With 2018 now in our rear-view mirror, it’s time to look back at the year we’ve had, and celebrate all the ups-and-downs of K-dramaland. It doesn’t seem like 2018 has been a particularly strong year for K-dramas, with quite a few shows starting out strong but losing the plot halfway through or just being a let down in general.
Despite so, there are still some really good gems out there, with a little something for everyone. So in order to honor the multitude of dramas that have (for better or worse) accompanied us through our own ups-and-downs, here’s the superlative style round up for 2018.
This list (in no particular order) is more fun than authoritative, and aims to spread the love and include as many dramas as possible. So feel free to come up with your own categories and nominations and share them with us in the comments section below!
Disclaimer: The article only includes dramas that started airing between December 1, 2017 to November 30, 2018. Also, minor spoilers ahead!
Best origin story
The origin of coffee, “Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter”
Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider. Superman came from the planet Krypton. And coffee was officially introduced when an Ethiopian fairy went for an exchange program to the fairy realm. The rest is history.
But also, dancing goats. Never forget the dancing goats.
Start watching “Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter”:
Most likely to scare the pants off of viewers
OCN spins a spooktacularly horrifying tale filled with demons and gore right in time for Halloween. Everything about “The Guest” — from the filming angles to the eerie sounds — intensifies the creepiness. Be sure to check this one out if you love this genre. But even if you don’t usually like getting your pants scared off, give it a try (in broad daylight), because overall, it’s a real doozy!
Best marriage counselor
The weird guy with the coins, “Familiar Wife”
It’s probably not a stretch to say all couples go through their ups and downs, which makes this drama wholly relatable especially to married couples. It’s easy to lose sight of who we once were when we start taking new roles in a marriage, and before we know it, we have fallen out of love with each other.
This rings especially true to the central couple in “Familiar Wife,” as Cha Joo Hyuk (Ji Sung) and Seo Woo Jin (Han Ji Min) have slipped into a rut and continuously take each other for granted, so much so that Joo Hyuk regrets the marriage. With a little supernatural help via a mysterious man with time-traveling coins, Joo Hyuk and Woo Jin are able to rediscover themselves, as well as their love for each other.
Start watching “Familiar Wife”:
Most likely to induce intense pain
“My ID is Gangnam Beauty”
First of all, you are going to need sunglasses to protect your retinas from Cha Eun Woo’s glaring beauty. Not only that, you’ll also need a trip to the dentist to get your teeth checked after watching this drama because there are so many sweet moments between main couple Kang Mi Rae (Im Soo Hyang) and Do Kyung Seok (Cha Eun Woo) that you may just end up with cavities or worse — Cha Eun Woo-withdrawal (a very real illness!)
Most updated piece of jewelry
Geum Gang Go, “Hwayugi”
The bangle type jewelry used to control Son Oh Gong (Lee Seung Gi) in “Hwayugi” didn’t always belong on the wrist. In the original Chinese tale, it was a golden circlet that went around the head, and when a mantra is chanted, it tightens itself, thus giving it’s wearer unbearable pain. I’m sure we’re all breathing a sigh of relief that Oh Gong gets to wear a much more stylish version, which is also used as a representation of his devotion towards Sam Jang (Oh Yeon Seo).
Start watching “Hwayugi”:
Role most deserving of commendation
Kim Hae Sook, “Room No.9”
“Room No. 9” itself is a solidly entertaining drama, but what makes it such a rarity is that it not only centers around two women, but women of a certain age. It is easy to relegate Kim Hae Sook, who is in her sixties, to minor mother or even grandmother parts when her talent is obviously meant for more than just these peripheral roles. So a huge thank you to the writers for identifying that these wonderful actresses deserve more meaty roles, and here’s to hoping for much, much more!
Start watching “Room No. 9”:
Best actor (mini human)
The scene-stealing baby, Sol, “Waikiki”
“Waikiki” itself is a hoot and a half, with tons of comedic beats and earnestness just as a good youthful comedy should. But what completely stole the show for me since the very first episode, was the super adorable baby who plays Sol. The cutaway shots to Sol’s expressions always get to me, either because they’re hilariously deadpan or just so adorable they’ll make you go googoogaga too!
Most coveted ability
Aji 3’s “power down” mode, “I Am Not a Robot”
A robotics professor (Uhm Ki Joon) models an android after his ex-girlfriend, Jo Ji Ah (Chae Soo Bin). When the robot, Aji 3, malfunctions, they recruit the ex-girlfriend to be a stand in until they can fix the actual robot. Taking advantage of the situation, whenever Ji Ah is feeling flustered or cornered, she just claims she’s run out of battery and “powers down.” Now, if only we could all escape from awkward situations like that!
Start watching “I Am Not a Robot”:
Most hardworking character
Hardworking Cow, “What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim”
Sure, “What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim” is deserving of many other superlatives, like “Most hilarious narcissist” for Park Seo Joon’s character, or “Most envious locks” for Park Min Young’s hair. But sometimes, we should just address the elephant in the room (or in this case, the cow), and give the superlative award to the most obvious choice, and in this case, it’s the one who’s most hardworking — “The Hardworking Cow.” C’mon, it’s literally in the name!
Start watching “What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim”:
Most hardworking character (actual human)
Yoon Shi Yoon has literally been on our TV screens the whole year, what with him headlining saeguk “Grand Prince” in the first half of the year, legal drama “Your Honor” in the second half, an outing on “Law of the Jungle in Sabah,” and not to mention “2 Days & 1 Night” every Sunday night. Now, to be fair, I didn’t actually take attendance of every single actor/actress in the business, but he sounds pretty hardworking to me!
