Certainly a wave of nostalgia is taking over modern pop culture, a megatrend that blew up in 2020. When everyone got all cooped up due to the current pandemic, a lot of people found comfort in the past. Research even showed that the feeling of nostalgia is not confined to a certain age group. Rather, it’s a universal trend that transcends race and culture. So if you’re feeling up for a throwback, here are 10 K-dramas that should keep you company.
It’s impossible to talk about nostalgic K-dramas without bringing up the famous Reply series. The well-loved trilogy consists of “Reply 1997,” “Reply 1994,” and “Reply 1988.” If you haven’t seen any of the series yet, you don’t have to watch it in chronological order to enjoy each installment. Each is a masterpiece of its own, and they are the ultimate throwback to what life was like in South Korea in the late 80s and 90s. The story centered around adults who are reliving their memories through witty narrations. Through this genuine portrayal, audiences get to reminisce along with their characters as they deal with their first crush, their heartbreaks, and finding their one true love. These moments are set against landmark events such as the 1988 Summer Olympics, the Sampoong Department Store collapse, the IMF crisis, the 2002 World Cup, and the rise of K-Pop. The settings, the fashion, and references to pop culture were on point, giving us major throwback feels. It can even make you pine for the innocence and simplicity of the yesteryears.
Let’s go further back with “Chicago Typewriter,” a story that goes back and forth between the present and the 1930s. It’s about three resistance fighters who tried to make a change during the tumultuous Japanese occupation of Korea. They were soon reincarnated into the present as a best-selling writer named Han Se Joo (Yoo Ah In) who is struggling with writer’s block, an avid fan (Im Soo Kyung), and a ghostwriter (Gu Kyung Pyo). Their journey becomes an epic story of friendship, love, camaraderie, and betrayal that spanned eight decades.
Youth of May
“Youth of May” is a drama about love and friendship that takes place around the time of the Gwangju Uprising. The events of this story take us back to the ’80s when local, armed citizens went against soldiers and police of the Korean Government—a move toward South Korea’s democratization. In the midst of the political uprising is a romance that blossomed between a medical student named Hwang Hee Tae (Lee Do Hyun), and a nurse named Kim Myung Hee (Go Min Si). Theirs was a beautiful love story, but one that is also riddled with challenges. The circumstances of that time give you a glimpse of what it was like to live during a tumultuous period of political unrest. But more than the nostalgic and innocent love, the drama also serves as a tribute to the victims and survivors.
Here’s another drama that goes back to a time when Korea was still fighting for its independence against Japanese colonial rule. The story is about a young boy (Lee Byung Hun) who found his way to the US after the 1871 Shinmiyango incident. Years later, he returns to his homeland as the captain of the US marine. He came back when Korea was trying to break free from the Japanese sphere of influence. He also took this as an opportunity to take revenge on the people who killed his parents. However, fate has a funny way of bringing two people together. The young man falls for a noblewoman (Kim Tae Ri) whose parents are members of Korea’s Righteous Army. While some of the elements of the series are fictitious, most of the plots is based on real history which will show you how people lived and struggled during that era. Each episode may be a bit long, but they are meaningful to watch. It blends romance, friendship, revenge, bromance, and war through cinematography that will leave you in awe.
Go Back Couple
“Go Back Couple” is a story about university sweethearts Ma Jin Joo (Jang Na Ra) and Choi Ban Do (Son Ho Jun) who married early only to end up in a troubled marriage. Now in their late 30s, they both carry their own set of regrets and burdens. But one day, they get the chance to go back to their younger years—a do-over of sorts. They find themselves back in their 20s, just around the time when they first met. As they try to navigate the reality that they’re in, they ultimately decide if they want a fresh start with or without each other. The series can offer a lot of laughs, but you also need to keep the tissue box close as it also comes with a lot of heart-wrenching scenes too.
This 2022 drama revolves around a fencing athlete named Na Hee Do (Kim Rae Ri). She is determined to realize her dreams even in the face of the IMF crisis, which could threaten to derail her fencing ambition. She meets Baek Yi Jin (Nam Joo Hyuk), a university student and the eldest son of a wealthy family who fell into a financial slump due to the financial crisis. The two fell in love and they journeyed together to reach their goals and dreams. Apart from their inspiring story, audiences can’t help but notice how the details all scream 90s. It just brings the story back to another time and place indulging us in some nostalgic escapism.
The Best Hit
“The Best Hit” explores the past and present of the K-pop industry in a hilarious drama where a top idol of 90’s travels through time and wakes up in 2017. Yoo Hyun Jae (Yoon Si Yoon) was always the troublemaker, but even his numerous scandals could not prepare him for his accidental trip to the future. So when he unexpectedly finds himself over two decades into the future, Hyun Jae teams up with his friends and set out on a journey to discover who they are, what they love, and what it takes to make dreams come true. This drama also gives us a peek into what goes on behind the scenes in huge entertainment companies and how the industry can make or break the dreams of many. But what makes the entire show more interesting is the fun and funky aesthetic. The loose faded jeans, hair spray, oversized tees, and bandanas could knock you right into the era of grunge fashion and music!
Girl’s Generation 1979
This drama has nothing to do with the “Nation’s Girl Group,” Girls’ Generation. This miniseries, which is set in Daegu in the 1970s, revolves around the middle child, Lee Jung Hee (Bona), who develops a rivalry with the new girl, Park Hye Joo (Chae Seo Jin). However, their animosity soon turned into a long-standing friendship. Through them we get to see the highs and lows of teenage life such as the pain of a one-sided love, school troubles, and the challenges in living at an uncertain time. This period was a transitional time when the country was getting back on its feet after the Korean War. It’s a turbulent yet endearing period marked by that 70s distinctive fashion and music.
Seon In Ha (Jang Keun Suk) and Kim Yoon Hee (Im Yoon Ah) fell in love at first sight when they met as university students in the seventies. However, it took some time for them to fess up about their feelings, until time and circumstance sent them on their own different paths. Decades later, In Ha (Jung Jin Young) is now a married to Baek Hye Jung, one of Yoon Hee’s former best friends. However, he was unhappy withing his marriage and could never get over his first love. So when he ran into Yoon Hee (Lee Mi Sook) after a long time, they reconnected and made up for lost time. However, neither of them are aware that their children are dating each other. When In Ha and Yoon Hee announced that they are getting married, everybody was shocked at the possible complication this arrangement can make. Will they ever get to live out the destiny that eluded them years ago?
This drama is set in 1997, right in the middle of the IMF crisis in Korea. Kim Hyung Joon (Lee Sun Kyun) is the owner of a small cosmetics company that is riddled with debts and is on the brink of bankruptcy. So he decides to sponsor a contestant for ‘Miss Korea,’ hoping to promote their beauty products. Desperate to make this happen, Hyung Joon turns to Oh Ji Young (Lee Yeon Hee), the girl he broke up with ten years before. The problem is that she is the kind of woman who is rough around the edges, and is anything but elegant. They chose her anyway and gives her full makeover, with high hopes that she can clinch the prestigious title. Besides the humor behind this drama, the big hair, the music, and fashion can surely take you back to a time when things are bold and colorful.