You read it right. A total of 17 new Korean dramas will premiere in July 2019. Man! I’ve been a fan of K-dramas for over five years now but this record number of premieres in just a span of 31 days is unheard-of! The sudden increase is thanks to JTBC and OCN making stable its prime time drama programming on Monday & Tuesday and Wednesday & Thursday, respectively; lesser-known cable networks Channel A and MBN airing new dramas this month; Netflix releasing a sequel to its Korean original; and last but not the least, the sheer timing. Of course, ongoing dramas that will conclude in June and July are bound to be replaced.
Without further ado, here’s the complete list! (The stated premiere date of the drama is confirmed unless otherwise stated.)
July 1: DESIGNATED SURVIVOR: 60 DAYS (Mondays & Tuesdays on tvN)
- Genre: Political Thriller
- Main Cast: Ji Jin-hee, Heo Joon-ho, Kang Han-na, Lee Joon-hyuk, & Bae Jong-ok
- Predecessor: Abyss
The very first day of July is welcomed by the political thriller drama Designated Survivor: 60 Days, which is obviously a remake of the American TV series with a similar title. The premise sounds intense, with South Korea’s National Assembly (Congress) falling victim to a horrific terrorist attack that wipes out the President and other high-ranking government officials in the presidential line of succession. And just like that, the Minister of Environment (played by Ji Jin-hee of Misty) is suddenly sworn in as the Acting President of the country and tasked with finding the terrorists immediately while confronting other important issues of the frightened nation within 60 days. The co-director of What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim and Descendants of the Sun is at the helm of this show while the writer of Beautiful Mind and Sungkyunkwan Scandal is penning its screenplay. It will be available on Netflix.
July 5: LOVE AFFAIRS IN THE AFTERNOON (Fridays & Saturdays on Channel A)
- Genre: Romantic Melodrama
- Main Cast: Park Ha-sun & Lee Sang-yeob
- Predecessor: N/A
Want a drama with lots of steamy love scenes? If so, Love Affairs In The Afternoon might be for you. It’s also a remake, with a Japanese TV series as the source material. The drama centers on a quiet and average woman (Park Ha-sun of Drinking Solo) who is bored with the repetitive life of a small town until she meets a biology teacher (Lee Sang-yeob of While You Were Sleeping) with whom she ends up having an extramarital affair. With such provocative posters (yeah, there are a lot more similar to the one above), I don’t know what else I could expect from this drama. The original version was praised for depicting both the sensuous and psychological aspects of the story with nuance, so I hope this remake can also deliver something especially since it is directed by the PD of the badass Seo In-guk starrer Squad 38.
July 6: WATCHER (Saturdays & Sundays on OCN)
- Genre: Psychological Thriller
- Main Cast: Han Suk-kyu, Kim Hyun-joo, & Seo Kang-joon
- Predecessor: Voice 3
Among the 17 new Korean dramas in July, Watcher is one of those which boasts of a pretty solid cast. I mean, Baeksang-winning actor Han Suk-kyu with equally talented stars Kim Hyun-joo and Seo Kang-joon? Count me in! Han Suk-kyu (Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim) plays a senior detective, Kim Hyun-joo (The Miracle We Met) a prosecutor-turned-lawyer, and Seo Kang-joon (The Third Charm) a police officer. Connected by one tragic incident in the past, the three team up to investigate corruption-related cases within the police force. From the director of Stranger and screenwriter of The Good Wife, Watcher has a huge potential for success. Fingers crossed!
July 10: LEVEL UP (Wednesdays & Thursdays on MBN/Dramax)
- Genre: Romantic Comedy
- Main Cast: Sung Hoon & Han Bo-reum
- Predecessor: N/A
The three major cable TV networks in South Korea that broadcast dramas regularly on prime time are JTBC, OCN, and tvN. Level Up comes from MBN, one of the lesser-known cable channels which airs five or less prime time Korean dramas in a year. Sung Hoon (My Secret Romance) is starring in the series as an excellent director of a company specializing in restructuring other companies on the verge of bankruptcy. He is sent to the crisis-hit gaming firm Joy Buster as its new CEO where he meets the head of game development played by Han Bo-reum (Memories of the Alhambra). She works on a new game to satisfy her new boss but they come into conflict on everything. As if restructuring an entire company is not complicated enough, the two face a serious problem when they fall in love with each other and things get awkward between them. Level Up will be simulcast in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia every Thursday and Friday starting July 11 on Korean entertainment channel K-PLUS.
