Hello, dear fellow drama fans!
We all love K-dramas specifically the rom-com genre; however Korean media broadcasts are famous for their intricately designed crime thrillers with an extremely complicated yet brilliant plot.
So here is a list and review of my all-time favourite crime/suspense-thrillers.
My choices are dramas that are more plot-driven rather than focused on their facial beauty.
~POSSIBLE SPOILERS AND TRIGGERS ALERT~
I don't think I'll spoil anything here, also some real criminal cases are mentioned in this article, so please do continue at your own risk.
Before talking about this drama: The series was inspired by real-life criminal incidents in Korea.
SO let's TAKE A SHORT TRIP ONTO THE MAIN CASES:
1. Hwaseong serial murders
The women, ages ranging from fourteen to seventy-one, were each found gagged and murdered over a four-year and seven-month period in the rural city of Hwaseong in the Gyeonggi Province. Each woman was strangled to death with her own clothes. The evidence compiled from forensics pointed to a man in his 20s, about 165 to 170 cm tall, with blood type B.
The case is infamous within Korea for being the first truly identifiable string of murders with a modus operandi. Police officers involved spent two million man-days on the case. The total number of suspects also grew to enormous numbers, eventually ending with a total count of 21,280 individuals.
2. Miryang gang rape
The Miryang gang rape, known in South Korea as the Miryang middle school girls rape incident, was a criminal incident that occurred in Miryang, South Korea in 2004. At least 41 male high school students gang raped several middle school and high school girls over the course of 11 months. The case provoked controversy due to police mistreatment of the victims and lenient handling of the offenders.
3. Park Chorong Bitnari Kidnapping-Murder Case.
Park’s kidnapper had requested a ransom for the child’s life, then proceeded to murder Park in cold blood. The shocking aspect of the crime was that the kidnapper turned out to be a woman who was 8 months pregnant. The crime left the nation in shock and in mourning for Park’s death.
Now let's go back to our main story.
(Sorry for that long explanation but I thought you guys should know about the real cases first.)
Signal is one of the highest rated dramas in Korean cable television history and it really deserves to be.
Reasons to watch Signal:
Jo Jin Woong as Lee Jae Han
He is one of those policemen who wants to bring justice by setting things right. Jo Jin Woong is one of the finest actors in K-dramas and he played this character best. This guy blew me away. Despite a somewhat gruff exterior, he really is a lovable teddy bear type who will easily win your heart. He will stop at nothing to solve a case and willingly puts himself in jeopardy if it means he can bring justice to the victim. And the subtle nuances that Jo Jin Woong added to Lee Jae Han’s character is what made him so well-rounded.
Some of his quotes from the drama
"Each pair of handcuffs comes with 2.5 liters of tears."
"Is it the same over there? If you have money and power… can you live happily and well no matter what awful things you do? It’s been 20 years, after all. Something must have changed, right?"
"If someone committed a crime whether you have money or power… you have to get the punishment you deserve. That’s the job of a cop."
"I will not give up. No matter what happens, I will go on until the end."
Lee Je Hoon as Park Hae Yeong
Lee Je Hoon was wonderful in the role of Park Hae Yeong. His character was genuine and likeable with such a strong dedication to finding the truth and helping those around him. He had just the right mix of youthful innocence and maturity. It was my first drama seeing him and trust me I started stanning him and watched all of his dramas after watching Signal. You will cry when he cries!!
Some of his quotes from the drama
"There are those who are born monsters, but there are also those who are made into monsters by people. If someone, if just one person had held out a helping hand, they could have been saved."
"I'm going to turn things back to before... if I still have a chance."
"Even if you change the past, some things remain the same."
"They didn't pass away in the arms of their loved ones. They died on the cold ground shaking in horror."
Kim Hye Soo as Cha Soo Hyeon
Kim Hye Soo did amazing at playing the two distinct sides of her character. In the past, she effortlessly conveyed the sweet innocence of her rookie character. But in the present, she is completely believable as the tough, no-nonsense cop who will let nothing and no one get in her way. She is smart, hardworking, clever and the best female detective I ever saw.
