Confessions of a KDrama Addict

I know that there was life before Korean dramas, but all that seems fuzzy to me now.  Everyone who knows me, even a little, knows me as a Korean drama evangelist, trying to convert people to the joys of K-drama watching.  There’s no lack of haters though—obstinate ones who think they know what they’re all about, despite not having sat through an entire one.  They don’t trust my word, even though at last count I’ve seen over 50. There’s nothing shameful about my love of Korean dramas.  So today, at the request of a friend, I’m sharing my top picks for those who want to have their idea about what Kdramas are all about shaken up a bit.

Click on the title to view the trailer.

Bridal Mask/ Gaksital (2012)

Bridal Mask/Gaksital is a period drama set in 1930s Korea under Japanese rule.  The story revolves around a Korean police officer employed by the Japanese to put down Korean uprisings and his childhood friend, a Japanese school teacher.  Together, they search for the masked freedom fighter leading the Korean uprisings.

Its pretty dark and there’s a fair bit of violence but there are no hysterics, its incredibly well acted and written, and will suck you in.

Episodes: 28
Click here for first episode recap.

 

 

City Hunter (2011)

City-hunter-poster-2So awesome.  This action drama is, as many dramas are, about a man seeking revenge.  City Hunter, however, is well-conceived and super slick. Similar to the Clark Kent/Superman secret identity setup, the City Hunter—who works at the Blue House by day—is on a mission to scourge Seoul of its dirty-dealing politicians responsible for a political cover-up that left his father dead.  Or at least, that’s what they want you to believe…

Episodes: 20
Click here for first episode recap.

Arang and the Magistrate (2012)

Arang_and_the_Magistrate-posterThis historical drama mixes romance, fantasy, horror, mystery, and action in the story of a ghost, Arang, and a ghost-seeing magistrate trying to uncover the mystery of her death.  It is absolutely beautiful to look at, the story is well written and acted, and is actually kind of funny, too. Oh yeah, and the soundtrack is pretty kick-ass, as well. This was my favorite of 2012.

Episodes:  20
Click here for first episode recap.

My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (2011)

400px-MyGirlfriendGumihoThis is my absolute favorite Korean drama of all time. I remember waking up roommates from laughing so hard.  My Girlfriend is a Gumiho is a romantic comedy (that honestly, takes a few episodes to get into) about a mythical nine-tailed fox that gets released from a painting.  She follows around the man responsible for her release (an aspiring action star) demanding he buy her meat to eat or she’ll eat his liver.  He happens to be the world’s biggest coward. They develop a friendship and eventually more as she goes through the process of trying to become human and the hero himself does some growing up.

Episodes: 16

Click here for first episode recap.

(Also, if you’re thinking all Korean girls look the same after looking at this page, it’s actually the same actress in these two shows)

 Coffee Prince

398px-Coffee_PrinceThe hippest of all hip dramas and one of my all time favorites, Coffee Prince is about a woman who disguises herself as a man to work in a coffee shop that only hires men. Essentially a romantic-comedy, this story follows the process of the cross-dressing girl and her boss falling in love despite her boss not knowing her true gender.  Tears come after the Big Reveal, but they only last for an episode or two.  Aside from being considered entertaining by everyone who watches it, Coffee Prince is also known for its fun soundtrack.

Episodes: 17
Click here for first episode recap.

The King 2 Hearts

The_King_2_Hearts-posterWelcome to a make-believe world where South Korea still has a monarchy.  The crown prince knowingly gets engaged to a North Korean spy shortly before his brother’s death forces him to become king.  Was the North behind the king’s assassination?  Can a happy marriage really exist between a northern spy and southern monarch?

Much of this drama takes place during military games.  It is mostly a romance, but also a story about a once carefree guy learning to grow up under the weight of leading a nation.  Also, unlike many dramas, this one features a kick-ass, clever heroine.

Episodes: 20
Click here for first episode recap.

Queen In-Hyun’s Man

Queen_In_Hyun's_Man_PosterA smart, historical love story about a man who time travels from Joseon era Korea to the present and meets an actress who is playing the role of the Queen he was responsible for protecting. He uses information from history books he reads in the present to aid him in his trips back in time to solve various mysteries that will allow him to continue protecting the Queen. During his visits to present day, however, he finds himself falling in love with the actress and increasingly reluctant to leave.

This drama, out of all the ones I’ve recommended, is the sweetest and most decidedly focused on the love story. Fortunately, it’s a story filled with charm, humor and heart and low on the drama.  Except, of course, when the history he’s altering takes a turn for the worse…

Episodes: 16
Click here for first episode recap.

 Joseon X-Files(2010)

Joseon_X-Files-posterUFOs appear in 17th century Korea and a team of two look into what’s behind the flying objects and the other mysteries popping up around town.

I haven’t seen this drama but I heard it was very good and “not like a Korean drama.” It’s sophisticated, well-paced, and intense.

Episodes: 12
Click here for first episode recap.

 

History of a Salaryman (2012)

History_of_a_Salaryman-poster

I haven’t seen this, but it comes highly recommended.  Lee Bum Soo is amazing, so it’s sure to be good. It’s a mystery/comedy.  A little like Clue where someone starts off dead and the story revolves around discovering who did it.  For a case study in false advertising, watch the trailer.  The actual show is told through the lives of salarymen and takes place in a pharmaceutical company, so you’d be well justified in wondering what the connection is to the trailer.  As far as I can tell, there is none.

I can’t say too much about this because I haven’t seen it, but I would love to since I’ve heard nothing but good reviews from my friends who have. I’m recommending it because its probably as far from those old school dramas as it gets while still being highly entertaining.

Episodes: 22
Click here for first episode recap.

Answer Me, 1997 (2012)

Answer_me_1997_posterThis is another one I haven’t seen but have heard a lot of praise about. According to Wikipedia, this drama “centers on the lives of five friends in Busan, as the timeline moves back and forth between their past as 18-year-old high schoolers in 1997 and their present as 33-year-olds at their high school reunion dinner in 2012, one couple will announce that they’re getting married.”

That certainly sounds interesting enough.

Episodes: 16
Click here for first episode recap.

I Hear Your Voice (2013)

I_Hear_Your_Voice_Official_PosterSuspense. Noona Romance. Revenge. Mind reading.  Sounds like a recipe for an intriguing drama to me.  And that it was. From start to finish I Can Hear Your Voice delivered like few dramas these days do.  It went dark.  It deftly handled tropes that other dramas get mired in.  Yes, you’ll find amnesia, Fate, and time jumps but amidst all of that is a really great story and solid acting at the core.

Episodes: 18
Click here for first episode recap.

Two Weeks (2013)

Two_Weeks_TV_series-posterA man framed for murder finds himself on the run in a race against time to survive until his  daughter’s bone marrow transplant surgery.  Will he be able to save his daughter’s life and his own?  That is the central question in this drama that is paced over the his two week fight for his life. Love Lee Junki.  Love all the action and strategy.

Episodes: 16
Click here for first episode recap.

No story of drama addiction would be complete without the following resources:

Dramabeans
Koala’s Playground
Soompi
Viki

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