Korean Drama: Overview

Korean Drama: Overview

The following is close to order of viewing, rather than a favorites list.

Light Spoilers!

First Shop of Coffee Prince – My very first k-drama, which influences my unabashed affection, but not much.  Sexy and sensitive – nothing daring, but a fun and genuine romance that stands the test of time.  Gong Yoo!

Secret Garden– A K-drama classic, with a beautiful aesthetic, lively supporting characters, and scenes that will stick with you forever.  Silly, but such a fun watch, and rewatch, and rewatch!


Fated to Love You (Korean version) Hard to get beyond painful misunderstandings at first, but these characters stretched my heart.


Greatest Love (Best Love)– One of my favorite Korean actors Cha Seung Won at his most captivating, and a perfect pairing with Gong Hyo Jin playing scandalous “b level celebrity”, Au Jung.

Compassionate, absurd, deeply sweet.  This is my cure all.

its okay thats love

It’s Okay That’s Love– Serious themes handled well, multi-dimensional characters, and an enviable dynamic in a shared house… a viable non-conventional family.

Compassionate. Cathartic.

See: It’s Okay

 My Love from the Star (You from Another Star) – Dances fine lines almost perfectly, keeping metaphors believable within context. Heads up to stay tuned at the end of each episode, for video diary clips.


Blade Man (see: Blade Man (and The Bodhisattva)– This would have been at the top for me, except that it was cut short just after he plot flattened and frazzled.  HOWEVER, there area few astounding moments.



screenshotSecret Love Affair– Quite different tone from others on this list, serious and carried by classical piano. I was moved by the plot’s circumstance: the rare encounter between those who share refined talent –  so precious it is possible to give permission for such a bond to overtake age and status differences… even other relationships.  Yoo Ah In – wow.




Discovery of LoveDiscovery of Love is about conflicting loyalties and affections, so it can be a difficult watch at times.  Yet, in thoughtful, worthwhile ways.

One of my favorite lines from any drama:

> line spoiler ahead <

“I was also surprised, that this kind of heart came out of me.”         (photo from AsianWiki)



Misaeng (Incomplete Life)– For me, Misaeng was perfect… relentless in unearthing the intricate struggles of ordinary life.  It was about ethics, without doing the right thing having fix-everything magic qualities.  This show, these actors, exceeded all my expectations every single episode.  *If You See Just One This Is It


Flower Boy Next Door I related to this lead character – a reclusive copy editor ridden with anxiety, who writes, rather than speaking her thoughts.  Lead male is over the top in an irresistible way.  Cute.


Que Sera Sera Started, stalled, then immersed over a long weekend. Very serious plot line and characters that somehow didn’t drag it down at all.  A very nice surprise.


Healer– Solid, with fantastic characters, many surprising lines.  My favorite ahjumma Kim Mi Kyung in a cool hacker role.  Vivid back story and the purest romantic chemistry between ever-twinkly Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young.  Very little second arrow suffering. I’m likely to recommend Healer as a first drama.


*** Valid Love– (Stand alone post: Valid Love ) hot hands

Strange, unexpectedly reaching into deep places, undoing defenses. Every line rich with subtext. Valid Love is a category of its own for me.


Deep Rooted Tree Jang Hyuk, Lee Soo Hyuk, Shin Se-Kyung. I liked the puzzles aspect especially, along with clever twists of dialog.  “Vivid Bliss” was one delectable phrase.



Hwajeong (Splendid Politics, Glamorous Politics) – A wide-ranging part for Cha Seung Won: Hamlet-like, yet, once he is gone the story struggles. The vacuum is unavoidable.  This is the only CSW drama that, as a big fan, I would call skippable, but I enjoyed these commentaries about it:



My Beautiful Bride Intense and well restrained, gruesome yet, subtle?  A love story that permeates everything while staying in the background.  Kim Moo-Yul’s containment is an unlikely-yet-perfect vehicle for his character’s deep devotion.  My favorite song of the year as well, Days and Moons.



Heard it Through the GrapevineFascinatingly slow tone.  What I loved even more than the story and characters was the peculiar aesthetic imparted – so dry and haunting that, although not a horror or ghost story, the ghostly feel (especially of the amazing house itself) lingered.


Flowers for my Life Slow, dated, but warm, with an interesting premise. Funeral home backdrop, so a few similar themes to the Japanese film Departures, but drawn out. I thought too much so.


