When I was hooked onto Kdrama, I hooked hard and I hooked fast. Like instantly fast. From then on I hardly watched anything else. At first, it was ONLY Kdrama. It took me a little while to branch out, I’d like to think that its primarily due to the lack of access we had to Chinese, Japanese, or Thai dramas rather than a disinterest, I think I was so hyper-focused on Kdrama, and getting my hands on whatever shows I could, I didn’t have time or capacity to branch out. I’m happy to say that I have in later years. Looking back over my last decade of tv watching, it’s fun to see how my watching styles have changed over the years. I started with straight romance, then weekend dramas, then other countries, then BL hit me hard, and nowadays it’s pretty rare for me to watch an old-fashioned romantic drama. Oh, how we change.
I thought a fun thing for the last few weeks of the site would be to take a look back through the last ten years of dramas, to see what some of my favorites and least favorite shows that came out that year were.
I should probably caveat that these are the shows I remembered to log into MyDramaList. And I only counted the shows that came out that year, not the shows I watched within the year. As I have a lot of shows (some of my favorites) that came out in the years earlier.
Can You Hear My Heart
Family relationships can be complicated and tortured. Bong Woo Ri is a loving, dutiful daughter who does her best to accommodate the needs of her deaf mother and mentally challenged stepfather. After a tragedy that takes the life of her mother, Woo Ri’s step-brother, Bong Ma Roo, leaves after promising to come back but never does. As Woo Ri grows up and searches for her stepbrother, she meets Cha Dong Joo, a young man from a wealthy family who is tortured by family secrets that he witnessed as a boy. Although Dong Joo lost his hearing in a childhood accident, he has learned to compensate for his disability so that he can keep his deafness a secret from those around him. Dong Joo and Woo Ri learn that they are connected by Ma Roo, who has taken on a new identity as Jang Joon Ha. How will the three reconcile their unexpected connection?
Can You Hear My Heart – looking back, can you believe that Hwang Jung Eum has been a leading lady for over a decade? This show was serious crack. I could not stop watching it. All night binging. I remember being sent home from work due to snow and being so excited because I could get back to watching. The twists and turns, the overwhelming bad guys, and the incredibly sweet romance? I remember buying this on DVD! (Yes, that’s how long I’ve been watching.) I bought bootleg copies off eBay in order to watch it. While it’s no longer one I feel the need to go back to, I wonder how it holds up to age?
Dream High tells the story of six students at Kirin Art High School who work to achieve their dreams of becoming music stars in the Korean music industry. Go Hye Mi is a student who had majored in classical music but has to give up her dream by entering Kirin Art High School to pay off her father’s debt. However, she needs to get two other students to also come to the school in order for her to enroll in the school conditionally. These two students are Song Sam Dong, who lives in the countryside, and Jin Guk, whom she accidentally meets while trying to escape from a loan shark. Yoon Baek Hee, formerly Hyemi’s sidekick, becomes her rival in school because Hye Mi betrays her during an audition to enter the school.
You can not see the words Dream High without singing the Dreaaammmm Hiiiiiggghhhh theme song. You wouldn’t think you’d need a musical Kdrama about a bunch of underdog musical students trying to figure out which one is going to end up being the huge pop star K, but you do. Even JYP is hilarious in this show. Dreaaaammmmm HIIIgghhhhhhhh
This drama tells the story of the family of Chunjiin (Heaven, Earth and Man), who own a traditional restaurant famous for its Kimchi, and their suspicious guests. As an abandoned child, Ho Tae grew up in an orphanage and became a gangster. One day, he becomes fascinated by Chunjiin when he visits the place, but is attacked by opposing thugs, only to be saved by Kang San, a daughter of the restaurant’s owner. After Kang San accepts Ho Tae into her family, he begins to grow attached to the place and his new surroundings, gradually recovering long-lost memories of his childhood. This heartwarming story depicts love, Kimchi philosophy, and the struggles the Chunjiin family face as they try to deal with the threat of rival restaurants. It also deals with Ho Tae’s dark past which comes back to haunt him, and the mystery of Kang San’s father, who abruptly disappears as Ho Tae is accepted into the family.
