10 K-Dramas Turning 10 Years Old This Year

There are some shows that have a timeless appeal, a high recall value to be visited time and time again. From the classic rich boy/poor girl love story to an otherworldly romance between an alien and a superstar, or some dynastic intrigues led by a queen, these stories have entertained us down the years. So here’s a look at 10 K dramas which turn 10 years old this year!

Heirs

Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye), a high school student, arrives in the United States to track down her absconding sister. She ends up meeting Kim Tan (Lee Min Ho), a lonely rich boy who is living away from home, as per his older brother Won’s (Choi Jin Hyuk) wishes. Meeting Eun Sang gives Kim Tan the wings to fly, and he gathers courage and returns home to Seoul.

After coincidences come to play, Eun Sang gets the opportunity to attend an elite private school solely attended by children of the rich and famous, including Kim Tan. Much to Kim Tan’s surprise, the girl he is developing a strong fondness for is also living in his home. Eun Sang is the daughter of the Kim household’s help. But as Kim Tan makes his intentions clear and pursues Eun Sang, hoping to win her over, she keeps him at bay. There’s also Kim Tan’s best friend-turned-frenemy, Choi Young Do (Kim Woo Bin), who also falls for Eun Sang. Amongst the bickering, bantering, and high school politics, a tender love story unfolds between the two leads.

“Heirs” rated high on the popularity charts and connected well with viewers. Despite the classic trope of rich boy/poor girl, the drama evocatively brought out the high stakes of living life in high society where even children and their lives are seen as assets. Lee Min Ho as the unsure Kim Tan who finally comes into his own is endearing. There are some delightful squeal-worthy kisses between him and Park Shin Hye, which are delightful. And Kim Woo Bin as the quintessential bad guy with a heart of gold is charming. Overall, it is a fun and engaging watch.

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My Love From the Star

Who doesn’t love a good story? Especially when a movie star is literally swept off her feet by a man who has descended from the stars himself? Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun) is a 400-year-old transient resident on earth. He may be designated as an alien, but he looks way more gorgeous than any human you may have come across. The ageless and forever young Min Joon keeps to himself, enjoys his solitude, and has patiently waited for centuries to return to his planet. Chun Song Yi (Jun Ji Hyun), a moody superstar, is known to have the occasional tantrum and meltdowns. When she finds herself taking a college class taught by Min Joon, who also happens to be her penthouse next door neighbor, sparks fly. After the initial bickering, majorly on Song Yi’s part, Min Joon in spite of his reservations finds himself drawn towards her.

“My Love From the Star” remains a top favorite amongst K-drama fans. Whether it’s Min Joon’s annoyance with the modern world as he keeps humans at bay, or Song Yi, who finds solace in eating boxes of fried chicken and drinking cartons of beer to ward off her loneliness, both characters are endearingly quirky. And the sizzling chemistry between Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun gave fans some unforgettable screen moments.

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Reply 1994

Rewind back to the year that is synonymous with the rise of the first generation K-pop group Seo Taiji and the Boys, as well as the birth of the Korean Basketball League. We meet Sung Na Jung’ (Go Ara), whose family operates a boarding house which hosts six friends. But the spotlight is on Trash (Jung Woo), a medical student, and Chil Bong (Yoo Yeon Seok), a star baseball player. Na Jung has a crush on Trash, who regards her a friend, while Chil Bong, who is popular amongst girls, carries a torch in his heart for Na Jung. The three navigate between these awkward moments when friendship turns into something more.

Never had viewers invested their time and energy into a love triangle such as the one in this show. From its evocative storytelling, the character arc, and the performances, “Reply 1994” is an ode to those wonder years gone by which continue to remain as cherished memories.

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Good Doctor

Park Shi On (Joo Won) is a pediatric surgeon. He is also an autistic savant who has a brilliant memory and spatial skills despite his emotional development being that of a child. He is mocked at the hospital by his peers and patients as being unreliable and robotic, since he tends to use his strong sense of intuition to think rather than feel. Park Shi On is far from perfect, and though he makes mistakes, he learns to evolve into a reliable and trusted surgeon.

The drama uses subtle humor to drive home a pertinent point and refrains from being preachy, and Joo Won’s sensitive portrayal of Shi On makes a lasting impact. Plus the romance between him and Moon Chae Won, who plays Cha Yoon Seo, is bound to put a smile on your face. The drama’s dynamic theme even spawned a remake with a popular U.S. adaptation of the same name!

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Empress Ki

Royal tales and fables have often been reinterpreted in pop culture, especially since dynastic wars, palace intrigues, and ill-fated love stories all make for dramatic and engaging storytelling. “Empress Ki,” stars Ha Ji Won as the titular character who is married to Emperor Toghun Temur (Ji Chang Wook). The drama is a fictionalized account of the life and times of the infamous Empress Ki, who rises from the rank of a palace maid to become a force to reckon with in the royal court. There is also her relationship with her first love Wang Yoo (Joo Jin Mo), King Chunghye of Goryeo, whom she never forgets, but knows her future is not with him.

Though the relationships in the drama may have been cinematically retold, it is based on real historical figures. Empress Ki, who defied the power system, has often been called out to be manipulative and power hungry in the pages of history. After she invaded Goryeo with Yuan troops, she was labeled as a traitor for invading her own country and remains a checkered character in history.

