22 K-Drama Superlatives From 2021

The year 2021 was very special as it brought along a lot of worldwide recognition when it came to K-dramas. Through various streaming outlets, there came a wave of new K-drama fans and lots of new shows. With all the K-dramas that we were blessed with, here are 22 K-drama superlatives from 2021.

Disclaimer: K-dramas that premiered in December of 2021 or later were not included in the feature. 

For the love of idols: K-dramas about K-pop idol life

K-drama fans are familiar with dramas starring idols in lead roles. And although there were a plethora of dramas with idol actors in 2021, the year also brought its fair share of K-dramas about the complicated and often stressful lives of idols. Here are a few!

Imitation

Based on the hit webtoon, “Imitation” is a series that provides an inside look into the lives of several fictional K-pop groups including Tea Party, SHAX, Sparkling, as well as soloist LA LIMA. Viewers are able to see the hardships that trainees endure from auditioning, debuting, to becoming successful. Starring Jung Ji So as Lee Ma Ha, Lee Jun Young as Kwon Ryoc, and ATEEZ’s Yunho as Lee Yoo Jin, the drama depicts a very realistic perspective into the negative mental health effects that this competitive industry can bring onto people.

Watch the series below:

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“IDOL: The Coup”

“IDOL: The Coup” has a cast of several idols and also showcases the hardships of idol life. Starring Hani, Kim Min Kyu, and Kwak Si Yang, it is a drama about idols who are struggling or could not reach stardom.

This series is raw and realistic. It does a very good job of getting to the emotional and dark side of the idol world, which many might not be used to seeing. The series also focuses on the idols that have failed to “make it” as successful idols, which sets the tone for a sad but also heartfelt look into the lives of those who give it their all to make their dreams come true.

Let Me Be Your Knight

This series stars Lee Jun Young as Yoon Tae In, the leader of a popular K-pop group called LUNA. When Yoon Tae In struggles with sleepwalking and other mental health issues, his manager hires In Yoon Joo (Jung In Sun) as a doctor to live with the idol group. What LUNA doesn’t know is that Yoon Joo is not actually a doctor. This drama has the perfect balance of comedy, romance, and seriousness when it comes to the K-pop idol life. It focuses on individual members of a very famous K-pop group that are all going through specific life problems. It’s not too heavy and is light-hearted enough to keep you happy and engaged!

Watch episode 1 below:

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So I Married the Anti-Fan

“So I Married the Anti-Fan” stars Choi Tae Joon as Who Joon, a top star who is very arrogant and full of himself. Sooyoung stars as Lee Geun Young, a magazine reporter who despises Who Joon and is his ultimate “anti-fan.” Destiny brings them together as they are both offered to participate in a reality show where a celebrity and his anti-fan are to live together. They both accept the offer as a result of some difficult personal situations, and they obviously fall in love!

Although this series doesn’t delve too deep into the world of K-pop idols, it does touch on the hardships of dating and also various stress factors that come with being a world famous celebrity. Choi Tae Joon does a great job of portraying the conflicts that arise with stardom and not having control over certain parts of your life.

You can watch this series here:

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K-drama that literally ruled the world

“Squid Game”

“Squid Game,” the series that took the world by storm, is a story about 456 participants who engage in a series of children’s games in hopes of winning 45.6 billion won (approximately $40 million). Lee Jung Jae, Park Hae Soo, Jung Ho Yeon, and Wi Ha Joon star in this drama about players who fight to the death in order to win the prize money.

It’s really no question that “Squid Game” is listed as one of the best of 2021. This series is the most-watched show of all time on Netflix, and it was nominated for several prestigious awards including Best Drama Series at the Golden Globe Awards. The series was able to entertain the world with its unique storyline and impeccable acting. There are also several actors who rose to fame as a result of their flawless performances!

The man of many faces

Kim Won Hae

Every year, Kim Won Hae becomes that familiar face we love to see in various K-dramas. There’s something about his presence on the small screen that is inviting and puts a smile on our faces. 2021 was no different for Kim Won Hae as he kept himself busy in various roles.

Earlier in 2021, Kim Won Hae played a witty bartender in the romantic series “Run On.” Although his appearance was very brief as he was only in a couple episodes, viewers were able to recognize his face. He always adds such an unpredictability with his characters that keeps viewers on their toes!