July 13: HOTEL DEL LUNA (Saturdays & Sundays on tvN)
- Genre: Fantasy Romance
- Main Cast: IU & Yeo Jin-goo
- Predecessor: Arthdal Chronicles
IU (My Mister) is back on TV with Hotel del Luna, a fantasy romance series that has her playing a CEO of a hotel which only caters to ghosts. Starring opposite her is Yeo Jin-goo (My Absolute Boyfriend) as a top-flight hotelier who can boast of the fact that he has an MBA degree from Harvard and job offers from three of the world’s top 100 hotels. Impressive, right? So I can’t help but wonder how in the world he will end up as manager of the for-ghosts-only hotel. This show also seems to have the essential ingredients for success—popular and talented leads, an out-of-the-box concept, and a director-writer team with impressive TV credits. It comes from the Hong sisters (A Korean Odyssey) and the PD of While You Were Sleeping. Everyone is excited. Everyone.
July 17: CLASS OF LIES (Wednesdays & Thursdays on OCN)
- Genre: Crime Thriller
- Main Cast: Yoon Kyun-sang & Geum Sae-rok
- Predecessor: Save Me 2
Fans who can’t get enough of Yoon Kyun-sang will enjoy Class of Lies (also known as Mr. Temporary) in which the actor is portraying not one but TWO characters whose personalities are different from each other. There’s no twin brother or doppelganger or something, Yoon Kyun-sang is just playing a sharp and cold-hearted lawyer who goes undercover as a teacher to enter an elite high school and investigate a murder case. That case seems to have hurt his career, so in order to save his reputation he decides to act as a high school teacher with a friendly and approachable personality. The PD of Dr. Frost is at the helm of this drama.
July 17: DOCTOR DETECTIVE (Wednesdays & Thursdays on SBS)
- Genre: Satire
- Main Cast: Park Jin-hee & Lee Ki-woo
- Predecessor: My Absolute Boyfriend
Park Jin-hee is back with a brand-new series, and this time she is not just someone’s replacement (sorry, Return). She’s playing the titular role in Doctor Detective, a drama about an occupational health specialist who sets out on exposing the “dark side” of society. It sounds like Special Labor Inspector, but with the focus on catching the powerful bad guys who ignore occupational health and safety standards and oppress the powerless ordinary workers. Lee Ki-woo (Just Between Lovers) is starring as a talented CEO and ex-husband of Park’s character who seems more interested in winning her heart again than running his company. Both the director and writer of this show are relatively newbies in the industry.
July 17: JUSTICE (Wednesdays & Thursdays on KBS2)
- Genre: Social Thriller
- Main Cast: Choi Jin-hyuk, Son Hyun-joo, & Nana
- Predecessor: Angel’s Last Mission: Love
As a Wednesday-Thursday drama on KBS2, Justice will be pressured to maintain the network’s six-month long winning streak in TV ratings during the said time slot (it started with Liver or Die, continued with Doctor Prisoner, and now with Angel’s Last Mission: Love). Choi Jin-hyuk and Son Hyun-joo (Criminal Minds) inadvertently took up that challenge when they decided to star in the drama as each other’s partner-turned-foe. Choi Jin-hyuk (The Last Empress) is playing a genius lawyer who works with a greedy CEO in pursuing money and power. But their partnership collapses and turns into a conflict when the former investigates a case that involves VVIPs and missing actresses. Meanwhile, Nana (Kill It) is a tough and persistent prosecutor in the drama.
