With the onslaught of the health pandemic, 2020 has not been the greatest. But in what seems like a small contribution to making sure fans and viewers don’t remember the year for all the wrong reasons, K-dramaland has pushed forward into having the best Korean dramas that can make 2020 one for the books. In Kdramapal’s way of celebrating the industry’s exemplary works, with much deliberation and a few arguments, the team has recognized six projects from this year as the top Korean dramas, with one crowned as the ultimate best.
The first five dramas are arranged in alphabetical order, followed by what we voted as Drama of the Year一that one show with the best X factor!
Crash Landing on You (tvN)
Luna: If you’re a hopeless romantic who loves a good ‘ol romance, then Crash Landing on You might become your instant favorite. It is 2020’s top Korean drama in the romance category, featuring the right blend of comedy, action, mystery, and drama that will make you laugh, cry, angry, and fall in love all at the same time. The series stars Son Ye-jin as a South Korean heiress who crash-landed in the life of a North Korean soldier, played by Hyun Bin, after a paragliding accident. The seemingly unrealistic but intriguing plot brings to life a modern-day twist to the classic Romeo and Juliet play whose love story is restrained by their families’ old-age feud, but in this show, it’s the divide between the North and the South. The other cast members have their charms as well, especially Captain Ri’s loyal troop, the delightful village ahjummas, and the second-lead couple一played by Seo Ji-hye and Kim Jung-hyun一who rivaled the lead couple’s chemistry.
Flower of Evil (tvN)
IndoorEnthusiast: Heart-fluttering shows like Crash Landing On You have their own charm, but what comes after? What if you get your happy ending and then find out that your husband of a decade has been lying to you all along? This is the question Flower of Evil seeks to answer. The fact that this show made it to my list of the best Korean dramas of 2020 is surprising even to me. It started out as a pretty straightforward story about the lies within marriage and turned into a stunning meditation on abuse, trauma, and love’s healing powers. The show is as much a love story as a serial murder mystery and does a great job of balancing both. There are enough thrills and plot twists to keep you hooked while keeping the heart of the show一the love between Lee Joon-ki and Moon Chae-won’s characters一alive and beating. Lee Joon-ki’s transformation from a cunning, emotionless man to a tortured soul shunned by society is arguably one of the best performances I’ve seen in my decade of watching K-dramas.
Hot Stove League (SBS)
KangCenter-nim: If you find Flower of Evil too nerve-wracking, you might want to check out SBS’s Hot Stove League, the only non-cable title on this list yet one that’s equally heart-warming and exciting. After binge-watching the series, armed with only the knowledge that it bagged the Best Drama trophy at the 56th Baeksang Arts Awards, I signed up as a new fan of both Namgoong Min and Park Eun-bin and realized what made it a winner—an inspiring story with teamwork and trust at its core, a well-crafted script, and a smashing performance by the actors. I can neither play nor understand sports to save my life, but it managed to incorporate the technicalities into an enjoyable and relatable story that just hit a home run. Watching it was like witnessing the players of Dreams go on a transformative journey to victory with their newly hired, peculiar yet brilliant general manager who has the most unusual ways of doing things, their dedicated team, and their strong-willed operations manager who is tougher than she seems. With what I’ve seen in Hot Stove League, I am now more than willing to dive headfirst into another sports-themed drama.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (tvN)
AuroraBae: Headlined by Seo Ye-ji, Oh Jung-se, and Kim Soo-hyun, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay is a victor from the romantic healing drama genre. It is magnificent storytelling of the magical things that befall three wounded people when they finally learn to embrace their pains, confront their fears, and let others come into their lives. Director Park Shin-woo went unapologetic and raw in how he presented major character arcs that made room for the actors to fully bring out the best of their acting abilities. Seo gave an uninhibited portrayal of her antisocial character while Kim rendered a moving performance of a man worn out by life’s burdens. However, arguably the most laudable was Oh Jung-se’s depiction of a grown person with a child’s mind, which allowed many eyes to see the brilliance of people in the autism spectrum. On top of that, the writing featured effective placements of thrill, humor, mystery, and romance, and brought about several moments of me shouting, laughing, and crying all at the same time一like a legit K-drama psycho. The drama has made it to The New York Times’s annual list of Best International Shows of 2020.
Kingdom 2 (Netflix)
InternJang: Just like the first season—which made it to our list of the best Korean dramas of 2019— Netflix’s Kingdom 2 is (near) perfection. But the sequel is far more shocking and satisfying, with the gore made more explicit in the episodes. The additional bloodshed and the unpredictable plot twists were among the standout aspects of the show. And that’s thanks to the excellent writing, which I will now always look for in Kim Eun-hee’s works. If you’re a fan of the zombie horror genre but haven’t watched this one yet, you’re missing out on a masterpiece. Why? With its visually stunning and tightly choreographed battle scenes, plus the transformation of the zombies into quasi-vampiric flesh-eaters, Kingdom 2 has increased the bar for zombie productions. Starring Ju Ji-hoon and Bae Doo-na, the second season continues the story of a Joseon crown prince facing a power struggle and a mysterious plague—the origin of which will be explained in the sidequel Ashin of the North starring A-list actress Jun Ji-hyun.
And now, for our drama of the year:
The World of the Married (JTBC)
IndoorEnthusiast: If you got through Kingdom 2 believing nothing will ever scare you again, think again. This intense series about a scorned wife has made it to our list of the best Korean dramas of 2020 precisely because it is one of the scariest things we’ve watched. After all, being eaten alive by zombies seems a lot quicker than a revenge plan that slowly, methodically tortures you and leaves you with nothing, right? Kim Hee-ae’s electrifying performance in this show made it the top Korean drama of the year in terms of TV ratings and won her a Baeksang Award for Best Actress. The show is unpredictable at every turn. It is classic makjang— loud, obsessive, excessive—but also subverts the genre by being heartfelt, devastating, realistic, and socially-aware. The World of the Married is the kind of revenge drama that can give major noir thrillers a run for their money.
Luna: At first, everyone thought this show was just another husband-cheats-on-wife cliche, but surprisingly, it has taken the standards a notch higher for all the other similarly themed series. More than just the husband’s secret affair and the wife being hellbent on revenge, the drama was able to realistically portray a family’s downfall due to a third party, and that redemption isn’t always what’s on the far end of the tunnel. The World of the Married is currently the highest-rated drama in Korea’s cable TV history.
So, what can you say about our list? Do you think The World of the Married deserves the Drama of the Year recognition? Tell us in the comment section!