Boys Over Flowers, Plus 5 More Reverse Harem Dramas
Boys Over Flowers started a trend of reverse harem dramas that continues to impact Korean dramas today. In Korea, many of these reverse harem dramas include “Flower Boy” in the title, after the titular F4 in Boys Over Flowers.
Not all reverse harem dramas have a female lead, but all of them have a swoon-worthy ensemble cast of men that highlight their friendships and rivalries.
Boys Over Flowers (2009)
Like many people, the 2009 drama Boys Over Flowers was my first Korean drama. I lived in Japan in the early 2000s and became addicted to Japanese dramas. After watching Hana Yori Dango, I watched Meteor Garden. I heard there was a Korean version airing, and my love of Korean dramas was born.
Hardworking Geum Jan Di (Gu Hye Seon) saves a student from suicide at the affluent Shinhwa High School and receives a swimming scholarship. A group of boys called F4, or Flower Boys 4, rules the school through bullying and intimidation. F4 targets Geum Jan Di for being from a poor family and unwilling to appease them as the school rulers. The leader of F4, Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho of The King: Eternal Monarch) develops feelings for Geum Jan Di but doesn’t know how to show his feelings.
Soap opera reverse harem dramas waned, but Boys Over Flowers left an indelible imprint on future Korean dramas. The following dramas all bear some inspiration from Boys Over Flowers in some way.
The manager of successful Kpop group A.N.Jell seeks out a timid nun-in-training named Mi Nyu (Park Shin Hye of The Heirs and Doctors) to pose as her injured twin brother in the group for one month. Mi Nyu only agrees because she believes her brother becoming famous can help them find their parents. The other members of A.N.Jell believe Mi Nyu is male, but group center Hwang Tae Kyung (Jang Geun Suk) dislikes her immediately and soon discovers her secret. Other groupmates Kang Shin Woo (Jung Yong Hwa) and Jeremy (Lee Hong Gi) welcome her. Once everyone discovers her secret, can Mi Nyu stay long enough to protect her brother’s spot in the group and find her mother?
You’re Beautiful inspired two remakes in Japan (Ikemen Desu Ne) and Taiwan (Fabulous Boys) due to its popularity in Korea.
Watch You’re Beautiful on Viki.
Shut Up! Flower Boy Band
A high school rock band deals with music, school, friendship, romance, and the insatiable desire to be famous. When their high school closes, the band Eye Candy must deal with a new school and a rival band. Free-spirited leader and vocalist Joo Byung Hee (Lee Min Ki) and his band-mates Kwon Ji Hyuk (Sung Joon), Lee Hyun Soo (L), Jang Do Il (Lee Hyun Jae), Kim Ha Jin (Yoo Min Kyu), and Seo Kyung Jong (Kim Min Seok) consider not going to school anymore in pursuit of fame. When the rivalry with the other band goes too far, will Eye Candy continue to follow their dreams?
Shut Up! Flower Boy Band is an emotional flower boy melodrama with a cult following. Lee Min Ki gives a notable performance, but it’s the relationships between all the band members that makes this drama memorable.
Watch Shut Up! Flower Boy Band on Dailymotion.
Flower Boy Next Door
A shut-in named Go Dok Mi (Park Shin Hye) works as a freelance copy editor. She spies on the neighbors using binoculars. Webtoon writer Oh Jin Rok (Kim Ji Hoon) has a crush on Dok Mi and leaves her milk every day. He writes a webtoon called Flower Boy Next Door with his drawing partner Oh Dong Hoon (Go Kyung Pyo) about Dok Mi and his relationship with her. When a lively creative director named Enrique Geum (Yoon Shi Yoon) moves onto the floor, he catches Dok Mi spying on the neighbors and decides to draw her out of her shell.
Flower Boy Next Door avoids the arrogant male lead trope, which makes it unusual in this genre. Yoon Shi Yoon really stands out for his energetic portrayal of Enrique. One of the romances between the second leads is also especially sweet.
Watch Flower Boy Next Door on Viki.
Sungkyunkwan Scandal is one of my top 5 dramas of all time. I think it’s one of the best reverse harem dramas that you can watch. Kim Yoon Hee, a poor woman who dresses as a man (Park Min Young of What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim and Her Private Life) writes essays for scholars at Sungkyunkwan University where women are not allowed.
After being coerced into taking the entrance exam under her sick brother’s name, her essay is noticed and she becomes a student to gain financial support. She is assigned to a room with a scholarly high-born son (Park Yoo Chun) and a mysterious student who never participates (Yoo Ah In). Song Yoong Ki gives a memorable performance as the mischievous scholar who recognizes Yoon Hee for what she is. The group encounters a government conspiracy while Yoon Hee tries to keep from being discovered as a woman and falling in love with one of her roommates.
Where Sungkyunkwan Scandal on Viki.
Cinderella and the Four Knights
One of the more modern reverse harem dramas, Cinderella and the Four Knights remains popular on streaming platforms as it appeals to viewers of all ages. Park So Dam plays Eun Ha Won, a high school student whose family treats her poorly. She accepts a position as a butler from a company chairman to manage his three spoiled grandsons. Ji Woon (Jung Il Woo) maintains a tough guy act, Hyun Min (Ahn Jae Hyun) is a playboy, and Seo Woo (Lee Jung Shin) wants to be a musician. The three cousins don’t get along and Ha Won rises to the challenge of reforming them and maybe falling in love with one.
Other Reverse Harem Korean Dramas
To the Beautiful You
A remake of Japanese manga and drama Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, To the Beautiful You stars Sulli as a Korean-American who sees a Korean track star (Lee Hyun Woo) and transfers to his school in Korea to be near him.
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Goryeo
This drama is so popular that it continues to have a cult following. A woman (IU) is transported to the past during an eclipse and wakes up as a member of the royal household. She becomes enmeshed in royal politics while two princes fall in love with her: haughty Prince Wang So (Lee Joon Gi) and gentle Wang Wook (Kang Ha Neul).
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Georyeo is on our our list of 30 Idol Dramas to Binge Watch.
A group of beautiful young men are chosen from various factions as an elite fighting force of warrior poets in the hope that they will unify the power of a fragile regentship. An impressive cast heads Hwarang, including Park Seo Joon, Go Ara, Jo Yoon Woo, Do Ji Han, rapper Minho, and BTS’ V.
Hwarang is on our list of 30 Idol Dramas to Binge Watch.