Some of her quotes from the drama
"If something goes wrong, I will take full responsibility."
"Cold cases are all about finding what past detectives missed."
"You can't ever let emotions cloud your view. Don't let your emotions get the best of you."
"If I'm choosy about facing men and women, I should turn in my badge right now."
"I have to get him so that this nightmare will end."
THE GOLDEN TRIO
The relationships between our three characters were unique and layered. Jae Han and Soo Hyun were an interesting pair. Soo Hyun quickly develops an admiration for Jae Han which then develops into feelings. Because of his personality and old wounds, his focus is always on other things. But I loved their partnership and the sort of mentor relationship that came with it. There isn't much in the way of romance in Signal, but it definitely has its moments. The moments between these two are so true and genuine.
In the present, Soo Hyun is in the leadership role above Hae Young. Instead of a naïve rookie cop, she is now a hardened team leader. But Hae Young is able to soften her heart through their friendship. Their shared connection with Jae Han tightens that bond and certainly adds an intensity to the relationship.
And our final relationship is that of Jae Han and Hae Young. Though the two are separated by time, they share a connection unlike any other. There are no walls between these two, and raw emotion frequently charges their interactions as they try to change events in the past and deal with the consequences of those changes. I loved these two guys.
THE VILLAINS AND SUPPORTING ACTORS
Many of the bad guys in this drama are also presented as multi-dimensional characters. This is one of those dramas that really allow you to get inside the minds of some of these criminals. It really is a bit disconcerting how it is able to stir up sympathy for these individuals by showing that even people who seem to be monsters are more than what they appear to be on the surface.
Signal very elegantly intertwined events and characters in each time-line all the way from 1989 to 2015. I loved how the drama handled the different crimes our detectives had to solve. Each case was somehow connected to one of our three detectives in some personal way. This really helped each case have significance rather than feeling like a random “case of the week” sort of thing.
So I will not reveal the villains but one of the cases that affected me so much, I am going to drop some spoilers of them. ALL OF THE SUPPORTING ACTORS WERE SO GOOD. NOTHING WAS WITHOUT REASON.
(Forgive me for this.)
I literally love him. He is my bias now!
This review about Signal was very long, I am sorry, but it's a really good drama. I am still waiting for a second season. NOTE: OSTs of this drama are gold and give you all the feels.
OCN (Orion Cinema Network), a cable channel notorious for producing content outside the regular ol' box of tropes. OCN is always known to promote a solid plot line, so this was bound to be a masterpiece. The Special Missing Persons Unit only takes on 1% of missing person cases, and only those involving violent crimes. Like most of OCN's dramas, Missing Noir M is fast-paced and addicting, it keeps you on your toes. This show aired in 2015 and had only ten episodes. I wish they would make a second season soon.
Reasons to watch Missing Noir M:
Kim Kang Woo as Gil Soo Hyeon and Park Hee Yoon as Oh Dae Yeong
Gil Su Hyeon, aka. James Gil, is a former FBI agent and child prodigy who attended Harvard at 14 and worked at NASA by the time he hit 19. He decided to come back to South Korea for a personal reason. He is selected to become the leader of the Special Missing Persons Unit. The first episode itself is amazing.
Oh Dae Yeong is a detective of twenty years and he's known as a master of missing person's cases. He joins the Special Missing Persons Unit. He has pretty good intuition.
Two police officers solving missing persons' case reports might sound simple and like an old track, but each case is a terrific rendition of stunning mastery. As the leads of the drama, most of the focus is on James and Detective Oh. James with a very subdued, mysterious air while Detective Oh is a quirky, garrulous investigator. I loved both of them here. (Can someone please write fanfics on them, I legit loved them together.)
