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Best Korean Dramas of 2020

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

Our editors' picks for the ten best Korean dramas of 2020!

18 Again
What would you do if you could be 18 Again? After losing his job and marriage at the same time, Hong Dae Young (Yoon Sang Hyun) is suddenly given the chance to go back to his high school days and live in the body of an 18-year-old. With his new identity Go Woo Young (Lee Do Hyun), he looks back on his past and his regrets while getting closer to his wife (Kim Ha Neul) and their twins again. Eighteen years ago, he gave up his dream for his family; now, he lives out his life again for his family, protecting and loving them as a new friend to make up for his mistakes. Inspired by the 2009 American film 17 Again, 18 Again has a similar central plot as the fantasy romcom, but is further expanded with essential K-Drama elements – family, romantic love and friendship – in a detailed, well-balanced way. While recounting the countless misunderstandings between the main characters, this drama still brings a lot of fun, warm and touching moments – not to mention Lee Do Hyun's remarkably natural acting as a cutely annoying ahjussi!

365: Repeat The Year
Ten people are given an opportunity to go back one year and reset their lives, but not every one of them is lucky enough to survive till the end… Based on Inui Kurumi's novel Repeat, 365: Repeat the Year brings time-slip, fantasy, mystery and thriller elements into one intriguing plot that entangles ten strangers, who end up finding out they're mysteriously connected by fate. Police detective Hyung Joo (Lee Joon Hyuk) and webtoon artist Ga Hyun (Nam Ji Hyun) are two of the "resetters" who resolve their regrets at first, but are later drawn into unexpected and unfortunate events that push them to investigate further to save their own lives. With plot twist upon plot twist, 365: Repeat the Year develops a strong and convincing story that makes every character look suspicious and untruthful while surprising us with a new bombshell in every other episode!

Crash Landing on You
Korean romcoms often invoke improbable meet-cute moments, and You Who Came From the Stars and Legend of the Blue Sea writer Park Ji Eun takes the cake when it comes to impossible pairings. Crash Landing on You imagines a less fantastical but no less unlikely romance: a South Korean socialite accidentally parachutes into North Korea and gets saved by an elite piano-playing soldier who breaks every rule in the book to protect her. Anchored by the charming chemistry and performances of Son Ye Jin and Hyun Bin, Crash Landing on You unabashedly owns its crowd-pleasing story of beautiful people from opposite sides of the parallel falling in love against the odds through dangerous perils, fish-out-of-water comedy and swoony romance. The series also has a very warm core in its universal portrayal of everyday families and neighbors, and friendships that defy boundaries.

Hospital Playlist
Director Shin Won Ho and writer Lee Woo Jung's fifth collaboration, Hospital Playlist, continued to be a success following the Reply series and Prison Playbook. Reply 1994's Yoo Yeon Seok and Prison Playbook's Jung Kyung Ho reunite with the director and writer for their latest "Wise Life" installment along with Jo Jung Suk, Kim Dae Myung and stage actress Jeon Mi Do. As the winner of Best Drama at the 2020 Brand of the Year Awards, the tvN slice-of-life series again employs the makers' familiar formula of friendship, family and a touch of romance in a well-formed story (infused with nostalgic music) that amuses and touches hearts. Hospital Playlist follows five old friends who work at the same hospital and play music together in the band 99'ers, sharing and enjoying their ordinary yet interesting daily lives. The main cast learned to play instruments in real life and cover old-school K-pop tunes that strengthen the storyline. Unlike other heavy and complicated medical dramas, Hospital Playlist is a lighthearted healing drama that warms our hearts with stories connecting people from different walks of life.

Hot Stove League
Named Best Drama at the 56th Baeksang Arts Awards, Hot Stove League is widely recognized as the dark horse of the year for its captivating script by first-time screenwriter Lee Shin Hwa. Rather than a sports drama, Hot Stove League is closer to a workplace drama about reviving a low-performance professional baseball team. During off-season, the Dreams go from having low morale and conflicts among players and staffs, to a united team that aspires to regain their past glory on the field. Though there aren't a lot of game scenes, the acclaimed drama still offers viewers a taste of hot-blooded sports passion in several practice games that showcase their teamwork and growth. Namkoong Min's portrayal as the cold and determined new manager of the team, and his coordination with subordinates played by Park Eun Bin and Jo Byung Gyu, not only brought the Dreams back on track, but also led the drama to become one of the most outstanding and well-received series of 2020.