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Secret Love

This drama tells the turbulent love story between a man in pursuit of revenge and a woman wrongly accused for a crime she didn’t commit. Jo Min Hyuk (Ji Sung), a wealthy and good-looking man, has been living in an empty shell post the tragic death of his girlfriend. Kang Yoo Jung (Hwang Jung Eum), on the other hand, has served a prison sentence after taking the fall for her boyfriend. Though Min Hyuk is now engaged to Se Yeok (Lee Da Hee), he is unable to get closure since his girlfriend’s demise. And though Yoo Jung is trying to get her life together post her jail term, she realizes the biggest hurdle on her way to get her life back is Min Hyuk. Min Hyuk sees her as the reason for his misery and leaves no stone unturned in making things tough for her. But despite his reservations, Min Hyuk finds himself falling for Yoo Jung, and the two discover some bitter truths from their relationships of the past.

“Secret Love” is an absolute rollercoaster that comes with a tautly gripping storyline. The show keeps up the momentum, never once flagging in its pace, which keeps the viewer riveted. The palpable chemistry between Ji Sung and Hwang Jung Eum is searing, as these two, enmeshed in a web of deceit, find themselves in a passionately dangerous love affair.

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“That Winter, The Wind Blows”

A drama with an unusual premise, “That Winter, The Wind Blows” is a forbidden romance between an heiress and a conman. Oh Young (Song Hye Kyo) is blind and desperately looking for her brother Oh Soo, but ends up meeting an imposter instead. The man in question is a debt-ridden con man (Jo In Sung), who decides to take on the identity of his dead best friend Oh Soo and manages to manipulate his way into the lives of the complicated Oh family. But what the calculating Oh Soo does not anticipate is being drawn towards the quiet and despondent Oh Young, who is weary of all those around her. Oh Soo decides to become Oh Young’s eyes and shields her from her scheming fiancé and extended family.

“That Winter, The Wind Blows” is not your quintessential romance. It’s slow, wistful, and even melancholic in parts. Neither are the characters perfect – they are flawed and dealing with their issues. Song Hye Kyo as the distrustful and forlorn Oh Young gives a restrained performance. And Jo In Sung impresses as the con man who realizes the ultimate retribution is to tell his truth no matter what the repercussions may be.

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Master’s Sun

Tae Gong Shil (Gong Hyo Jin) barely gets to sleep at night thanks to her many uncanny encounters with ghosts. Gong Shil is constantly visited by spirits of the dead who want her to do things for them. But the only person who seems to be her armor is the rich owner of a mega departmental store, Joo Joong Won (So Ji Sub). Gong Shil discovers that every time she is near him, she does not see the dead. The two have a rocky start, especially with Joong Won being weary of the clingy Gong Shil, but despite the absurdity of their situation, they somehow end up falling in love with each other.

When you have two stellar stars such as Gong Hyo Jin and So Ji Sub, you can expect some scorching chemistry. Ji Sub as Joo Joong Won is uproarious, especially when it comes to his initial reservations towards the strange Gong Shil. But when he falls in love, he is a man besotted with eyes only for the woman he loves. And Gong Hyo Jin gives another master stroke of her acting prowess. Some of the stories in the show are so heart-wrenching, it is bound to make you shed a tear or two.

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I Hear Your Voice

Park Soo Ha (Lee Jong Suk), a 19-year-old high school senior, has the ability to read people’s deepest thoughts. It’s a skill he develops after witnessing his father’s horrific murder. Though the murder had been dismissed as an accident, a young teenager named Jang Hye Sung (Kim So Hyun) testifies against the suspect, who is rightly put in prison. This incident leaves an lasting impression on Soo Ha, who vows to protect Hye Sung. Years later, when they are thrown together, an older Hye Sung (Lee Bo Young) is now an aloof and brusque public defender, bored by her cases and disillusioned with life. Soo Ha dutifully stands by Hye Sung, and his protective instinct comes to the fore, since the murderer she had testified against is out of jail and plotting revenge.

“I Hear Your Voice” cleverly weaves in several subplots, and the stories shed light on how the law sometimes fail the very people it’s been designed for. Lee Bo Young shines with the “in your face” personality of Hye Sung, while Lee Jong Suk delivers a mature performance as the lovable and calm Soo Ha. And the chemistry between these two is the perfect foil to the tension brewing in the court. The drama not only saw a constant spike in viewership, but it was also extended by an extra two episodes at the time.

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Gu Family Book

This one is another one of those historical fantastical series, which scored for its awesome cast. Kang Chi (Lee Seung Gi) was born to a human and a gumiho. He is a bit of a mischief maker, struggles with his identity, and is totally at sea about his supernatural lineage. After his adopted family is attacked, Kang Chi takes it upon himself to protect the family. He also wants to find out the truth about his origins and what it would take for him to become fully human. He meet Dam Yeo Wool (Suzy), a swordswoman disguised as a swordsman, and they set off on an action-packed journey, with an endearing love story blossoming between the two. Kang Chi also has an adversary in his friend-turned-foe, the cold and cynical Park Tae Seok (Yoo Yeon Seok), whose swordfighting and martial arts skills are unmatchable.

“Gu Family Book” is a master stroke when it comes to the fantasy adventure genre. The versatility and acting prowess of Lee Seung Gi comes to the fore, and as an actor whose natural style of acting makes every character relatable, he showcases his aptitude once again in the action scenes.

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Hey Soompiers, which one of these is your favorite drama? Let us know in the comments below!

Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Yoo Tae Oh and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min HoGong YooCha Eun Woo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram

Currently watching: “King the Land”

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