My Love Eun Dong– Tortuously romantic.  Ju Jin-Mo got under my skin.  Half of the drama took place in his expressions.  A story unfolding the layered dilemmas and emotions of an affair, without one.


Warrior King Baek Dong Soo Great. The first episode was a little too intense for me, but quickly found course with deeply sentimental, fleshed out characters. Ji Chang Wook!



choi siwon

She Was PrettyThe energy and warmth of characters, the girls’ friendship, Shin Hyuk’s smile and playfulness, and the genuine doubt about what I wished for the finish.  Leads were cast due to chemistry in another drama where they played siblings (Kill Me Heal Me), but chemistry shifted to second lead here too.  Nicely followed up with Jona’s fan fiction, Thank You for Hesitating.


Heartless City (Cruel City) Writer from My Beautiful Bride, lead actor from Falling in Love with Sung Joon.  Heartless City has a distinct flavor, not so much about anti-hero but the heartbreak and/of awakening.


My Lovely Kim Sam Soon What this writer gets so well, is love’s complexity, how it rarely ends or begins in neat and sensible ways… how love for one doesn’t prevent love for another. Impossible crossroads.




I was bothered during my first viewing, by continual references to Sam Soon’s weight, because I see a woman who is tall and fit, just not 22 years old. Upon second viewing, I was able to immerse more in the character as written. It is something I usually appreciate about the k-drama world, that female leads are not always the norm nor does beauty make her, herself.


Bang WonSix Flying Dragons (full posts here: Flying Dragons ,  Six Flying Dragons, Ends) – A wonder of a show, plain and simple.  Fifty episodes were not enough.  The experience was made much richer by an excellent Tumblr blogger, bodashiri, who took the time to parse apart history from poetic license.  Dramabeans recaps were excellent, as were commenters on the site.   SFD is the ‘prequel, sort of’ to Tree with Deep Roots, but stands alone as the best sageuk I have seen, and one of the best dramas, period.




Reply 1998Nearly pitch perfect, filled with nearly everything Ireply1988 love about Korean drama, and the Reply series (Reply 1997, Reply 1994) specifically: endearing, flawed characters who show concern for one another in novel ways.  I loved growing up in this neighborhood with these people, and had zero qualms with the ending because I never felt owed one outcome or another.




Cheese in the Trap – This needs more than the space given here, and I did join hundreds of others in writing stand-alone posts for this drama (See: Trapped), but with distance, I changed my mind about whether to recommend it, deciding that in spite of its squandered wrecked potential, I would.  What is right, especially with Seol’s basic character and the couple’s journey toward understanding, is way too right to miss.Updated 10.24.2016 – I also wrote a re-watch – several posts that can now be found in a Cheese in the Trap stand alone category:   https://fortheloveofnothingprofound.wordpress.com/category/cheese-in-the-trap/     

(bottom to top)




Oh Hae Young Again– By the time OHYA came to air I had sampled several new dramas, but none had been able to touch my heart.  Oh Hae Young Again, with its outlandish suppOHYAorting cast and rich metaphors, was great refreshment.  Eric has never disappointed me, not in Que Sera Sera nor Discovery of Romance, and Seo Hyun-Jin was perfect for the unique character of ‘just’ Oh Hae Young.


Kill Me Heal Me

Masters Sun




Dear My Friends – Not an easy watch, but very worthwhile.


The Good WifeThe Good Wife managed to capture the tone and ambiguity of the US original in only 16 episodes.  Somehow the actors were even more smoldery, which may be because Korean television tends to be restrained, so there is automatic underlying tension.  Or was it because Jeon Do Yeon, Yoo Ji Tae, and Yoon Kye Sang are just especially smoldery actors?  Even though the script itself offered little in the way of surprises, it was an impressive adaptation.



(It was difficult to find perfect and complimentary photos of all three; this one is from a site called generaleshop. I’m not sure where they found it though!)



Twenty Again — I loved the way the writers took time with the dawning realizations of most characters so that changes were full and mature rather than mere phases they go through.  I felt humbled by this drama somehow; just because one’s life work is not valued, does not mean it is not valuable.  On the whole it displayed a deep understanding of the restlessness felt when life seems half-smothered by a primary role at the forefront of others’ views.


Because This is My First Life This was my favorite drama of 2017, so I should come back and write more about it! 



Stranger (Forest of Secrets)



Seven Days Queen

Chicago Typewriter

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