2020 has been a pretty interesting year for kdramas, some people went as far as to claim its one of the best years for kdramas in recent memory, and despite the current ongoing situation with COVID-19, korean dramas kept filming (abiding by the government regulations) and helped many of us cope with these uncertain times.
In 2020, many kdramas surprised me, while not every kdrama turned out to be amazing or out of this world, many were good enough to land on my list of the best korean dramas of 2020.
Note: the below list doesn’t include any kdrama above 20 episodes.
Note: this articles is subjective and a personal opinion, take it with a grain of salt.
Note: “Itaewon Class” isn’t on this list, not because I didn’t watch it but because its second-half was disappointing, if you’re curious why I said so, read this. “Kingdom 2” is not on this list because I haven’t completed it yet.
Flower Of Evil
“Flower Of Evil” was a rush, an amazing Korean drama with a lot at stake, what made it special in the beginning was the premise, a man hides his past from his wife and child, his wife comes to find out about his hidden past.
The script was mostly entertaining throughout and was such a fun experience. Performances by everyone including Lee Joon Gi and Moon Chae Won were not only top-notch but one of the best performances by lead actors in a 2020 kdrama.
You can read my full spoiler-free review of the drama here, hands down one of the best Lee Joon Gi dramas in recent memory.
365: Repeat The Year
2020 was the year of time travel korean dramas, many have attempted a similar concept to varying degrees of success. “365: Repeat The Year” does not fall prey to the repetitive and often chaotic nature of such premise but utilizes the concept to explore how normal human beings would react when given the opportunity to turn back time.
“365: Repeat The Year” is only 12 episodes long and doesn’t linger beyond its intended stay, every episode was filled with surprises and the script was mostly well-thought out and concise. Lee Joon Hyuk and Nam Ji Hyun make a cute pair and suit each other pretty well. They’ve also put on amazing performances and every actor in this drama including the supporting actors felt integral to the overall arc of the story we had. Its fun when binge-watched.
If you’re looking for the full spoiler-free review of “365: Repeat The Year,” you can check it out here.
Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim 2
One of the most talked-about Korean dramas of 2020 was probably this drama. “Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim 2” is the second season to the hit SBS drama. With some of the main actors returning to reprise their roles for the second season, it felt familiar but also fresh. Lee Sung Kyung and Ahn Hyo Seop found huge success taking on the leading roles in the second season, they do well balancing off of veteran actor Han Suk Kyu.
“Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim 2” isn’t all roses or over-the-top successful surgeries and it takes the more realistic approach at times. Filled with fun shenanigans and great performances,“Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim 2” is easily one of the best Korean dramas of 2020.
Hot Stove League
Even for a person like me who isn’t familiar at all with baseball, “Hot Stove League” was a fun watch.
“Hot Stove League” delves into the lives of the people managing baseball teams. Namgoong Min, Oh Jung Se and Park Eun Bin put on amazing performances and despite what could’ve easily turned out to be one of the most boring kdramas of 2020, “Stove League” was able to not only entertain but educate and help us understand the dynamics behind managing baseball teams.
“Hospital Playlist” is hands down one of the best written Korean dramas of 2020 and one of the best medical dramas in recent years. Unlike “Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim 2,” “Hospital Playlist” is like its mild but fun cousin. The drama doesn’t have a certain end goal or purpose for existing which can feel a bit confusing at times, it focuses on five doctors who have been friends since college.
“Hospital Playlist” is probably the most realistic setting I’ve seen of a hospital in kdramaland, there is no evil man or entity to beat/extract but rather five capable doctors doing their best at their jobs and the things they encounter in their daily lives.
“Hospital Playlist” was made with the intention of making multiple seasons, season 2 will air some time in 2021. The lead actors Jo Jung Suk, Yoo Yeon Seok, Jung Kyung Ho, Kim Dae Myung, and Jeon Mi Do are said to be returning to reprises their roles, I can’t wait to see them on screen together again.
It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
Hailed as one of the best Netflix series of 2020, “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” lives up the expectations infusing mental health and fairy-tale like setting together, successfully.