Shortly after, he played Chief Editor Choi Go in “Monthly Magazine Home.” He is one of the many workers at Kim Ji Suk‘s company who often talked behind their boss’s back and complained about work. He was disgruntled with the unfairness of certain work factors but would also come around towards the end, showing his affection to his boss.

Start watching “Monthly Magazine Home”:

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Contrastingly from his other characters in 2021, Kim Won Hae played the father of Go Min Si in “Youth Of May,” evoking sympathy from viewers through his role. Kim Hyun Chul (Kim Won Hae) is a father who has tried his best to provide for his son and daughter but as a result of poverty has been unable to do so. We are often used to seeing Kim Won Hae act in confident and sometimes comical roles, so in this particular series, you really see his acting range.

Watch “Youth Of May” here:

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Finally, Kim Won Hae played another completely different role in the hit series “One The Woman.” Ryu Seung Deok (Kim Won Hae) is a fiery and passionate prosecutor who is constantly butting heads with Honey Lee. You almost might not recognize him in this role considering how he suited up and showed much more aggression and charisma compared to his other roles in 2021 – he is truly a talented actor!

Watch “One The Woman” here:

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The woman of many faces

Kim Young Ok

Kim Young Ok is known as the nation’s grandmother, and after 2021, she has become a familiar grandmother to the world. With her various roles in some mega hit K-series, her face and presence on the small screen bring familiarity and joy.

Her first role this year was in the series “Mouse,” where she played Oh Bong Yi’s (Park Ju Hyun) grandmother. Her character was adored by many as one who is very positive. She provided the heart and compassion in the series that people found comfort in. Kim Young Ok is always so great at portraying these types of characters!

Watch her in “Mouse” now:

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Her second role came in the heartfelt healing series “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” where she played one of the villagers named Kim Gam Ri. She had a close bond with Hong Doo Shik (Kim Seon Ho) as they depended on each other and treated each other like real family. Viewers were able to find comfort through her character’s relationship with Doo Shik.

Kim Young Ok’s role in “Squid Game” brought her to international fame. Despite having debuted in the ’50s, as a result of the drama’s huge success, her name became more known to the world. Her character as Lee Jung Jae’s mother was greatly sympathized for as she lived having to take care of her son, who would steal from her and had a gambling addiction.

Kim Young Ok didn’t stop here. She also played Lee Moon Ok in the thriller “Jirisan” as Seo Yi Kang’s grandmother. Her character is a disgruntled and over-protective grandmother who loves Yi Kang (Jun Ji Hyun) but would often get upset at her granddaughter for partaking in dangerous acts as a result of her job. Her constant shouting and pestering at Yi Kang for causing her to worry was hilarious and endearing at the same time.

Watch “Jirisan” here:

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Finally, if this wasn’t enough, she is in the cast of “Young Lady and Gentleman,” a weekend drama that is currently airing. She plays Shin Dal Rae, who is the grandmother of Park Dan Dan (Lee Se Hee). As always, Kim Young Ok has so much charisma when appearing on the small screen, and it’s no different in this series. She has the ability to deliver warm and heartfelt emotions as well as sharp and intimidating feelings through her acting, which is only a testament to her veteran acting skills.

You can start watching this series from the first episode here:

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Most dimples on the small screen

Kim Seon Ho and Shin Min Ah in “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha”

Shin Min Ah plays Yoon Hye Jin, a dentist who quits her job in the city as a result of a fight she gets into with her boss. She goes to a small town to start afresh but finds herself getting into a lot of bad luck when she gets there, causing her to rely on the help of Hong Doo Shik, played by Kim Seon Ho. Doo Shik is a local resident who is technically unemployed but has a lot of odd jobs. He continually helps Hye Jin while she gets back on her feet and eventually opens up a practice in the small town.

Ever since it was officially announced that Shin Min Ah and Kim Seon Ho would be starring in a romantic comedy together, people were more than a bit obsessed. Even well before the premiere of the series, fans were dubbing them as the “dimple couple,” loving the fact that both the leads have their distinct dimple charms. On top of the two actors being very visually appealing, the series touched many people’s hearts and was very healing to watch.