There probably aren’t a lot of people who remember this show as it’s not one of the big ones from the year, but every story they featured a different, mouthwatering type of kimchi. This was before I’d even been able to try kimchi (living in a small town in New Hampshire at the time) and this show made me CRAVE it. The story was quite sweet too.
Flower Boy Ramen Shop
Yang Eun Bi is a university student preparing for her civil service exam with the dream of being a high school teacher. She accidentally encounters Cha Chi Soo, the arrogant son of the biggest food conglomerate in Korea. Cha Chi Soo fascinates women with his good looks and charm. Eun Bi is attracted to him before she finds out that he is only a high school student and thus several years younger than her. However, her student-teaching assignment finds her not only working at the high school that Cha’s family owns but teaching his homeroom class. She grows to dislike him for his arrogance and lack of empathy. He, on the other hand, becomes fascinated with her because she is tough and athletic, unlike the other women he knows.
Was this the first of the Flower Boy series? Flower Boy Ramen Shop, Flower Boy Next Door, Shut Up Flower Boy Band. Yep, I think this was the first one. It gave us Il Jung Woo. It gave us the Kimchi Kiss. It gave us the first of a solid franchise. While I may have had some issues with the men trying to take over the heroine’s life…mostly I look back at the drama with fond memories.
God’s Quiz Season 2
Han Jin Woo and his team of medical experts continue to solve mysterious deaths and cases larger in scale and more intractable than before, including the truth of a rare disease that had been hidden behind seemingly simple crimes.
I LOVED THE GOD’S QUIZ SERIES! Dr Han? He was put through so much during this series and season one was just the start of his trials. He was really put through the ringer in season two. Luckily I loved him and his personality so much, it kept me interested right through season three.
The Greatest Love
Ae Jung was once the most popular member of the girl band, ‘The National Treasure Girls’. When the band broke up ten years ago, she received the bulk of the blame. Despite her warm personality, her career has suffered ever since and now she vies for air-time on variety shows. Dokko Jin is a top movie star at the height of his career. He meets Jung and they become involved in each other’s careers. Jin helps Jung land a role on the new reality show, ‘Couple Making’ Yoon Pil Joo, a doctor of oriental medicine, is the bachelor being matched up on the show. Jin and Pil Joo both fall for Jung – on and off the show.
I came into this show loving the lead actress. To this day Pasta remains one of my favorite shows. She is so good in this show. Like other Hong Sister’s shows, this drama takes more episodes than you expect to warm to, to fall in love with, but once you do, this show is so worth it. This would be the first and only time I’ve cried over a potato plant, but there it is.
Me too, Flower!
A tough female police officer who suffers from depression falls in love with a young multimillionaire whom she initially believed was a parking attendant. Instead of counting her lucking stars, she is taken aback by how rich he is. Officer Cha Bong-sun is a peculiar woman who defies the rigid social hierarchy and rails against it. And Seo Jae-hee, the millionaire boyfriend, is a peculiar man who falls in love with this quirky police officer. They fall passionately in love with each other. A crazy sort of love. A story about people, relationships and love.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I watched this drama back in the day. This was my first (and favorite) introduction to Yoon Shi Yoon. He was an angsty ball of delight in this show. Looking back, it was hugely improbable, but I don’t care. I loved their relationship (despite him lying to her over and over again) and I was so sad when it was cut short by an episode. (It still ended well.) The policewoman hiding her sadness and loneliness under anger and the entrepreneur hiding sadness and guilt under impishness was just the perfect pair. Gah, now I want to rewatch this.
Protect the Boss
No Eun Seol finally gets a job as a secretary at a law firm after struggling with unemployment, only to have her boss, Cha Ji Heon, the immature youngest son of a chaebol family, fall in love with her.
