It’s been almost a year since I published the Top Korean Dramas in The First Half of 2017, which was followed by the second half ranking five months later. These rankings are essentially television viewership-based ones, meaning they give you an idea as to which dramas had received high TV audience share during their broadcast. The Top Korean Dramas in the First Half of 2018 is no different, giving you the top-rated shows which achieved high nationwide TV viewership according to data from Nielsen Korea. In a nutshell, this latest ranking lists the most watched Korean dramas by South Korean viewers in the first half of 2018.
Here are further details about the ranking. If you want to skip to the main content, just scroll down the page.
- The Top Korean Dramas in the First Half of 2018 is a ranking based on nationwide TV ratings (data from Nielsen Korea).
- The ranking is divided into two categories—free-to-air (FTA) and cable. This is because dramas from free-to-air networks (KBS2, MBC, and SBS) have a wider audience reach than those from the cable channels (JTBC, OCN, tvN) and cable dramas do not have an equal chance as their FTA counterparts to be watched by the viewers (not everyone has a subscription to cable TV).
- All prime-time dramas which have broadcast at least half of its total number of episodes from January 1 to June 30, 2018, are included in the ranking, except the weekend series from FTA networks and those which lack viewership data from Nielsen Korea (such as OCN’s My First Love).
- 13 FTA and 19 cable dramas were included in the ranking. Out of these respective numbers, we have presented below only those that made it to the top 30 and 40 %, respectively.
Top Korean Dramas in the First Half of 2018 (Free-to-Air Category: Overall Average—6.6%)
4. Suits — 8.9% (KBS Wed-Thu Drama)
This Korean remake of a US TV series of the same title luckily comes in fourth on this list, achieving an average rating of 8.9 %. This figure is high enough to consider the Korean version a success in terms of viewership, but it could have gone higher if the series broke through the 10 % mark multiple times (it did only once—during the finale). Many had been worried about how the Korean version will adapt the slick, fast-talking legal drama for the Korean audience but the remake turned out all right—successful enough to merit a sequel. Suits, about a college dropout who has worked as a law associate despite not having the legal credentials and his lawyer boss who takes him under his wing while keeping his secret, is headlined by Jang Dong-gun and Park Hyung-sik.
3. Should We Kiss First — 9.5% (SBS Mon-Tue Drama)
Should We Kiss First sort of premiered without prior (enough) notice, and considering that the cast isn’t that persuasive (especially for the younger viewers like me) I was surprised knowing that it reaped a double-digit viewership right after the second episode and almost maintained it throughout the broadcast, thus an impressive average rating of 9.5 %. Starting off with a comic premise, the series turned into a melodrama about two people (played by Kam Woo-sung and Kim Sun-ah) who have lost their faith in love. The drama stresses that everyone dies someday but learning how to live is what’s important.
2. The Miracle We Met — 10.9% (KBS2 Mon-Tue Drama)
This KBS2 drama had a successful run with a peak and average viewership rating of 13.1 and 11.0 percent, respectively. Many viewers, in general, liked the series and called it a fantastic drama with an unpredictable story and superb performance from the cast. The story revolves around a man (played by Kim Myung-min) who dies in a car accident, only to wake up with his spirit in another person having the same name and age but with a completely different background. He’s extremely happy that he comes back to life until he finds out that he has two wives.
1. Return — 13.7% (SBS Wed-Thu Drama)
This show managed to achieve high ratings despite the controversial change of lead actress from Go Hyun-jung to Park Jin-hee about halfway through its run. It’s quite a major development, but it did not hinder the drama to continue to achieve what it already got. In fact, after the change of actress, the rating went up to 17.0 percent from 12.8 percent (talk about publicity earned through a controversy; it’s a big news in Kdramaland after all!). The drama follows the story of a famous female lawyer who decides to defend a suspect in a murder case but ends up investigating it with a hot-tempered detective (played by Lee Jin-wook). It turns out it’s not a simple murder case and things become more complicated as the suspects belong to the elite class.
Top Korean Dramas in the First Half of 2018 (Cable Category: Overall Average—3.7%)
8. Miss Hammurabi — 4.4% (JTBC Mon-Tue Drama)
JTBC has been celebrating because Miss Hammurabi is its first ever Mon-Tue series this year to enjoy high ratings from the viewers. The show is still airing, so its average rating of 4.6 percent may still increase to unseat My Ajusshi from the seventh spot. Marking the first ever lead role of idol actor L in a TV series, the drama reunites for the second time Go Ara and Sung Dong-il who both worked together in Reply 1994 and Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth. One very interesting fact about this show is that it’s written by a real-life judge (he’s not a professional screenwriter). The show features stories of desperate ordinary people from the perspectives of three different judges.
