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by Cheer on January 14, 2014
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2013 Year in Review: Korean Drama Picks

In this part of the yearly review; I will introduce you my picks of 2013’s Korean dramas which I believe they’re the best out of 20 something Kdramas I saw this year. It’s only my personal opinion; there’s no rule behind it. If you want to know my personal preferences then you can check my ratings, my profile and my reviews.
Anyhow, here are my Kdramas choices of the year in order:

A lighthearted version of the famous wizard
Supposedly a remake of Jeonwoochi the movie, this drama was nothing like it.

Usually, fusion sageuks are fun to follow and Jeon Woo Chi wasn’t any different. It’s great to break the typical Joseon historical setting with some fantasy elements. The Taoist Wizard theme added another taste to the drama but I was expecting much fun and better characters and events’ developments. The execution wasn’t perfect by any mean but did that stop me from liking it? Maybe a little but I never hated it.

Why top 10? Compared to other dramas I saw, this one isn’t even a great drama but it deserves a spot in my top 10 Kdramas of the year because it’s different and enjoyable.

Favorite character: Bong Gu!

I mean how can you not like this guy? He's awesome!

 Revenge freak with a deadly mission to wipe out all the “bad guys”

The only reason I watched this drama was because it’s focused on revenge and because it’s Kim Nam Gil’s comeback after the army. I was also glad that Son Ye Jin was chosen as his co-star for this revenge melo. Now was it worth it? No regrets from my part but I am sure that this wasn’t as good as it was supposed to be.
I think I had too many expectations that I end up with some disappointments at the end. However, I liked the revenge plot of a man who comes back from the dead to punish those who ruined his life. I also liked the inclusion of some thrilling and mysterious events to break the sad melodramatic feel. Moreover, Kim Nam Gil did a great job with his somewhat anti-hero character.

 I would classify this as a melodrama thriller instead of melodrama tragedy. It’s worth the watch for its theme if you exclude some elements such as the usual melodramatic clichés, the weepy female lead who was such a failure as a prosecutor and the unforgivable closure events. What also bugged me was the use of the “Shark” theme; that was annoying and meaningless.

Why top 10? I appreciated the revenge theme and the fact that they mixed a Melodrama with an opposite genre “Thriller”. It was a daring move that I liked even if I found the execution of this drama quite flawed with many plot holes and serious dragging at some points. 

Favorite character: Han Yi Soo

I told you that he was an anti- hero, didn't I?

 Is spying on your neighbor considered stalking? I mean who cares about privacy? we’re all happy neighbors you know
For someone who doesn’t really like romantic comedies, Flower Boy Next Door was something that I actually enjoyed. However, you need to know that I watched this drama way before I made the pact to stop watching romantic comedies.

I think the concept of the drama seemed a bit different from others of the same genre. For instance, there isn’t a jerk male lead who’s always trolling around until he figures out his feelings for the girl. There is no parents’ involving in the storyline and there’s a different type of female lead. I think that’s what I liked about the drama beside Enrique’s over the top yet hilarious and enjoyable character.

I am not going to skip the shortcomings though; I was lenient towards the use of many flower boys as supporting characters mainly because this is a “flower boy” drama after all but I couldn’t forgive the drifting away from developing characters and taking care of creating worthless conflicts. The drama’s screenwriters had too many unique characters to develop but they chose a wrong path instead. I am not able to forgive that.

Why top 10? I believe this is one of the best romantic comedies made this year and absolutely a memorable piece of work from a cable channel (tvN).

Favorite character: Enrique

He's such a cute pie!

 Daddy has to save his daughter but he’s on the run

I was going to put IRIS 2 in this spot but since I talked about it in the underrated dramas review; I decided to leave the room for another drama.

Two Weeks is an action thriller about a man on the run who has to save his daughter, but he’s being framed for murder. I was expecting better execution of the story which seemed quite interesting at first sight. I liked the concept, the acting and the general settings but I can’t help but scratch my head at some decisions and the good guys’ lack of intelligence at many points.

Overall, the drama was enjoyable but that’s about it. I wouldn’t classify it as a masterpiece because there were some obvious plot holes that deprive it from accomplishing that. However, I believe that this drama should be a nice watch to most of the viewers.

Why top 10? The setting is different from many other Korean dramas which is appreciated. It’s also one of the fewest Action/Thrillers made in Korea that’s why I thought it deserves a spot in my top 10 Kdramas of the year.

Favorite character: Seo Soo Jin
She's an extremely adorable smart child.

 Oh Soo and Oh Young are the oxygen couple!

Previously watched the movie; I wanted to know how it will be remade in a drama. Okay, the fact that Song Hye Kyo was chosen as the female lead made my day. I always liked that actress ever since I was younger.

