We’ve had a wonderful year of K-dramas in 2017, with solid entries in varying genres. There were strong female leads to root for, romantic male leads to swoon over, vulnerable villains to love-hate, fantastical stories to captivate us, and beautiful cinematography to ogle at.
So in an attempt to honor all these dramas that have accompanied us through the year, that have been with us through thick and thin; that have comforted us during hard times or just put us in another world for a few hours, I give you a superlative style round up.
This list (in no particular order) is more fun than authoritative, and aims to spread the love and include as many dramas as possible. So feel free to nominate your own dramas in the comments below!
Minor spoilers ahead!
Most relatable drama
Everything about this drama is just so relatable! The workplace struggles of being pressured to compromise, or the financial struggles that ring true to those of us in our 20s and 30s. The message from Episode 1 has stuck with me even now – it’s okay to make mistakes, because “this life is everyone’s first.”
Catch the first episode of “Because This Is My First Life”:
Most bone-chilling villain
I started watching “Defendant” for Ji Sung, and fell in love with it immediately. Other than the thrilling and engaging storyline, another factor for its success are its actors, with Uhm Ki Joon’s portrayal of villainous character, Cha Min Ho, deserving much of the praise. Min Ho is complex, calculative, manipulative, and with a hint of insanity, which makes him all the more deadly.
Uhm Ki Joon as Cha Min Ho in “Defendant”
Catch the first episode of “Defendant”:
Best runway strut
This is somewhat of a cheat because this particular moment happened at the end of Episode 2, which was aired in 2016. But, hey, semantics right? The moment where Kim Shin and the Grim Reaper appeared out of the fog in their trench coats, looking all model-esque and I’m-coming-to-save-you-ish, and coupled with Heize’s “Round and Round” just made it such an iconic moment. It was the moment that bumped the drama into overdrive for me, and let me tell you: I! Was! Hooked! The producers knew just how impressive that moment was, that they even parodied it a few episodes later.
Catch the first episode of “Goblin”:
Most swoon-worthy moment
Morning after, “Suspicious Partner”
Fans were eagerly waiting for the two leads to finally get together and boy did the drama deliver! After the two give in to each other and sleep together, the camera cuts away to the morning after, where Bong Hee (Nam Ji Hyun) is enveloped in Ji Wook (Ji Chang Wook)’s arms. He kisses her first on her head, then places another on her bare shoulder (cue the screams and fainting spells).
Catch the first episode of “Suspicious Partner”:
Most girl-crush worthy female lead
Aired on: KBS
Air date: October 9 to November 28, 2017 (16 episodes)
Starring: Jung Ryeo Won, Yoon Hyun Min
Ma Yi Deum is a smart, charismatic prosecutor with determination and killer instincts. She is able to skillfully extract information from the opposing sides and is such a strong, confident woman that she doesn’t let her opponents get to her. Jung Ryeo Won plays this role superbly, showing off a wide acting range. She also spoke out against sexual violence during her acceptance speech at the 2017 KBS Drama Awards, cementing both the actress and the character as girl-crush material.
Catch the first episode of “Witch’s Court”:
Most awesome cameo
This drama had quite a few memorable cameos, including Krystal Jung, Jo Jung Suk and Kim Seul Gi, but it was Cha Tae Hyun’s cameo appearance in Episode 4 that made us squeal like giddy little girls. This was Cha Tae Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun’s first on-screen reunion in 15 years, after working on the hit film “My Sassy Girl” in 2001. And with a wink to their past, Cha Tae Hyun’s conman character commented on how sassy Jun Ji Hyun’s character was!
Catch the first episode of “The Legend of the Blue Sea”:
Most impressive lifestyle change
Dong Ha played the chilling criminal in “Suspicious Partner,” where he expertly manipulated his lawyer into believing his innocence before revealing his true colors and taunting him while at it. Fast forward a few months, and our beloved Dong Ha has given up his life of crime and instead dedicated his life to prosecuting them in “Judge vs. Judge.” Who would understand the internal workings of a criminal more than an ex-con? Silliness aside, Dong Ha is definitely an actor to keep on our “most wanted” list.
Dong Ha in “Suspicious Partner”
Dong Ha in “Judge vs. Judge”
Catch the first episode of “Judge vs. Judge”:
Most wish-that-it-could-have-ended-better drama
This drama first drew attention for being thought to have a similar premise as “Goblin,” even having actress Lee El in the drama too. It eventually proved that while both dramas featured Grim Reapers prominently, “Black” leaned more towards being a murder-mystery-esque cop show, and in my opinion, also tonally darker than “Goblin”. Despite some exciting twists and turns along the way, “Black” unfortunately couldn’t stick the landing, leaving viewers dissatisfied with the ending which was filled with odd pacing and many unanswered questions.
Watch the trailer for “Black”:
Most rockin’ ’90s fashion
This slice-of-life, fish-out-of water drama depicts a K-pop idol in the 1990s who enjoys immense popularity due to his good looks and talent. But one day, Hyun Jae gets sent into the future, ’90s hairdo and all. And while his outfits do become more contemporary to fit in with the current time line, I still think nothing suits him better than the plaid shirt, baggy jeans, and bandana combo below!
Watch the trailer for “The Best Hit”:
Most sassy superpower
Bi Ryeom is a wind god who can also control lightning and thunder. In the clip below, Gong Myung summons thunder and lightning (just by snapping his fingers) only because he’s annoyed. What better way to let someone know you’re peeved than to scare the bejeesus out of them with a loud thunderclap!
