Have you been waiting for our monthly ranking of the most popular shows in K-dramaland? Well, the wait is over—here’s our list of the 10 most talked about Korean dramas in August 2019! As always, we’ve carefully made this list using data from Good Data Corporation, which tracks the most buzzworthy Korean dramas and actors every week. (Definition: a buzzworthy or most talked about Korean drama is one that is frequently mentioned or discussed on Korean blogs, forums, social media, and other online platforms.)
In August, tvN finally loses its crown of being the network with the most dramas in our ranking to OCN, which has 3 shows on our list. That’s a significant jump from just one show last month. tvN and JTBC have two dramas each, with the latter climbing from one show in July to two this time. Overall, cable networks continue to reign with seven popular series as the three major terrestrial networks slip to single entries in the August ranking.
10. I Wanna Hear Your Song (KBS2)
At the bottom of the list is the Kim Se-jeong and Yeon Woo-jin starrer I Wanna Hear Your Song (also known as Let Me Hear Your Song). The show boasts of a unique mishmash of genres—a murder mystery with a side of rom-com, revolving around the life of musicians. Kim Se-jeong plays a struggling timpanist with amnesia who teams up with Yeon Woo-jin’s character, a pianist, to find out the truth behind a murder she had witnessed but couldn’t remember. Meanwhile, Song Jae-rim plays a talented orchestra conductor, and K-pop girl group T-ara’s Park Ji-yeon makes an appearance as a mean-spirited violinist. While the story sounded interesting and had a lot of potential, the slow pace, lack of chemistry between the leads, and soulless performances of the cast have come under criticism from viewers. (Peak position: no. 9 in the second week of August)
9. Strangers From Hell (OCN)
Despite premiering on the last day of August, Im Si-wan’s comeback drama Strangers From Hell (also known as Hell Is Other People) has managed to become one of the most talked about Korean dramas in August, thanks to its third-place finish in week 5. Who’s surprised? Not me. The show’s eerie teasers had piqued the curiosity of Im Si-wan’s fans and casual drama viewers alike, garnering huge buzz for this show. Im plays an aspiring writer who moves to Seoul for a job and has to stay in a shady dormitory with several creepy-looking neighbors. Lee Jung-eun plays the dormitory’s slightly gaga owner, while Lee Dong-wook plays a dentist who is being speculated to be the antagonist of the show. So far, viewers think that Strangers From Hell did an excellent job with its cinematography and level of creepiness. Sadly, the show will only be ten episodes long, but I’m sure the content will make up for it. (Peak Position: no. 3 in the fifth week)
8. Class Of Lies (OCN)
Class of Lies, also known as Mr. Temporary, is a thriller starring Yoon Kyun-sang and Geum Sae-rok in leading roles. Yoon Kyun-sang plays a money-minded top lawyer whose reputation takes a hit when he loses a case involving the murder of a female student. To find out the truth behind the case and save his career, he disguises himself as a substitute teacher and begins working at the high school where the murder took place. There, he meets Geum Sae-rok’s character, a loving P.E. teacher, and they team up to uncover the secret their students are keeping. While some cast members have disappointed fans of the show, Yoon Kyun-sang’s performance and the fast-paced thrills have managed to keep the viewers’ interest. (Peak position: no. 8 in the third week)
7. Be Melodramatic (JTBC)
You say star-studded, I say Be Melodramatic. With Chun Woo-hee, Jeon Yeo-bin, Han Ji-eun, Gong-myung, and Ahn Jae-hong making up the cast, is it possible to describe this show any other way? The show’s director is a star too—Lee Byeong-hun, the man behind the hit films Extreme Job and Twenty. This time, PD Lee is exploring the romances and work struggles of three 30-something best friends—Chun, an unpredictable drama writer; Jeon, a documentary filmmaker who has PTSD; and Han, a single mom slash marketing professional. Be Melodramatic is a refreshing take on female friendships, akin to a grown-up version of Age of Youth (2016). I’ve fallen in love with how realistic and heartwarming this show is. It also features an adorable gay couple, so yay for the representation! (Peak position: no. 4 in the fifth week)
6. Watcher (OCN)