July 17: ROOKIE HISTORIAN GOO HAE-RYUNG (Wednesdays & Thursdays on MBC)
- Genre: Historical Romance
- Main Cast: Shin Se-kyung & Cha Eun-woo
- Predecessor: One Spring Night
The only sageuk in this lineup, Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung is another new Korean drama (aside from Search: WWW) which features a particularly strong female character. Shin Se-kyung (Black Knight) has taken on that role, a brave yet “problematic” aspiring historian who voices her thoughts on various topics without any hesitation. She achieves her goal and becomes the first female historian in Joseon, notwithstanding the existing prejudice against women in the male-dominated profession. Her bright and quirky personality draws the attention of a lonely prince and romance novelist played by Chae Eun-woo (My ID is Gangnam Beauty). The writer and director of this series worked together previously in Solomon’s Perjury.
July 19: DOCTOR JOHN (Fridays & Saturdays on SBS)
- Genre: Human Medical Drama
- Main Cast: Ji Sung, Lee Se-young, & Lee Kyu-hyung
- Predecessor: Nokdu Flower
Medical dramas are so common in K-dramaland, but Doctor John (aka Doctor Yo-han) is making itself a bit atypical when it announced that anesthesiologists—NOT the usual surgeons—are taking center stage in its story. Ji Sung (Familiar Wife) plays an anesthesiologist who’s so brilliant he became the youngest anesthesiology professor at a medical school and earned the nickname “10 seconds,” referring to his extraordinary ability to grasp the condition of his patients almost instantaneously. Similarly, Lee Se-young’s anesthesiologist character is oozing of smarts and awesomeness as she’s always on top of her class in her medical school. This Korean drama comes from the PD of Thirty But Seventeen, Pinocchio, and I Can Hear Your Voice and precedes the highly anticipated series Vagabond starring Lee Seung-gi and Bae Suzy.
July 20: GOLDEN GARDEN (Saturdays on MBC)
- Genre: Romance
- Main Cast: Han Ji-hye & Lee Sang-woo
- Predecessor: Different Dreams
(Exact premiere date unconfirmed). After inserting a seemingly out of place historical drama (Different Dreams) in its Saturday time slot that is home to family and/or romance dramas headlined by not-so-popular lead actors, MBC is now introducing a new show that fits the said description. Golden Garden is about an optimistic woman, played by Han Ji-hye, who’s trying to live his life to its fullest despite her hurtful past. She was abandoned at an orphanage when she was a child but it didn’t let her turn into someone who’s furious at the universe just because life is unfair or something like that. And then enters a detective (Lee Sang-woo) who’s smart and handsome but is unable to fall in love with someone due to a trauma caused by the death of his parents. Golden Garden serves as a reunion project for both Han Ji-hye and Lee Sang-woo as they previously collaborated in Marry Me Now.
July 22: MOMENT AT EIGHTEEN (Mondays & Tuesdays on JTBC)
- Genre: Youth Drama
- Main Cast: Ong Seong-wu, Kim Hyang-gi, & Shin Seung-ho
- Predecessor: The Wind Blows
Moment At Eighteen is one of those series with a sort of vague synopsis that gives you little to no idea about the exact story the drama is going to tell. What we know is that rookie and young actors Ong Seong-wu, Kim Hyang-gi, and Shin Seung-ho are playing the leads as 18-year-olds living their ordinary lives as immature and inexperienced individuals. The story unfolds when Ong Seong-wu’s character transfers to a new school and needs to adjust to a new environment. He’s described as a loner who finds a friend in Kim Hyang-gi’s role, a smart student whose academic achievement is driven by her ambitious mother. He also meets another student played by Shin Seung-ho who looks perfect on the surface but has a hidden inner dark side. This nostalgic show is penned by the screenwriter of Girls’ Generation 1979.
July 26: MELO SUITS ME (Fridays & Saturdays on JTBC)
- Genre: Romantic Comedy
- Main Cast: Chun Woo-hee, Jeon Yeo-bin, & Han Ji-eun
- Predecessor: Chief of Staff
Have you heard of the Korean movie Extreme Job? It was a box office success early this year which became the second most watched local film of all time in South Korea. Its director is making his directorial debut on TV with Melo Suits Me, a drama about a trio of women in their 30s who struggle with their daily lives and romantic relationships. Chun Woo-hee (Argon) is starring as a hard-working scriptwriter with a lot of emotional issues, Jeon Yeo-bin (Save Me) as a documentary film director who’s starting her own company without sufficient funds, and Han Ji-eun as a pretty and smart marketing team leader who has a cold personality. For some reason, the three end up living in one house. Ahn Jae-hong (Fight For My Way) and Gong Myung (Feel Good To Die) joins the cast as the male leads.
