After finishing my ‘My Top 10 K-Pop Songs of 2018’ series, I’ll be moving on to discussing about my top 3 Korean dramas of 2018 as well as the most disappointing dramas of the year.
I’m quite picky when it comes to dramas so I haven’t watched a lot this year. Out of the dramas that aired this year, I have finished the following:
- Miss Hammurabi
- The Ghost Detective
- Let’s Eat 3
- My I.D. is Gangnam Beauty
- Matrimonial Chaos
- 100 Days My Prince
- Welcome to Waikiki
As for dramas that I’ve started but haven’t finished yet includes:
- Come and Hug Me
- Terius Behind Me
- Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter
- Dae Jang-geum is Watching
Since I haven’t finished these dramas, I didn’t consider them when I was choosing my top 3 dramas of the year. I also didn’t consider currently airing dramas that I’m watching which are ‘Memories of the Alhambra’ as well as ‘Sky Castle’ as those two haven’t finished airing yet.
With that being said, as you can tell, I didn’t watch a lot of dramas this year. There were a variety of reasons for that: I was busy with school, work, and graduation, I’m picky with cast members and drama storylines, feeling underwhelmed and disappointed with this year’s dramas, and much more. However, among of the dramas that I did watch, there were quite a few memorable ones. Of course, there were also some that were average for the most part and then others that were straight-up disappointing, dreadful, and aggravating to watch. I’ll be discussing about which dramas were which in this post so keep on reading!
Top 3 K-Dramas of 2018 — Honorable Mentions
Of course, we should start off with the ‘Honorable Mentions’ before we move on to the real deal. These dramas were the ones that were good and fun to watch, but not quite powerful enough to make it onto my actual list. With that being said, the first out of the two honorable mentions is none other than:
Welcome to Waikiki
This drama was unforgettable.. for a variety of good reasons. There wasn’t a lot going on in this drama and it didn’t consist of much. You just basically followed our six main characters as they went about their lives and engaged in all sorts of activities and stuff. However, the drama never failed to be creative, fun, and humorous. You never got bored watching this drama because every episode presented something new. There was always some kind of hilarious antic or event that occurred in every episode, and it was hilarious watching our characters react to them. Whether it was Seo-jin’s hairy mustache that would often form or Joon-ki’s dreams to become an aspiring actor, the drama always had something up its sleeve every episode which you never knew about but was fun to watch when it was revealed.
‘Welcome to Waikiki’ was such an easy, breezy, and funny drama to watch; it was one where you didn’t need to necessarily pay attention to every detail or have to watch everything closely. Instead, it was a comedic drama where you could just sit back and relax and watch all the mess and chaos unfold right in front of your eyes. I think that’s what I enjoyed the most about ‘Welcome to Waikiki.’ I just remember laughing my butt off while watching each episode and to this day I still remember the scene where Kim Jung-hyun’s character Dong-goo was trying not to fart in front of his ex-girlfriend Soo-Ah (played by Lee Joo-woo). That is a scene that will forever stick with me because it was so funny and ridiculous but simple. You don’t need a lot to capture your audience and their interest and ‘Welcome to Waikiki’ was an example of that. You just need some slapstick comedy, funny sub-plots and arcs, and comedic actors unafraid to make fun of themselves (or others) in front of the camera and you have a recipe for success.
‘Welcome to Waikiki’ remained an effortless watch from the beginning to the end, and it’s one that I will always be able to re-watch. Lee Yi-kyung in particular has great comedic timing and he definitely proved that in here (as he did with his character in ‘Go Back Couple’). I also really enjoyed watching all the cameo appearances by different actors and actresses which was an aspect that added another layer of fun in ‘Welcome to Waikiki’ (and of course, we can’t forget about our baby Sol who was so darn cute in the drama!). I don’t necessarily feel the need to re-watch this drama just yet, but it would make for a great watch anytime. Plus, it’s exciting to know that there is a second season confirmed to air some time next year! YAAAAY!
