The title says it all, that this article is about those Korean dramas considered as “best” by the Malaysian audience. You might have known about the prestigious Baeksang Arts Awards and other similar ceremonies in Korea that recognize high-quality TV series, but I’m sure you know nothing or little about this online award ceremony organized by an officially registered Malaysian club. “Oh, so what?” is your likely reaction, but I’m telling you this because the winners of the CARI Kdrama Awards (Carika) are decided by the “ordinary” fans themselves (not by the usual industry experts). On top of that, these “ordinary’ fans are Malaysians.
I’ll try not to bore you with all the details, so I’ll tell you about Carika and its organizer bit by bit, after each “Drama of the Year.” Let’s see which are the best Korean dramas from the Malaysian perspective!
Drama of the Year 2012 – Rooftop Prince (SBS)
Fantasy rom-com Rooftop Prince holds the record as the first Drama of the Year according to Malaysian fans, beating The King 2 Hearts, Innocent Man, Moon That Embraces the Sun, and Reply 1997. This series stars Park Yuchun and Han Ji-min and tells the story of a Joseon crown prince who travels 300 years into the future and arrives in modern-day Seoul with his retainers. The series was a popular drama abroad and was also voted the “Best Korean Drama of 2012” by the visitors of Koreandrama.org from 142 countries. [Best Screenplay: Rooftop Prince | To see the complete list of nominees and winners, click here]
Award(s) received from established award-giving bodies: Best Korean Drama (Seoul International Drama Awards)
The CARI Kdrama Awards started five years ago with the efforts of our partner, Kelab Pengkritik & Peminat Korea or the Malaysian Critics Circle and Fans Society Club (Kmania). It is their award ceremony that is conducted online, without giving actual prizes and trophies to the winners. The purpose of the Awards is to identify dramas which are recommended for watching by the majority, not by a single fan, and give the Malaysian audience in general an idea as to which shows are worth their time based on written reviews of their fellow Malaysian fans. It then became an annual event of the club and the rest, as they say, is history.
Drama of the Year 2013 – Secret Love (KBS2)
I am quite surprised that Secret Love beat I Can Hear Your Voice because among all the six nominees the latter is truly a gem, according to my instincts and the Baeksang Arts Awards that nominated it for Best Drama. The former is a thriller melodrama starring Ji Sung (Defendant) and Hwang Jung-eum about a rich guy and a woman who went to prison for her boyfriend’s crime that killed the rich guy’s girlfriend. It’s a story filled with betrayals and secrets which seemed to appeal to the Malaysian fans. [Best Screenplay: Secret Love | To see the complete list of nominees and winners, click here]
So how does the CKA select the winners? Malaysian fans can nominate a series by writing a review about it that details its strengths and/or weaknesses as a drama. A committee from the club then reads all these reviews and come up with a final list of top nominees from which the final winner will be selected by voting. Kmania makes sure that the selection of top nominees (number varies by each year) is a fair process not affected by the popularity of each drama in Korea and abroad. I find the review a quite a satisfying approach to selecting nominees as the organizer lets each fan express his/her thoughts about the drama and consider them afterward in the final selection of nominees. However, the process of determining the winner is weak given that it is done through public voting. Kmania does not consider the “Drama of the Year” a popularity-based recognition (in fact, it has separate award categories based on popularity), but its method of deciding the winner allows the fans to cast their votes based on sheer personal preference, which often favors popularity over quality. Anyway, the Malaysian viewers truly get to decide the winner and that’s the very thing that should matter.
