2020 may not be everyone’s favorite year, but it does bring a lot of good dramas for us to binge and enjoy. For a year spent in quarantine, many have discovered the beauty of South Korean dramas. If you are not up to speed, but are curious to see what’s good, why not start with this long list of highly-rated dramas as rated by IMDb (Internet Movie Database).
Itaewon Class – 8.2%
Itaewon Class is an inspiring story of an ex-convict and high school dropout Park Saeroyi (Park Seo-joon). Despite the stigma surrounding people who did their time behind bars, it did not put a damper on his goal of building a restaurant franchise in Korea. He even stretched out his plan to have his company compete against Jangga Group, a family-owned conglomerate led by CEO Jang Dae-hee (Yoo Jae-myung).
Saeroyi sets out on this exciting and challenging journey with his staff members Jo Yi-seo (Kim Da-mi), Ma Hyeon-yi (Lee Joo-young), Jang Geon-soo (Kim Dong-hee), and Kim To-ni (Chris Lyon) in fulfilling his dream. More than that, Itaewon Class also opened Korean society to diversity and inclusivity by featuring characters representing sexual minorities and people of color.
Hi! Bye Mama – 8%
After she died from a tragic accident while pregnant with her daughter Seo-woo (Seo Woo-jin), Cha Yu-ri (Kim Tae-hee) remained on earth as a ghost. For five years she lingered around her family until one day a miracle brought her back to life. However, this was only a temporary arrangement set by the gods. She was given the option to fully reincarnate only if she can take her place as a wife and mother.
Unfortunately, this was not so easy because her husband, Cho Gang-hwa (Lee Gyu Hyung), has already remarried to Oh Min-jung (Go Go-gyeol). This series brings mounds of tear-jerking moments as it touches on different relationships and how each person has coped with loss.
The World of the Married – 8.1%
Based on the UK’s hit TV series Dr. Foster, The World of the Married is one of the most successful K-dramas in 2020. It offers a bluntly honest portrayal of marriage and divorce that spiraled out of control. It all started when Dr Ji Sun-woo (Kim Hee-ae) discovered her husband’s affair and that their friends knew all about it.
Once trust is broken, this leads to an endless chain of speculation and distrust, which inevitably resulted in a brutal divorce. Sun-woo finds herself in a battle with her ex-partner Tae-oh and his new wife Yeo Da-kyung (Han So-hee). Unfortunately their son Joon-young (Jeon Jin-seo) was caught in the crossfire and ends up mentally traumatized.
Hospital Playlist – 8.7%
Hospital Playlist earned a very high rating across the board because it is one of the most heart-warming series in 2020 despite it being a medical drama. We all fell in love with the cast which included Jo Jung-suk, Yoo Yeon-seok, Jung Kyung-ho, Kim Dae-myung, and Jeon Mi-do.
It tells the story of five doctors who have been friends since medical school in 1999. The show focused on each of the character’s personal and professional life with several relatable topics along the way. As you enjoy all 12 episodes, expect smart humor and winsome storytelling to keep you hooked and entertained!
The King: Eternal Monarch – 8.2%
The King: Eternal Monarch is set in two alternate universes: a modern-day Kingdom of Corea and the Republic of Korea. The story starts when the young crown prince Lee Gon witnessed his father’s murder in the hands of his uncle Yi Rim (Lee Jung-jin). He wanted to take over the throne and attempted to kill him too, but he was saved by a mysterious figure after he sounded the palace alarm.
He then succeeded as the new Emperor (Lee Min-ho) who remained curious about his unknown hero. When he attempts to cross the border to Korea, he stumbles upon detective Jung Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun), who seems to put the puzzle together for Lee Gon. This drama was another Kim Eun-sook masterpiece, the same writer for the 2016 hit series Goblin.
It’s Okay Not To Be Okay – 8.8%
This drama is loved for its honest portrayal of mental health—a topic often considered taboo in South Korea even to this day. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay tells the story of Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun), a psychiatric health worker who lives a nomadic lifestyle with his autistic brother Sang-tae (Oh Jung-se).
However, life takes an interesting turn when he meets famous fairytale writer, Ko Moon-young (Seo Ye-ji) while he was working at OK Psychiatric Hospital. Besides the captivating visuals, what also got a lot of viewers hooked to the story is the way it showed the emotional wounds and mental health issues of each character. It sends a message that it is indeed okay to not be okay.