I know I know. It PAINS me to list this as an honorable mention because it was a solid drama overall, and despite the small hiccups that I had with it, ‘100 Days My Prince’ was ultimately enjoyable, lovely, and beautiful to watch. ‘100 Days My Prince’ sort of has a soft spot in my heart because it was a good historical drama that had a combination of comedy, romance, politics, and action. There was a mix of everything in this one drama which is why I liked it. Combine that with the talented cast members and the amazing chemistry between Kyung-soo and Nam Ji-hyun and the drama was enjoyable.
My personal disappointment with the drama came about once Won-deuk returned to the palace. The pacing after his return just fell a little flat to me, and you never really felt like you were going anywhere. Hong-shim’s noble idiocy towards the end of the drama also felt unnecessary, dreadful, and draggy. You know you’re in love with this man and he’s clearly in love with you, just please do yourselves (and us viewers) a favor and get back together! Plus, the downfall and death of our primary villain was definitely anti-climatic and underwhelming and that played a huge part in my disappointment with the show. If you followed my recaps for the drama, I voiced about this in the recap for the last episode. I’m clearly over it now, but the villain’s death was a pretty big mistake that the drama could have worked better around. That’s why although I really enjoyed this drama (for basically everything else), the last episode felt way too long but also too rushed at the same time. It was as if there was too much going on, but not enough happening in the last episode. My biggest issue with the drama was definitely the pacing.
However, despite my complaints about ‘100 Days My Prince’, it was overall an enjoyable, cute, and beautiful drama. I mean, it was aesthetically pleasing with great cast members and I also appreciate that it wasn’t so politically heavy. Lee Yool’s identity as the Crown Prince was definitely the center of the politics, but you also had other sub-plots going on in the drama that balanced things out. We weren’t always watching the King and his men in the palace court. Instead, we witnessed as our two leads slowly fell in love with each other or we watched as our villagers became closer to the point they were like a second family to one another. I enjoy watching historical dramas, but I have a hard time following dramas that are too politically heavy so ‘100 Days My Prince’ was a good mix of politics that we usually see in historical dramas but also romance and comedy that we don’t often see in historical dramas which was nice. I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the drama because clearly everyone else in South Korea did as well and the drama succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations with a final rating of 14%. There were some components of this drama that might have damaged the original satisfaction that I had for it, but ultimately it proved to be successful, solid, and fun throughout which is why it made in my Honorable Mentions list.
Top 3 K-Dramas of 2018
Now moving onto my Top 3 Korean dramas of 2018! First up is: *drum roll please*
Oof, when I reflect on ‘Miss Hammurabi’, there’s just an immediate sense of warmth, content, and satisfaction that comes about. I feel calm and peaceful when I think about ‘Miss Hammurabi’ and I think that’s ultimately what the tone of the drama was as well. There were many things about this drama that I appreciated and enjoyed with one of them definitely being the bravery and courage that the drama had in addressing and discussing societal topics and issues that you rarely see in K-dramaland. From topics like sexual harassment to the strict and overwhelming hierarchy in the workplace, the drama was never afraid to have a discussion about these subjects. I also liked that we were presented two contrasting arguments about each of these topics through our two leads – Ba-reun and Oh-reum. You never just got one side of the story. There were always two sides to each story and the drama showed them through our characters. While I might have my own opinions and thoughts on a certain topic that the drama talked about, I was also introduced to opinions about the very same topic from another perspective. The drama compelled you to be open-minded in that aspect so I liked that. You were always constantly learning just like how our characters in the drama too were learning as they navigated their workplace.