K-squads we wish we could be a part of

“Hospital Playlist 2”

Jo Jung Suk, Yoo Yeon Seok, Jung Kyung Ho, Kim Dae Myung, and Jeon Mi Do star in the “Hospital Playlist” series as a group of five doctors who have been friends since medical school. The five of them all work at the same hospital, Yulje Medical Center. The story follows their friendship as well as the romance and patients that they deal with day-to-day. They also happen to form a band together.

The drama manages to show a very natural and realistic representation of what they go through, winning the hearts of many viewers around the world. Still missing this group of friends who touched our hearts and showed us what real friendship is all about!

“Vincenzo”

Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joong Ki) is an Italian lawyer and Mafia consigliere who was adopted and raised in Italy. He returns to Korea to tie up some loose ends pertaining to some gold that is being kept underground in Geumga Plaza. He meets Hong Cha Young (Jeon Yeo Bin) and her father Hong Yoo Chan (Yoo Jae Myung), and they are able to form a strong bond with Vincenzo. Vincenzo also becomes intertwined in a revenge scheme to get back at Babel Group.

This series took the international world by storm. People couldn’t help but fall in love with “corn salad” Vincenzo and his Geumga Plaza crew. It had everything you could ask for – bromance, friendship, romance, laughs, and unexpected villains galore! It constantly had viewers on the edge of their seats, and seeing the whole crew come together to help Vincenzo was so heartwarming!

“Work Later, Drink Now”

This series stars Jung Eun Ji, Han Sun Hwa, and Lee Sun Bin as three women who love to get together and unwind by having drinks after work. The three all have various stresses and hardships that they experience, but they are able to lean on each other and look to each other for support.

This series is a great one to watch if you want to unwind and see some adorable sismance. The three actresses have such an infectious charm that you will want to wish you were part of this group. It is hysterical and healing at the same time as these three women try to navigate through their difficult and stressful workplaces. Their chemistry is so enjoyable and hilarious to watch that it will make you only hope to have a friendship group like them.

Most likely to rescue you from bad guys

Lee Je Hoon in “Taxi Driver

SBS’s drama “Taxi Driver” involves a taxi driver by the name of Kim Do Gi (Lee Je Hoon) who is secretly a vigilante crime fighter. His main goal, as well as the goal of the taxi driving company he’s part of, is getting revenge on behalf of the oppressed and those who have been wronged. He has a support team who helps him plan and strategize the best possible way to make sure that the revenge scheme is grand and that the bad guys pay in the most painful way possible. This would obviously work to your advantage if the villains and/or bullies were to ever bother you. Do Gi and his team would swoop in and rescue you so easily!

Watch the series here:

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Namgoong Min in “The Veil

In “The Veil,” Namgoong Min stars as Han Ji Hyuk, an elite field agent who used to be considered the best of the best at the National Intelligence Service. In order to prepare for his role, Namgoong Min trained for months to get into the best shape of his life, spending most of his days at the gym and eating a high protein diet. All this hard work and exercise would undoubtedly make it quite easy for him to rescue you if you were to ever need him. Those elite field agents are tough as nails!

Watch “The Veil” below:

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K-dramas where the cast looked amazing in uniform

“D.P.”

Based on a popular webtoon, “D.P.” stars Jung Hae In as Ahn Jun Ho and Koo Kyo Hwan as Han Ho Yeol. The two are part of a special military squad responsible for finding deserters. No one could have anticipated the success of a K-drama based on soldiers fleeing the military, but the best part about this series is the chemistry between Koo Kyo Hwan and Jung Hae In. The icing on top of this cake? Seeing this beautiful cast in army uniform. Although there were scenes where the two were in civilian clothing, it was enthralling seeing them, as well as the exceptional supporting cast, sporting the army green!

Police University

In “Police University,” Jinyoung and Krystal respectively star as Kang Sun Ho and Oh Kang Hee, two students who work hard to become police officers. With their individual reasons for wanting to achieve this specific dream, they are able to successfully become officers. In the backdrop of the series, there is a mystery to uncover as Kang Hee and Sun Ho team up with an elite officer in order to bring the investigation to rest.

With two idol-turned-actors, you really can’t complain in seeing them sporting police uniforms. Even seeing them in sweats was enough to make our hearts flutter! The charisma that Jinyoung and Krystal were able to exude while wearing the crisp uniforms was more than appeasing!

