Okay, after looked at the shows we liked this year I realized that 2019 might have been the year of the dark melancholy drama. No wonder I am in a Korean Drama funk! Even if shows started bright and happy, they took a disparate turn around the halfway mark or close to the end that just sent them sailing into doomland. Some of them pulled out of their nose dive and others went full on kamikaze with it. Rest assured, we picked shows that had endings worth watching and left us happy that we spent 16+ hours with them.
We did not watch that many shows this year due to missing out on basically all that the summer had to offer (maybe that is were all the light dramas were?). But there were several shows that we really enjoyed catching week after week that we want to share with everyone. SO without further ado, here are out favorite Korean dramas of 2019!
OUR FAVORITE KOREAN DRAMAS OF 2019
#9 Arthdal Chronicles
Premise: In a mythical land at the beginnings of humankind, the human and human-animal inhabitants of an ancient city called Arthdal contend with each other and various tribes as they establish the beginnings of Korea.
Our Thoughts: A very fun dip into high fantasy land! Though the high fantasy aspect lost a lot of viewers in the beginning, if you can hold off and keep watching despite the confusing parts in the beginning episodes, then you will probably stay intrigued until the end. We loved watching this show, though we watched strangely as we saw the first two episodes and then skipped ahead to season 3. Though expected to have two seasons, the low (by its standards) ratings led to another season not being optioned. The international internet basically erupted with comments about that. But at least they did give us a nice epilogue of what they wanted to have happened.
How to Watch: Netflix
#8 Hotel Del Luna
Premise: A hotel that caters only to ghosts and its quirky inhabitants and employees who all have a bit of vengeance to take, or not take, on the living
Our Thoughts: A spooky and yet caringly comedic tale of a ghost hotel in Seoul that will have you wondering what exactly happened 2000 years ago. If you love noona romances and beta males trying to protect their lady loves and yet ending up needing protection themselves then you will enjoy this show immensely.
How to Watch: Viki
#7 Strangers From Hell
Premise: A young man moves to the big cit of Seoul for an internship and can only afford living in a dilapidated dorm-like apartment. The only problem is, this apartment is run by serial killers and no resident makes it out alive.
Our thoughts: Ahhhh, so scary and gross! This show is creepy, grimy, slimy, dirty, dank, icky, yucky….it seriously makes you want to take a shower after every episode you finish watching. Which is some kind of level of brilliant. The storyline is well crafted to show us how this kid slowly goes crazy. The only unbelievable thing for me is why this dude stayed in this apartment so long, but I actually think only about a week might have passed for the entire show? I’m actually not sure. It might have been one week or a couple months. Either way, after one night in that place I would have gotten thine own self a new place to stay.
How to watch: On Demand Korea (Eng Sub)
Premise: A happily married woman gets an anonymous text telling her that her husbands mistress is in her department. She tries to find her and discovers more than she ever wanted to find out.
Our thoughts: Wonderfully done! The storyline is slow in an Encounter kind of way, but it picks up full steam ahead around episode 8. I was a bit skeptical as to whether this drama could build on the mistress suspense, and wow, was I wrong. My only complaint is that they kind of slammed on the breaks around the end of episode 15 instead of building to a fabulous episode 16. But that also worked with the storyline and our main heroines wants and needs. This drama has girl power all over it. I loved it!
Premise: Brought together in Cuba by fate, a wealthy yet sad woman who seems to have everything and a happy confident young man who seems to have nothing fall in love and learn to navigate their two worlds.
Our thoughts: One of our best dramas of the year! So lovely. The first episode could be a movie by itself. I really loved this drama that read as a modern look inside the life of a wealthy “princess” in a castle and the knight who saves her.
How to watch: Viki
#4 Fiery Priest
Premise: A former special forces soldier becomes a Priest in order to find his place in the world. But when his mentor is killed, the special forces of his nature comes out as he seeks revenge all across Seoul.
Our Thoughts: One of our favorites of the year! So amazingly hilarious that it made me wonder if the writer was a comic genius. The things that happened in this show were so off the wall that I could not help but laugh. And yet it was all grounded in some kind of reality. An excellent show that deserves all its ratings. In fact, the top four shows on this list show that you do not need a lot of money, star power, or fancy filming locations to make a hit drama. You just need a good story, y’all.
#3 The Tale of Nokdu
Premise: A gender swapping tale where a fighter journeys from an island to the mainland of Korea in order to discover why assassins are after his family. The only thing is, he has to find out his answers in a woman only village. So in he goes as a gender swapping lady who just so happens to fall for a gender swapping gisaeng.
Our Thoughts: A favorite of the year! An amazing fun drama that had a wonderfully light and romantic first 8 episodes that switch to daring and dark in the last 8 episodes and somehow managed to maintain the intrigue and delight of the storyline throughout. I loved this show and am so glad I watched it. The ending is so happy as well. Though the writer does put our couple through it to get there!
#2 The Last Empress or Empress’ Dignity
Premise: This drama follows the life of a failing musical actress who marries the Emperor of the Korean Empire (if the empire still existed in the 21st century) as she tries to find love but instead gets entangled in the murder of a royal family member which puts the royal family in a negative spotlight that may lead to the end of the empire.
Our thoughts: So fun, so hilarious, so serious and yet comical, this drama was the surprised delight of 2018 and on into 2019. It is impossible to predict what will happen as the #1 makjang writer penned this show as her first foray into 16-20 episode miniseries. She knocked it right out of the park; I can’t wait to watch her next one!
#1 The Crowned Clown
Premise: With a crazy King in the castle, a replacement King is secretly brought in temporarily that looks exactly like the King. The replacement has to survive the politics of the palace and attempts on his life. (I don’t want to give anything else away; this show is so good!)
Our Thoughts: The best Korean drama of the year for us! I mean, I don’t even think there is a close second. The first 15 and a half episodes of this show are absolutely riveting! AH-MAZING. I loved it and was just astounded by how gripping this drama was from the filming angles to the acting (Hello, Yeo Jin-gu!) to the story, it was all superb. You can tell that they started to run out of money and time in episode 16 which led to a kind of rushed ending, but that was really just the very last 5-10 minutes, everything else was so good, so riveting, it is a must watch!
How to Watch: Viki