Since the drama chose to dive into a variety of topics, you never knew what the drama was going to talk about next. However, I think that’s what made the drama thrilling and enjoyable. There were no limits or boundaries as to what the drama could talk and it never stayed within any lines. Instead, the drama went outside of the box and exposed us to procedural cases and passionate characters who felt the need to achieve justice both in and outside of the workplace. I also liked that our two leads – Oh-reum and Ba-reun – were two completely different individuals with contrasting opinions and thoughts on these topics at the beginning of the drama, but eventually came to understanding how the other person felt as the drama progressed. The character growth and development was evident and impressive as the drama aired and I especially enjoyed watching that. Ba-reun (played by L) especially developed as a character by the end of the drama which was so satisfying to watch. Oh-reum (played by Go Ara) was always passionate and righteous from the beginning, but it was so satisfying watching her slowly recruit other judges to go out of their comfort zones and to join her in the fight for justice as well. She wasn’t alone and she had the support of the other judges despite facing many hiccups and rough challenges along the way. Ba-reun and Oh-reum were awesome protagonists and although they weren’t perfect by any means (they had their own faults and demons and made plenty of mistakes), they overcame the challenges they faced with the help and support of one another.
I’ll admit, I had concerns and doubts about this drama because of our two lead actors Go Ara and L who I wasn’t so sure could carry an entire drama. However, they proved me wrong because they were both great as their respective characters and Sung Dong-il was awesome as their boss. ‘Miss Hammurabi’ was so charming and although I was a bit disappointed with the final episode, there were many great lessons and messages that the drama shared with viewers from the very beginning. I also felt like the drama did a good job in balancing the romance and the politics. The politics and the procedural cases were riveting, engaging, and complex throughout so the romance would balance things out by reeling in feelings of warmth, delicacy, and cuteness. They were each strong enough on their own, but bringing them together so that they could balance each other out was a great decision by the drama. The romance didn’t take up too much space in the drama which was nice because ‘Miss Hammurabi’ was more about the politics and the procedural cases than the romance anyways, but I liked that the drama used the romance as a way to relieve the stress, frustration, and anger that came about from the politics. Overall, ‘Miss Hammurabi’ was a strong, consistent, and powerful drama with many great teaching lessons and themes. It’s not the easiest drama to watch and can get frustrating at times because of how realistic and raw the procedural cases and characters are, but that was also what made the drama amazing and beautiful.
Okay, the weird thing about ‘Live’ is that I don’t really remember any specific scenes from the drama and I honestly don’t really remember anything from the drama. I at one point was speculating if I had even finished watching the drama because I came across one clip on Youtube of the drama and didn’t recognize it. LOL. (But I eventually went back to check and I did finish the drama). I guess I feel the same way about ‘Live’ as I did with ‘100 Days My Prince.’ I don’t really remember anything too specific about it, but it was overall a strong and powerful watch. The thing that I enjoyed the most about it was that each of our characters had their own story. There were quite a few characters in this drama, but they all felt important. They all felt significant in their own ways and received plenty of screen time so that you could learn their stories and the struggles they were facing. ‘Live’ felt raw and relatable, and there were hints of me that I could see in some of the characters.
There were also quite a few sub-plots that were interesting and riveting. My favorite would have to be the complicated relationship between Oh Yang-chon (Bae Sung-woo) and his wife Ahn Jang-mi (Bae Jong-ok). I was even more invested in their relationship than I was in Lee Kwang-soo and Jung Yumi’s relationship. Their relationship was on another level and it was interesting to watch the two go back and forth as they navigated their family situation and their respective positions in the criminal justice system. It was sad watching Yang-chon try to make amends with Jang-mi and then eventually give up knowing that his wife didn’t need or want him the way she used to in the past. I wanted the two to make up, but I also fully supported Jang-mi’s decision to divorce Yang-chon because she wanted to be at peace and to finally do something for herself. She wanted to end the suffering she was enduring in their failing marriage. The drama did an amazing job in presenting to us the complex and complicated aspects of marriage and divorce as shown through Yang-chon and Jang-mi’s relationship, and it’s an aspect that I appreciated and was invested in.