Watch this series here:

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Love triangle we wish we were in the middle of

True Beauty

Lim Ju Gyeong (Moon Ga Young) is a high school student who has been bullied for not being the most attractive and popular girl in school. She decides to take it upon herself to learn how to do makeup by watching videos online. When Ju Gyeong gets the opportunity to transfer to another school, she ends up caught in the middle of a heart-wrenching love triangle between Lee Su Ho (Cha Eun Woo) and Han Seo Jun (Hwang In Yeop). This love triangle was epic and created quite the divide amongst viewers! Which side were you on?

Watch “True Beauty” here:

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Love triangle we don’t ever wish we were in the middle of

“Reflection of You”

In “Reflection of You,” Jung Hee Joo (Go Hyung Jung) grows up poor and ends up marrying a wealthy man who loves her very much. The two have one daughter and one son together and seem to be living happily. However, it is gradually revealed that Hee Joo had an affair with the fiancé of one of her close friends, played by Kim Jae Young.

This triangle was messy to the max. There were friendships broken as a result of an intense affair, paternity tests galore, betrayal, lies, and even death. There was nothing that these characters did not experience. This love triangle was definitely not ideal for any of the parties involved and is not for the faint of heart!

K-drama therapy: Most likely to heal your soul

“Move to Heaven”

Lee Je Hoon stars as Jo Sang Gu, an underground fighter who is also an orphan. He commits a crime and gets out of jail to realize that his older brother had passed away, leaving him as the sole guardian of his brother’s autistic teenage son. His brother and his brother’s son worked as “trauma cleaners,” cleaning up the belongings of people who have passed away. Sang Gu is opposed to working alongside and becoming the guardian of his nephew Han Geu Ru (Tang Joon Sang), but he agrees anyway. “Move To Heaven” is a story that everyone needs to watch. It involves love, loss, family, and the power of forgiving others and yourself. It takes viewers on an emotional journey and is satisfying until the very end!

Basically how you’ll be feeling throughout every episode:

“Navillera”

“Navillera” is a healing drama starring Song Kang, Park In Hwan, and Na Moon Hee. It is about a 70-year-old retired mailman named Shim Deok Chul (Park In Hwan) who has always longed to be a ballerino. He meets Lee Chae Rok (Song Kang), an aspiring ballerino who is going through a lot of difficulties in life. This whole series has a very melancholy vibe throughout, but if you stick with it, you’ll find that the relationship between Deok Chul and Chae Rok is so inspiring and uplifting. The two are able to learn so much from each other, which only makes their lives more fulfilling and filled with purpose. It’s a series that will make you introspective, and in turn, make you learn more about yourself.

“You Are My Spring”

Seo Hyun Jin stars as Kang Da Jung, a hotel concierge who had a traumatic experience when she was a child. She is still harboring the pain of the incident as an adult. She meets Joo Young Do (Kim Dong Wook), a psychiatrist who lives in the same building as Da Jeong, and the two realize they have a connection from the past.

This series is a mystery thriller that also has rom-com elements. Aside from having a stellar cast, especially with the two main leads, the series takes viewers on a journey of two people who are trying to come to terms with their past in order to heal and move on. It will give you hope and show you that anything is possible if you are persistent!

“Lost”

“Lost” tells the story of two average people who are trying to figure out their lives. Jeon Do Yeon stars as Boo Jung, a ghostwriter in her 40s who feels like she has nothing much to live for. Ryu Jun Yeol plays Kang Jae, a man who runs a service where he has to act out whatever the client asks.

The series is dark and painful, but it’s a humanistic story that touches on loneliness and living the mundane. It shows the reality of many people when they begin to lose purpose in their lives. It’s a series that is slow but unravels some intense emotions that many will find solace in and relate to.

Most likely to keep you up at night:

Beyond Evil

Han Joo Won (Yeo Jin Goo) is a police officer who gets transferred to a small town from the big city of Seoul. He is trying to uncover the case of a series of murders that happened 20 years prior. His main suspect is his partner and fellow police officer Lee Dong Sik (Shin Ha Kyun).

This series will have you on the edge of your seat as you try and figure out who is linked to all these murders. Everyone is a suspect, and your conviction of who the killer is changes every episode. The performances by all the actors are impeccable and will cause you to have chills running down your spine!

