Studying Korean through Dramas without Subs

I’ll admit it, I am not a big drama fan. Although my first exposure to Korean culture was through watching Full House back in 2006, I think I’ve only gotten through 3 or 4 dramas from start to finish since then. I really prefer watching films or variety shows (I am addicted to Running Man!!). But since megaupload was taken down, it’s gotten harder to find films for download. And watching variety shows to learn Korean isn’t ideal because they always caption what people are saying… this makes it way easier to understand but also makes me reliant on that crutch, which isn’t helpful since in real life Koreans don’t have subtitles underneath them when they talk. Unfortunately. 😦

So since I wanted to improve my aural comprehension, I decided to attempt to start watching a drama again. I knew I wouldn’t be able to understand everything, so I planned to watch the drama without any subs once and then consult a Korean transcript or Korean subs to look up the parts I didn’t catch.

But finding those transcripts or subtitles was difficult… I tweeted TTMIK and asked if they knew where students could find Korean subtitles for Korean dramas, and they kindly RTed my tweet. I got A LOT of replies from fellow learners. Unfortunately they had all misread my tweet and assumed that I was looking for English subtitles and therefore linked me to streaming sites. I appreciated their help, but I definitely needed Korean subs.

After some more searching, I had only come up with dead links that had promised scripts or hangeul subtitles. Once again, the death of megaupload was foiling my plans. But then I stumbled upon SBS’s Video on Demand site. They have hundreds of current and former SBS dramas, and while you can’t watch them without registering and paying for membership, you can access their transcripts for free!

To find the transcript for the drama you’re watching:

1. Go to the SBS VoD site.

2. If the drama is recent, it will show up under the 최신순 category on the home page. If it’s not, click on the 가나다순 tab to find it through an alphabetical search.


3. Once you click on the drama, it will take you to the video player page. Note that you won’t be able to watch the video unless you pay for membership. But this is where you get the transcript! In the box on the right side of the player, there are two tabs at the top. The second is 자막 보기. Click that, and you’ll get all the dialogue from the drama! Great, right?

4. To watch the drama, I’d suggest downloading a raw file or using a site like Viki is awesome because not only does it allow users to create and share subtitles in various languages, it also gives you the option of having no subs at all! Most videos don’t have Korean subtitles (or only have say 10% of it subbed in Korean), but you don’t need them now that you have the transcript, right? 🙂

Sadly, although MBC also has VoD services, you can’t get the transcripts for free. I’m not even sure if there are subtitles or transcripts included in the purchase of each episode. KBS has a VoD site as well, but it requires a Korean SIN number or a foreign passport number to sign up, so unless you’re willing to enter your passport to check it out, it’s not an option either. But SBS has plenty of great dramas!!


I’ve been watching 내 여자친구는 구미호 (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho) this way for the past few days, and really enjoying it. If you’re just starting out with dramas, and are like me and don’t enjoy melodramatic or overly romantic storylines, I’d highly suggest dramas written by the Hong sisters. They’re always funny and don’t take the romance part too seriously!

I hope I can keep this up and actually make it through to the end of this drama! ^^

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One thought on “Studying Korean through Dramas without Subs

  1. Lawton says:

    seriously, thank you immensely for this. i’ve been looking for transcripts to korean dramas for ages. this is going to be such a huge help. again, huge thanks!

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