Similar to ‘Miss Hammurabi’, ‘Live’ wasn’t afraid to address controversial societal topics such as mental health which is another reason as to why I liked it. It’s something that the writer No Hee-kyung often includes and excels at in her dramas such as with ‘It’s Okay, It’s Love.’ The writer also has the amazing ability to write raw, relatable, and strong characters who you can resonate with. Plus, one of the highlights of the drama for me would be the cast. We can’t talk about ‘Live’ without talking about the cast. Bae Sung-woo as the strict and harsh training instructor who eventually gets demoted and has to work his way up while working on his failing relationship with his wife was so good in this. He was SO good as Yang-chon and he’s an actor that I’ve been on the look-out for ever since. Jung Yumi is another favorite actress of mines and she too was great in this (as she is with everything else). Lee Kwang-soo was finally able to break away from his comedic roles he’s often typecasted for, and to be honest, it felt a little awkward watching him play such a serious character. As a long-time ‘Running Man’ fan, it felt odd to see him portray Sang-soo, but I liked that he was finally able to show a different side of him. Of course, Shin Dong-wook is a cutie in this and it was so refreshing and nice to see him in another drama.
While remnants of ‘Live’ are a little fuzzy in my mind, there’s no denying that the overall feeling and thoughts I had about the drama remains the same even though the drama has long ended. It was powerful and raw and evoked many emotions out of viewers. ‘Live’ might have been a drama that simply showed our characters living their daily lives, but it nonetheless contained many lessons about life itself and the many wonders of it all.
If you read my recaps for ‘Matrimonial Chaos’, it should come as no surprise that the drama made it onto my list of the top 3 dramas of 2018. ‘Matrimonial Chaos’ is such a hidden gem for so many different reasons, and it evoked many emotions out of me even though it was such a simple and laid-back drama. I want to tear up just thinking about it now because it was so good – SO SO GOOD on so many different levels – and it also felt raw, realistic, and relatable. I honestly don’t even know why I have such a soft spot for ‘Matrimonial Chaos.’ The premise isn’t the most interesting and there honestly wasn’t a lot going on in this drama. You basically follow Cha Tae-hyun and Bae Doo-na’s characters as they navigate and explore their marriage and relationship with each other. You watch as they interact with Cha Tae-hyun’s first love and her husband, and as our lead couple spend time with their family. It doesn’t sound appealing or charming and isn’t a drama that would grab your attention or interest. Except it was. ‘Matrimonial Chaos’ was all of these things and so much more.
Our characters weren’t perfect. They were actually quite flawed and made many mistakes with their childish, selfish, and self-centered ways of thinking. In a sense, it should have been frustrating watching Cha Tae-hyun’s character Seok-moo only think about himself in his marriage with Hwi-roo (played by Bae Doo-na). It should have been aggravating to watch Jang-hyun (Son Seok-koo) cheat on Yoo-young (Lee El) over and over again with multiple ladies. It should have been dreadful and irritating to watch Seok-moo and Hwi-roo bicker back and forth repeatedly. However, although I did initially feel these emotions while watching everything unfold, I was also engaged in watching them make up for their mistakes and make amends with their significant other. Sure, Hwi-roo and Seok-moo might not be the most compatible couple and are quite different from each other, but it was fun and heart-warming to watch them slowly return to each other after spending some time apart. They had their up’s and their down’s and would make up only to fight again. They weren’t a perfect couple, but you were okay that they weren’t perfect. You weren’t mad that Hwi-roo and Seok-moo were always arguing and bickering because it made everything that much more worth it when they finally learned to be more patient and understanding with each other by the end. I noted this in my recap of the last episode, but I actually didn’t mind that Hwi-roo and Seok-moo didn’t re-marry again. They were at a phase in their relationship where they needed to start over so that they could learn how to love each other the proper and appropriate way again. It might take some time before they learn how to do that, but that’s okay. They’ll eventually return to each other at the right time and moment, and this time, they’ll know how to love each other the way that they should have done the first time around before their divorce.
