2021 offered us a lot of good dramas despite the limitations that productions face today. However, that didn’t stop creative juices flowing as we are gifted with a lot of good shows throughout the past 12 months. Among the list of dramas that aired this year, there are some that truly stood out from the rest, but there are some good ones that most of us may have overlooked!
We want you to get up to speed just in case you’ve missed these hidden gems in K-dramaland! Check out which dramas didn’t make that much noise, but deserved to be added to your watchlist!
1. You Are My Spring
The drama gently tackles the importance of gradual healing and the creation of healthy boundaries. It conveys deep yet impactful life lessons that will remind us that a bad situation doesn’t have to be your final destination if you choose to do better. The story revolves around three characters who seem to be your typical love triangle, but as the show progresses we see that these individuals are grappling with childhood traumas. If you are looking for a balance of romance, drama, mystery, and healing, You Are My Spring weaves all these narratives into an interesting plot!
2. Dali and Cocky Prince
Dali and the Cocky Prince is a romantic love story that can leave you smiling from beginning to end. It’s about a man named Jin Mu Hak (Kim Min Jae), who knows how to make money even though he is not very book smart, and Kim Da Li (Park Gyu Young) a director of an art gallery. Da Li lost all her assets after her father died and she needed to find a way to keep her art gallery afloat. Jin Mu Hak comes in to save the situation by lending her some money. He didn’t expect that he would end up falling in love with her, and he didn’t have any qualms showing it. Besides the heart-warming scenes between the two main characters, this drama is also a story about bouncing back after hitting rock bottom. From living a very comfortable life, Da Li had to go through a difficult journey which also led her to find herself again. This is a perfect series to commit to if you want something mellow and cute.
3. So I Married an Anti-Fan
The plot revolves around superstar celebrity Hoo Joon (Choi Tae Joon) who met his match in spunky magazine reporter Lee Geun Young (Choi Sooyoung) at the opening ceremony of a new nightclub. After witnessing his rude behavior and accidentally throwing up on him, Geun Young is fired from her job. Outraged, she thought that Hoo Joon was behind her dismissal and staged a one-person protest outside his talent management agency. As the news traveled fast, Geun Young soon gained a notorious reputation as Hoo Joon’s ultimate “anti-fan”. The two ended up in a reality TV show where a celebrity is forced to live with their hater. Geun Young was forced to sign on because of her financial situation. Meanwhile, Ho Joon agreed to join the show in the hopes of boosting his image and recovering popular affection. As the show went on, the two try to irk each other, unaware that they are falling in love in the process. It is a fun, light-hearted watch filled with comic scenes that will make you happy.
4. The Witch’s Diner
This omnibus series is based on a novel of the same name. The story revolves around desperate individuals who come to dine at the restaurant that is operated by Jo Hee Ra (Song Ji Hyo). More than what’s on the menu, people flock to the diner because they are aware that the special meals prepared in the diner can help make their wishes come true. Hee Ra serves them dishes based on their wishes, but they must pay the price so that their desires can be fulfilled. Each episode concludes in a similar fashion, but it offers exciting elements that get you immersed in the story without you realizing it. This K-drama is a good mix of mystical themes, suspense, dark arts, romance, and slice-of-life!
5. Reflection of You
“Reflection of You” is the dramatic makjang you never expected to enjoy! It was well-received in South Korea, but it didn’t get the same buzz in the international scene. It revolves around a character named Jung Hee Joo (Go Hyung Jung), who grew more faithful to her desires rather than being a good wife and mother. Hee Joo grew up poor but she ends up marrying a wealthy man who loves her very much. They were blessed with a son and daughter and she had a successful art career. She seems to be living happily. However, this perfect life didn’t leave Hee Joo contented because she had an affair with the fiancé of one of her close friends. This story takes you on the edge of your seat because of its unpredictability. With its first episodes, it establishes an unsettling atmosphere with you needing to know what will happen next.
6. She Would Never Know
“She Would Never Know” is based on a popular webtoon, and it’s a love story between two office workers in a cosmetics brand. Chae Hyun Seung (Rowoon) falls in love at first sight with Yoon Song Ah (Won Jin Ah), and the two get swept away in a passionate romance. Rowoon is able to light up the screen yet again, and he delivers beautiful chemistry with Jin Ah. The main leads have a love story that pans out in a courtship that has elements of a classic romance series. But the story also defies the “predictability” of K-dramas by how they made their characters more “human” or relatable. The characters weren’t cliché, too made-up or too scripted. You would find that each one of them behaves like how we all tend to behave and react. With the rising popularity of the Korean beauty industry, this show also gives us a glimpse of the work-life of those who are behind popular k-beauty brands.
7. Monthly Magazine Home
The story follows Na Young Won (Jung So Min), a successful senior editor in the hit monthly magazine called ‘Monthly House.’ But despite her success, she lives alone in a rental house and never upgrades it much. Things change when Yoo Ja Sung (Kim Ji Suk), the magazine’s CEO, buys the property. After a life of hardship and laborious effort, Ja Sung is determined to make a fortune through his real estate investments. To him, the property is just a means to increase his assets and a place to sleep. It’s a simple show that shares real-life lessons beyond the slow-burn romance between the two main characters.
Han Jeong-Hyeon (Ji Jin Hee) has always been known as a happy man who enjoys spending time with his family. He seems like your average middle-aged family man who owns a bicycle repair shop. However, Hyeon has been hiding his true identity from his wife, Chief Corruption Officer Choi Yeon-Soo (Kim Hyun Joo). Jeong Hyeon is actually a secret agent for the National Intelligence Service. But for the longest time, he has enjoyed a quiet and peaceful life with his family. When a person who knows all about Hyeon’s past appeared one day his life was shaken. He was pushed on a quest to keep his family safe.
9. Work Later, Drink Now
This series tells the story of three single women in their 30’s who love to cap off a long and tiring day with after-work drinks. It stars Apink’s Jung Eun Ji, Han Sun Hwa, and Lee Sun Bin. The story is relatable in a way that most of us would want to unwind after a stressful day at work. We join these ladies through the daily grind. Their chemistry is enjoyable to watch and their infectious charm would make you wish that you were part of their clique. Beyond the hearty conversations over soju, the drama delves deeper into the friendship that was formed during these moments. Despite their different personalities, these women formed a genuine relationship. It gives us a beautiful reminder that having someone to rely on without condition is such a blessing.
Navillera is part of the growing trend of webtoon-based K-dramas. This isn’t a romance, which sets it apart from many other webtoons-turned-k-dramas. Other such adaptations, which are also Netflix originals, that deviate from that formula include Mystic Pop-Up Bar and Itaewon Class. It’s a heartwarming story of a 70-year old man, Shim Deok-Chul (Park In-hwan), who wants to learn and perform ballet just once in his life against the wishes of his family. He meets a 23-year-old ballet dancer named Lee Chae-rok (Song Kang) who has had a hard life since his mother died. He trained Deok-Chul and they both become a vital part of each other’s lives as they learn from one another. The story is simple as displayed in heartwarming scenes that make you feel comforted. It’s a very moving drama that shows spectacular ballet performances, which is a rare theme in K-dramas.