So, what did you think of my Top 10 K-drama Romances? Agree? Disagree? The more I see the more I want to add to that list, or edit it.
If you’re looking for a good binge but are scared of the 16-20+ episode commitment and have a Netflix account, my best advice to you is to look at the three word descriptors beneath the series image and then the year of production. If the series has been online for a few years it’s because it’s popular and therefore probably really, really good. Many new series are premiered throughout the year, if they last on the Netflix menu for a couple of years they are a safe bet.
I have another 4 that was just wonderful but before I gush on about them, as this will be my final post on K-drama, I thought I’d include an index to all of my previous posts – in case you might be interested.
- K-Drama Crush
- Seen Squid Game? Think you Know K-drama? Really?
- Anatomy of a K-drama
- 1- Elements of a K-drama Romance
- 1- cont – Elements of a K-drama Romance
- 2. Elements of a K-drama Romance – Characterization and Technique
- Confucius in K-Drama
- 1.Classic Hollywood – Gone with the Wind? Or Left with the Seoul!
- 2.Classic Hollywood – Gone with the Wind? Or Left with the Seoul!
- Top 10 Best K-drama Romances
- Top 21 Ways to Know You’ve Over-binged K-drama
Here are 4 that I’ve seen since making my Top 10 list that are worth editing it for:
The brain child of writer Yoo Jung Hee, Flower of Evil blew me away. Described as a suspense melodrama, I would argue that it’s a grittier sort of romance. In a Edward Norton ala Primal Fear/ Fight Club style juxtaposition, Baek Hee-sung (Lee Joon-gi) is the perfect husband and father – loving, sensitive, aware and responsive to the needs of his wife and adoring daughter; no one would believe that he is actually the dutiful son of a long-dead serial killer.
To escape the stigma of being his father’s son he has assumed the identity of another person– and insinuated himself into that missing person’s family. His wife, Cha Ji-won (Moon Chae-Won) has no idea that he has been lying to her for their entire relationship. She is a detective – a role in which he has supported her to achieve.
Decades after his father’s death, copycat killings begin occurring and Cha Ji-won has been assigned the case. As evidence mounts to signal the existence of an accomplice serial killer, the seemingly perfect marriage is threatened. Just how much has been covered up? Is Baek Hee-sung the serial killer’s accomplice? How can the parents of a missing person play along with a stranger assuming their son’s identity? Does Baek Hee-sung really love his wife and daughter or is it all the perfect cover?
With a young, sexy and talented, all-star cast Hwarang was expected to be a knock out hit in Korea when it was first broadcast – not so. Speculation on the internet has cast the blame on the story or the competition it was up against in its airing slot – The Legend of the Blue Sea with its megastars, Lee Min Ho and Jun Ji Hyun.
Its international success has earned it a sleeper hit status – think Eddie and the Cruisers – an 80’s video rental sensation that was missed at the box office.
This series is brilliant and a step away from the Confucian principles that underscore many, if not all historical k-dramas. Thematically, it’s the most Western of all historical K-dramas that I have watched.
Although criticism from Korea aimed at the plot focussing on the older generation’s feud underpinning the drama as well as its musical editing and perceived sudden plot development, these criticisms can be made of many K-drama series. For the K-Pop Herald these criticisms may reflect the feelings of its young readership. For its more mature audience I would hazard a guess that it’s actually the portrayal of the older generation behaving in a way that doesn’t deserve respect.
The plot revolves around a boy-king, Sammaekjong (Park Hyung-Sik) who isn’t allowed to show his face, ostensibly for his personal well-being. He is the unknown/absent/ invisible king. In his place, his mother controls the realm until he comes of age. He appears before her at this time as a weak-willed, philosophical individual who cannot wrest power away from her. We watch his spiritual growth from the sidelines as we follow the pursuit of a young peasant without a name, calling himself Dog-Bird (Park Seo-joon) who stays in the city to avenge the murder of his best friend, Seon-u. Seon-u was killed for accidentally seeing the boy-king’s face. Both Dog-Bird and Sammaekjong assume other identities and become inductees to a training academy to become unknown boy-king’s bodyguard. And, of course, there’s plenty of romance and sub-plots in the stories of some of the other trainees.