I actually forgot to mention this in my recap for the last episode, but out of the many wonderful and bittersweet scenes that the drama gifted us with, one of the scenes that stood out to me the most is in the last episode when Seok-moo and Hwi-roo first registered for their marriage. After turning in their marriage registration, they secretly held hands with each other and walked out of the building together hand in hand. That scene spoke volumes to me about Seok-moo and Hwi-roo’s relationship with each other. They unexpectedly fell in love with each other and spontaneously decided to get married together. The hope that they had at that moment when they filed for their marriage disappeared the more they got to know each other and the more they spent time together, but it rekindled and revived once they spent some time apart. Seok-moo and Hwi-roo didn’t know each other as well as they thought they originally did which is why they fought so much and maybe that feeling they had when they first filed for their marriage eventually paled, but they still loved each other and eventually found their way back to each other in the end. Things have changed for the two – there’s no denying that. However, there is a bright future ahead for the couple who still wants to work things out.
It’s such a shame that ‘Matrimonial Chaos’ was not as popular in Korea. It was so good and beautiful and with amazing actors like Bae Doo-na and Cha Tae-hyun, you couldn’t go wrong. I seriously hope the two (and the rest of the staff and production) aren’t too disappointed with the results. Like I mentioned, ‘Matrimonial Chaos’ was a hidden gem and I would like to recommend everyone to consider watching the drama. Something in this drama will always stick with me and I will gladly go back to re-watch it one of these days. ‘Matrimonial Chaos’ might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but it was definitely a cup filled to the top with wonderful messages about love, marriage, family, divorce, and relationships.
Most Disappointing Dramas of 2018
Now onto the most disappointing dramas of 2018.. I don’t really know how else to word this in a more positive and kind way LOL. I’m going to be blunt and honest about my opinions on these next few dramas, but the good thing is that there are only 2 dramas on my list of Most Disappointing Dramas.. so yay I guess?
Oh the Ghost Detective.. I basically felt like a detective watching this drama as I tried to decipher what it was about and where all the rules about demons and ghosts and spirits were coming from. For a stellar cast that included Daniel Choi, Park Eun-bin, and Kim Won-hae, the drama should have been better. Even without such a great casting, the drama should have been better, but it wasn’t and it unfortunately never got better.
It was exhausting watching ‘The Ghost Detective’ because you were basically going around in circles and nothing ever really happened. You watched as our characters and our team chased after the villain who doesn’t die until the very last episode. By then, you’re just grateful and relieved that she’s finally gone and not at how long it took our team to kill her. I wasn’t angry or mad that she died in the last episode, I was just happy that she finally died. LOL. This to me just screams poor storytelling and execution. The writing to ‘The Ghost Detective’ was also poor and failed in all aspects. Like I mentioned, the drama was going around in circles. Our team knew they had to find the villain and had to save Da-il’s physical body while his spirit roamed around to assist the team, but none of that actually took place until the last two episodes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there were random rules floating around about ghosts, demons, and spirits that had no context or background behind it. The writer simply decided to just make them up out of thin air and utilize it right then and there so that our characters could move on with their investigation. Not only was that confusing and irritating to watch, but it also felt lazy and like a simple cop-out. The writer basically cheated her way through the drama.
I wanted to give this drama and the writer the benefit of the doubt after hearing poor reviews for her first project ‘Wanted.’ I thought that maybe she had improved two years down the line and maybe learned some things along the way. However, similar to ‘Wanted’, the writer failed to write a cohesive, logical, and strong drama once again despite having everything going for her. ‘The Ghost Detective’ failed to remain interesting and intriguing to watch. Instead of going the route that many other dramas do with investigative teams, the drama dedicated their entire focus on catching just one villain instead of multiple villains. I am usually not for procedural cases, but ‘The Ghost Detective’ is one where I think it might have been better for the drama. It was actually fun watching our team chase down a ghost in the last episode and I wished we could have gotten THAT in the fifteen episodes prior. Instead, all we saw was our team chase after one powerful villain (who by the way has no limits to her powers or capabilities which is how she was able to get away for so long) who didn’t even die until the last episode. I would have been fine that the drama took this route IF the villain had a weakness or some kind of limit to her powers. Instead, there was no way to stop her at all and she continued to outdo our team every single time. It was honestly dreadful watching this drama knowing that nothing was going to change in each episode.