July 26: MY FIRST FIRST LOVE (Netflix)
- Genre: Youth Romance
- Main Cast: Ji Soo, Jung Chae-yeon & Jung Jin-young
- Predecessor: N/A
This second season of the original Netflix Korean drama My First First Love is another youth-oriented series on this list in which the main characters are a bit older than the ones in Moment At Eighteen. Ji Soo plays a well-off college student who’s sharing his house with his three friends, including his childhood and closest female friend played by Jung Chae-yeon. In the first season of the series, he has finally found himself a girlfriend while Jung Chae-yeon’s and Seo Do-hyun’s characters have started dating each other secretly. However, Ji Soo’s character seems to be getting confused about his platonic relationship with Jung Chae-yeon’s especially after knowing that she began dating someone. The second season will focus on the budding love triangle between the three characters. It is the third original Netflix Korean drama to be released on the service. At least five more are coming soon!
July 29: LET ME HEAR YOUR SONG (Mondays & Tuesdays on KBS2)
- Genre: Mystery Rom-com
- Main Cast: Yeon Woo-jin & Kim Se-jeong
- Predecessor: Perfume
Yeon Woo-jin—who played the titular characters in Priest and Judge vs. Judge, respectively—made a big jump in roles when he signed up for Let Me Hear Your Song. It’s a drama where he’s playing a tone-deaf orchestral pianist whose singing voice can put a timpanist to sleep. Kim Se-jeong (School 2017) is portraying that timpanist, also a member of an orchestra with average professional experience but is very passionate about music. She happens to witness a gruesome murder and ends up losing her memories as a result. The series will focus on her attempt to recover those memories with the help of Yeo Jin-goo’s character and the romance that blossoms between the two. At the helm of its production is one of the PDs of Cantabile Tomorrow.
July 29: WELCOME 2 LIFE (Mondays & Tuesdays on MBC)
- Genre: Fantasy Drama
- Main Cast: Rain & Lim Ji-yeon
- Predecessor: Investigation Couple 2
(Exact premiere date unconfirmed). Welcome 2 Life is a drama about a selfish lawyer of a top law firm who finds himself living a different life in a parallel universe following an accident. Rain, who starred in Sketch last year, is playing the main character. An ace lawyer whose moral compass is damaged, he’s driven by power and money and serves the interest of people who break the law. One day, he gets into a traffic accident that transports him to a parallel world where his role in the society is completely reversed. There, he’s an upright lawyer who pursues nothing but justice and is happily married to an excellent detective (Lim Ji-yeon of Blow Breeze) he broke up with 10 years ago in the “original” world. This premise sounds interesting, so I hope the execution would be nicely done. The direction and screenplay of this Korean drama is a work by the PD of Make A Woman Cry and the writer of Beating Again, respectively.
July 31: WHEN THE DEVIL CALLS YOUR NAME (Wednesdays & Thursdays on tvN)
- Genre: Fantasy Comedy
- Main Cast: Jung Kyung-ho & Park Sung-woong
- Predecessor: Search: WWW
Much to everyone’s delight, the month will be capped off with a Faust-inspired Korean drama that reunites Jung Kyung-ho and Park Sung-woong who both starred in the 2018 crime thriller Life On Mars. This time, Jung is playing a high-profile songwriter who owes his success to a devil played by Park, with whom he has made a deal in exchange for talent and fame. When their contract is about to expire, he’s in big trouble and resorts to bargaining with the devil using his own life as collateral. He then finds out that his success is causing the misfortune of another person, so he decides to right their situations. When The Devil Calls Your Name is directed by the PD of the critically acclaimed science fiction drama Circle and penned by the writer of Come Back Mister.
So, which among the 17 new Korean dramas in July 2019 have made it to your series-to-watch list? Share your thoughts and comments below!
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