Written by F. Seg
I was not a big Korean drama fan before. I watched maybe a total of 15 K-dramas my whole life but during the quarantine period last year, I needed something to keep my mind off my worries. Thus, I decided to watch a drama, and before I knew it, I was binge-watching series after series.
The five dramas listed below were my greatest discoveries. One way or another, they led me to become the K-drama fangirl I am today.
Romance Is a Bonus Book (2019)
Despite being a casual K-drama viewer, I must confess that I have admired Lee Jong Suk for years. I enjoyed watching even his dramas which were not the usual “talk of the town.” Thus, when I needed something to watch, Romance Is a Bonus Book was the obvious first choice.
Romance is a Bonus Book is about Kang Da Ni (Lee Na Young) and his childhood friend, Cha Eun Ho (Lee Jong Suk). Da Ni was once an accomplished copywriter but is now divorced, unemployed, and struggling to provide for his daughter. Eun Ho, in contrast, is a young, successful, and famous author. Desperate for work, Da Ni lies about her background to land a job as a temporary worker in the same company as Eun Ho. A love story begins to unfold as they become more involved in each other’s life.
This drama was more than just an enjoyable series. I loved the thoughtful poetry, the honest portrayal of Kang Da Ni’s journey, and how it tackled socially-relevant issues. The characters were well-developed, relatable, and endearing as well. The realistic yet emotionally mature depiction of the bonus romance was so heart-warming that I had a hard time moving on after watching it.
Something in the Rain (2018)
I was so delighted with Romance Is a Bonus Book that I immediately looked for similar dramas to watch next. Something in the Rain was one of the most recommended, so I tried.
The story is about Yoon Jin-A (Son Ye Jin), a single woman in her 30’s, and Joon Hee (Jung Jae In), her best friend’s younger brother. We witness their relationship transform from being good friends to lovers and the struggles they have to go through along the way.
Like Romance Is a Bonus Book, it tells a mature romance story and tackled a woman’s struggle in the workplace. However, this was more focused on romance, and while the other was light-hearted; Something in the Rain had a hint of melancholy.
Yes, there were times that it got a little too frustrating to watch, but I appreciated that it felt real and authentic. Despite its flaws, I liked the narrative of a relationship affected by different factors. It reflected that people are imperfect, relationships are challenging, and life is hard.
Because This Is My First Life (2017)
Something in the Rain was a little heavy, so my next move was to watch plenty of romantic comedy. I genuinely enjoyed most of them but nothing gave me the vibe that I was looking for– until I saw Because This Is My First Life. This one blew me away and gave me the feels.
The story is about two strangers who got married for practical reasons. Nam Se Hee (Lee Min Ki) owns a home but owes a lot on his mortgage. Meanwhile, Yoon Ji Ho (Jung So Min), needed an affordable place to stay. The two agreed to become housemates by getting married. Unexpected complications started to arise soon after.
I was hesitant to watch this at first because I thought the male lead was rather unattractive. But lo and behold, two episodes in, I was swooning over Lee Min Ki. His character Nam Se Hee was so lovable in his nerdy, quirky way. Jung So Min was also fantastic as the free-spirited Ji Ho.
On the surface, the drama seems like the usual rom-com with all the common tropes, but it reinvented every cliché I have never seen before. It realistically showed different attitudes towards love and marriage that it came off clever and refreshing.
The story was so heartfelt, poignant, and tender. It resonated with me more than any other. It was such a rare gem I now consider my favorite K-drama of all time.
Stranger/ Secret Forest (2017)
After developing a crush on Lee Min Ki, I checked out his other dramas and stumbled upon his most recent, The Lies Within. Being a sucker for thrillers, I was glad to find a K-drama in this genre. It led me to go on a thriller-binge, and that’s how I found Stranger.
Stranger tells the story of the rational, but cold prosecutor Hwang Si Mok (Cho Seung Woo) and police lieutenant Han Yeo Jin (Bae Doo Na) as they work together to solve a murder case, and investigate the rampant corruption in the prosecutor’s office.
This drama was so good that I did not know what to do with myself when it was over. What a great find it truly was! It was cleverly written, well-directed and well-acted. I still cannot get over how good it was. The plot twists were mind-blowing and masterfully done. The characters were intelligent and made wise decisions. The great display of logic and deductive reasoning was astonishing. It was so tense, exciting, and gripping from beginning to end– a must-see for avid suspense-thriller fans.
Tell Me What You Saw (2020)
Tell Me What You Saw is by no means perfect. It sure had its flaws, but it was still a very enjoyable watch. It had great plot twists and surprising revelations that were enough to keep me interested.
However, the reason I consider this as one of my greatest finds was Jang Hyuk. The moment he appeared on my screen, I was instantly captivated. Those piercing eyes, that gorgeous hair, the badass smirk, and that fascinating laugh— so mesmerizing. He was fantastic as the revengeful Oh Hyun Jae. He is such a magnificent actor I will probably be stuck on him for a long time.
I am still relatively new to K-drama fandom. I will surely find many more great dramas in the future, but these five will always have a special place in my heart.