7. My Ajusshi — 5.0% (tvN Wed-Thu Drama)
This is another show that aced the ratings amid a controversy that struck its production. Right even before My Ajusshi started, netizens and fans had expressed their dismay over the 18-year age gap between lead actors Lee Sun-kyun and IU. The viewers had actually nothing to worry about as the series is not a romantic drama, but a human drama about emotionally scarred people who help each other heal as they face the hardships of life. The series achieved a whopping peak rating of 7.4 %. Poignant and visually amazing, My Ajusshi is a highly acclaimed series favored by many to win next year’s Best Drama prize at Baeksang Arts Awards.
6. Something In The Rain — 5.5% (JTBC Fri-Sat Drama)
With rising actor Jung Hae-in headlining this drama, it’s not surprising why the series was off to a good start with a rating of 4.0 %. Something in the Rain (aka as Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food) benefited from the popularity he earned in While You Were Sleeping and Prison Playbook, so what’s left to do to sustain high viewership was up to the writing department. The noona romance worked as far as the ratings are concerned; the series reached an all-time high rating of 7.3 percent. The drama follows the love story of a woman (played by Son Ye-jin) in her mid-30s and her bestfriend’s younger brother (Jung Hae-in).
5. Hwayugi — 5.4% (tvN Sat-Sun Drama)
This much-awaited drama unsurprisingly surpassed the 5-percent viewership right off the bat, and although it was hounded by controversies concerning the filming set’s safety and editing process, the rating continued to increase and reached an all-time high of 6.9 %. Hwayugi tells the story of a woman (played by Oh Yeon-seo) with the ability to see dark spirits who teams up with the great Monkey King (Lee Seung-gi) and the Bull Demon King (Cha Seung-won) to battle them. She met the Monkey King when she was a child and let him free from his prison, an accident that would bring them together several years later.
4. Live — 5.8% (tvN Sat-Sun Drama)
Writer Noh Hee-kyung’s latest drama Live ranks 4th on the list of the top Korean dramas in the first half of 2018. The series obtained a peak rating of 7.7 percent during its finale. I consider this a human drama that explores the characters and lives of ordinary police officers (finally! not the usual detectives). There are no chase scenes or gruesome serial murders—only the officers performing their duties. It tells the story of policemen, from the lowest patrol officers to their superiors. Starring in the drama are Lee Kwang-soo and Jung Yu-mi.
3. Lawless Lawyer — 6.1% (tvN Sat-Sun Drama)
Lawless Lawyer’s notable record is quite something—a six percent viewership obtained during the second episode. In fact, its first episode rating is the highest among the cable shows until another drama broke the record. Airing during a time when many legal dramas (Investigation Couple, Miss Hammurabi, and Suits) fill in the small screen, Lawless Lawyer sets itself apart by having a gangster-turned-lawyer as its protagonist (played by Lee Joon-gi). Driven by the desire to avenge his mother, he becomes the type of lawyer who uses both his fists (literally) and the loopholes in law to fight against those in power.
2. Misty — 6.3% (JTBC Fri-Sat Drama)
Misty is the kind of mystery thriller show you wouldn’t expect to become a hit in ratings just by watching the pilot episode. And then as soon as you watched episode 2 and so on, you start to realize how intriguing the show is. Such is the experience of many viewers who praised the drama for almost everything—acting, directing, cinematography, writing, etc. This series was nominated for the Best Drama prize at the 54th Baeksang Arts Awards and although it did not win, its lead actress Kim Nam-joo took home the Best Actress award. Misty tells the story of a famous and ambitious anchorwoman (played by Kim) who becomes a suspect in a murder case, which prompts his lawyer husband to defend her despite their marriage being on the rocks.
1. What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim — 7.4% (tvN Wed-Thu Drama)
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim recorded a 5.8 percent nationwide rating during its premiere, achieving the highest pilot episode rating among cable dramas so far in 2018 and breaking the record of Lawless Lawyer. As of June 24, the drama has a peak rating of 7.7 percent, indicating that the ratings are going nowhere but up. It has 10 more episodes to air as of this writing but as long as it sustains these figures, the drama can keep its standing (being no. 1!). Its story centers around a narcissistic vice president (played by Park Seo-joon) of a company who gets surprised when his secretary (Park Min-young) quits her job after working for him for nine years. A lot of fans praised the leads for nailing their performances.