Remember this show? Are you a newbie to drama and haven’t heard of it? Do yourself a favor and go back and watch it. The story of the spoiled chaebol heir and the irritable secretary is hilarious and heartwarming. It has some great secondary characters that are just as fun. If I were to make a list of my favorite heroines, Eun Seol, the past troublemaker just trying to keep her boss in line and stay employed would absolutely be on it.
Scent of a Woman
A romantic comedy about a non-married, low ranking office worker who is given numbered days to live. Lee Yeon Jae is given the grim prognosis that she only has a short time left to live, so she decides to quit her job at a travel agency and live her life to the fullest.
Scent of a Woman was one of the first dramas I watched. I bought a bootleg copy off Ebay, which was a mistake, as at the end, you know, the important part, the subs turned into gibberish, but it didn’t matter …I still managed to SOB like a baby while clutching a very confused cat. This story, while doesn’t have the happiest ending is hopeful and has a very strong message…. if you can get past the sobbing.
Lie to Me
Gong Ah Jung, a level 5 Ministry of Culture official, gets entangled in a web of lies when she mistakenly lies that she’s married to Hyun Ki Joon, a noble hotel manager from an affluent family. Their relationship is further complicated when Ki Joon’s ex-fiance and a close friend of his brother’s, Oh Yoon Joo, reappears in his life
I wanted this show to be so much better than it was. It actually had a lot of promise and started great, but ultimately it was an uneven rollercoaster of disappointing possibilities.
Born to a poor family, Kang Chil spends 16 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of a crime. Before his release, he kills a prison guard by accident and is sentenced to execution. In the last moment of his life, he is presented with the opportunity to return to the past and change his decisions. One of his friends in prison, Guk Soo, claims to be his guardian angel. He says that two more miracles will happen to Kang Chil, and that he should not forget the lessons that they teach. After being released, Kang Chil meets Jina, a spirited veterinarian. Sensing the suffering in each other’s past, they fall in love with each other. But the moment of bliss is brief, as Kang Chil realizes that the victim of the murder 16 years ago was Jina’s uncle. At the same time, the one that framed him continuously threatens his life. In the face of danger, time turns back once more. And so, Kang Chil realizes that as bleak as his life may have seemed, there were people who had made sacrifices for him. He comes to realize that no matter what his situation is, the time he spent with those people was all a miracle.
I should clarify. I LOVED Padam Padam. The mystery, the romance, the angst! So why is it on this list? The last couple of episodes were so disappointing that it ruined the whole thing for me. DON’T DO THAT WRITERS, DON’T DO IT.
A Gentleman’s Dignity
Four men in their forties go through love, breakup, success and failure. The story includes the romantic relationship between Kim Do Jin, an architect with a scathing tongue, and strict high school teacher Seo Yi Soo, who moonlights as an umpire at amateur baseball games.
Not only did I binge-watch this drama but it’s entirely possible I instantly rewatched it. I loved the story of these adult friends. Adults with careers, friends, and points of view. They were relatable and I laughed and cried. Sure there was the bit in the middle of the dumb forced separation, but I loved them enough to keep going and it was very worth it. I should give this another go and see if it holds up!
Arang and the Magistrate
Arang and the Magistrate tells the story of a cynical and not-so-friendly government official named Eun Oh who wanders the whole nation to look for his mother who disappeared because of his mistake. Eun Oh has the ability of seeing ghosts, so he’s used to be bothered by many kind of ghosts. As a result he isn’t afraid of ghosts anymore. Then Eun On meets a virgin ghost named Arang. Before she became a ghost, Arang was a beautiful girl who was murdered. Arang asks Eun Oh to seek vengeance for her death and Eun Oh tries to appease her request.
This was such a visually pretty drama.
Kim Woo Hyun is the only son of a high-ranking police officer. Woo Hyun entered the police academy ranked first and graduated from the academy ranked first. As a detective, he then joins the cyber investigation department. Woo Hyun then works to reveal the secrets of those that hide within the cyber world.