Check out the first episode here:

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“Mouse”

In “Mouse,” Lee Seung Gi plays a morally good and upright man named Jung Ba Reum while Lee Hee Joon plays a detective named Go Moo Chi, who is obsessed with getting revenge on the person who killed his parents when he was younger. The two form an alliance and try to uncover this mystery.

This drama is another murder mystery that will have you guessing until the very end. As Ba Reum and Moo Chi uncover clues and suspects, you are constantly wondering who could possibly be the killer as the series continues. There are twists and turns throughout that will keep you on your toes and even give you goosebumps.

Watch “Mouse” here:

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“Hometown”

“Hometown” is set in 1999 in a small town called Saju. Choi Hyung In (Yoo Jae Myung) is a detective who is investigating a series of murders while Han Yeri plays Jo Jung Hyun, a woman who is searching for her kidnapped niece. The two of them work together to uncover the mystery.

The setting alone will give you chills. No one and nothing can be trusted in this series, which of course includes the evil terrorist Jo Kyung Ho (Um Tae Goo). The cinematography, set design, and overall feel of “Hometown” perfectly support the eerie mystery that is taking place in this small town. The anticipation and horror will definitely keep you thinking about it long after you finish the series.

Most athletic cast

“Racket Boys”

“Racket Boys” is a series about a group of young students that all reside in a small town. They dream of playing badminton and train hard in order to compete on a national level. The series stars Tang Joon Sang, Son Sang Yeon, Choi Hyun Wook, Oh Na Ra, and Bang Yoon Dam. All the characters also go through the pangs of growing up and balancing their dreams of becoming successful badminton players.

You would think that there is not much to a series about badminton, but this cast and story will have you completely intrigued and invested. You’ll be paying attention to their games, cheering for them to win, and celebrating when they do. The actors all received special training from an expert coach for more than half a year in order for the drama to be as realistic as possible, so rest assured, this cast is definitely athletic!

Leads who looked best dressed in all black

Jang Nara in “Sell Your Haunted House

“Sell Your Haunted House” stars Jang Nara as Hong Ji Ah, an exorcist who has seen a lot in her life, and CNBLUE’s Jung Yong Hwa stars as Oh In Bum, a conman who doesn’t believe in ghosts. He pretends to be an exorcist in order to make some money and ends up meeting Ji Ah.

It’s not common to see Jang Nara in this type of eerie and creepy role, but she definitely lived up to it. The humanistic way in which Ji Ah approaches life and seems unfazed by all the demons and ghosts is very badass. And how amazing did she look wearing all black?

Absolute perfection:

Start watching “Sell Your Haunted House”:

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Seo In Guk in “Doom at Your Service

“Doom at Your Service” was the fantasy romance that broke our hearts and simultaneously gave us the heartfelt romance between Myul Mang (Seo In Guk) and Tak Dong Kyung (Park Bo Young). With Myul Mang’s negative and pessimistic outlook on human life and Tak Dong Kyung’s spiral into a dark period in her life, the two find comfort in each other.

No one could have prepared us for the poetic darkness that this series was capable of bringing to the table. Seeing how dark and gloomy Seo in Guk could be as Myul Mang was entrancing, and his chemistry with Park Bo Young was absolutely heart-wrenching. The only thing to complete this package was seeing Seo In Guk dressed like the doom he was:

Start watching “Doom at Your Service”:

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Han So Hee in “My Name”

Another name to add to this fine lineup of main leads and their beautiful black attire is Han So Hee. In “My Name,” Han So Hee plays Yoo Ji Woo, a girl who has grown up with a mobster as a father. When he gets brutally murdered, she becomes a police officer in order to figure out who in the police department was responsible for her father’s death. To say Han So Hee is a warrior in this series is an understatement. Not only did she learn how to box and kick butt, but she looked natural doing it. Seeing her shed the dresses and choosing the black leather was a look many could not have anticipated but were blessed to see:

Busiest lead actors of the year:

Song Kang

Song Kang has been very busy this past year, and it looks like he’ll continue to be busy. He starred in three K-dramas and started filming for another one that’s set to air soon. Song Kang is a face that many people are very familiar with, and it’s been a true delight getting to know him on the small screen. Here were the series he starred in that aired in 2021:

“Love Alarm 2”

This was Song Kang’s return as Hwang Sun Oh in “Love Alarm 2.” The series was much anticipated, as it had been quite a bit of time since Season 1 ended. Fans were anxious to see how the love story between Sun Oh and Kim Jo Jo (Kim So Hyun) would pan out.