A brilliant hacker + awesome twisted cases + amazing supporting characters
Jo Bo Ah as Jin Seo Joon (a brilliant hacker)
Jin Seo Jun is a hacker who often helped Detective Dae Yeong before being invited to join him in the Special Missing Persons Unit. I cried a lot in the "HOME" story. She is smart, quick witted and a very important member of the group.
Kang Ha Neul had a cameo in the first two episodes and he just slayed it. Oh my gawd, so awesome!
He played a psychopath serial killer and trust me, it suits him so well.
Some quotes from the drama
"I would like at least one person in this world to pay attention to me."
"The suspect has been arrested, but was justice delivered?"
"All of us are living in a world that’s full of the fruits of injustice."
"Who is it, where that person is, why is it that it has only been revealed now - I thought you would ask those questions … that’s why I prepared a game."
I am still waiting for season 2 since they left so many things unanswered. If you are good at waiting, do check it out.
“We set out to stop a monster
but all we found was a wounded child.”
Can there be a more heartbreaking and sadist phrase then title itself 'children of nobody'? The theme, as dark as it was, has been one of the major hooks of this thrilling series. Child abuse has always been a sensitive subject and the writers for a drama that has it as a central theme must be conscious and knowledgeable. Fortunately for Children Of Nobody, not only was the drama able to show the horrors of abuse, it had done it in a manner that is horrifying and eye-opening at the same time. The narrative had provided enough glimpse into each character’s psyche that viewers could see the motivation behind their actions. The inclusion of lines from different poems added intrigue and mystery to the murders. The characters were also so well-written that you couldn't help but empathize with them. I am a victim of child abuse and trust me it leaves dark scars that no one knows about. I will not recommend this drama to anyone looking for a light, happy drama. Definitely, a thriller/mystery and they went all out on this one. Children's deaths, burnt bodies, affairs, child suicides, a 9 years old psychopath etc., it has it all. In fact, most of the cases showcased are dramatizations of real-life incidences that actually happened. The thing about this show is that starting from the first scene right to the end, there is nothing that can be considered filler content. Nothing is done without a reason. A nearly perfect drama, I say.
Reasons to watch Children of Nobody:
Kwon Yee Eun as the 'Girl in the green dress'
She had that creepy horror appearance and played a really important part in the drama.
⭐Main leads (Cha Woo Kyung and Kang Ji Heon)
Kim Sun Ah played the role of Kang Ji Heon
Cha Woo Kyung, played by Kim Sun Ah, works as a child counsellor at a children’s center. Her life is perfect. A satisfactory workplace, a caring and capable husband, a sweet-hearted daughter, and soon to be born are the culminating moments of a life that is at the peak of happiness and solid life.
One day, she gets involved in a mysterious incident that will change the course of her life. Kim Sun Ah deserves the acting award and praises for her role in this drama. (She did win the Daesang.) Her character Cha Woo Kyung was flawed and prone to mental breakdowns which make her effective as a child psychologist. She could relate to the children under her counsel and saw things in their perspective. She tried hard to save the children even if she had to put herself in danger.
"To a child, an adult is a huge world that they can't fathom. In a child's eyes, their parents are their whole world, what in the world is crueler than that? The Universe charging at you to attack.'' - Cha Woo Kyung
The Red Moon and the Blue Sun (poem)
Terrified of dark nights, the moon… cried every night. “Sun, I’m scared.” The sun, who felt bad for her sister, decided to switch spots with her. That’s why… the blue sun came to shine upon us at night, and the red moon now shines upon us during the day. That’s how… the red moon became the sun, and the blue sun became the moon. - Cha Woo Kyung
Now let's talk about our main lead (male):
Lee Yi Kyung played the role of Kang Ji Heon
He is a detective in the violent crimes unit who doesn't necessarily seem like a particularly righteous or duty-driven officer, and might even occasionally seem like an unemployed slacker, but is actually a decent and determined cop. Contrary to his lax-seeming image, when he does land on something that grabs his attention, he focuses his efforts with surprising tenacity.
