For almost a decade, South Korean content has dominated streaming platforms. K-dramas already enjoy an established appeal and a strong international fan base, and the industry has subsequently ventured into top-notch thrillers and suspenses.

Recently, streaming platforms including Netflix are heavily influenced by survival K-dramas that stand out in terms of content, visualization, story, and execution. The unprecedented success of Squid Game has propelled every K-drama in the post-apocalyptic, zombie invasion or survival genre onto every viewer’s viewing list.

Squid Games

These K-dramas are so intense and gripping that audiences can’t help but imagine themselves fleeing a monster outbreak or a waterless dystopian future. While there is no shortage of survival-themed films and K-dramas, there are a few that are so good that they will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

From fighting an alien invasion as a high school student to facing zombies in historical times, here are the best survival K-dramas:

1- D-Day


D-Day is a very different survival series that sticks closer to reality than others. It tackles serious themes and captures the true meaning of what it is to fight for survival. In this intense medical/disaster K-drama, the city of Seoul is hit by a horrifying earthquake that leaves the city nearly devastated. In the wake of such a disaster, the only people the victims can count on are the group of courageous doctors and relief workers who find themselves thrust into a chaotic situation.

D-Day isn’t about people fighting over a can or condemning someone because they might be infected. The K-drama offers an authentic portrayal of the fear and uncertainty a society experiences when a calamity strikes. Such incidents naturally awaken the human survival instinct and that is one of the things this show captures perfectly.

2- Hellbound

Netflix's Upcoming Thriller Drama Hellbound Is Rated "For Adults" in South Korea

Hellbound stands out for its divergence from the typical enemies that torment people in a survival K-drama. Instead of virus outbreaks and apocalyptic events, Hellbound is about delivering convictions. When a seemingly ordinary world suddenly transforms into a literal hell where judgment is pronounced, there is nothing anyone can do or trust when death is imminent. An angel suddenly appears in bustling South Korea and begins condemning individuals based on prophecies called decrees.

Hellbound impressively launches the idea that it’s not just apocalyptic events that bring out the worst in people, but sometimes also the fear of judgment. These events cause people to reflect on what they have done with their lives and find ways to survive a death sentence. Hellbound delivers everything a gripping survival K-drama can offer, from thrilling twists and turns to a stunning conclusion.

3- Dark Hole

10 of the Best Survival K-dramas K-Selection

Dark Hole is an underrated survival K-drama that is somewhat reminiscent of the plot of Sweet Home. It follows the struggles of a group of survivors trying to escape the monstrous effects of a mysterious dark fog. These people’s lives were turned upside down when black smoke coming from a sinkhole at the chemical plant transformed humans into mutants. It’s a classic survival story that would take viewers on a thrilling journey and bet against the odds as to which character will stand out until the end.

There’s nothing too grandiose about Dark Hole, but it’s a story that stays true to the survival theme and elements. It is a thought-provoking show that would make the audience question their moral values ​​and feel what it feels like to sink into a darkness that may have always been present within.

4- Liar Game

10 of the Best Survival K-dramas K-Selection

Liar Game is the Korean adaptation of a Japanese manga of the same name that explores strong themes such as trust, survival and deception. It tells the thrilling story of an innocent student accumulating debt who is selected to participate in a mysterious psychological survival game. Contestants are chosen via a hidden camera audition and must fool other players to win the grand prize of over $9 million. The concept might be reminiscent of Squid Game, but the series deals more with psychological themes, including a fiery romance.

Liar Game successfully captures the true essence of a thrilling survival series through a solid storyline and good character development. It’s an underrated gem that delves into phenomenal mind games that will captivate viewers. It’s the kind of TV show where if the audience blinks, they might miss critical details and clues leading to confusing plot twists.

5- Duty After School

10 of the Best Survival K-dramas K-Selection

Survival K-dramas centered around high schools have a charm all their own, and that’s why most of these K-dramas work, provided they have a strong cast and a well-crafted story. Duty After School hasn’t generated as much excitement as All Of Us Are Dead, but it works with the same dynamics, and instead of zombies, the school’s students have to face aliens. When the nation is mysteriously faced with a deadly alien invasion, the South Korean military has no choice but to turn to the youth.