Start-Up – 8.2%
Start-Up became one of the most well-received series of the year, having premiered with lead ratings not only in Korea but in other countries like the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. It tells the story of Seo Dal-mi (Bae Suzy) who worked alongside Nam Do-san (Nam Joo-hyuk) and the Samsan team as they try to build their company at Sandbox, South Korea’s version of Silicon Valley.
In the cutthroat world of startups, they were lucky to be under the guidance of angel investor, Han Ji-pyeong (Kim Seon-ho). This eventually led to a love triangle between the three characters which erupted into a viral debate across social media on whether Do-san or Ji-pyeong should end up with Dal-mi.
Tale of the Nine-Tailed – 8.0%
Gumihos, or nine-tailed foxes, are legendary creatures which are supposed to be females who feed on human liver. But Lee Dong-wook defied this definition and made an iconic character out of his role as Lee Yeon, who also happens to be a former mountain spirit and guardian of Baekdudaegan.
However, he abandons his post to search for his one true love’s reincarnation, which places his brother, Lee Rang (Kim Bum) in a vulnerable position. They meet again at present time only to find themselves on opposite sides. Beside leads that are certified eye-candies, viewers are hooked in for the thrill, the folklore, the bromance, and the love story that spanned several lifetimes!
The Flower of Evil – 8.7%
What happens when a man who has something to hide marries a detective? That is basically the premise of this story and the mystery is what captured the audiences’ curiosity. It centers around Baek Hee-sung (Lee Joon-gi), an unassuming metal craftsman who is married to detective Cha Ji-won (Moon Chae-won). Despite him being aloof, Hee-sung was a doting husband and father.
However, when Ji-won and her colleagues stumble upon a case related to a series of unsolved murders which dates back fifteen years ago, she realizes that her husband could be hiding something from her. Many are drawn into the intense and nail biting episodes as Ji-won slowly moves towards the truth.
Once Again – 8.5%
This family drama is the kind where the characters grow on you as you follow four outspoken siblings and their varying opinions on marriage and divorce. At the very start, we see them making decisions over divorce and calling off an engagement.
The stellar cast which features Cheon Ho-jin, Cha Hwa-yeon, Lee Min-jung and Lee Sang-yeob all did an excellent job at flawlessly getting into character. While it may be a long commitment as it spans a total of 100 episodes, it rewards you with a solid plot filled with twists and turns.
Mystic Pop-Up Bar – 8.0%
This drama is based on a popular webtoon and the plot revolves around an outdoor bar called the Ssanggab Cart Bar whose owner Weol-joo (Hwang Jung-Eum) is tasked to help 100,000 troubled souls. To do it, she enters the dreams of her customers to settle their grudges. Sounds intriguing, right?
This punishment was meted centuries ago, but fulfilling it dragged on up to the present until Weol-joo was given a deadline or face hell. Fortunately, she has her loyal assistant, Chief Gwi (Choi Won-young) to help her out, and when they met Han Kang-bae (Yook Sung-jae) the final stretch took an interesting turn!
Train – 8.1%
This supernatural thriller also touches about parallel worlds as it follows Seo Doo-won (Yoon Shi-yoon), a police officer who is on the path of atonement in Universe A, and a corrupt senior police inspector in universe B.
What was so interesting is that he can mysteriously move between realities, and as he did, he learns that the person he loves (Kyung Soo-jin) may be gone in one world but is very much alive in another. He tries to track her killer in one universe while he also tries to save her in the other, which led him to realize that this chase was something he cannot pull off by himself.
My Unfamiliar Family – 8.1%
My Unfamiliar Family is another family drama that captivated audiences through a realistic depiction of the growing friction and familiarity among each member. The story mainly revolves around the point of view of the third child, Kim Eun-hee (Han Ye-ri). At the beginning, it shows your typical household on the verge of falling apart. Everything looked seemingly perfect on the surface, but each individual is actually holding on to secrets and grudges.
Eventually, the fine cracks in this family dynamic only got bigger when the mother, Lee Jin-sook (Won Mi-kyung) confessed that she wants to end their marriage and start a new life. With this unexpected announcement, everyone was moved to explore the reasons that led them to their unhappy present and confront the pain they constantly brush aside—that is, if they want to create stronger, more honest bonds.
Do You Like Brahms? – 8.0%
The story behind ‘Do You Like Brahms’ revolved around the story of unrequited love between the famous German musicians, Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumman, who was actually married to Robert Schumman, Brahms mentor. In this retelling, the plot also follows a similar story where a musician fell in love with his best friend’s lover.