It marks Kim Soo Hyun’s first drama since his military discharge, he’s cast opposite the underrated gem Seo Ye Ji who manages to make the show her own with her shenanigans. She is not the typical female lead and Kim Soo Hyun doesn’t play the typical male lead either. Oh Jung Se was the highlight of the show for me playing what could be easily labeled one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever seen in kdrama land.
“It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” is a fun watch and delves into psychology and mental health treatment the most comprehensibly and thoughtfully I’ve seen from a kdrama, it still wasn’t perfect in that regard but at least, they treated mental health issues with the respect and consideration you’d want to see. More on that here.
Missing: The Other Side
Another highly underrated Korean drama, “Missing: The Other Side” tells the interesting story of what happens to human souls whose dead bodies haven’t been found yet. “Missing: The Other Side” has one of the most interesting concepts among a 2020 kdrama, its made better by the fact that it also doesn’t linger beyond its intended stay wrapping at 12 episodes. Every episode is accounted for and every episode was not only fun but pretty darn sad.
The performances were amazing and so was the story, if you’re looking for an intriguing different kdrama, “Missing: The Other Side” is a must-watch.
The Good Detective
JTBC has easily had one of its best years in 2020 with many hit dramas and “The Good Detective” is one of them. Contradicting its name at first, “The Good Detective” doesn’t attempt to paint the south Korean police force as those angels who work day in and day out to do good but rather flawed human beings who could also be greedy and do wrong, intentionally or unintentionally, and how greed can cause many people’s suffering.
“The Good Detective” is about the growth journey of one detective (Son Hyun-Joo) who screwed up pretty badly and how he deals with the fallout of his terrible judgment. The Story is pretty interesting and so are the performances, despite not having much of a character arc, Jang Seung Jo easily steals the show on multiple occasions. Oh Jung Se, again, puts out an amazing performance.
A strictly Netflix series, “Extracurricular” is in my opinion not only one of the best Korean dramas of 2020 but also one of the best Netflix releases of 2020 on a global scale.
The fact that “Extracurricular” was distributed strictly via Netflix gave the producers and the screenwriter the freedom to create one of the most challenging kdramas in my opinion, the first couple of episodes were slightly difficult to get through since the characters aren’t likeable at all, but the premise is hella interesting, the way the story progressed kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time wondering how our heroines will find their way out of the mess they’ve caused for themselves. Extremely well-written, there isn’t any moment that isn’t accounted for, it might be confusing at first, but everything will make perfect sense the more you watch.
The School Nurse Files
Might be an odd choice on my list considering how much I appreciate well-written scripts. “The School Nurse Files” really doesn’t make any sense, and the beauty of it is just that, how ultimately it doesn’t make sense. “The School Nurse Files” is one of those dramas you’ll either love or hate, but you’ll mostly binge-watch it attempting to understand what the hell you just watched. Nam Joo Hyuk and Jung Yu Mi did a great job playing their characters.
“The School Nurse Files” is a must-watch if you’re looking for a kdrama that’s weird and inciting. Its nothing like you’ve ever seen from a kdrama before.
Crash Landing on You
I’ve contemplated adding “Crash Landing on You” to the list because from a script POV, its probably the weakest on this list, but due to how much I fell in love with the performances and actors, I ultimately decided to include it. “Crash Landing on You” is so out of this world and has a ridiculous premise but is extremely fun to watch. To everyone who loves rom-coms, “Crash Landing on You” is a must-watch. Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin put on amazing performances and suited each other so well, they were the center of so much gossip throughout the drama runtime. Kim Jung Hyun and Seo Ji Hye were so cute together as well.
The World of the Married
Probably one of the most talked about korean dramas of 2020, JTBC’s “The World of the Married” is truly as thrilling as you’ve heard. Filled with ups but mostly downs, it takes you through the journey of a couple’s marriage collapsing right before your eyes.
The script was crazy, crazy good and will have you invested in the drama fully, it features amazing performances by some of the best in the industry. The drama doesn’t miss a beat and there isn’t one dull moment. The characters are all flawed, even those you’d presume to be the good characters, make terrible decisions that hurts those who love them. It had me on the edge of my seats and it was such a nerve-wracking experience.
So these are my picks for the best Korean dramas of 2020, what about you guys? Let me know what were your top picks for 2020.