I think this can be considered the melodrama of the year. I am not a fan of the genre so the fact that I enjoyed this drama was really rare. I loved the dreamy cinematography, the quiet atmosphere; the troubled characters and many other things about this version. How can I enjoy a remake while I previously know the story? That’s a question that I can’t answer, all what I have to say is that I just enjoy remakes.

That Winter the Wind Blows is an emotionally involving drama that manages to keep you attached to its characters throughout despite its flaws. What also caught my attention was the gripping on screen chemistry between the main leads. It was too melodramatic though, I doubt if any melodramas’ hater would come to like it.

Why top 10? Remakes are never easy to do so the fact that this drama almost outclassed the movie was quite fascinating. It’s also one of the fewest melodramas that I managed to swallow the huge amount of tragedy in it.

Favorite character: Moo Cheol
He's actually a good guy disguised under an evil character. believe me!

Now, let’s proceed to the top 5 which I believe they’re the best produced dramas in Korea this year. Whether it’s because of the writing, the acting or the execution.

 We’re high school kids but we have lots of problems. It's not our fault, you can blame the system for it!
A drama that I didn’t expect anything from it at the beginning but after few episodes; I was: “Whoa, this is so good!”

This drama may have been over-hyped but it deserves it in my opinion. School dramas that deal with delinquents and students’ problems are usually Japanese specialty so seeing a well-made school Kdrama is a nice change. This version is a remake of many other “School’s” that were produced over the years in Korea but this one got recognition mainly because of the cast. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing but what I am confident about that this drama broke all Kdramas’ clichés to deliver a realistic view of high school’s system in South Korea.

The drama’s characters and developments were very enjoyable and appreciated throughout; it keeps the excitements and the expectations each episode. School 2013 makes you get attached to its characters and their problems in the most realistic way.

Why top 5? It’s a memorable piece of work that deals with real life-like situations and the struggling of high school students and their teachers to reach their goals. It’s not your typical Kdrama and it’s nothing like other school dramas.

Favorite characters: Nam Soon and Heung Soo
Say "Cheeese"!

The F case is back! I still can’t get over the cliffhanger ending of the first season
A huge fight went in my mind about the fourth, third and second spots; I almost threw a coin to decide but at the end of the day; I had to place them in this order.
So the long waited second season finally came; I swear I would’ve lost it if I actually saw the first season when it first came out (I watched it few weeks before the release of the second season). I mean how do you expect me to stay calm after that ending?

Special Affairs Team TEN 2 is a detective, crime/investigation drama produced by OCN which is my favorite cable channel in Korea. The second season was great; it delivered many answers and left with other questions. I may have not loved it like the first season but I still appreciated every second of it. I am also impatiently waiting for the third season to come out. OCN better not leave me hanging for a long time.

Episodic detective dramas may not be to everyone’s liking but I am a huge fan of the genre so this drama was a great adaption of the investigation genre and a nicely executed second season.

Why top 5? Special Affairs Team TEN and its follow up season are one of the best dramas made in Korea and one of the three dramas that made OCN my favorite Korean cable channel.

Favorite character: Do Sik

He's crazy, smart and fun. What else can I ask for?

Kdrama producers go noir with a drug lord’s story
How is it possible for an action/crime lover to hate this drama? A one in a million chance.
I was eagerly waiting for this drama to come out but I had to wait until it’s almost over to start it which is one of the smartest moves I ever made. Do you believe me when I say that I saw six episodes back to back? It’s something I never did with any drama even when I had time.

Cruel City deals with unfamiliar themes in Kdramaland: Underworld drug smuggling and organized crime. I only saw these topics in Korean movies but never in dramas. I think the noir theme was pretty well-chosen and executed for this theme; the cinematography was top-notch and the action was never sloppy.

The undercover theme was also pretty well made to the point that made me wonder “Is he undercover?” “No, I swear he can’t be a cop after all what he did” “OMG, he is undercover! What’s wrong with underground drug dealers?”

Produced by  cable channel (jTBC), we have had the chance to get some real steamy scenes and daring violent bloody takes but if you’re going to show blood, why blur the knifes and the tattoos? I still can’t figure that part out.
Why top 5? It’s without doubt one of the best dramas produced in Korea this year. Dramaland lacks such plots that are mainly action/thriller focused with too little melodrama going on. I really hope they would produce more dramas like this in the future.

Favorite character: the one and only paksa adeul
He's bad-ass, smart and fearless!

Time travel has never been so good, thank you Dramaland for bringing out the theme once again
I previously said that this is the best time travel drama, right? Let me insist once again: This is the best drama that time travel lords ever produced, period.

I already spoke about this in the supernatural dramas’ review so this time around; I will just list reasons why this drama is that great according to me:

*The unpredictable twists: Any drama that contains many flips and turns must be worth the try.
*The smooth writing: The screenwriters knew what they were doing from the beginning until the end.
*The smart use of the time traveling theme: It’s clever and pretty surprising.
*The great set of actors: They performed so well especially Lee Jin Wook; he owned the spotlight.

Are you still refusing to watch? Are my arguments not enough? If any of you need more convincing let me know and I will make you watch this by force! Just kidding, there’s nothing by force in Dramaland.

Why top 5? As I said before, this is the best drama out of its theme. And probably one of the best executed Korean dramas ever made.

Favorite character: Sun Woo

He's super intelligent and amazing!

Power struggle within a chaebol family to get hold of the golden empire
For me, the best Kdrama produced this year, hands down.

Written by the genius Park Kyeong Soo; this drama was my top priority at the time. And when I heard about the cast, I became surer that this drama would be my cup of tea despite the business theme. Empire of Gold may not have had the greatest beginning ever but as it progresses; the high-class screenwriting shows and the quality of the plot skyrocket.

Let me guess why most people decided to ignore/skip this drama:

Information: Chaebol and business.
A slice of viewers: Chaebol dramas are so torn out and business isn’t something I am willing to waste my time on it.
Me: It’s not what it seems; there’s an interesting business, power struggle plot behind it.
Information: Park Kyeong Soo, the writer of The Chaser is the screenwriter for this.
A slice of viewers: Who’s that? And what’s The Chaser? Is it the famous Korean Thriller movie?
Me: No, it’s a drama produced last year where Park Kyeong Soo won the best Screenwriter award for it.
Information: Go SooLee Yo Won and Son Hyun Joo are the main leads.
A Slice of viewers: Oh, Go soo is good looking and Lee Yo Won from 49 Days? The cast seems good but who the heck is Son Hyun Joo? Why is there an ahjussi here? 
Me: Son Hyun Joo is one of the best actors in Korea.
A Slice of viewers: Who cares? Where are the eye-candies?
Information: No romance
A slice of viewers: What? What kind of bad joke is this? How am I able to enjoy this drama if there’s no romance?
Me: If no romance is needed then it’s all cool.
Question: Who’s going to watch this?
A Slice of viewers: I am passing this. Forget it, it doesn’t seem interesting. It’s another boring business drama. I won’t be wasting my time on this and so on. 
Me: Ah okay, never mind.

That sums up many reactions to this drama but just for the record, I mean no offense. I know that people’s tastes vary so I am not judging anyone for their preferences. I just wanted to make a point.

Why the first drama on the list? Because it’s that awesome! It has compelling screenwriting, high-class acting, cliché-free storyline, moving characters and top-notch execution.
So why did I pick this over the others? I am just forever in love with unique dramas that deliver witty dialogues and thought-provoking main characters. 

Favorite character: I wouldn’t pick between Seo Yeon, Tae Joo and Min Jae

They're amazing smart characters that can make you root for them then hate them in a split of a second. Yes, they have have that crazy impact.

(note: all gif sets are taken from tumblr)

And because some dramas should be mentioned even if they’re not top 10; I made this small follow-up list:

Knife and Flower: Fairly underrated, beautifully shot historical dramas that deals with emotions and betrayal, revenge and honor in an attractively written history-based tale.
IRIS 2: A respectable follow up of the first hit season with better action and more plot flaws to deal with. It’s also quite underrated.
Master’s Sun: A Hong Sister’s ghost tale that’s nothing like their last year’s disaster "Big" *happy dance* but it’s quite overrated.
Secret Love: Stalking and revenge combined never felt so nice but the good part stops there. Secrets did well for a melodrama but it had too many shortcomings to stay memorable.
Reply 1994: Unexpectedly good compared to the hit Reply 1997 but the writers are ruining the mood by trolling and focusing on “who’s the husband” game that became too annoying to handle.
Wonderful Mama: A typical long Korean family drama that brings out the heartwarming relationships and the painful struggles. It’s pretty enjoyable if the writers didn’t try to get smart near the ending.
Gu Family Book: Fusion sageuk about a gumiho who wants to become human; romance and action are involved. Lee Seung Gi, Suzy and daddy gumiho are the main focus but the drama is seriously overrated.
I Summon You Gold: It’s an enjoyable drama overall. It got an awesome set of cast that are too good for the unbalanced screenwriters. Another promising Korean family drama that got ruined because of the writing *facepalm*
Who Are You? It’s another ghost tale that was aimed to be spooky then decided to become melodramatic which resulted at messing up many things. It had one of the most pitiful second male leads. He’s a ghost for crying out loud, why make him tragic more than he already is?

Those would be my picks. Which are your favorite Korean dramas of the year?