The second season was only six episodes long, but it was worth seeing Song Kang reprise his role and acting on the small screen. He was able to play the role of the heartbroken boyfriend so well, and viewers couldn’t help but sympathize with him. Above all, it was good to finally get some closure after years of waiting!

“Navillera”

As mentioned before, “Navillera” is the story of an older man and a younger ballerino who meet each other and find healing. They are able to share their life experiences despite their big age gap, making the series a thoughtful one. Seeing Song Kang in this type of role was also a pleasure to see, as it only proved that he has the range as a rookie actor!

“Nevertheless”

Yoo Na Bi (Han So Hee) is a university art student who gets entangled in a messy relationship with a fellow student named Park Jae Eon (Song Kang). Jae Eon doesn’t believe in dating but appears to enjoy flings, and Yoo Na Bi is torn between her emotional and physical attraction for him. The two engage in a hot and heavy relationship pretty quickly, so you can imagine the steamy kiss scenes that went on between these two. It was literally jaw-dropping.

Lee Do Hyun

Another actor who really showed up several times throughout the year was Lee Do Hyun. Having won a Baeksang award for Best New Actor and landing various gigs throughout the year, 2021 proved to be a monumental step in this actor’s career. Here are a few of the projects that he was a part of.

“Beyond Evil”

Many may not have remembered, but Lee Do Hyun played the younger version of Shin Ha Kyun’s character Lee Dong Sik. Although the part was small, Lee Do Hyun’s acting chops still shined. No matter what role he takes on, big or small, viewers are left wanting to see more. His role in this drama was no different.

“Youth of May”

In 2021, Lee Do Hyun graced viewers with his heartfelt performance as Hwang Hee Tae in “Youth of May.” Upon this role, many viewers were pleasantly surprised with his ability to convey such heart-shattering emotions, and he ended up winning the Top Excellence Award at the 2021 KBS Drama Awards.

Melancholia

In his most recent role, Lee Do Hyun played Baek Seung Yoo, a former math prodigy who experienced some traumatic events in his life. He loses his sense of passion and gives up on life until he meets Ji Yoon Soo (Im Soo Jung), a math teacher. This was a very mature role for Lee Do Hyun, but because of his impeccable acting skills, he was able to own it perfectly.

Check out the first episode of “Melancholia”:

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Couple that’s most likely caught galavanting within the confines of an apartment building befriending (or restraining) all the neighbors

Park Hyung Sik and Han Hyo Joo in “Happiness

“Happiness” stars Park Hyung Sik as Jung Yi Hyun, a detective, and Han Hyo Joo as Yoon Sae Bom, a tactical agent of the Gyeonggi Police Station. They were classmates in high school and end up in an apocalyptic situation where people are getting infected by a virus that turns them into zombie-like creatures. These two are fighting for their lives and for others.

This series was highly anticipated as it was Park Hyung Sik’s return to the small screen after being discharged from the military. It also had a rather large following of fans who couldn’t help but ship the OTP and their very believable chemistry. Seeing Park Hyung Sik and Han Hyo Joo standing side-by-side and fighting to survive in this apocalypse-like story gave many butterflies. Here’s hoping that the two will reunite in a future project because they were perfect together!

Start watching “Happiness” here:

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Most likely to make the best pork bone soup (gamjatang)

Kim Min Jae in “Dali and Cocky Prince

Starring Kim Min Jae and Park Gyu Young, “Dali and Cocky Prince” tells the story about a man named Jin Mu Hak, who is not very book smart but is able to make a lot of money. He meets Kim Dal Li (Park Gyu Young), the director of an art gallery. She loses all her assets after her father passes away and needs to find a way to keep her art gallery afloat. Jin Mu Hak lends her help but also ends up falling in love with her.