I was for real scared of my computer after watching this one. WATCH OUT COMPUTERS ARE OUT TO GET YOU. This also has one of the most satisfying ends to a super villain ever. Also. Again. Watch out for your computer. Oh! And this is one of the early shows written by Kim Eun Hee! She has written so many shows that will end up on my favorite list.
History of the Salaryman
Part melodrama, part comedy, this series takes its cues from the epic legend “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” One night, Yoo Bang enters a dark, mysterious villa with nothing but a flashlight, only to find an executive of the Chunha Medical Group, Jin Ho Hae, slouched in a chair dead and Ho Hae’s niece, Yeo Chi, hiding behind a curtain. At Ho Hae’s funeral, Yoo Bang and Yeo Chi are suddenly taken into custody for his murder, and we’re taken three months into the past to reveal what led to this murder and exactly who is responsible. We meet Choi Hang Woo, a director from Ho Hae’s rival pharmaceutical company who is undercover to steal the formula for their new drug, and the Chief Researcher from Chunha Group, Cha Woo-Hee. The lives of these individuals become intertwined over the next three months as it is revealed exactly who murdered Ho Hae and why.
I don’t think there’s been a drama like this since. From the synopsis, you wouldn’t think that this show would be as funny as it was, but it was equal parts funny and action-packed. You wouldn’t think a drama about the dark side of big business would be either a show I’d like so much or one that was so memorable.
Kim Hang Ah is a legendary top female instructor working for North Korea’s elite special forces unit. With stamina, training tactics, and strength in all areas, she is the perfect female soldier; however, she has never fallen in love. Pure and candid, Kim Hang Ah’s goal is to fall in love and get married.
Lee Jae Ha is the prince of South Korea’s monarchy. His personality reflects his royal position, with refined humor and a handsome face; however, he has little interest in pursuing politics. Though he seems perfect on the outside, Lee Jae Ha is actually very materialistic and blunt about his own desires.
One day, calamity strikes the South Korean royal family, and Lee Jae Ha finds himself on the throne in the midst of negotiations between North and South Korea for ending the war. As part of the negotiation process, he and Kim Hang Ah find themselves betrothed to each other. Can these two learn to settle their differences for the sake of Korea?
This is a show to swoon over. I’m actually surprised that it’s from 2012 as I wouldn’t have thought it aired so far back! All of the leads of this are still big names and they matched really well here. I loved the growing both the leads did not only towards each other, but to be better people in their own right. Some of the fighting scenes? Excelent. This is another show that made me love AND broke my heart.
Suh In Ha is a sensitive artist who falls in love at first sight with fellow college student, Kim Yoon Hee. The two of them develop feelings for each other, but before they can do anything about it, In Ha’s best friend, Lee Dong Wook, professes his love for Yoon Hee. Not wanting to ruin his friendship, In Ha takes a backseat and watches as the girl he loves grows farther away from him. Fast-forward to present day Seoul where In Ha’s son, Suh Joon, meets and falls in love with Ha Na, Kim Yoon Hee’s daughter. The children are completely different from their parents in personality, but fate pulls them together.
I’d always had a thing for Jang Geun Suk after one of my first dramas was You’re Beautiful. He does angst so well and here is no different. While I may have hated the parents (Even the good ones) and the turn the show took, but after a while, everyone got their heads out of their butts and this super cute couple was able to have their happy ending.
Set in the 1990’s, the drama centers around a female high school student Shi Won, who idolizes boyband H.O.T and her 5 high school friends in Busan. As the timeline moves back and forth between their past as 18-year-old high schoolers in 1997 and their present as 33-year-olds at their high school reunion dinner in 2012, where one couple will announce that they’re getting married.
This is the first in the Reply series the starting with the ending and trying to figure out where they got there, find out exactly who ended up with the girl. The love triangle didn’t work for me, I found the brother/teacher creepy, but this couple (the real couple) were perfect for each other.
