Freedom. Fresh air. Peace of mind. There were a lot of things we didn’t get much of in 2020, but fortunately good K-dramas weren’t on that list. As if some higher power knew we would need them to stay sane, we got a lot of great romance-based K-dramas last year. From love that crossed borders, species, and alternate universes to healing romances and second tries, there was something for everyone.
Below is a list of Drama Milk’s top 8 romance dramas of 2020. Because romance is usually a part of most Korean dramas, we only included dramas where the romance was the central focus and/or main plot point. We also only included dramas that began and ended airing in 2020. Anything that spilled over into 2021 will be on next year’s list.
Now, without further ado, get ready to swoon!
Crash Landing On You
Starring: Hyun Bin & Son Ye-jin
Plot: Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) is a successful business woman and heiress who gets stranded in North Korea after a bizarre accident. There she meets Captain Ri Jung-hyuk (Hyun Bin) while he’s patrolling the border, and they soon fall in love as he tries to help her return to South Korea.
If you live on Earth there’s no way you haven’t at least heard about this drama. At the beginning of 2020 it became one of the most watched Korean dramas on cable of all time. And one of the most beloved. If you’re looking for straight up romance with no added mystery or supernatural elements, then Crash Landing On You will melt your heart. Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin also never stopped playing their roles, because now they’re dating in real life. This was definitely one of my favorite dramas of 2020.
It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
Starring: Kim Soo-hyun & Seo Ye-ji
Plot: A man working at a psyche ward (Kim Soo-hyun) falls in love with a children’s book author (Seo Ye-ji) who suffers from antisocial personality disorder.
This is now one of my favorite dramas of all time! If you want something that deviates from the standard K-drama and tackles heavy topics, then you’ll love it. The acting is fantastic and Kim Soo-hyun and Seo Ye-ji’s chemistry is out of this world!
Flower of Evil
Genre: Romance, Thriller
Starring: Lee Joon-gi & Moon Chae-won
Plot: While investigating a string of murders, detective Cha Ji-won (Moon Chae-won) realizes her seemingly perfect husband (Lee Joon-gi) is hiding several skeletons in his closet. The truly terrifying thing is those skeletons may not just be figurative.
Some would argue that this isn’t a romance drama, but at its heart it is. It begs the question if we ever found out a loved one wasn’t who they seemed, would we still love them? This is a touching drama with a side of suspense and action. I highly recommend it if you want to be kept on the edge of your seat.
When My Love Blooms
Starring: Yoo Ji-tae & Lee Bo-young
Plot: Han Jae-hyun (Yoo Ji-tae) and Yoon Ji-soo (Lee Bo-young) fall in love in college and become each other’s first loves. Twenty years later, Jae-hyun is a businessman who’s doing well for himself, and Ji-soo is a struggling single mom. Is there something still between them? Or is it just nostalgia?
As one of the few romances without extra frills that came out last year, When My Love Blooms is a beautiful, contemplative drama that examines the choices we make and second chances.
When the Weather Is Fine
Starring: Seo Kang-joon & Park Min-young
Plot: After dealing with a cut-throat life in Seoul, cellist Mok Hae-won (Park Min-young) moves back to a town in the countryside she lived in during high school. There she meets former classmate and bookstore owner Im Eun-seob (Seo Kang-joon). Together they melt each other’s frozen hearts and learn how to trust again.
This is a perfect comfort watch with beautiful cinematography.
Genre: Business, Romance
Starring: Suzy & Nam Joo-hyuk
Plot: Seo Dal-mi (Suzy) doesn’t have much to her name, but dreams of becoming Korea’s Steve Jobs. With the help of a math genius (Nam Joo-hyuk) who she believes is also her first love, the two navigate the cut-throat world of start-ups as well as matters of the heart.
It was hard deciding whether I should include this drama or not, because the central focus is starting a business. But the love triangle between Dal-mi, Do-san, and Ji-pyeong was such a big part of 2020, it only felt right to list it.
If you don’t mind the romance taking a little bit of a backseat to business stuff, this is a cute, inspiring watch. I’m gonna warn you though, the SLS (second lead syndrome) is strong with this one.
Tale of the Nine-Tailed
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Starring: Lee Dong-wook, Jo Bo-ah, and Kim Bum
Plot: Lee Yeon (Lee Dong-wook) is a gumiho (a nine-tailed fox spirit in Korean folklore) living in modern day Seoul. He spends his days catching rogue supernatural creatures and cleaning up messes left behind by the dead. One day he meets Nam Ji-ah (Jo Bo-ah), the clever and tenacious producer of a TV show that explores all things supernatural. Because of her interest in the subject and a mystery she’s trying to solve, Ji-ah is drawn to Lee Yeon. But is it merely curiosity? A convenient working relationship? Or an inescapable fate?
Give this a try if you liked Guardian!
The King: Eternal Monarch
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Starring: Lee Min-ho & Kim Go-eun
Plot: Crime is literally “out of this world” in this romantic fantasy. Kim Go-eun plays detective Jung Tae-eul, a competent inspector in the Violent Crimes unit. She comes Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) who turns out to be the Emperor of the Kingdom of Corea. The Kingdom of Corea exists in an alternate universe, and a series of sinister crimes carried out by the Lee Gon’s uncle links both worlds.
This drama isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you love Lee Min-ho and can ignore a few writing inconsistencies then you’ll enjoy this drama. It’s got a unique premise and some memorable romantic moments between the leads.
Do You Like Brahms was a wonderful drama – loved it. The message was perfect for 2020 – and for me it falls second only to CLOY. Plus if you love classical piano – there are gorgeous pieces performed. I so loved this scene: https://youtu.be/nKu4zg4CPQw
The King snagged me in the beginning, and I did watch through to the end – but it mostly lost me along the way. In contrast, I didn’t get snagged in the beginning with Itaewon Class, but so glad I kept watching. Its thought provoking theme tries to answer the question how to know who loves you most. I thought I was rooting for the first lead, until I wasn’t. The twists in that one just kept on coming, and I love underdogs.
There were some great romcoms that were also medical dramas – Hospital Playlist – well worth the price of admission.
Flower of Evil scared my socks off. I couldn’t go past ep.1. Still don’t know what happened to the reporter – but don’t anyone tell me.
But I totally agree – Crash Landing remains in a class all its own. Superb drama.
I agree. The King definitely had some highs and lows. You should give Flower of Evil another shot. It was actually very sweet.
Trying to determine the cut-off point for what constitutes as a “romantic drama” was tricky. I thought about adding Hospital Playlist, but if I did I’d have to consider Dr. Romantic 2 as well. So I decided to leave out things that were classified as “medical dramas” when you look them up. I do love a good medical drama though, so maybe I’ll create a separate list for them.