10 Encouraging K-Dramas About Following Your Dreams
Sometimes you need to “Start-Up” somewhere, for which you may have to “Fight For Your Way” to set a “Record Of Youth,” after all you should always “Dream High.” And no, these aren’t the lyrics of a new K-pop song but titles of popular K-dramas which have taught us to aim high and dream big.
From a struggling actor to an aspiring entrepreneur, an athlete who struggles for a comeback, or a mother who gets a second chance at fulfilling her dream, K- dramas have often given us inspiring stories of aspiration, motivating one through the journey of the protagonists. With the start of a new year, here’s a recap of 10 K-dramas which infused hope and made us believe that everything is possible when you set your mind to it.
Two childhood best friends, Ko Dong Man (Park Seo Joon) and Choi Ae Ra (Kim Ji Won), dreamt of making it big as adults, but the humdrum of daily life makes those dreams seem far and even unattainable. Dong Man dreamt of being the best martial arts expert but his last game puts a dent in his confidence, and he now lacks passion and has put his ambition on the back burner. Ae Ra aspired to be a TV presenter but has only faced constant rejections at every audition and interview.
The drama showcases how your socio economic status often dictates not only your position but also your ability to dream. Should Dong Man and Ae Ra resign to their fates or should they persevere nonetheless? “Fight My Way,” as the name suggests, is of going the distance despite the odds. It’s a coming of age drama as Dong Man, Ae Ra, along with Seol Hee (Song Ha Yoon) and Joo Man (Ahn Jae Hong), navigate around their daily struggles, relationships, and personal desires to chart their course of life.
Park Seo Joon charms as the simple minded and sometimes clueless Dong Man. He is easy going, sensitive, and unassuming on one hand, but he is also battling insecurities as he gears up for a fight in the arena. With his muscled physique and comic timing, the captivating Park Seo Joon will melt your heart. And Kim Ji Won as Ae Ra is also perfectly cast. She is relatable and believable that you will find yourself being drawn into her narrative easily.
Start watching “Fight My Way”:
“Record of Youth”
A young model and struggling actor, Sa Hye Joon (Park Bo Gum) has the looks and the talent to make it into showbiz. Sadly, the hardworking Hye Joon was born on the wrong side of the tracks. In an industry that’s cutthroat, sometimes it’s your connections that matter more than your abilities. “Record Of Youth” gives us an insight into what it takes to make it on your own in the big bad world of showbiz.
As Hye Joon relentlessly works to get multiple auditions between his many part time jobs, he keeps the faith though opportunities bypass him. His best friend, the super rich Won Hae Hyo (Byeon Woo Seok), is also an aspiring actor. He may not have Hye Joon’s talent but manages the gigs and thriving social media numbers thanks to his pushy and manipulative mother. And Ahn Jung Ha (Park So Dam), an ambitious and self-reliant makeup artist, is a fan of Hye Joon and wants to make it on her own terms.
“Record of Youth” delves into the murky and ruthless world of glamor where nepotism, rivalries, controversies, and planted scandals are routine fare. As the three characters chart the road to self discovery, they realize success brings its own sacrifices and that there’s a price one pays for life in the spotlight. Park Bo Gum breathes life into Hye Joon, who, though empathetic to those around him, is one of the most resilient characters. Unfazed and resolute despite the many setbacks, controversies, and manipulations that he finds himself in, you root for him and his values. “Record of Youth” also has one of the most amazing soundtracks!
Four individuals with big dreams and bigger ambitions aspire to make it big in the world of start-up’s. Business may not be for the faint-hearted but the hunger to succeed drives Dal Mi (Suzy), Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk), In Jae (Kang Han Na), and Han Ji Pyeong (Kim Seon Ho), whose worlds collide at Sandbox, a start-up incubator.
Dal Mi wants to launch her own company and is constantly making business plans as she balances numerous part time jobs. Her estranged sister In Jae is a successful business woman. Do San, a Math Olympiad Champ and the CEO of his homegrown Samsan Tech, awaits investment to start up his business and knits to ward off stress. And Ji Pyeong, the aloof hotshot venture capitalist with a strong business acumen, has a past connection with Dal Mi and her grandmother.
From interpreting ideas and opportunities into effect, the four traverse the fiercely combative world of investments, acquisitions, and mergers. “Start-Up” is a well-woven narrative about finding your purpose, and with career, love, friendship, and life lessons all mixed in it makes for a wholesome watch. And though Nam Joo Hyuk as Do San and Suzy’s Dal Mi won the applause, the strongest accolades came for the dimpled “Good Boy” Kim Seon Ho, whose portrayal of Ji Peyong will walk away with a piece of your heart.
What does it take to be a K-pop idol? The teenage high school musical “Dream High” charts the journey of six students who arrive at Kirin Arts Academy to get a foothold in the music industry. The self-assured Go Hye Mi (Suzy) wrestles her way into the school despite losing the audition. Hye Mi is an aspiring opera singer who raises her younger sister and is also paying off her father’s debts to loan sharks. Song Sam Dong (Kim Soo Hyun), the proverbial country boy, is a music prodigy but also suffers from a rare ailment. Jin Guk (Taecyeon) is a talented, independent soul, subconsciously seeking fame to get attention from his estranged father, a mayor. Yoon Baek Hee (Eun Jung), betrayed by Hye Mi at the audition, is a raw talent and transforms into Hye Mi’s rival. And Kim Pil Suk (IU) has perfect pitch but is shy and self conscious about her appearance. And finally, there’s Jason (Wooyoung), a Korean American awaiting his big debut in K-pop.
“Dream High” is a breezy entertainment ride as these six students go through the grind of auditions, practice, and choreography. They also learn valuable lessons in self growth and handling relationships. As we see Sam Dong being felicitated at the Grammy’s, “Dream High” could well have been the sign of times as K-pop becomes a global phenomenon being applauded worldwide.
