Makjang dramas are everyone’s guilty pleasure. Some viewers like to watch them for the fashion, others for the storyline. Others watch dramas to check out their favorite actors. The genres vary from rom-coms to mystery to historical dramas. One thing is for sure, makjangs offer entertainment reserved only for the open-minded viewers.
Makjangs are created with over-the-top storylines. Think of every trope that has been in dramas (secret birth lines, amnesia, ridiculous plot twists, etc.) and you have a makjang drama. If this type of drama sounds interesting, suspend your disbelief, here are some popular makjangs that you can binge!
The World of the Married
At first look, it seems that the life of Dr Ji Sun-woo (Kim Hee-ae) in the 2020 hit “The World of the Married” was every bit the fairytale. She had a doting husband, a loving son, and a successful medical career.
However, this drama just hit a sharp turn into full makjang mode right in the very first episode. It was revealed that Sun-woo’s husband was having an affair- and you have to thank a single strand of hair for kicking her woman’s intuition into gear! What made things worse is that all her friends were in on it.
Sunwoo decides to do whatever it takes to get revenge on the people she thought were friends and family. With the steamy affair taking centre stage, the story just went to places that brought viewers into a steep emotional rollercoaster. It takes you on a whirlwind of revenge, grief, forgiveness, and healing.
Temptation of Wife
This 2008 SBS drama is one of the most memorable series on Korean TV. It all started in one night when Jung Gyo Bin took advantage of Goo Eun Jae’s while she was in a drunken stupor.
Eun Jae and Gyo Bin got married but it was not a happy marriage. To make matters worse, Eun Jae’s best friend, Shin Ae-ri, openly flirts with Gyo Bin in front of her. Gyo Bin realized that he no longer wanted to remain married to Eun Jae and tried to kill her. Eun Jae was presumed to have drowned and died. Gyo Bin thought he was successful in killing Eun Jae and moved on with Ae Ri. Months later, Eun Jae is back to seek revenge now with a different identity.
If you’ve watched Korean variety shows or lots of kdramas, you have probably come across a spoof scene where a person has a mole on their cheek, which is used to determine their identity. This sequence was taken from Ae-ri’s comeback where she simply added a mole on her cheek and all of a sudden no one could recognize her.
If you dare to go on a major throwback for your drama binge, Temptation of Wife requires a wide-open mind! As much as it is captivating, the story also goes full makjang mode. But you can’t expect from no less than Kim Soon Ok, the woman dubbed the Queen of Makjang dramas who also penned The Last Empress and The Penthouse: War in Life.
This 2018 drama shows us that even in education, things can get overly dramatic. That’s because SKY Castle gives us a sneak peek into the lives of wealthy families and how far they are willing to go to get ahead in life. Living in affluence, these people are willing to spend good money on anything to set their children up for success. As college admissions draws near, parents are scrambling to groom their children for the top universities in South Korea. They schemed to get the most sought-after tutor in the country, only to find out that it comes at a dear price.
SKY Castle gives you overbearing parents, an evil tutor, meltdown-inducing schoolwork, and murder. It’s the story’s examination of class and culture that also contributed to why this show works.
The Last Empress
This Jang Na-ra drama is about an innocent theatrical actress who marries the king and becomes the queen of the Korean Empire. As she adjusts to life in the palace she realizes that nothing is as it seems. Her safety is constantly under threat as the back-stabbing, affairs, and secret alliances in the court come to light.
The Last Empress is full of family secrets, cliches, and more drama than an average K-Drama fan might be able to handle. It required a suspension of disbelief like none other with all of its twists, reveals, reversals, fake-outs, plot rewinds, and character appearances and disappearances. Each of its dizzying 52 episodes can only be described as a wild ride complete with thrills and whiplash!
That Winter, The Wind Blows
In this drama, the two main characters are tossed into a game of survival in their respective worlds prior to meeting each other. Oh Soo (Jo In-seong), being a high-end gambler, has to deal with insidious people who run the seedy and dirty world of gambling. Thus, violence and deceit are all too familiar concepts to him.