What makes this a very Western storytelling is that it is a coming of age story that’s actualised when the 2 main male leads learn to discern when to follow parental authority and when to flout it for their own well-being and that of the best interests of the kingdom – thereby keeping Confucius well in sight. When young characters blindly listen to authority of their elders and community leaders they suffer.
With comedy, romance, action, history and a wonderful ensemble cast this is one not to miss.
Ever seen Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo or that Charmed episode when Rose is sucked into the pages of someone’s unfinished noir detective novel and writes the ending by living it? Were you captivated in a vortex of reality that is a story within a story where the characters traverse each other’s universe and pose existential questions that you could ask of your own state of being alive?
Too deep? Well, this is K-drama so you can enjoy the ride without plunging beneath the surface and enjoy the beautiful scenery, or you can ponder the reason for existence and whether our world began in the imagination of a virally adored webtoon author/illustrator in another world.
Down-and-out webtoon artist/illustrator, Oh Sung-moo (Kim Eui-sung) creates a character Kang Chul (Lee Jong-Suk), who possesses heroic character traits that he lacks himself – foremost is a strong self-will but Kang Chul is also intelligent, athletic, altruistic, talented, handsome, and quickly amasses enormous personal wealth. He has so much appeal that fans of the webtoon are hooked on his plight- he is wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of his family in the first episode.
He is, in fact (or our imagination) so head strong that when he doesn’t like the way his storyline is headed – he changes it. At first his creator, Oh Sung-moo, believes that he makes the changes himself in his oft drunken state – until he notices them when he is sober. The realisation terrifies him and he decides to end the series by killing off his main character. Then he disappears.
When Oh Sung-moo’s daughter, Oh Yeon-joo (Han Hyo-joo) comes to check on her missing father and sees a bleeding-out Kang Chul on the computer screen she is devastated until the desperate Kang Chul pulls her into the webtoon through the screen to save him. She, of course, is in love with the charismatic Kang Chul and so begins a romance and race for survival where Kang Chul and Oh Yeon-joo try to overwrite the destiny that Oh Sung-moo has set into motion at the outset of his webtoon by moving between both worlds using the rules and writing techniques of writers of serials and soap operas.
This is a very clever story that works on three levels – the surface plot – an investigation into genre and series writing – and a philosophical questioning of what is reality, who we are and why we are. Not all of the questions are clearly answers but the ride is fast paced, slick and addictive.
This series, like Boys Over Flowers has such strong universal appeal that its story has been retold several times across Asian TV. Unlike Boys Over Flowers, it doesn’t devolve into hyperbolic plot twists that prolong the ending. In fact, the version of You Are My Destiny I’m referring to is the 2014 Korean remake starring Jang Nara, Jang Hyuk and Choi Jin-hyuk. On Viki it’s called Fated to Love You.
If you like the comedy of Jim Carrey you will love the outrageous antics of Jang Hyuk as the CEO, Lee Gun. Lee Gun heads a chemical company that is closing down a factory on Kim Mi-young’s (Jang Nara’s) home-island. With negotiations falling apart and out of desperation, Kim Mi-young’s brother-in-law and his friend follow Lee Gun to Macau where he plans to propose to his long-time girlfriend. There they plot to drug him, and film him in a compromising position with a prostitute to give them leverage to force him to change his mind and keep the factory open.
Meanwhile, a mousy, accommodating and altruistic, Kim Mi-Young wins a holiday at the same resort in a work raffle and is duped by her co-worker, and love rat, to take him along as her date. Lee Gun’s girlfriend doesn’t show up and unknowingly both Lee Gun and Kim Mi-Young imbibe the drug. Mistaking the room number on Lee Gun’s door for her own, Kim Mi-Young spends the night with him where she is found by her brother-in-law in the morning. Soon after, Kim Mi-Young discovers she is pregnant.
The story then follows a marriage of convenience/enforced togetherness trope where the added pressures of this cross class relationship begin to shape the personalities of both characters. The journey is funny, the romantic elements at times hilarious, and we have the satisfaction of seeing Kim Mi-Young blossom into a self-determined, confident individual by the end of the series.
Since seeing this series it’s become my favourite contemporary romance.