“Romance is a Bonus Book”
It is never too late to become what you want to be. Kang Dan Yi (Lee Na Young), a one time hotshot copy writer, is now a single mother leading a hand-to-mouth existence and has been out of work for a while now. Her childhood bestie, the much younger Cha Eun Ho (Lee Jong Suk), is a successful author, literature professor, and the youngest editor-in-chief at his publishing company.
Dan Yi’s efforts at getting a job are futile as she has been out of circulation and is discriminated against for her age. But Dan Yi is not the one to cow down and is relentless in her job search until one day she is sitting opposite to none other than Eun Ho, having applied for an entry level which does not befit her degrees or skills.
“Romance is a Bonus Book” is a warm, feel-good show of a woman’s efforts to reclaim her lost life. Lee Na Young as Dan Yi is relatable, and her attitude in not regarding any job as too small and the dignity of work drives home a pertinent point. AndLee Jong Suk proves his versatility yet again and will charm you as the supportive and adoring Eun Ho. This noona romance comes with several toe curling moments, and the chemistry between Lee Na Young and Lee Jong Suk will light up your screen.
How many times have you wanted to turn back the clock and rework the hands of time? Hong Dae Young’s (Yoon Sang Hyun) life is about missed chances, and now at 37 years of age, he is resentful and has anger issues. His wife Jung Da Jung (Kim Ha Neul) has filed for divorce, his boss has sacked him, and he is pitiful in the eyes of his children.
Dae Young looks at his past when he was the star basketball player, scouted by universities, and he wants to relive those days of glory. He finds himself as the 18-year-old Dae Young (Lee Do Hyun), but in the present day, and he realizes he has a second shot to live his life. The drama makes you review your life and what you might have done differently as well as what you can do now to make things count. The drama, a remake of the Zac Efron’s “17 Again,” is strong in its writing and performances, and Lee Do Hyun gives an impressive and emotive performance as the young Dae Young.
Start watching “18 Again”:
“When you run you don’t think about what’s behind you,” says Ki Seon Gyeom (Im Siwan), a champion sprinter. Ki Seon Gyeom is not the one to rest on his laurels. He takes down bullies in the team, gets disqualified, and becomes a trainer instead. Oh Mi Joo (Shin Se Kyung) is a hardworking and passionate film translator. She battles sexism at the workplace but is confident when it comes to self worth and stands up for herself. Then there’s the brusque CEO of a sports management company, Seo Dan Ah (Sooyoung). She’s a go getter but she also craves true love and friendship. And Lee Young Hwa (Kang Tae Oh) is a university student and a sensitive artist who embraces whosoever he meets with his zest for life and cheery spirit.
As the world of these four collide, they traverse the road to self discovery and how in the daily hustle of life one tends to neglect oneself for others. “Run On” also addresses several issues of toxic parenting, bullying, social and class divide as well as same sex love. Though the drama lags in bits and is dialogue heavy, its feel-good character driven show does not disappoint.
If they were to heal another person’s wounds, they themselves should know what being hurt is,” says Park Shi Oh (Joo Won). Shi On is an autistic savant – he has a brilliant memory and spatial skills even though his emotional development is that of a child. With his abilities, he is successful as a pediatric surgeon but is mocked by his peers and patients. He is called unreliable and even labelled a “soulless robot” since he tends to use his strong sense of intuition to think than feel. Shi Oh works on himself and evolves into a reliable and trusted surgeon.
This drama is nowhere preachy but draws upon humor to drive home a point on how one is capable of overcoming any obstacle. Joo Won’s sensitive portrayal of Shi Oh makes a lasting impact as he splendidly portrays his character’s confusion, triumphs, and struggles.
Start watching “Good Doctor”:
Choi In Ha (Park Shin Hye), the daughter of a prime time news reporter and presenter, wants to be a broadcast journalist. But In Ha suffers from “pinocchio syndrome,” a condition which triggers hiccups whenever she is to lie. Choi Dal Po (Lee Jong Suk), haunted by his past, also wants to get into broadcasting to unearth the truth after misreporting destroyed his family. In Ha and Dal Po, who have been together since childhood, pursue their ambition in broadcasting as adults. As they unearth conspiracies in the newsroom, they also realize how your core values should never take precedence over ambition. In Ha and Dal Po are both conscientious, and despite the odds stacked against them, they relentlessly pursue the truth. And Lee Jong Suk and Park Shin Hye’s onscreen chemistry scores high on the popularity quotient.
Start watching “Pinocchio”:
Want to know what goes into the making of a show? “The Producers” is a mockumentary of sorts, giving a behind the scenes into the lives of people working at a broadcast station. Rookie producer Seung Chan (Kim Soo Hyun) leaves a promising career in law to join KBS since he is infatuated with Ye Jin (Gong Hyo Jin), the producer of the show “Music Bank.” But the haughty Ye Jin likes Joon Mo (Cha Tae Hyun), the producer of the variety show “2 Days & 1 Night,” who is highly insecure despite his seniority. Then there’s Cindy (IU), the poker-faced famous singer who masks her emotions under a cold exterior.
The show delves more into the personal lives of its characters, which gives an insight into how they adapt themselves into the cutthroat world of the TV industry. Conditioned by their environment, they develop their own survival instincts. Kim Soo Hyun endears as the submissive and gullible rookie who owns all aspects of his characters’ arc, while IU as the two-faced prima donna gives a seamless performance.
Start watching “The Producers”:
Hey Soompiers, which one of these is your favorite K-drama? Let us know in the comments below!
Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Song Joong Ki and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min Ho, Gong Yoo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram.