Hidden Gems

*Warning: a few spoilers but they are limited!
Hidden Gems

Great K-Dramas, Great Family Dramas That Fall Under the Radar

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Family dramas tend to surround the day-to-day lives of one or more families. What classifies as a hidden gem? A hidden gem is a drama that you watched and are so thoroughly entertained with it.  These dramas may have gotten good ratings inside Korea but no one else seems to have heard of them. They may not have popular cast (at the time of release) associated with them. 

The thing about these type of dramas, once you have watched it, you make it a point to recommend to all of your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Mydramalist or whatever social media that you belong to.  The story lines are not usual ones covered in a Korean drama, I call them the unconventional stories.  Unlike most dramas where there is only a single story mentioned, most hidden gems have a beginning, a middle and an ending; nothing is left to the viewers imagination. Here are three of my “hidden gems”:


Gloria (2010)
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Synopsis: Gloria is an intense tale of people who are fiercely devoted to surviving their rough lives but focuses on the life of a nightclub singer, Na Jin-Jin. Gloria is a complicated story that evolves around 4 people: 

Na Jin-Jin (Bae Doo Na), the younger sister who has lived the last 20 years caring for her mentally challenged sister
Lee Kang-Suk (Suh Ji Suk), possessing a cold personality as the president of Double Sharp Entertainment, who has his own problems as the illegitimate son of a construction entrepreneur
Ha Dong-A (Lee Chun Hee), a third-rate gangster with a big heart and is the childhood friend of Na Jin-Jin; 
Jung Yoon-Seo (So Yi Hyun), the secret daughter of a Chaebol family and former ballerina who has given up her career after a suffering foot injury. 

Why I liked this drama: This was the first drama with more than 50 episodes, that I ever marathon watched. I started it on a Thursday night and by Sunday early evening; I was watching the last episode! This was my first Bae Doo Na drama and I fell in love with her! I had seen Suh Ji Suk before in other dramas but this was the one that made me a fan! Once you get past hearing the same Laura Branigan's "Gloria" song at the nightclub over and over again, you realize just how good, not only the story but the drama overall is. 

The story revolves around the 2 couples and their growing relationship as well as the career of Na Jin Jin as she becomes a famous singer. Jung Yoon-Seo’s father still remains at the top of my "worst parent" ever list; plus one of the most brutal beating scenes I’ve ever seen in a Korean drama can be found here! The acting by everyone, including the supporting cast was phenomenal!

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Synopsis: Park Jung Kum (Bae Jong Ok) is a middle-aged, divorced woman who is caught between two men: Jung Yoog Joon (Son Chang Min), a doctor, and her first love and Han Gyung Soo (Kim Min Jung), a Human Rights lawyer who has had a hard life growing up as an adopted child. To make matters worse, her divorce was caused by her stepsister, Yoora  (Han Go Eun), a spoiled and selfish woman. To make matters worse, Yoora was responsible for the disappearance of Jung Kum’s older son at the age of 5, 15 years ago.

Why I liked this drama:  Talk about a complete drama! Wow! I don't think I've ever seen a drama so complete! Not a single storyline was left dangling. I cannot even complain about the ending. Another good sign of a great drama is when the acting is so superb that you thoroughly hate a character! Han Go Eun’s portrayal of Yoora as well as her mother, Sa Soon Ja, played by Lee Hye Sook, was so hateful, so despicable, there really was no redeeming their characters at all for me. Forgiveness? I wanted none of that for them! Why? You would have to watch it.  

Okay, another drama over 50 episodes but I guarantee, you will never be bored! It is rare in the K-Drama world for a cast to consist of an older; more experienced actors as well as a strong female lead. This is not for everyone but believe me when I say, its uniqueness, not only in the stories but how it was portrayed makes it very refreshing.


Synopsis: The drama starts off about the love and conflict between a mother and daughter. Yoon Eun-Chae (Seo Woo) is a cute, kindhearted graduate student studying interior design who loves her parents unconditionally. As an only child, she is spoiled beyond belief but still pleasant, a rarity in k-drama land! Her father and mother own a mid-size construction company, but it’s actually the mother who is the brains of the company and has a rather cutthroat personality to boot. 

Eun-Chae has dated Lee Young-Gyun (Ha Suk Jin) for over 3 years (another rarity in a drama where the main couple is already dating) and works at a major design store.  He is the third son of family owning a small but successful restaurant. 

Why I liked this drama:  I love Seo Woo. She was the main reason why I looked high and low for this drama. The other supporting actors, I had seen before in other roles but she was the reason why I had to watch this. 

Okay, the knockdown, drag out physical fights between some of the characters in this drama was enough to entertain me. Not one, not two but a total of six fights were featured. The number one in my book will always be between Eun Chae and Young Gyun’s baby sister, Ji Mi (Yoo Ri Ah); it was hilarious!! Put that with some serious story lines like adultery, adoption, and illegitimate children, you get some really interesting subjects explored. I was so moved emotionally with the adoption story on how adopted children are sometimes treated, I had to ask some of my Asian friends whether or not what I saw depicted in this drama was true, that period of the drama was so disheartened to me. 

Again, I must applaud the acting of Kim Hye Sun as Kim Soon Jung. Her portrayal was so spot-on, I couldn’t wait for her to die, go jail or just literally disappear.  The best character portrayal has to go to Eun Chae’s mother Son Jung In (Go Doo Shim). She transformed her character from despicable to sympathetic in the same drama!

Overall, these represent three family dramas that were truly overlooked. What made them special was the absolutely great acting and story lines. From dealing with mentally challenged family to adoption, nothing was sugarcoated and the subjects were not glossed over.  If you like family dramas, I highly recommend these three.  

What are your hidden gems? I’d like to hear about them.

Comments (36)

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  • Reply
    KchatJjigae Apr 12, 2013

    Wow, thanks! I realized I love Family Dramas and definitely want to check out more. Now I have a good list to start with as the only one I've seen is Gloria. (Now one of my top 5 dramas.) My hidden gem is also Gloria and another would be God's Quiz. It's really well written and smartly edited. I like it's style and love the character of the doctor.

  • Reply
    claudya87 Apr 10, 2013

    Thanks to this article I started If tomorrow comes. I marathoned myself to it.Ah..such an awful experience.

    My conclusions:

    I thank Ha Suk Jin for looking as good as he does so I could stand 51 episodes.

    Park Se Young also offered a good distraction. The girl is really beautiful.

    Seo Woo is officially on my to-avoid list. If "Cinderella's sister" didn't convince me, "Tamra, The Island" was too cheesy for my taste and the movie "The Housemaid" was a WTF altogether..I still said that I should give her a chance. This was the last straw..

    The only good part about this series was offered by the two main ladies that managed to sustain it : Go Doo Shim and Kim Hye Sun. Hats off to them. Veteran actresses always managed to impress me.

    All in all I learned my lesson to not start random series because of an article..my taste surely differs.

    • Reply
      NewKDramaAddict Apr 19, 2013

      Sorry to hear that. I did enjoy. And yes, the older, seasoned actresses were superb! But I actually liked Cinderella's Sister and I watch Glass Mass with Seo Woo (all 122 ep). Tamra and Housemaid, I did not like either.

  • Reply
    Marse Mar 27, 2013

    I haven't experienced really marathon-ing long dramas yet. (Jewel in the Palace being an exception. But I watched it while it was airing in a TV station, so...) I want to, though. Thank you for these. I'll add them on my PTW list, so that I'll be able to remember them when I get the mood. :)

  • Reply
    samsoons Mar 27, 2013

    I love family dramas! I haven't checked them out yet, but I heard Life is Beautiful and The Sons of Sol Pharmacy House are really good, out of the genre. My fave hidden gems are Once Upon a Time In Saengchori (also with Ha Suk Jin) and I Came In Search of a Flower/Flowers for My Life.

    • Reply
      NewKDramaAddict Mar 27, 2013

      Never heard of Sol Pharmacy but I do have Once Upon on my list. Will look into Life is Beautiful

  • Reply
    guideked Mar 27, 2013

    "Smile you" maybe its not a hidden gem but its a family drama and very good. But I have a problem with 50+ episode dramas.?n the middle of drama I lose my patience and watch the last episode so all the magic is gone. :(( So thank you for the article, this time I be patient and first start with "Gloria" I think.

    • Reply
      NewKDramaAddict Mar 27, 2013

      One I did not feature that will surprise you when you get to the middle is New Tales of Gisaeng. The beginning and middle are DAEBAK!! That rarely happens!! I saw Smile You but that was popular.

  • Reply
    mintgum Mar 26, 2013

    I used to think that family dramas were way too long for me(sometimes I get bored of 16-episode drama) but now I've started watching New Tales of Gisaeng and I like it so much that I might watch more 50+ episode dramas in the future :)

    • Reply
      NewKDramaAddict Mar 26, 2013

      NTG should have been on this list but I'm still suffering the glows of a good drama! Wanted to keep it to three. Still can't get over this was Sung Hoon's first drama and Im Soo Hyang was like 20yo! But what a beautiful couple! Wait til ep 33/34. The acting? Superb!

  • Reply
    loveanimeever Mar 26, 2013

    Though I'm not really interested in these dramas right now but maybe I might start watching them someday later ^^ I have watched the 1st 2nd eps of "If Tomorrow Comes" though...

    • Reply
      De1vSkm2 Mar 26, 2013

      is if tomorrow comes any good?

    • Reply
      loveanimeever Mar 27, 2013

      I watch it because of Seo Woo but I put it on hold as it seems to have many eps so I don't really know it's nice or not.

    • Reply
      De1vSkm2 Mar 27, 2013

      oh i see, thanks!

  • Reply
    purplenette Mar 26, 2013

    Great article. I'm watching my first 50+ drama right now. I think I will make Gloria one of the next ones on my list.

  • Reply
    PrettyCarEye Mar 26, 2013

    I recently saw a Japanese family drama called Brother Beat. It's an oldie, but oh so good & funny! It's about a mother who lives with 3 sons after her husband passes away. She was not a conventional mother at all, but still a great & wonderful influence on her children nonetheless. I'd highly recommend it!

    And thanks for these recs, I love family dramas because with so much more episodes you come to know & love or hate the characters really well!

  • Reply
    ryo Mar 26, 2013

    where can i watch Woman of Matchless Beauty, Park Jung Kum ?

    • Reply
      NewKDramaAddict Mar 26, 2013

      I watched it on crunchyroll. Its not an easy one to find but they have it there.

  • Reply
    midwest Mar 25, 2013

    Long dramas are my favourite.

    • Reply
      NewKDramaAddict Mar 26, 2013

      I used to avoid them especially the family ones but I have really learning to love them myself.

  • Reply
    risingsun Mar 25, 2013

    Haven't watched family dramas yet because they have so many episodes but I'll definitely try it sometime^^
    My hidden gem (hope it's ok that it's not a family drama): The Chaser which aired last year. It had over 20% ratings in Korea but internationally nobody really seemed to notice that drama. It's definitely worth watching though!

    • Reply
      NewKDramaAddict Mar 25, 2013

      Oh not, that would definitely be one. That's why I labeled this Family drama! Don't get me started on other genres!

  • Reply
    LittleBozSheep Mar 25, 2013

    Ooo I LOVE Hidden Gems dramas!!, they really are Hidden Gems :D
    I know I've seen 2 or 3 hidden gem dramas but I can't think of there names right now (>_<) But I love this article :) :)

  • Reply
    Aoolai Mar 25, 2013

    Like goldenseal50, I loved Gloria, so I will consider the others too ^^

  • Reply
    NoonaOfDarkness1357 Mar 25, 2013

    I loved Unexpected You so I will definitely check these out.

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