Drama of the Year 2014 – My Love From the Star (SBS)
The much beloved and hit My Love From The Star became 2014’s best drama, beating 8 nominees including the highly acclaimed Misaeng and It’s Okay, That’s Love. The series is a monstrous success that created a Hallyu sensation in Korea, China, and the rest of Asia, influencing sales and trends in Korean fashion products. It is a fantasy romantic comedy about an alien (played by Kim Soo-hyun) who arrives on earth during the Joseon period and falls in love with a top actress (Jun Ji-hyun) 400 years later. [Best Screenplay: Misaeng | To see the complete list of nominees and winners, click here]
Award(s) received from established award-giving bodies: Grand Prize for Jun Ji-hyun (Baeksang Arts Awards) and Kim Soo-hyun (Korea Drama Awards), Silver Award-Best Foreign TV Series (Shanghai Television Festival Magnolia Awards), Excellent Korean Drama (Seoul International Drama Awards), Best Drama (Korea Drama Awards), Best Drama (27th Korea Producers & Directors Awards), Special Award for Foreign Dramas (Tokyo International Drama Festival)
The Carika began in 2012 with eleven awards namely: (1) Drama of the Year, (2) Best Screenplay, (3) Best Actor, (4) Best Actress, (5) Best Supporting Actor, (6) Best Supporting Actress, (7) Most Popular Actor, (8) Most Popular Actress, (9) Best OST, (10) Best Memorable Scene, and (11) Couple of the Year. By the following year, more non-traditional awards were included, bringing the total number of awards given to 22. This year, this number is now equal to 28.
Drama of the Year 2015 – Kill Me, Heal Me (MBC)
It seems like a quality drama where Ji Sung is starring will most likely win the top award. His Kill Me, Heal Me got voted as the best in 2015, as did Secret Love in 2013. The main actor and actress of a drama rarely work again together in another as the main couple and that “rare” case includes Kill Me, Heal Me as Hwang Jung-eum also starred in it as the heroine. Wow, and their second project also won Drama of the Year? This series centers around a third-generation chaebol heir who developed dissociative identity disorder after going through several traumatic events in the past and tries to overcome his seven distinct personalities with the help of a psychiatrist. [Best Screenplay: Punch | To see the complete list of nominees and winners, click here]
Award(s) received from established award-giving bodies: Excellent Korean Drama (Seoul International Drama Awards), Drama of the Year (MBC Drama Awards)
Kmania has begun conducting the 6th Carika last October by officially announcing the start of nominations and schedule of the ceremony. About 66 Korean dramas will compete for the award this year, all of which are prime time Korean dramas from the six major TV networks in South Korea—KBS2, MBC, SBS, JTBC, OCN, and tvN. Based on the list of competing dramas in 2017 published by Kmania on its website, daily dramas and weekend dramas from KBS2, MBC, and SBS are excluded from the nominations. I wonder if this is really the case because daily and weekend dramas are Kdramas too and they deserve to be nominated if their quality calls for it. Anyway, these type of dramas rarely get recognized by most established award ceremonies in South Korea, so it’s not really a big deal, is it?
Drama of the Year 2016 – Signal (tvN)
Signal is definitely a winner, so it’s no wonder that the Malaysian fans selected it as Drama of the Year in 2016. With a brilliant direction, an award-winning screenplay, and a superb acting performance, this emotionally gripping crime thriller ended up with high praises from the viewers and the award ceremonies alike. Starring Lee Je-hoon, Kim Hye-soo, and Cho Jin-woong, it tells the story of a modern-day criminal profiler who gets to solve decades-long cold cases with the help of a police detective from the past whom he contacts via a mysterious walkie-talkie. If you haven’t watched this drama yet, you are missing out on a series that is truly daebak. I know the Malaysian Kdrama fans community couldn’t agree more. [Best Screenplay: Signal | To see the complete list of nominees and winners, click here]
Award(s) received from established award-giving bodies: Best Drama, Actress, and Screenplay (Baeksang Arts Awards), Grand Prize for Cho Jin-woong (tvN10 Awards), Presidential Commendation Award (Korea Content Awards)
The announcement of winners for the 6th KCA will be held on January 20, 2018. Prior to this, Malaysian fans can cast their votes for the top 5 nominees beginning Christmas Day until January 15. For more information about the Awards, please visit Kmania.
That’s it! Personally, I find this initiative (KCA) of Kmania a helpful stuff for my Kdrama needs as they make me aware of the Kdramas that receive so much love and positive reviews from other countries. It’s also a good thing for the Malaysian viewers themselves because it creates an avenue for them to scrutinize the quality of the drama in an organized manner and get a sort of “recommended items” later on. I did a little research recently and found out that Malaysia is one of the top 5 countries in the world that “consume” Korean dramas and other Korean pop culture products based on the number of page visits to Kdramapal and other sites that publish related content. So, it’s all the more interesting to know which Korean dramas stand out in this country.
Are you a Malaysian Kdrama fan? What series do you think will become 2017’s Drama of the Year?