Slipping from rank 5 in July to 6th place this month is OCN’s crime thriller Watcher. Seo Kang-joon is starring as a young and brash police officer who ends up joining an internal affairs investigation team headed by an elite detective played Han Suk-kyu. Kim Hyun-joo, who received praises for her performance in the drama, plays a mysterious lawyer connected to the two police officers through a gruesome event in her past. They team up to expose rampant corruption in the Seoul police force. Watcher ended its run achieving an impressive TV rating of 6.6%, with fans comparing it to the 2016 hit drama Signal and calling for a second season. The direction of Ahn Gil-ho, who was also behind Stranger (2017) and Memories of Alhambra (2018) drew praises from viewers, along with the writing of Han Sang-woon, who penned The Good Wife (2016). (Peak position: no 4 in the third and fourth week)
5. Doctor John (SBS)
Don’t make the mistake of dismissing Doctor John as a typical medical Korean drama as I did. It is an incredibly unique show adapted from a Japanese novel and revolves around the lives of anesthesiologists, who deal with cases of mysterious pain. The series stars Ji Sung as a cold anesthesiologist nicknamed ‘Ten Seconds’ for his ability to diagnose his patients almost instantly while Lee Se-young plays a resident doctor whom Ji Sung’s character has taken under his wing. While medical K-dramas don’t have a perfect track record, Doctor John is being touted as one of the best in the genre, so make sure you check it out! (Peak position: no. 5 in the first week)
4. Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung (MBC)
Coming in at no. 4 is Shin Se-kyung’s Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung, the only historical drama on the list. Set in early 19th century Korea, this series tells the story of a free-spirited young historian battling gender stereotypes in her male-dominated profession. Shin plays the titular role with effervescence and gusto, imbuing Goo Hae-ryung with both excellent comic timing and gravitas. The show flips gender stereotypes in more ways than one—male lead Cha Eun-woo, who plays a prince, secretly writes romance novels under a nom de plume. Unfortunately, Cha’s acting has been deemed unsatisfactory by several viewers. It seems like Shin is carrying the entire show on her shoulders, which can only be poetic justice considering the concept of the show. (Peak position: no. 4 in the first week)
3. Designated Survivor: 60 Days (tvN)
Designated Survivor: 60 Days already concluded its run, and oh my god, what a run it was. It is a fast-paced show that is sure to win over fans who tend to stay away from political dramas. Ji Jin-hee nails his character Park Moo-jin’s transformation from a classic nerd Minister of Environment to a charismatic and good-hearted Acting President. While the entire supporting cast was lauded for their performance, Son Seok-gu’s acting stood out for many viewers. One couldn’t have expected anything less than a stellar drama from PD Yoo Jong-sun, who had worked on the hits What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim (2018) and Descendants of the Sun (2016). [Spoiler Alert] Since the show ends with Acting President Park announcing his candidacy for the presidential elections, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a second season! (Peak position: no. 3 from the first to fourth week)
2. Moment At Eighteen (JTBC)
When I saw that Kim Hyang-gi was going to work with K-pop star and rookie actor Ong Seong-wu in Moment At Eighteen, I was skeptical. But Ong’s performance as a reticent loner who transfers to Kim Hyang- gi’s school has left me pleasantly surprised. Kim is a top student who desires to break free from the control of her overbearing mother, while Shin Seung-ho portrays a sensitive boy with manipulative parents. A sensitive youth drama complete with angst, comedy, and life lessons, this show is a bit reminiscent of the Reply series. Watch it for the emotions and the lead’s adorable chemistry. With speculation of a major supporting character being gay, the final episodes of the show are sure to garner buzz! (Peak position: no. 2 every week)
1. Hotel del Luna (tvN)
Hotel del Luna broke so many records that I’ve lost count. With an average buzz score of 33.3 percent, it has become the most talked about Korean drama in at least the last five months (April to August). It also achieved an average TV rating of 8.9 percent and unseated The Crowned Clown from being the highest-rated cable drama so far in 2019. The ending of IU and Yeo Jin-goo’s star-crossed story felt bittersweet and left many viewers wanting for more. But I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say that the Hong sisters gave us a drama loaded with everything that makes a show work. As we followed 1300-year old hotelier Jang Man-wol, her naive but kind manager Goo Chan-sung, and their ghost guests and ghost staff, tears were shed, laughter was shared, and spooks were felt. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience! (Peak position: no. 1 every week)
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