For both avid Korean drama fans and casual viewers, the name Kim Eun-sook is one of the familiar names in the Korean entertainment industry. Her recent project, The King: Eternal Monarch, which features a star-studded cast led by Lee Min-ho and Kim Go-eun and has a considerably huge production budget, caused quite a stir in the K-drama community after the drama failed to reach audience and critic expectations despite the anticipation and buzz it received from different media platforms before it aired.
Still, writer Kim is undeniably one of the, if not the, most famous and successful screenwriters in the country, with most of her works becoming constant recipients of distinctions from different high-profile award-giving bodies. Not to mention, her works are immensely popular among K-drama viewers. Below are seven of her most popular and highly recommended award-winning dramas.
Lovers in Paris (2004)
Lovers in Paris was writer Kim’s most popular series, especially for older generation K-drama fans. It also gave her one of her very first recognitions as a screenwriter. Starring Kim Jung-eun, Park Shin-yang and Lee Dong-gun, the series follows a film student in Paris who becomes a fake fiancée of the businessman she was working for. She eventually falls for the fairytale-like fake romance they have, and her fake fiancé finds himself being drawn to her. It is the first installment of writer Kim’s Lovers trilogy, two of which were set in the European background. The series was very popular during its run, and it even had an influence on the mainstream pop culture. It also received several high-profile awards, including writer Kim’s very first Baeksang Arts Awards win for Best Screenplay for Television (with writer Kang Eun-jung), as well as two Daesangs (Grand Prize): one for the series Lovers in Paris at the Baeksang Arts Awards and a shared grand prize for the two lead actors Kim Jung-eun and Park Shin-yang at the SBS Drama Awards.
Secret Garden (2010–2011)
Starring Ha Ji-won, Hyun Bin, Yoon Sang-hyun, and Kim Sa-rang, Secret Garden is a modern-day Cinderella story about a high-end department store CEO and a stuntwoman. As they both come from two different social backgrounds, they struggle to keep their romance afloat. Adding to their dilemma is the CEO’s mother, who is hell-bent on separating the two of them. Eventually, they find themselves in distress when they start magically switching bodies with each other. The series became a huge success in terms of ratings. It also took home several awards from different high-profile award-giving bodies. including the Daesang (Grand Prize) for Hyun Bin, Best Drama for Secret Garden, Best New Actress for Yoo In-na, and Best Screenplay for writer Kim at the 2011 Baeksang Arts Awards. The drama won two more Daesangs from two different award ceremonies, one for the series itself and one for the camera directors. Writer Kim also won three more awards as a screenwriter, each from different award-giving bodies.
A Gentleman’s Dignity (2012)
After working with each other in Lovers in Paris, Lovers in Prague, On Air, and Secret Garden, writer Kim and director Shin Woo-chul teamed up once again to create A Gentleman’s Dignity. Although not as popular as the previous two dramas in this list, the series still proved to be as equally successful as its predecessors, bagging various awards from several high-profile award-giving bodies. The series also won writer Kim the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the SBS Drama Awards. Starring Jang Dong-gun, Kim Ha-neul, Kim Su-ro, Kim Min-jong, and Lee Jong-hyuk, the rom-com series centers on four middle-aged friends, who are all professionals, as they navigate through their mid-life crisis and deal with heartbreaks, success, failure, and life itself. The series was also broadcast in 11 countries.
The Heirs (2013)
The Heirs is exactly what its title indicates: a high-school warfare but one for the elite and powerful children of chaebols and politicians who will inherit their family’s conglomerates. The series centers on a scholarship student who gets caught in the middle of a conflict between a returning chaebol heir exiled by his brother and his best friend who became his enemy. Complications ensue after the both of them suddenly find themselves falling for the scholarship student at the same time. It stars Lee Min-ho, Park Shin-hye, Kim Woo-bin, Kim Ji-won, Kang Min-hyuk, Kang Ha-neul, Krystal Jung, Park Hyung-sik, and Jeon Soo-jin. Aside from its star-studded cast, the series also became a major hit during and after its run, gaining immense local and international popularity. It also won several awards from different prestigious award-giving bodies for its individual cast members, the crew, and the series itself.
Descendants of the Sun (2016)
Remaining as one of today’s most-loved romance dramas, Descendants of the Sun proved to be one of the most popular among the fans. Not to mention, it is writer Kim’s drama that has the most number of awards received, including six Daesangs (Grand Prize) from various prestigious award-giving bodies. The drama features big stars such as Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-kyo, Jin Goo, and Kim Ji-won. It follows the romance between a medical doctor and a military team captain who are both assigned at a fictional place called Uruk, plagued with war and disease. The series also marked Song Joong-ki’s return to the small screen after being discharged from his mandatory military enlistment. The drama was such an immense success that it was said to have revived the Hallyu wave, which has been declining prior to the airing of the series. Therefore, the drama helped in boosting Korea’s economy, culture, and tourism.
Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (2016–2017)
2016 was such a good year for writer Kim, having penned two award-winning series within a year. Starring Hallyu star Gong Yoo, Kim Go-eun, Lee Dong-wook, and Yoo In-na, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God or Goblin was an international hit, becoming one of the most popular K-dramas for global fans. It is one of the highest-rated series in the history of Korean cable dramas. It follows a 900-year-old goblin who has a sword stuck in his chest as a punishment for his sins from his previous mortal life. To be able to pass on to the afterlife, he goes on a search for his bride, who has the ability to pull the sword, allowing him to die. As he finds his bride and spends time with her, however, he eventually starts to fall for her. The series is writer Kim’s collaboration project with director Lee Eun-bok. The two also worked together in Descendants of the Sun earlier that same year. Guardian: The Lonely and Great God took home a number of high-profile awards from several prestigious award-giving bodies for the drama itself, the cast, and the crew, including the Daesang (Grand Prize) at the 2017 Baeksang Arts Awards for writer Kim.
Mr. Sunshine (2018)
Keeping its place as the second highest-rated Korean cable dramas of all time, Mr. Sunshine follows the story of a boy born into slavery who was able to escape to the US and becomes a Marine Corps officer. Returning to his homeland after so many years as a servant of another land, he falls for an aristocrat’s daughter who turns out to be part of a resistance group. He then later discovers a plot of foreign forces to colonize the country, making him decide to fight for Joseon’s sovereignty. The series features Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-ri, Yoo Yeon-seok, Kim Min-jung, and Byun Yo-han. It received critical acclaim for its immersive storytelling and impressive cinematography, as well as criticism for its inaccurate depiction of some historical facts. It won Lee Byung-hun a Daesang (Grand Prize) at the 2018 APAN Star Awards and the 3rd Asia Artist Awards and the Best Actor award at the 2nd The Seoul Awards and the Baeksang Arts Awards the following year.