Written by: Samira Y Rasul
Now that we are halfway through 2020, we can all agree that this year has been one of the best in K-drama land.
From intriguing stories to amazing casts and mesmerizing OSTs, we have relished some extraordinary drama experiences this year. But for me, some of the 2020 Korean dramas will forever stay memorable for the depth and maturity they exhibited.
Moreover, below are the highlights of 2020 Korean dramas so far and why they have been so close to the hearts of many:
1. Strong female leads
Female leads in K-dramas have been holding an ambitious, feisty yet adequately coy and innocent image for a very long time. Even though the last couple of years have seen a gradual shift from that, this year probably was the best in portraying strong and visionary female roles with gravity and leadership.
Who couldn’t forget when Yi Seo unabashedly announced that she will make her man achieves his dream and willing to fight tooth and nail against anyone who blocked her path? One of my personal favourite victories was when Yoon Se Ri beat both her incompetent brothers and protected her love in an unknown land — all of this while running a company like a badass. And don’t tell me you were not impressed by Yeo Rin in ‘Mystic Pop-up Bar’ when she took on 20 men in fighting by herself to protect her man.
These ladies do not wait to be saved by a guy, rather know how to save themselves and also their loved ones. They are not taking any more societal pressure and are ready to live their life on their own terms — making them even more relatable to all the amazing female fans out there.
My 2020 drama queens were not just another puzzle piece in the story that encompassed the life of the male protagonists. They were their own masters and deciders of their own destiny.
This is definitely a defining feat in the drama lands because these characters that are closer to today’s real-life women, encourage female empowerment in all walks of life. From a remote village in North Korea to the CEO’s office in Seoul, these ladies show us the strength and determination of women while celebrating their female friendship, and success.
2. Warm and kind male leads
Here’s another growth that is most prominent in the drama plots this year. For many years now, dramas have glorified the overly possessive traits and jealous boyfriend image in the male lead characters.
As much as we all find it cute in the dramas, that toxic masculinity is not at all romantic in real life. Genuinely girl, if you’ve been there, I feel bad for you but you know what I mean! But this year, our drama guys have upped their games and have matured into amazingly considerate, warm, and cute empowerers. These guys are so good that they should be in our list of ten good things to say to our tomato plants — cue, Captain Ri anyone?
Remember how Ik Jun won all of our hearts being the caring and loving single father? That alone speaks magnitude about how the presence of such positivity can nourish one’s relationships with their loved ones. Han Kang Bae also perfectly shows in ‘Mystic Pop-up Bar’ how to support your girl while she fights her way through her past.
These strongly confident yet soft as melting butter male characters break the stereotypical male protagonist theme that has been going on for way too long and pave the way to more humane, more positive, and exemplary male roles in the drama land.
3. Social issues
Time and again I have heard from my non-drama watching friends, colleagues, and even relatives that K-dramas tend to focus mostly on fictional clichés. But 2020 has proved all of them wrong again by bringing light to pressing social issues and holding up realistic life problems with much poise.
Even as the world is swamped by social awareness and uprisings in many corners, dramas like ‘Itaewon Class’ have set the example by casting a foreigner and person of colour as one of the main casts. It won all our hearts by introducing a transgender character in the plotline and show her not as a comedic escape but rather actively address the struggles these people face in the society.
Dramas like ‘It’s Okay To Not Be Okay’ dares to strike up a conversation about mental health awareness and therapies. Healing dramas like ‘I Will Go To You When The Weather Is Nice’ and ‘A Piece Of Your Mind’ play such wonderful roles in giving hope in the midst of a global crisis and encourages to take a breather when life gets too tiring.
K-dramas have swept through almost every corner of the world and it is a high time they stopped shying away from addressing issues that are jolting the rest of the world.
As the whole world wakes up to many forms of injustice, the 2020 K-dramas throw a punch at those critiques who call them out for being too passive, not inclusive, or not holding any social messages. Of course, there is still a long way to go but this year definitely marks a very encouraging milestone in the industry for creating more versatile characters and stories with more dimensions in them.
To say that the first half of 2020 was a great one in K-drama land is an understatement. It has not only gifted the fans with some very meaty stories but also some realistic and flavourful characters.
Watching the dramas as we are all stuck at our home, praying for the world to heal, these shows have healed our inner anxiety, stress, and unrest in so many levels that they will remain in our favorite lists for a very long time.
Now, all we have to do is just wait and see what the rest of the year has to offer. But if there are anything like the first half so far, we might as well declare this year to be the best year of the decade in K-drama land.