2020 was an incredible year for Korean dramas and Korean entertainment in general, especially owing to the exponential rise in viewership brought on by the pandemic. Safe to say, if there was anything holding the sanity of millions of people worldwide together, it was the generous flow of fresh new entertainment media on a more than regular basis. Out of this, Korean entertainment formed a huge portion. With new people exposed to K-Dramas, South Korea produced some of the most brilliant works in the past year. We count down the top 10 of all K-Dramas released in 2020 that we still can't get off our minds.
A beautifully mellow romance between two wounded individuals who bring about healing for each other, "I'll Visit You When the Weather Is Nice" was severely overlooked and underrated this past year. However, it's never too late to revisit an older drama, especially one whose prime quality is that of being comforting and warm beyond anything else.
This short form drama starring the brilliant Jung Yu-mi and Nam Joo-hyuk is inimitable and truly unique. It does perfect justice to the original source and the special effects breathe life into it, taking it to a whole another level. The cast was clearly chosen very carefully because no one else would have been able to re-produce Ahn Eun-young and Hong In-pyo on screen and perfectly as they did.
SNSD's Seohyun and Go Kyung-pyo star in this crime thriller replete with political intrigue and hair-raising suspense that is carried through to the very last episode of the drama. The narrative explores the unimaginable secret lives of the elite in society and how some con artists take advantage of the same to unearth a national scandal.
Lee Dong Wook returns to being a supernatural mythical being come to life in "Tale of the Nine Tailed" as he plays a nine-tailed fox who loses his godly status over a worldly love affair. In present time, he works as a mediator between worlds, maintaining just order. Things get especially complicated when he finds out that he eternal enemy resides in the reincarnation of his lover, Nam Ji-ah (played by Jo Bo-ah) and on the other hand, his brother, Lee Rang, played by Kim Beom has made a bloody pact with the same. "Tale of Nine Tailed" treads where most supernatural/horror dramas dare not and that's exactly what makes it so unique.
Speaking of the supernatural, one of the most emotional as well as the funniest supernatural K-Dramas not only of 2020 but overall, is definitely "Mystic Pop-Up Bar". The star-studded cast and the beautiful episodic format make for a worthwhile binge as our favourite dream workers bring peace around while also finding their fated way back to each other across time and space.
Tied at number 5 are "Hyena" and "Flower of Evil". The best way to describe "Hyena" is perhaps a courtroom romance gone wild. Nothing compares to the striking romantic and sensual tension between the two main leads played by Ju Ji-hoon and Kim Hye-soo as they go from lovers to enemies and back to lovers as they find their true partners in each other, both in and out of crime.
On the other hand, "Flower of Evil" is a deep dive into the human psyche, love and relationships, all backed by a stunning thriller mystery. Will love outweight the terrifying odds? It always does.
Explanation is simply not necessary for why this drama is placed so high on the list. "The Penthouse" was not only one of the highest rated dramas of the year but was also the drama that introduced makjang to the world. Despite K-Drama fans not being very fond of makjang tropes, this drama was enough to subvert any pre-conceived notions and expectations, positive and negative alike. The first season having ended on one of the biggest cliff-hangers ever, fans can't wait for the second season of the show.
While "The Penthouse" goes all out with its soap opera conventions, "The World of the Married" is a much more graceful exploration of the intricacies of married life. One might think that a drama about a middle aged married (and eventually divorced) couple couldn't possibly be entertaining but this drama wasn't the highest rated cable drama for no reason. Every single episode of "The World of the Married" is a tumultuous journey and there is no rest to it until the very end and even then, you don't get a fairy tale ending but rather, a very raw truth about human relationships.
Sitting proud at number 2 is Park Seo-joon and Kim Da-mi's "Itaewon Class" but the success of the drama can just as equally be attributed to the unparalleled performance of Yoo Jae-myung as Jang Dae-hee and Ahn Bo-hyun as Jang Geun-won. "Itaewon Class" is one of the most brilliantly well-rounded and satisfying narratives to come out of the Korean entertainment industry in a very long time and it will undoubtedly hold its position for a considerably long time.
Finally, at number 1, "It's Okay to Not Be Okay" is indisputably the one drama to come out of 2020 which has significantly raised the bar for K-Dramas in general. Tackling sensitive and rarely touched upon issues such as mental health in a hard-hitting manner while also being incredibly respectful has not been an easy feat to achieve in K-Dramas. In addition, this drama responsibly takes into account the multiple perspectives surrounding mental health which are almost always ignored in narratives about the same. Not once is the lived experience of any character belittled in the drama and that includes both those characters suffering from issues of mental health and those around them who try their best to help. BY a large margin, "It's Okay to Not Be Okay" takes the cake for being the best drama of 2020 as well as one of the best K-Dramas in general. Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Ye-ji and Oh Jung-se will forever remain in our hearts as Moon Gang-tae, Go Moon-yeong and Moon Sang-tae.
By Ishani Sarkar
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