Chase Song-ah (Park Eun-bin) finds herself in a similar situation when she gets involved in a love triangle with her two best friends who are actually no longer dating each other. We also see her struggle as she bravely stood her ground to follow her dreams of professionally playing the violin. If you are into dramas like, ‘A Piece of Your Mind’ or ‘When the Weather is Fine’, this slow-burn romance-drama will give you a similar vibe.
Money Game – 8.1%
Money Game gives us a closer look at the economic reality of South Korea, particularly on the pervasive problem on the rising rate of housing prices. The plot is based on the real-life case of Lone Star Fund’s bargain sale of Korea Exchange Bank.
This story takes place twenty years after the IMF’s outbreak, and it shows the conflict between the head of the Financial Policy Bureau who sought to dispose of the Jungin Bank, which was on the brink of losing a third of the government’s shares, and the Chairman of Finance, who had been scheming to hand over the bank to the Bahamas, which was a private equity fund on the verge of bankruptcy.
This struck fear in the South Korean government as the unfolding events are starting to look like the 1997 Asian financial crisis all over again. Chae Yi-hun (Go Soo) and Heo Jae (Lee Sung-min) unravel the mystery and reveal the hidden agendas made by economic giants.
365:Repeat the Year – 8.2%
This is a story about 10 individuals who are given the chance to reset their lives by going back in time by one year. They grabbed the opportunity to improve their lives, but when they battle their destiny, mysterious events start to happen. Based on the Japanese novel, ‘Repeat’, this drama stars Lee Joon Hyuk, Nam Ji Hyun, and Kim Ji Soo.
They are called resetters, who assume that they are to change their lives for the better, but little did they know the changes they made led to a dreadful nightmare where they start dying one by one. The ones who are left must try to escape death which eventually led to an intense survival game that should keep you on the edge of your seat!
Lie After Lie – 8.3%
Ji Eun-soo (Lee Yoo-ri) marries into a chaebol family, but her life is anything but a fairytale. Everything blew up when she was found bloody at the scene of her husband’s murder. Of course, she was accused of killing him, despite her denial that she had anything to do with it.
But a closer look into her story tells us that she has every motive to possibly kill her husband since she has experienced several episodes of domestic violence in his hands. However, his death was not the end of her nightmare because her mother-in-law made it a point to weave a web of lies to make sure that Eun-soo will never get the chance to have her story heard.
18 Again – 8.7%
Just like ‘365:Repeat the Year’, this drama is also about going back in time for second chances. But this drama takes on a more comical and romantic tone as it is based on the film 17 Again which starred Zac Efron. This drama follows the story of Jung Da Jung (Kim Ha Neul) and Hong Dae Young (Yoon Sang Hyun/Lee Do Hyun), a married couple who is on the brink of getting a divorce.
But one day, Dae Young goes back in time and transforms into a teenager who goes by the name of Go Woo Young. Now living as a teenager, with a 37-year-old mind, he befriends his teenage daughter and son. As they got to know them as a friend, he realized why their family was crumbling. But will he be given a chance to fix things? This drama will leave you with tear jerking and funny moments laden with memorable life lessons.
Uncanny Counter – 8.6%
The Uncanny Counter is based on a webtoon titled Amazing Rumor which is about evil spirits who came to earth to live among humans. However, the counters, who disguised as employees in a noodle shop, are out to catch them. This heart-pounding story centers around So Mun (Jo Byung-gyu), a high school student, who got into a car accident that left him orphaned and disabled.
But on his birthday, he suddenly received powers which allowed him to be one of the counters. This drama drew a lot of positive responses because it offers the right mix of mystery and action, which includes heart-stopping parkour stunts and martial arts.
Kairos – 8.5%
Many would say that Kairos is one of the underrated drama series of 2020 which also revolved around a time-travelling theme. While it may not have much hype compared to others on the list, this is one of the top-rated.
It tells the story of a man named Kim Seo-jin (Shin Sung-rok) who seems to have a perfect life, but everything comes crashing down when his daughter mysteriously disappears and evidence points to murder. Unable to bear the pain of losing a daughter, his wife, took her own life. Seo-jin then connects with Han Ae-ri (Lee Se-young) through a phone call as she lives a month into the past. Together, they manage to change their past, present, and future.
Many praise this plot-driven drama because it has realistic dialogue and character development. You will enjoy how the characters use wit to get what they want, and that journey is translated with the right blend of mystery and intensity.