Binge worthy Korean dramas: the best of 2021


Netflix // TvN

Different worlds, different stories and different characters, 2021’s top five Korean dramas are jam-packed with fantasy, emotion, love and mystery. “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha”, “The King’s Affection” (top right) and “My Name” (top left) can be found on Netflix, meanwhile “Happiness” (bottom left) and “Jirisan” (bottom right) can be found on Dramacool or Viki.

So you’ve heard of “Squid Game,” right? Well, there’s a whole history of record breaking Korean shows that reach beyond Netflix’s top ten. Older yet popular shows like “Boys over Flowers” (2009), the “Reply Series” (2012-2015), “Strong Girl Do Bong-Soon” (2017) and “Goblin’’ or “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” (2016) have set the precedent for dramas in the last year.

“I’ve seen some old and newer stuff, they’re pretty different in the way that it’s made and the way they talk,” Aniya Jones (11) said. “The newer ones are chill and are like real-life.”

Here you can find my top five recommended K-Dramas of 2021. Spoiler: this was not easy.

5. “The King’s Affection” 

During the height of the Joseon Dynasty, a set of twins were born —a complication and taboo for the monarchal process. One twin is unknowingly stowed away at the back of the palace, and the other at the forefront in preparation to be a Crown Prince and King. Lee Hwi, a lowly servant and secret twin, suddenly becomes next in line after the death of her brother. The only problem is Lee Hwi is a woman. 

“Usually a guy is supposed to be a ruler, but that girl came from poverty and became one,” Kathy Lam (11) said.  “I feel like women are stereotyped as weak and they can’t do anything, but I like the K-Dramas with a lot of girl power.”

4. “Jirisan”

Jirisan, a mountain with deep history and cultural meaning, holds secrets and mysticism; hundreds of hikers still find themselves admiring its beauty. It is up to the park rangers stationed all around the mountain to protect not only visitors but also the mountain. However, when a string of murders, visions and a dark past unravels, the mountains reveal what is seen through the eyes of a park ranger. 

3. “My Name”

“My Name” is a chronicle about grit, lies, deceit and power. It’s uncommonness within the world of romantic K-dramas makes it all the more unique. It’s definitely an easy watch for those whose interests are piqued by action, murder cases and father-less teenager’s revenge. Fighting inner struggles, cops and drug dealers, Ji-Woo’s fate has thrown her right into a cage fight. After the death of her father, an infamous drug lord and hotel owner enlightens Ji-Woo of the world her father lived in. Through his encouragement to find Ji-Woo’s father’s killer, she pushes herself to become stronger, more sharp witted and observant. 

2. “Happiness”

Parallel to the lives we live, “Happiness” is set right in the middle of a bustling city, dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19. However, a new and destructive virus starts to spread throughout the country. Jung Yi Hyun and Yoon Sae Bom, restricted to their newly built high-rise apartment, build a story of romance, action, social status, fantasy and greed. Viewers are left wondering what these two strong-minded people will go against and accomplish after the end of each episode. They’re leaders in the midst of an apocalypse that wield otherworldly compassion and strength. One can’t help but feel a strong connection for them and their bravery. 

1. “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha”

Most that have watched “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” can probably agree that it is one of the top Korean dramas of this year. It’s not set in Seoul, and it’s not set in Busan. It’s set in the fictional small town of Gongjin, a quaint place filled with compassionate and complex characters. This love story follows Hong Du-Sik, a town leader and multi-talented man, and Yoon Hye-Jin, a dentist from Seoul with a dream to open her own clinic. I won’t spoil it anymore, but words cannot explain the warmth that radiates from the characters and plot.