‘The Ghost Detective’ remained challenging to watch and follow along, and I will definitely remind myself not to watch anything from this writer again, but I ultimately stuck through for the cast. I love Daniel Choi and I absolutely loved Park Eun-bin so I watched this drama for them if anything (plus, I wanted to witness how the villain would die). The last episode wasn’t all that bad either as it wrapped up everyone’s storyline and reunited our team with one another again. It’s such a shame that the drama failed to deliver on all fronts when it had the potential to do more and be so much better. Here’s to hoping Daniel Choi and Park Eun-bin can pick up a much better drama next time (which shouldn’t be too difficult to begin with).
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
Some of you guys might be freaking out about why I listed this drama here, but hear me out first. I love Park Seo-joon. He’s been an actor that I’ve followed for a few years now (before he hit it big). I generally have a positive impression of Park Min-young and I loved her in dramas like ‘City Hunter’ as well as ‘Seven Day Queen.’ However, this drama was just not it for me and it was less about the cast and more about the premise.
The first two episodes were fun and mysterious. Park Min-young was quitting her job for some unknown reason which we learned she worked incredibly hard for and struggled with at first. I assumed the drama was going to follow this premise and show us eventually Park Min-young’s reasoning for quitting. However, as the drama progressed, the drama started to shift away from that original storyline and focus on Park Seo-joon’s kidnapping incident which I couldn’t bring myself to be invested in. I know that sounds harsh, but the whole kidnapping plot felt slow, sluggish, and uninteresting. I wanted to know why Park Min-young was quitting her job as the secretary, not about their kidnapping situation when they were younger and about Park Seo-joon’s family situation and ordeal. The sudden shift and change in the primary plot threw me off and it unfortunately didn’t do the show or me any good. From then on, the drama felt flat and boring and never picked up like it was supposed to or should have had it maintained its focus on Park Min-young’s character.
It’s unfortunate because I love Park Seo-joon and Park Min-young, but the drama also felt like something we’ve seen many times before in K-dramaland. Park Seo-joon plays an arrogant and cocky CEO while the female lead is his secretary who knows his every want and stays in tune with his every need. I would have been fine with the common and mundane set-up IF the storyline was going to be different and refreshing except that it wasn’t (I know the drama is also based off the novel and webcomic, but I didn’t read either so I’m only basing this off of the drama). Unfortunately, the drama chose to focus on Park Seo-joon’s character instead and his family situation which felt boring and which I personally believed dragged out to be longer than needed. Both Park Seo-joon and Park Min-young are great actors and this drama didn’t tarnish the positive thoughts that I had of them originally, but I hope I’ll be able to watch them in a better drama next time. I especially want to see Park Seo-joon play something more serious and charismatic. While projects like ‘Hwarang’ was disappointing and underwhelming, I enjoyed ‘Fight for My Way.’ His dramas has always been a hit or miss for me and ‘What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim’ was unfortunately a miss. I know many people enjoyed it though which is great for those who did, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish this drama despite my love for Park Seo-joon.
And that is it folks! This is my review on the Most Impressive Korean Dramas of 2018 as well as the most disappointing dramas of the year. I know I wrote a lot, but I hope y’all enjoyed my
ranting discussion of my top dramas of 2018. While 2018 wasn’t bad and there are still some dramas that I want to finish (especially ‘My Mister’ which many people have been raving about), I’m hoping 2019 will bring us many more great and beautiful dramas.