There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just cut to the chase: I haven’t been watching K-dramas (or any Asian dramas) lately. Why the hiatus? I started watching Outer Banks on Netflix. Then I finished it…and watched it again. And again. (I think that show broke me.) Now, I know my blog is mine and I can write about whatever I want to — and although I’m sure the niche of Outer Banks and Asian drama fans is out there and going strong — I simply didn’t feel like contributing my thoughts to that inevitably-awesome fanbase.
So as a re-entrance into my own blog, I’ve decided to compile a fun listicle of my favorite K-dramas. Please note I’m specifying that these are Korean dramas — I have other non-Korean Asian dramas that are list-toppers as well, but in order to keep this article a decent length, I’ll separate the categories for now.
These are in no particular order; they’re just my top five faves. (And in order to save us all from repetition, let me say this now: every single one of these dramas is exceptional in quality — acting, production, everything.)
Come And Hug Me
Come And Hug Me follows a young law enforcement officer as he reconnects with his childhood love — the girl he once vowed to protect from his serial-killer father.
Watch carefully for how Come And Hug Me portrays the power of words, the most poignant example being how the father of both of our main brothers uses his words very carefully: to mold one of his boys into what he wants him to become and to tear the other down to nothing. It’s a devastatingly truthful portrayal of the long-lasting impact words have.
Speaking of brothers and their father, this drama gives “family drama” a whole new meaning by questioning the very definition of family — biological or otherwise. One example is when our main protagonist’s stepmother treats him and his brother (who are unrelated to her by blood) with the unconditional love of a caring parent while their own biological father is…well, an abusive serial killer.
The drama also explores individuality and the power of choice. An iconic example is embodied in our main protagonist, who fiercely goes against all his father stood for by becoming a kind-hearted law enforcement officer.
If you’re looking for light and fluffy, skip this one; it’s on the darker end of the spectrum (yet somehow still manages to tell one of the most deeply beautiful love stories of all time). It will forever be one of my all-time faves.
Starring: Jang Ki Yong, Jin Ki Joo, Heo Joon Ho
The Crowned Clown
When the king’s life is in danger, his right-hand man comes up with a plan after seeing his lookalike on the street: get the clown to stand in for the king. What could go wrong? Well, The Crowned Clown answers that for us.
What could possibly be better than Yeo Jin Goo in a drama? Two Yeo Jin Goos in a drama. That’s right — the talented young actor really shows off his versatility by playing both the king and the clown (who are nothing alike; one is selfish and vicious while the other is gentle and fun-loving).
Action, intrigue, betrayal, friendship, comedy, tragedy, and romance — The Crowned Clown has a bit of everything and it’s all incredibly well-done. I honestly believe almost anyone would love this drama. It’s always one I suggest if someone isn’t sure what to watch next — even if historical dramas aren’t your thing. (They aren’t usually my cup of tea, truth be told).
And although there is far more to this drama than romance, the love story in The Crowned Clown is unbelievably beautiful. I can’t say too much without giving away spoilers, but trust me — you’ll be rooting for the two main leads to be together. Probably really loudly and with a lot of tissues.
*Quick hint to viewers: Don’t go into this expecting Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. The drama has nothing in common with it except that two young men look alike.
Starring: Yeo Jin Goo, Lee Se Young, Kim Sang Kyung
Save Me follows a young woman whose family is trapped in a pseudo-religious cult. Although isolated from society in the cult’s commune, she — along with four young men — risk their lives to expose its evils.
This one has a special place in my heart because it was the first K-drama I watched in real time as the episodes were airing. (On DramaFever, mind you…R.I.P.) I remember trying so hard to pace myself, but of course as soon as the episodes aired, I gulped them down.
This is the darkest one on my list, so please keep that in mind if you’re interested in watching it. The overhead theme of a pseudo-religious cult is just the tip of the iceberg — it also deals with vicious bullying, abuse of all sorts, and contains a lot of potentially upsetting scenes. I definitely do not recommend it to young viewers.
Since I’ve addressed the love stories in the first two on this list, I’ll go ahead and address it here: it’s non-existent. If you want a sweet love story, this one is absolutely not for you because these teenagers are far too invested in saving their own lives and those of their loved ones to be worrying about romance. If nail-biting psychological thriller is more up your aisle, however, check Save Me out ASAP.
*Read my thoughts on Save Me (and it’s second season, Save Me 2) right here.
Starring: Seo Ye Ji, Ok TaecYeon, Woo Do Hwan
Mr. Temporary (Class of Lies)
When a student’s murder is covered up quickly and quietly, a former lawyer goes undercover as a teacher at that student’s school to find out the truth.
Mr. Temporary (also known as Class of Lies) is a classic whodunit. We are given a murder at the very beginning and don’t know until the end who the murderer is. It’s interesting and quick-paced, with enough give-and-take between the good guys and the bad guys to keep you on your toes all the way up to the finish.
One of the first things that struck me about the drama is its young rookie cast, specifically all of the student roles. It was a treat to watch talented new faces perform. And these characters, by the way, are layered and multi-faceted. No one-dimensionality here, even for side characters. Casting essential newbies might have seemed like a bold move when beginning the project, but it truly paid off; they all did phenomenal.
This drama has an…interesting…ending that left viewers debating; if you’d like to hear my thoughts on the controversial finale, check out this earlier blog post of mine.
Starring: Yoon Kyun Sang, Lee Jun Young (Jun), Keum Sae Rok, Choi Kyu Jin, Han So Eun, Kim Myung Ji
When one member of a family ends up in a coma, the rest of the members suspect foul play…and won’t give up until they reach the truth.
Beautiful World is shrouded in suspense and mystery, which are thrilling to watch play out. But the drama’s main focus always comes back to family — specifically the strength and support a family can provide for each other in trying times (and contrariwise, how an unhealthy family dynamic can tear each other down and lead to destruction).
I wrote a post about this one after it finished airing. To check that out — and to read a more detailed account of my thoughts on the drama — just click here.
Starring: Nam Da Reum, Kim Hwan Hee, Park Hee Soon, Choo Ja Hyun
Until next time, friends. Happy drama-watching.
And as always, thank you for reading!
If you’d like to get an email notification every time I post, just hit the “Follow” button. And/or you can follow me on Twitter at @kaylamuses where I tweet every post I publish as well some of my extra thoughts here and there in between blog postings.