Overwhelmed by the ongoing invasion, the government decided to train high school seniors to help the army. As bizarre and wacky as the plot may seem, the series does justice to the survival genre with a touch of dark humor. The characters do a fantastic job of capturing the mood of the end of the world, including the essence of youth and friendship.


10 of the Best Survival K-dramas K-Selection

Kingdom was the survival K-drama that started the trend of survival shows, but with a very different setting. Instead of being based in a bustling residential society or high school, Kingdom has a solid historical context that works surprisingly well with the zombie apocalypse subplot. Adapted from a webtoon, Kingdom tells the thrilling story of a Joseon-era kingdom where a king suddenly falls ill and a rumor spreads that it’s because of smallpox.

However, when an enthusiastic crown prince attempts to unravel the mystery, he discovers that his kingdom is in the middle of a deadly monster outbreak that fits the term “zombie” in modern times. Kingdom is an exceptionally clever take on the zombie survival theme and does the trope justice without relying too heavily on clichés. Since zombies have been used in almost every sense and context, Kingdom offers something much more refined and unique.

7- Happiness

10 of the Best Survival K-dramas K-Selection

Love rarely flourishes when survival is the only thing that matters. Happiness is another K-drama about a zombie outbreak that addresses the difficulties of being stuck in a swanky residential building while the world outside descends into chaos. However, one of the best aspects of Happiness that sets it apart is its heartfelt love story that manages to balance the angst of the apocalyptic event.

The protagonists are young and determined individuals, especially the main heroine, which makes this survival K-drama interesting. The show has just the right amount of emotion, chaos and suspense, with a plot that isn’t too far-fetched but strikes a perfect balance between logic and fiction. Happiness is an original K-drama that explores the conflicts of the apartment building’s residents and how an emergency situation affects the human moral compass.

8- The Silent Sea

The Silent Sea

The Silent Sea will give audiences chills in its depiction of a world without water. Imagining surviving in a world where water is a very precious resource can put anyone into survival mode. As each person in this series attempts to survive the repercussions of dwindling water resources, the story primarily focuses on the crew of a space mission tasked with retrieving information and samples from a research facility on the moon.

The Silent Sea is a thrilling, suspenseful K-drama and promises to be a gripping sci-fi K-drama. Viewers can never really guess what’s happening until the final episode, and this perilous journey from the unknown to the known is one of the best things about the show. It may not be seen as a typical survival K-drama, but the show is all about surviving human extinction and doing whatever it takes to stop it.

9- Sweet Home

sweet home netflix

Rather than presenting zombies devouring humans for no reason, Sweet Home decides to take a step forward by introducing monsters. Drawing inspiration from all the clichés of survival stories, Sweet Home adds original ideas and concepts to offer viewers a supercharged, adrenaline-infused K-drama. When a troubled teenager moves into a dilapidated apartment building, he is confronted with the most terrifying horror threatening not only his life, but also the humanity of every individual in the country.

Sweet Home benefits from a wonderful pace where the series never dumps all the information at once, but slowly reveals the twists and turns, while maintaining the intensity through human reactions. The show not only offers fans a good survival-themed plot, but deeply explores despair, selfishness, and how far humans can go to survive without giving in to their monstrous nature.

10- All of Us Are Dead

All of Us Are Dead netflix release

There is no shortage of zombie outbreaks and post-apocalyptic stories about surviving a zombie virus in South Korean industry. The genre is so saturated that it’s hard for audiences to feel excitement because every story follows the same formulaic trend for a commercially successful show. However, All of Us Are Dead surprised audiences by not only redefining the zombie outbreak trope, but also infusing the story with intense drama, emotion, and cliffhangers. The carefree students of an average high school never imagined that a simple day at school could turn into their worst nightmare.

A deadly zombie virus spreads from a suspicious teacher’s science lab to the entire school, then eventually to the entire district. In their attempt to survive, these young souls face brutal realities, from experiencing the consequences of survival to seeing their friends devoured by insatiable hunger. All of Us Are Dead is the ultimate survival show that thrives on its ability to play on multiple themes with big plot twists.