“Dali and Cocky Prince” is a sweet love story that will have you smiling from beginning to end. The cutest part about the drama is seeing Mu Hak fall for the adorable Dal Li and seeing him wear his heart on his sleeve for her. His affection for her is so obvious, and he doesn’t even try to hide it. On several occasions, he cooks for her, with pork bone soup being his specialty. You could smell it through the screen, and it definitely made mouths water!

Start watching here:

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Best post-military comeback

Lee Junho in “The Red Sleeve

Based on a novel, “The Red Sleeve” is a historical K-drama that tells the story of an emperor named Yi San (Lee Junho) who falls in love with a court lady named Seong Deok Im (Lee Se Young). Despite their differences in class and status, the two engage in a deep romance while trying to fight for their nation. This drama is based on the story of the noble and great ruler King Jeongjo and the woman he fell madly in love with.

What would 2021 have been without Lee Junho? The stark contrast in Lee Junho’s character, from being a ruthless warrior who protects his people to being a gentle soul who wears his heart on his sleeve, won the hearts of probably every single person who watched the series. He is the real deal, and we will thankfully be getting more of him now that he has completed his military service! Win for us fans!

If you haven’t watched yet, you can start here:

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Series most likely to make you laugh until your stomach hurts

Mr. Queen

“Mr. Queen” stars Shin Hye Sun as Kim So Yong, a queen during the Joseon period. She wakes up confused one day and states that she is actually a male chef named Jang Bong Hwan, who finds himself in the body of a woman who is about to rule a nation alongside her husband King Cheoljong (Kim Jung Hyun). Despite this sudden change, So Yong must find a way to adjust to her new situation and new life but finds that there are a lot of obstacles to overcome.

An international and fan favorite, “Mr. Queen” won the hearts of many this year. With Shin Hye Sun’s portrayal as the arrogant and selfish Jang Bong Hwan (also played by Choi Jin Hyuk), this drama is light-hearted and very hilarious to watch. Seeing Shin Hye Sun act like a man brings endless laughter, and you really never know what kind of situation So Yong will get into. The storyline is also very unique, which draws viewers in. It’s not every day you come across a K-drama about a man whose soul finds himself in the body of a Queen!

Start watching “Mr. Queen” now:

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Series where you are most likely to spot a tyrannosaurus rex

Yumi’s Cells

Kim Go Eun plays Yumi, an ordinary girl who gives herself to everything she does but often gets hurt or taken advantage of. All she wants is to find love, and when she finds it difficult to convey her feelings to someone she likes, she becomes very self-conscious. So when she meets Woong (Ahn Bo Hyun), she is able to let her guard down because he loves her whole-heartedly. And seeing their individual cells connect with each other is too cute! One of these funny cells includes Woong’s “lust” cell which comes in the form of a T-rex.

Watch this hilarious and romantic series here:

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K-drama couples that are healthy enough to get relationship advice from

Im Siwan and Shin Se Kyung in “Run On”

In “Run On,” Im Siwan plays a former track runner named Ki Sun Kyum, who decides to retire as a result of no longer finding happiness in the sport. He meets Oh Mi Joo (Shin Se Kyung), a free-spirited translator for foreign films. The two are very different, but Sun Kyum takes a strong liking to Mi Joo, and they start to fall in love.

The best part about this couple is that their relationship is very realistic. These two don’t fall in love at first sight. It’s after getting to know each other and understanding their struggles and dreams that they fall in love. It’s a journey that viewers partake in and also end up getting butterflies over. Their conversations are not superficial but very deep and meaningful, which makes this couple even more healthy and admirable!

Jung So Min and Kim Ji Suk in “Monthly Magazine Home”

“Monthly Magazine Home” is a cute romantic series that revolves around the blossoming relationship between Na Young Won (Jung So Min) and Yoo Ja Sung (Kim Ji Suk). Ja Sung is dedicated to his job and saves every single penny in order to sustain the lifestyle he has made for himself while Young Won is the very opposite and struggles to continually make ends meet. This series does a great job with character development. Viewers get invested in both of the main leads, and seeing them fall in love with each other provides a sense of healing. They are willing to put aside their differences and open up about their issues, which makes for a pretty adorable pair!

Rowoon and Won Jin Ah in “She Would Never Know”

“She Would Never Know” is based off a popular web novel. It involves the love story between two office workers who work for a cosmetics brand. Won Jin Ah plays Yoon Song Ah, and Rowoon plays her hoobae Chae Hyun Seung. Chae Hyun Seung falls in love at first sight with Song Ah, and the two engage in a passionate romance.