Shut Up: Flower Boy Band
Byung Hee is the crazy, free-spirited leader and vocalist of the popular underground rock group, Eye Candy. Joining him is mood-maker Ji Hyuk, chic Hyun Soo, playboy Ha Jin, silent Do Il and baby-faced Kyung Jong. These boys rule their school until a redevelopment plan forces the delinquent-ridden school to close down. They’re all assigned a transfer to Jung Sang High, but debate whether it’s even worth returning to high school at all. However, due to an outside confrontation with Jung Sang’s current ruling band, Strawberry Fields, Eye Candy decides to attend Jung Sang out of spite and rule the school once again.
I was so excited for this show to premiere. I believe I did a post on it as Jem and the Holograms but where you’re actually rooting for the Misfits? It still sums the story up pretty well and was just a fun watch with one of the BEST OSTs.
The King of Dramas
Anthony Kim, a brilliant CEO of a drama production company who will do anything and everything for the sake of money, fame and success. He is known to possess the Midas touch as he has created blockbuster dramas and Hallyu stars. When a death on the set precipitates his fall from grace, Anthony attempts to regain his former status by putting the drama “The Morning of Keijo” on air. And to accomplish that, he needs the help of idealistic Lee Go Eun, who dreams of becoming a top writer someday, and the handsome but egoistic actor Kang Hyun Min.
King of Dramas had to be on the list! What Would Anthony Do? If you want a peek into the world of drama creation but, you know, one where anything that could go wrong goes wrong, then this is the show for you.
Full House Take 2
Jang Man Ok (Man Ok means “full house” in Hanja) is a martial arts instructor at her grandfather’s institute. Yet, Man Ok is interested in fashion and without her grandfather knowing runs an internet shopping site. Later, she poses as a stylist for top idol group TAKE ONE and moves into the band’s luxurious house, which superstar musician Lee Tae Ik inherited from his father.
This was bad. Super bad. So bad there might have been shouting at the screen. Good thing I watched it with a good friend who was just as ew-ed out.
Bachelor’s Vegetable Store
Based on the true story of a young man who turned a tiny vegetable shop into a national name, Bachelor Vegetable Store centers on the love lives and successes of six single young men. Wang Ji Hye of recent smash hit Protect the Boss and Ji Chang-wook of Warrior Baek Dong-soo lead a cast of recognizable faces and rising stars (including Lee Kwang-soo from City Hunter). Han Tae Yang is a talented young man with big dreams for his tiny vegetable shop who finds himself falling in love. Tae-Yang’s friend, a wealthy heir who grew up without a father, comes to work at the shop. He falls for a spoiled young heiress (Park Su Jin) and complications ensue, especially when she’s drawn to Tae-Yang instead. Pop singer Ji-hyuk, model Sung Ha, and musical actor Shin Won-ho round out the quartet of good-looking bachelors who work together and deal with life, love, and career.
I wanted to like this show. So bad. After watching a million episodes of Ji Chang Wook, I was ready to see him in another drama. Unfortunately, Bachelor’s Vegetable Store should not have been that drama. It was bad. So bad. It needed about 95% more Bachelors and so much less of the angsty makjang.
Kang Baek Ho and Ham Yi Seul have been best friends since elementary school. Baek Ho has never acknowledged his attraction to her, unaware that Yi Seul has been in love with him for more than 20 years. Finally, at the wedding ceremony where Yi Seul is about to marry another man (Jin Won), Baek Ho regrets that he never confessed his love for the bride. A mysterious conductor suddenly appears and offers him a second chance to win Yi Seul’s heart. Baek Ho travels back in time to various events of their lives hoping to change the outcome of their relationship. But changing the future is not as easy as it seems.
Did I hate-watch this? Was this my first hate-watch? Looking back, it wasn’t my first bad drama as I watched Bachelor’s Vegetable Store before this one, but it was close. So many missed opportunities. But the lead actor was good, so at least there was that.