Lee Yi Kyung, in his most serious role to date, he had truly embodied his character Kang Ji Heon. His sense of justice made him a great detective. In the beginning, he disliked the idea of having children of his own, which was the reason his girlfriend broke up with him. However, through the Red Cry case, Ji Heon discovered a thing or two about responsibility and the value of children. I feel it was Children of Nobody that showed how versatile he is as an actor. It is not an easy thing to star alongside a veteran actress like Kim Sun Ah, who is known for her challenging acting skills yet he succeeded.
There was one scene when he wanted to catch the culprit but he can't due to lack of evidence and I loved how he reacted here...
N of Vixx / Cha Hak Yeon as Lee Eun Ho
Lee Eun Ho is an introverted individual who works at the childcare center where Woo Kyung works. He loves children and becomes much brighter, happier and energetic around them. I watched every drama of him in the past years, and I am his fan girl but my opinion of him is not biased since he was a hidden gem. It was as if the character was written for him. Perfect delivery of emotions and purity of his character. It's just beyond amazing and was a stunning addition to the team that you simply cannot fail to appreciate.
"I envy him. He never hesitates, wavers, or has concerns. He pushes ahead with what he believes. People who didn’t suffer much in life are like that. It’s something. Enough to be jealous of.” - Lee Eun Ho
Nam Gyu Ri as Jeon Soo Yeong [Ji Heon's partner] and the children who played roles in different stories.
She is a new recruit in Ji Heon's department. She is deemed a mysterious woman due to her emotions and actions. She is bold, physically strong and has a stone face all the time.
"Not just anyone screams with their whole body. That’s why I’m uncomfortable with her."
"If it’s not anyone, who screams with their whole body?"
"Someone who is very ill or damaged. Or a child."
- Nam Gyu Ri
And the kids who played different roles in the stories were just beyond amazing. Do check it out guys, it's beautifully realistic, you will cry a lot.
Me after watching the drama:
This series has two seasons (very rare to have 2 seasons for a K-drama series).
Let's start talking about the first season:
Voice 1st (2017)/ I Can See Your Voice
Voice is about workers at the 112 emergency call center who have had family members murdered by a serial killer. While on the hunt for the killer, a “Golden Time” team is established to rescue crime victims in the golden window of time before they are likely to be killed.
Like I said before OCN is able to successfully stimulate our senses with this one-of-a-kind electrifying noir that gives the viewers catharsis right off the bat. Voice is a crime-thriller series starring veteran actor Jang Hyuk alongside talented actress Lee Ha Na.
Voice offers a fresh concept that has yet to be seen in other dramas, and its hard-boiled storyline makes every episode intensely gripping and impossible to resist. (I actually fell asleep in the first episode just like I did with Healer and both of them turned out to be awesome.)
Reasons to watch Voice:
Jang Hyuk as Moo Jin Hyeok
Jang Hyuk plays Moo Jin Hyuk whose wife was brutally murdered by the killer. His gruff personality can be off-putting, but he is an upright and just man. He is also determined to find the killer no matter what.
Lee Ha Na as Kang Kwon Joo
Her father was also murdered by the killer, and she has been trying to find him for years. She has exceptional hearing which allows her to pick up on small things while on a call that helps the team find the victims. She and Min Hyuk eventually find themselves working together to catch the serial killer.
Kim Jae Wook as Mo Tae Goo
Probably the most interesting character was the killer himself, Mo Tae Goo, played by Kim Jae Wook. Although still fairly one dimensional as the classic serial killer type, Tae Goo is fascinating as a character.
While the other characters remain pretty stagnant, we do get to at least peel back the layers of Tae Goo to see what makes him tick. He’s also a more lively and entertaining character. This combination just made him far more interesting than everyone else around him. And of course, Kim Jae Wook put forth a very impressive performance.
He is currently starring as the lead actor with Park Min Young in Her Private Life.
As for the second season, I didn't watch it yet but will start soon and I heard there will be a season 3 as well so...
