It’s hard to believe, but we’ve already reached the end of 2019 and a new year is about to give us a bunch of new shows for us to enjoy or be mad at (for wasting our time). But let’s be positive and expect the series to be good, especially the ones we’ve been waiting for since the casting announcement. Here’s the list of the 10 biggest Korean dramas we should look forward to in 2020:
10. Itaewon Class (JTBC)
I’m excited to see Park Seo-joon (What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim) portray another ordinary person (just like in Fight For My Way) who confronts any obstacles to chase his dream. Based on the incredibly popular webtoon of the same name, Itaewon Class follows his character’s journey towards setting up a restaurant in Itaewon, which requires more than his entrepreneurial spirit due to the challenges posed by an unjust society. Meanwhile, award-winning movie actress Kim Da-mi (The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion) takes on the role of a social media influencer who becomes the manager of his restaurant. The series is written by the original writer and illustrator of the webtoon, Jo Gwang-jin. It’s one of the five new Korean dramas that will premiere in January 2020.
9. Hi Bye, Mama! (tvN)
Hi Bye, Mama! marks the first drama of Kim Tae-hee (Yong-pal) in almost five years and signals the ever-increasing popularity of Lee Kyu-hyung (Doctor John), who’s taking on his first lead role in a prime-time series. The fantasy drama centers on a mother (Kim) who has passed away due to an accident but gets the chance to be with her family again for 49 days. Lee plays the role of her husband and a thoracic surgeon who struggles with her death. It comes from the writer and director who gave us Go Back Couple and Hundred Million Stars From The Sky, respectively. It’s expected premiere in February after the conclusion of Crash Landing On You.
8. Hospital Playlist (tvN)
Hospital Playlist is the newest project of PD Shin Won-ho who directed Prison Playbook (aka Wise Prison Life) and the Reply series. Lee Woo-jung, the screenwriter of the latter, has teamed up with him again to write the script. The medical drama focuses on ordinary hospital employees and patients as they go about their daily lives. In director Shin’s words, it’s a story of people “who live through an atmosphere filled with birth, old age, sickness, and death.” The series stars Jo Jung-suk (Nokdu Flower), Jung Kyung-ho (When The Devil Calls Your Name), Yoo Yeon-seok (Mr. Sunshine), Kim Dae-myung (The Sound Of Your Heart), and Jeon Mi-do (Mother) as five long-time friends who attended the same medical school in 1999 and now work together in one hospital.
The last time I heard about Secret was in August 2019, and it says that the production team had wrapped up filming after six months of hard work. Was that a joke? Four months have passed but the pre-produced drama has still no confirmed premiere month and broadcaster. Chances are it’s going to be broadcast next year, so I’ve included it in this list of the biggest Korean dramas to look forward to in 2020. The series features Park Hae-jin (Man To Man) as a mergers and acquisitions expert who becomes a special rescue team member and dedicates his life to saving others. Starring opposite him is Jo Bo-ah (My Strange Hero), who takes on the role of a doctor. (Update: Secret is now a KBS2 drama called Forest)
6. Dr. Romantic 2 (SBS)
Korean dramas rarely get a season 2 and if they do, they feature a completely different cast. But thankfully that is not the case for Dr. Romantic, aka Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim, who has granted our demand for a sequel with Han Suk-kyu (Watcher) and several original supporting cast members reprising their roles. Original leads Seo Hyun-jin and Yoo Yeon-seok did not return, so Lee Sung-kyung (About Time) and Ahn Hyo-seop (Abyss) had been courted to replace them. I’m positive Dr. Romantic 2 will deliver since it is also written and helmed by the same writer-director duo who gave us season 1. It will premiere on January 6, 2020.
HERE boasts of a star-studded cast led by Lee Byung-hun (Mr. Sunshine), Han Ji-min (One Spring Night), Shin Min-ah (Chief Of Staff 2), and Nam Joo-hyuk—who all have separately headlined a hit drama in the past, except Han and Nam who starred together in the critically-acclaimed The Light In Your Eyes. The specifics of the story have been kept under wraps, so all we know is that the series revolves around the volunteer work of a non-governmental organization. But who cares so much about the plot to decide whether or not to watch the drama? We already have those four A-list actors and writer Noo He-kyung (Live, Dear My Friends) to make us look forward to its premiere.
4. Sweet Home (Netflix)
Sweet Home is an adaptation of a thriller webtoon of the same title about a reclusive high school student who has lost his family in a car accident and goes through another terrifying experience when he witnesses humans turn into monsters and wipe out the rest of humanity. Song Kang (Love Alarm) will be playing that character and he’s joined by Lee Jin-wook (Voice 3), Lee Si-young (Liver Or Die), and Lee Do-hyun (Hotel del Luna). The series is the latest project of PD Lee Eung-bok (Mr. Sunshine, Goblin, Descendants Of The Sun) who’s collaborating with a different screenwriter and directing a drama unlike anything he has done before.
3. Kingdom 2 (Netflix)
Netflix was so sure its first-ever Korean original series, Kingdom, would be so good that they greenlighted a second season even before the first came out in January 2019. It was indeed a quality drama, so everyone can’t wait for the sequel to be released in March 2020, especially after the streaming platform released five teasers for the second season. Starring Ju Ji-hoon (Item), Ryu Seung-ryong (Personal Taste), and Bae Doo-na (Matrimonial Chaos), the series revolves around a zombie outbreak in Joseon Dynasty which unfolds amid a political maneuver designed to depose the crown prince (Ju). Jun Ji-hyun will reportedly appear in the final episode of Kingdom 2.
2. Stranger 2 (tvN)
The award-winning 2017 thriller Stranger, aka Secret Forest, is back with a new season featuring original lead actors Cho Seung-woo (Life) and Bae Doo-na and supporting actors Lee Joon-hyuk (Designated Survivor: 60 Days) and Yoon Se-ah (Melting Me Softly). Lee Soo-yeon, the original writer who won Best Screenplay at the 2018 Baeksang Arts Awards, is still in charge of the script while PD Ahn Gil-ho was replaced by PD Park Hyun-suk of Dance Sports Girls and Uncontrollably Fond. The first season tells the story of an emotionless prosecutor (Cho) who partners with a detective (Bae) to uncover corruption in the prosecutor’s office and solve a serial murder case. Similarly, we expect Stranger 2 to revolve around a tangled web of corruption and crimes.
1. The King: Eternal Monarch (SBS)
Topping this list of the 10 biggest Korean dramas to look forward to in 2020 is The King: Eternal Monarch, which is written by the celebrated screenwriter Kim Eun-sook who penned the hit dramas Mr. Sunshine, Goblin, and Descendants Of The Sun. You may not like this writer’s style in general, but you can’t say no to Kim Go-eun’s (Goblin) talent nor deny the fact that even Lee Min-ho (Legend Of The Blue Sea) alone MIGHT pull in high ratings for this drama, especially because this is the actor’s first series since his discharge from the military and his fans missed him so much. The fantasy romance drama centers on an emperor (Lee) who teams up with a modern-day detective (Kim) to close a dangerous portal that connects their two parallel worlds. Also starring in the series are Woo Do-hwan (My Country: The New Age) and Jung Eun-chae (The Guest). I’m excited to see how this show will turn out considering that another director, not PD Lee Eung-bok of Sweet Home, is at the helm of its production.