Oh Soo crossed paths with a blind heiress, Oh Young (Song Hye-kyo). He saw an opportunity to impersonate Oh Young’s lost brother in order to get enough money to repay a debt. But, as the story goes, his initial interest in money turns into love.
The Winter, The Wind Blows is a lighthearted melodrama. This series has definitely turned into a classic. It gives viewers all what Korean dramas stand for – stuffiness, dragginess, melodrama and occasionally theatrical.
Love in Sadness
In this 2019 MBC series, the story mainly revolves around Yoon Ma-ri (initially played by Park Ha Na and later on by Park Han Byul) who is married to Kang In-wook (Ryu Soo Young). However, her marriage was not a happy one because of her overly possessive husband.
Frightened and fed up, Ma-ri turns to a plastic surgeon for help to change her face. She believed that it was the only way for her to escape and seek vengeance.
The kind-hearted surgeon (Ji Hyun Woo) is the opposite of her husband. He took care of her request but winds up giving Yoon Ma Ri the face of his beautiful yet indifferent late wife, Woo Ha Kyung.
Love in Sadness is a soapier kind of Korean drama that has an interesting blend of the a 40s noir plot, sprinkled with flowery allegories, some fine poetry, and plenty of lovely cinematography.
Stairway to Heaven
This drama dials the makjang all the way up to 11. In the story, Han Jung-suh (Choi Ji-woo) not only loses a parent, but gets mowed down by her stepsister’s car—twice. As if that weren’t bad enough, the impact by the car gives her amnesia and. Her stepbrother takes advantage of the situation convincing her they were in love before she lost her memory and runs off with her.
In true makjang fashion, Jung-suh discovers she has ocular cancer, which causes her to go blind. The doctor can’t take a live cornea donor, so the stepbrother commits suicide to give her new eyes. Just to make things even more tragic and dramatic than it already is, the cancer eventually spreads to Jung-suh’s brain and kills her.
This drama raked in a lot of good reviews in its release. It was heavily dramatic that even Sophocles – the father of tragedy – could break down and weep. However, despite how over-the-top the story went Choi Ji-woo gave justice to her character through her believable performance as the disaster-dogged heroine.
Penthouse: War in Life
The Penthouse became one of the most popular makjangs to grace 2020. As far as makjang goes, this drama is often compared with SKY Castle. The show follows the lives of the families who live in the opulent Hera Palance, which is a lavish apartment complex. K-drama fans are drawn to this drama mainly for the dark secrets the character has which overshadowed their extravagant lifestyle. The story unfolds revealing the lengths in which these people are willing to go to gain more wealth, power, and prestige. However, a mysterious death slowly starts to bring their secrets into the light.
Betrayal, life-long frustrations, and greed are just some of the many themes explored in this drama. Just as desperate the families in SKY Castle are to get ahead in life, the main characters in Penthouse are just as driven by their greed and need for self-fulfillment. However, individual secrets add a layer of mystery and thrill which is why it stretched for a total of 3 seasons!
Money Flower is a story of greed, power, and revenge. It’s about people who think that they have power over money, but they are actually the ones who are controlled by their greed for it.
In the middle of it all is Pil Joo (Jang Hyuk), a talented young man who rose up the ranks to become the top lawyer for the Cheongah Group, which is a large corporation. He is the subject of envy, but he is also praised for his skills.
However, Pil Joo has a dark secret that pushes him to hide his real identity. He’s actually plotting against the company he is working for, and he has set into motion an intricate plan for revenge. He plotted against the greedy family who owns the corporation, right down to every detail. What he didn’t expect is that these plans led him to someone special who just might derail his mission.
This series is an intriguing revenge melodrama done right. It’s thoroughly twisted, but completely captivating.
Revenge dramas often give the antagonist an unfair advantage where it seems almost impossible for the hero to win. It is usually at the end where the long-suffering hero triumphs. This drama breaks the mold because it showed Pil Joo having the upper hand most of the time, when he didn’t, he rolled with the punch, regrouped, and triumphed. With its refreshing take on this genre, Money Flower is an intellectual drama, not one driven by unreasonable emotions of the hero’s tragic past.