Catch Yoon Shi Yoon in “Grand Prince”:
Most hardworking character (adolescent human)
Nam Da Reum is another actor who seems to be everywhere (and the go-to flashback actor). This year alone, you can see him in “Radio Romance,” “Come And Hug Me,” and “Where Stars Land,” all playing younger versions of the main leads. Many child actors have gone and achieved great success in the business, and no doubt Nam Da Reum will be headlining his own drama in the near future!
Catch Nam Da Reum in “Radio Romance”:
Earliest EXO-L in history
Hong Shim’s Dad, “100 Days My Prince”
Just by the way Hong Shim’s Dad (Jung Hae Kyun) is mesmerized by D.O.’s good looks, you know he’s an EXO-L (or at least one in the making!) Hearing how he describes Won Deuk’s (D.O.’s character) exquisite facial features, and how he’s adamant in marrying his daughter off to Won Deuk despite barely knowing him, is something any EXO-L can relate to!
Drama with the most quotable poignant lines
“There are some sadnesses that no person or thing can provide comfort for.”
“Should We Kiss First” is a drama that explores how a man and a woman in their forties, who have supposedly given up on love, approach their burgeoning relationship. The drama takes on a realistic and introspective approach which thus delivers many memorable lines, and it is these quiet, human moments that really touch our hearts and souls.
Start watching “Should We Kiss First”:
Most deliciously makjang drama
Okay, truth time: “The Last Empress” is not the most delicately written drama. The twists and turns sometimes just crash into you like a five-ton truck, without any rhyme or reason. It’s not exactly billed as a makjang, but the whole thing watches like a makjang playbook, in that whatever scenario you can think up of, will most likely unfold on screen! And that’s exactly what makes this such a deliciously and ridiculously fun watch!
Start watching “The Last Empress”:
Best company name (law firm category)
Kang and Ham, “Suits”
“Suits” gave us a very stylish drama with snazzy outfits, slick editing, and a delightful bromance between Choi Kang Seok (Jang Dong Gun) and Go Yeon Woo (Park Hyung Sik). On top of all that, we also have the most awesome-est name for a law firm — “Kang and Ham.” I can’t help but crave ham every single time I see the name, and yes, I’m only five years old! Sue me. (Pun fully intended).
Best company name (ever)
“The Miracle We Met”
One of the main characters works at a bank called… Shinhwa National Bank. That alone wins all the brownie points in the world. Barring my undying love for Shinhwa (the group, not the fictional bank), the drama itself is a full-on tearjerker that explores love, family, and sacrifice, and is led by a strong team of veteran actors.
Most likely to cause viewers to scream in frustration
“Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food”
Ah, “Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food,” what on earth happened to you? The drama debuted strong and remained buzzy throughout its run, but unfortunately not always for the right reasons. The first half of the drama was absolutely fun and heart-fluttering, bolstered by the strong chemistry between the two leads. Sadly, the second part was just exhaustingly depressing, evoking a wave of disappointment and complaints from viewers.
Best remake of the year
“Life On Mars”
We do have quite a few remakes this year (“Suits,” “Matrimonial Chaos,” “The Beauty Inside” etc.) but it appears that “Life On Mars” is the one that best stuck its landing by keeping the essence of the original, while adding in relatable Korean elements! It was done so well that even the original BBC producers praised this particular remake, and is just an all around great watch with an interesting investigative-centered story line and solid actors (including the underrated Jung Kyung Ho)!
Most likely to elicit flashbacks to Zac Efron
Wait, do young ‘uns today even know who Zac Efron is? Goodness I suddenly feel so old! *shakes fist and yells: Get off my lawn!*
Somewhat similar to Zac Efron’s 2009 movie “17 Again” (but without the supernatural element), Woo Seo Ri (Shin Hye Sun) wakes up from a 13 year coma, and finds herself still with a 17-year-old mindset but in a 30-year-old body. “30 But 17” will make you laugh one second and cry the next, and regale you with tender moments of healing and hope in between.
Start watching “30 But 17”:
Most cheeky product placement
Sulwhasoo lipstick, “Encounter”
Given that Song Hye Kyo is the face of cosmetics brand Sulwhasoo, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that one of their products would make it on the show. But what turns a blatant PPL into a memorable one is when Kim Jin Hyuk (Park Bo Gum) gifts Cha Soo Hyun (Song Hye Kyo) a lipstick from Sulwhasoo, and tells her she’s more beautiful than the brand’s model. Ha!
Start watching “Encounter”:
Most buzzy return to the small screen
Lee Byung Hun, “Mr. Sunshine”
Lee Byung Hun’s last lead role on TV was in 2009 (“IRIS“), thus when news of him starring in “Mr. Sunshine” started spreading — a Kim Eun Sook vehicle no less — it generated major buzz. The epic storytelling, coupled with Lee Byung Hun’s captivating performance, kept the drama on the list of most buzzworthy dramas for many consecutive weeks. The talented actor himself also won a Daesang for this role at the 2018 Asia Artist Awards.
Most all-around beautiful drama
This drama is not just aesthetically gorgeous — and the cinematography is seriously nothing short of a masterpiece — but also carries a message that is just as beautiful: Love can heal us when even nothing else can. This is one of the most critically acclaimed dramas of the year, with special praise given to the heart-tugging story line and the beautifully layered performances from the strong cast, and drama itself has even gone on to win a Daesang at The 2nd Seoul Awards.
Which of these dramas have you watched or will be adding to your watch list? And what other superlatives will you be bestowing on your favorite dramas? Share your nominations and other comments with us below!
Belinda_C has written 54 articles/quizzes in 2018, and wishes to thank all the readers and let them know she appreciates each and every one of them! She’s also ecstatic she worked in both Shinhwa and SEVENTEEN in a non-K-pop related article! Share your love for them with her on Twitter!