Seeing Rowoon in a romantic series is always a blessing. He’s able to light up the screen, and his chemistry with his costars is always on fire, which is the case in this series. The two main leads have an adorable romance and courtship that have elements of a classic romance series; it is bound to give you some serious butterflies as you see how much they fall for each other and how healthy their relationship is!

And the rest is history

This year had its fair share of epic historical K-dramas with epic romances. Seeing our favorite stars in hanboks with the beautiful backdrop of a history is so enchanting. Viewers were moved to tears, heartbreak, and butterflies in their stomachs as the OTPs all showcased such beautiful romances.

Lovers of the Red Sky

Ahn Hyo Seop plays Ha Ram, a blind astrologer who is able to read the stars, while Kim Yoo Jung plays Hong Chun Gi, a female painter. The two meet by chance and fall in love despite their different personalities. The chemistry that these two young actors had was innocent but passionate, which drew viewers into their evolving story. Their relationship had a lot of dynamics which kept it interesting – the actors were even able to win the Best Couple Award at the SBS Drama Awards!

Watch the first episode here:

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River Where the Moon Rises

“River Where the Moon Rises” is a reinterpretation of a classic folk tale. The story is about Princess Pyeonggang (Kim So Hyun) and On Dal (Na In Woo). In this drama, Pyeonggang is raised as a soldier and has a dream of becoming the King of Goguryeo. She meets On Dal, a man who is peaceful and longs to live in harmony with those around him. The series is not what you would expect at first. What seems like a love story is far more deeper than meets the eye. It’s a beautiful story about values, empowerment, inner strength, and ambition – all of which is exhibited in the two characters, especially Pyeonggang. Kim So Hyun won the Top Excellence Award at the 2021 KBS Drama Awards, which only further proved that she was able to portray her character with great impact!

Check out the historical series here:

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Bossam: Steal the Fate

Jung Il Woo plays a mysterious rogue by the name of Ba Woo, who kidnaps Princess Soo Kyung (Kwon Yuri) by accident. The two start off despising each other for valid reasons but quickly start to fall in love with each other. They find solace in how many similarities they actually have.

The enemies-to-lovers trope is always a pleasure to watch. Seeing Jung Il Woo and Yuri’s chemistry slowly build is so romantic. There’s a reason why the series had the highest drama ratings in MBN history! There is also quite a bit of action, which kept viewers on the edge of their seat.

Watch the first episode:

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“The King’s Affection”

Based on a popular Korean manhwa, Rowoon stars as Jung Ji Woon and Park Eun Bin stars as Lee Hwi, the crown prince who is actually a woman. Jung Ji Woon becomes Lee Hwi’s tutor and begins to have feelings for her. The love story between these two started out innocent and harmless, igniting feelings of butterflies, but as the series progressed and their relationship deepened, you could see their fiery chemistry. It was also a pleasure seeing Park Eun Bin play a king. She even won the Top Excellence Award at the 2021 KBS Drama Awards!

Secret Royal Inspector & Joy

“Secret Royal Inspector & Joy” stars Taecyeon as Ra Yi Eon and Kim Hye Yoon as Kim Jo Yi. The series is a historical comedy about Yi Eon, who becomes a secret royal inspector and must work with Jo Yi, a divorced woman, to solve crimes and expose corruption.

It’s a feel-good series where the two leads have great chemistry. The hilarious antics from the two leads, jealousy involving a love triangle, and bantering between the OTP makes for a charming atmosphere and an addictive watch! And seeing Kim Hye Yoon’s dimples and her big smile light up the screen is an added bonus!

Watch “Secret Royal Inspector & Joy” here:

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Hey Soompiers, are there any other superlatives to add? Let me know in the comments below!

binahearts is a Soompi writer whose ultimate biases are Song Joong Ki and BIGBANG but has lately been seen obsessing over Hwang In Yeop. Make sure you follow binahearts on Instagram as she journeys through her latest Korean crazes!

Currently watching: “Our Beloved Summer” and “Snowdrop”
All-time favorite drama: “Secret Garden” and “Star In My Heart”
Looking forward to: Won Bin‘s return to the small screen

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