Or you want to make a strong first impression on someone? Have thunder and lightning frame your entrance just like the diva you are. An entrance fit for the gods, literally! And with the amount of times he’s changed his hairstyle and color throughout the series, he might have another hidden ability, too. One that would save us looots of time and money.
Catch the first episode of “Bride of the Water God”:
Least live-up-to-the-hype drama
Aired on: SBS
Air date: January 26 to May 4, 2017 (28 episodes)
Starring: Lee Young Ae, Song Seung Heon
This drama was highly anticipated for the leads. It was Song Seung Heon’s first K-drama in four years, and Lee Young Ae’s in 14 years! However, despite the well-known leads, huge budget, and extensive publicity, the drama seemed to crumble under the huge expectations, and served viewers underdeveloped plot lines and confusing narratives. Overall, it failed to capture the attention of viewers and eventually had two episodes cut from the series.
Catch the first episode of “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”:
Most meta moment
Cinema scene in “Goblin”
Kim Shin and Ji Eun Tak enjoyed a little date at the movies in Episode 7 of “Goblin.” The movie they were watching? “Train to Busan.” And the lead actor of “Train to Busan”? None other than Gong Yoo. Nothing is more hilarious than watching Gong Yoo freak out over his own movie!
Catch the first episode of “Goblin”:
Least mainstream “occupation” for female lead
Aired on: MBC
Air date: November 16, 2016 to January 11, 2017 (16 episodes)
Starring: Lee Sung Kyung, Nam Joo Hyuk
Think back on the female leads of the dramas you’ve watched. They’re probably a student, a business woman, a reporter, or a lawyer. Rarely (dare I say never?) have we seen an athlete, much less a weightlifter, a sport that is often associated with masculinity. But here we have Kim Bok Joo (Lee Sung Kyung), someone who aspires and succeeds in becoming a weightlifter. And although she isn’t a typical girly girl, her femininity still shines through in what proves to be a well-rounded portrayal of women in competitive sports.
Catch the first episode of “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo”:
Worst nightmare come to life
Press conference scene in “Chicago Typewriter”
A lot of people find public speaking to be anxiety inducing. Now imagine speaking in public to address the negative rumors circulating around you. Now imagine telling the public that you indeed have a ghostwriter writing for you. You point your hand to ghostwriter next to you then tell the reporters to address questions to him. Now, imagine watching the conference again on playback, and finding that very seat next to you empty, and that the ghostwriter is actually a ghost! That, ladies and gentleman, is what we call a “nightmare squared”! *Shivers*
Catch the first episode of “Chicago Typewriter”:
Most likely to keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat drama
Another time-travel drama, you ask? Yes, but trust me when I say this one is worth the watch! When the finale for “Tunnel” aired, it was crowned with the highest viewership ratings and set a new record for OCN! This drama was greatly loved by viewers for its talented actors and suspenseful plots. Viewers were solving the mysteries along with the detectives, and with twists and turns along the way, it made each step of the case thrilling and riveting!
Catch the first episode of “Tunnel”:
Most aesthetically pleasing couple
Look at their gorgeous faces. And when side-by-side? Wow.
Do we really need any other words for this?
Catch the first episode of “While You Were Sleeping”:
Best guilty pleasure
“My Secret Romance”
This is by no means a genre re-defining or ratings giant kind of drama. In fact, it is kind of cheesy, cliché-d and predictable, but that is exactly the alluring part of it. A breath of fresh air amongst the more intense dramas, this is one where you watch, you giggle, you swoon, and find yourself in a happier mood than before you started. I will say, it is more risqué than the more traditional K-dramas, which lended to the fun of it all. Also, the skinship in this drama. The skinship!!
Watch the trailer for “My Secret Romance”:
Biggest (irrational) pet peeve
This drama is the Korean adaption of the U.S. series of the same name. And while I find the drama slightly lacking in general when compared to its U.S. counterpart, it is still a solid procedural-type drama on its own, with strong acting from its leads. Now, while this drama, in English, is noted as “Criminal Minds” with an ‘s’, the Hangul title when Romanized does not denote the ‘s’ at the end. I understand it’s a Korean language thing, but I can’t wrap my mind around how people would know that it’s “minds” instead of just “mind.” Like I said, irrational, but hey, no one said pet peeves had to be justified right?
Watch the trailer for “Criminal Minds”:
Most beautiful cinematography
The wig game might have been a bit wonky, but wow, the sweeping landscape shots were absolutely gorgeous. They’re the kind of shots that can only be seen in historical dramas, and this one definitely delivered. In fact, everything about this drama was beautiful. The cast, the outfits, the cinematography, everything!
Catch the first episode of “Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People”:
Most omnipresent product placement
Aired on: Basically everything
“Chicago Typewriter” – Subway, for the working man
“Defendant” – Subway, bringing fathers and daughters closer together
“Goblin” – Subway, attracting your friendly neighborhood supernatural beings
“Degree of Love” – Subway, the no.1 pick for chefs
If Subway sponsored it, then you’ll see it somewhere in the drama. Which is a lot since Subway seems to sponsor a loot of dramas. To be fair, we see quite a few other repeating product placements in dramas, but there’s something about a man nearly dying and dreaming of a Subway sandwich or a Subway sandwich that changes your life for the better that just tickles everyone’s funny bones. (With the amount of times I’ve said Subway here, anyone think I can get a sponsorship too?)
Which of these dramas have you watched? And what other superlatives will you be bestowing on your favorite dramas? Also, is anyone else pining for a Subway sandwich right now? Drop your comments below!
Belinda_C wishes everyone a blessed 2018 filled with a lot of highs and very few lows. Her new year’s wish is for Shinhwa to have a comeback ASAP, and that the promotional period will last a looong time. ; )