Summary: When Korean-Canadian Han So Yoon is called through a series of strange coincidences back to her birthplace Korea, she is hired as an English teacher in Achiara, a quiet village where few outsiders visit and even fewer seem to leave. However, the seemingly peaceful town is soon thrown into chaos when So Yoon stumbles upon a corpse that she suspects belongs to a woman named Kim Hye Jin. The same Kim Hye Jin who disappeared from the village two years earlier.
The drama depicts a town riddled with lies, paranoia, power-hungry politicians, and an unidentified serial rapist. The endless plot twists and surprises packed into these 16 episodes made it suspenseful and captivating and the unpredictable storyline kept me guessing up until the very end. I have to give a hand to the cast because everyone in this twisted town of people came across as either extremely creepy or extremely suspicious. Every time a new character was introduced, I had to go back to square one in terms of analyzing the clues. Each person’s set of shady characteristics served to derail viewers from figuring out who ultimately killed Hye Jin.
Given the fact that drama land was filled with something cute, young, funny, and romantic that time, I can say that the story of The Village is quite fresh and exhilarating. The story makes its viewers keep guessing on something that the lead character has also been questioning throughout the drama.
I have to salute the consistency the writer took in writing The Village's story, in which she stayed in the dark ambience and not once involving romance or something cheesy to liven up the moment, even though there are one or two scenes which I found funny and can be a breath of fresh air in a shortness of breath-watching-experience.
Reasons to watch The Village:
Moon Geun Young as Han So Yoon
So Yoon decides to travel back to Korea after discovering a strange letter which points to the village of Achiara after her grandmother's death. Upon her arrival, she starts her search for the sender of the letter and realizes her family has many hidden secrets unknown to her.
Yook Sung Jae as Park Woo Jae
Woo Jae is an enthusiastic police officer whose police post is based in the village Achiara. After a period of peace and low crime rates in the village, Woo Jae gets excited when a chain of serial murders occur and tries his utmost to solve the mystery.
Shin Eun Kyung as Yoon Ji Sook
Shin Eun Kyung’s performance as Yoon Ji Sook is definitely a class of its own. She really is one with the character and she played it like nobody's business. I’ve loved Shin Eun Kyung since her performance in Oh My Ghostess. I knew she is talented as an actress. But her performance in The Village is beyond amazing. Her eyes and body gestures really showed what Yoon Ji Sook is all about. Her eyes are full of obsession and fear. And she is pretty as well! I adore her looks in this drama.
Anyway, I think Shin Eun Kyung is a versatile actress. She can wonderfully play the role of a full-of-herself and slightly annoying mother in Oh My Ghostess and a full-of-fear-and-ambition mother in The Village.
Jang Hee Jin as Kim Hye Jin
Look how beautiful our ghost is...
Choi Jae Woong as Kang Pil Sung
Now, playing a dual character is hard, especially when those characters consist of the good, the bad, and the weird. Yes, as Kang Pil Sung, Choi Jae Woong managed to portray a good-bad-weird character. Oh, and he was also pretty as the Agasshi.
Some quotes from the drama
“When you think about it, it’s not just one or two things that are strange. It’s strange that you’re living in the house teacher Hye Jin used to live in and it’s strange that you found teacher Hye Jin’s corpse as soon as you arrived in our village.”
"If someone lied about whether a person is alive or dead, there must be a reason...a serious reason."
Final words :
If you are looking for light humour or a romance to sweep you off your feet, The Village isn’t it. There are subtle hints at love lines between the characters and a number of twisted marriages, but don’t expect more in the romance department. Instead, it is a story that will leave you uneasy with the slow revelation of Achiara’s secrets.
Thank you so much for reading my review on all these dramas. I hope it will be helpful. please tell me in the comments which drama is your pick and some other suggestions as well.
I am a student of Law and majoring in psychology. I love K-dramas and look like a cute round potato.
I divided my list into two parts, please do check part two as well.