It's Okay to Not Be Okay
Kim Soo Hyun is back from the army, and every drama he touches is still golden. In tvN's hit romantic suspense, the popular actor quietly breaks hearts as the responsible but emotionally repressed Moon Kang Tae, a caregiver with an autistic brother (Oh Jung Se) and a tragic childhood. Seo Ye Ji is immediately iconic as larger-than-life children's book author Ko Moon Young, whose aggressive, straight-talking personality is matched by her flamboyantly luxe wardrobe. Of course, she too has a traumatic backstory that links to Kang Tae. When these two broken people who keep their wounds and emotions tucked away meet again, they become the key to each other's healing. Besides strong characters and acting, this drama stands out with its strong visuals and art direction, from the creepy-cute animated renderings of Moon Young's dark fairy tales to the gothic feel of her mansion. Moreover, the drama's various characters and storylines do seek to provide empathy and understanding for those with mental health conditions, as embodied in its clunky but supportive title: It's Okay to Not Be Okay.

Kingdom 2
The zombies are back – and they're now daywalkers. Though a new director (Park In Je) took the reins from the second episode on, the second season of Netflix's Joseon period zombie thriller starring Ju Ji Hoon, Bae Doo Na and Ryu Seung Ryong maintains its excellent pacing, production values and storytelling throughout, while upping the ante with more blood, action and gore. Revelations about the origin and conspiracy surrounding the mysterious virus escalate towards a blow-out finale in the zombie-infested palace. The scenes of zombies flooding the screen never lose their chilling impact over the six episodes of nail-biting horror. If the series' teaser ending is any indication, we're more than ready for a third season!

My Unfamiliar Family
How well do you know your family? A tragic accident turns Mr. Kim (Jung Jin Young) back to the mind of his early 20s, unravelling a chain of family secrets in My Unfamiliar Family. Beginning with Mr. and Mrs. Kim's (Won Mi Kyung) "graduation" from marriage, the story unfolds the different secrets of the family over the past three decades, from Mr. Kim's affair and Mrs. Kim's home-leaving to their first daughter's birth and the tension between the two daughters. My Unfamiliar Family also brings up the characters' personal problems, like the first daughter's marital issues, the second daughter's love life, and the youngest son's struggle with knowing "too much" of their secrets. As they say, "We don't know much because we're too close." The estranged family members gradually bond again while solving the mistakes and "mysteries" that distanced them from one another. Unexpectedly interesting and relatable, My Unfamiliar Family zooms in on an average household, and shows how the smallest misunderstanding could lead to relationships falling apart from lack of communication.

Stranger 2
The acclaimed first season of Stranger is a hard act to follow, but this equally moody and thoughtful sequel lives up to the sky-high expectations. Cho Seung Woo and Bae Doo Na return as the unfeeling prosecutor and principled police officer whose shared sense of justice and camaraderie transcends their opposing roles as representatives of bureaucratic dinosaurs locked in a prideful power struggle. Though still filled with linked crime mysteries and conspiracy beard-stroking, Stranger 2 offers less angst and thrills than the first season. Instead, Lee Soo Yun's meaty script takes a deeper dive into the investigative authority of the prosecution and the police. Notably, the protagonists, in taking up new positions in the frustrating and unproductive police vs. prosecutor dispute, also evolve while questioning themselves and the ideals and institutions they abide by.

The World of the Married
Makjang dramas are usually targeted at middle-aged audiences, but The World of the Married managed to be loved by all age groups and hit the highest ratings in cable drama history by presenting the same old infidelity story with a new level of grandness. Dwelling on the dark side of love and marriage, this Korean adaptation of Doctor Foster follows Kim Hee Ae struggling with her husband Park Hae Joon's affair with Han So Hee, while also dealing with the backlash as a mom and as a woman. With almost all episodes rated as PG 19, the revenge drama is more explicit with sex and violence than many other K-Dramas. Some say the storyline is very realistic; others say it goes too far. But we can all agree that the drama invites a rethinking of the meaning of marriage and how parental decisions can affect the next generation. Helmed by award-winning director Mo Wan Il, The World of the Married not only conveys resentful feelings but also the contradictory love-hate relationship in a broken marriage – all accompanied by the saddest drama soundtrack ever.

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Published December 11, 2020

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  • Region & Language: Hong Kong United States - English
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