbs/hints we’ve picked up from the first episode to the last. But alas, maybe in a parallel universe (or another K-drama, perhaps?) we’ll see these non-canon pairings get their deserving canon stamp.