[PICK] Editors’ Pick: Best/Worst Korean Dramas of the First Half of 2020

Translated by Kim Hoyeun

In the first half of 2020, Korean dramas received two opposite reviews. While dramas like Crash Landing On You, which first premiered at the end of last year, The World of the Married, Hospital Playlist, and Itaewon Class received favorable reactions and recorded high viewership, other works, such as The King: Eternal Monarch and A Piece of Your Mind, showed disappointing results despite their casting of star actors. In the case of Meow, the Secret Boy, it became the first drama that aired on terrestrial TV network to record the dishonorable viewership of 0 percent.

Let’s take a look at editors’ best and worst pick. (selection made among all the dramas that premiered since 2020.01.01.)


Editor Yang Young Jun’s Pick �” BEST: Itaewon Class / WORST: The King: Eternal Monarch

Credit: JTBC, SBS

It is rare to find a webtoon-based project like Itaewon Class. I may have an axe to grind, but considering how high the viewership of the drama was, I am guessing that a lot more people are thinking the same way. From the actors’ passionate acting, the script written by the original author, to the “underdog’s rebellion” story that anyone would enjoy, there are so many key points that made people fall in love with the drama. Yet, regardless of all these advantages, the fact that Kim Da Mi, my favorite actor, appeared is enough to make this my number one drama.

The King: Eternal Monarch is the most regrettable work written by Kim Eun Sook. The unique directing style, excessive product placement, unattractive characters, and boring narrative early on have surpassed the level that can be recovered by the attractive setting and star actors Lee Min Ho and Kim Go Eun. There were many improvements in the latter half, but it was just like locking the barn door after the horse has bolted. So these days, I am soothing my disappointments by watching Goblin on Netflix.


Editor Seo Hae Lan’s Pick �” BEST: Kingdom Season 2/ WORST: My Holo Love

Credit: Netflix

Even I, who run miles away when it comes to zombie movies or dramas, endured to watch Kingdom Season 2. Though the second season continues the story of the first season, it was produced more like the Korean traditional historical dramas. Loyalty, guilt, the sorrow of the firstborn in Korea, and the twisted desire to destroy it if you can’t have it, such emotions are melted into various parts of the drama, raising the level of immersion. I hope you don’t forget to watch the icon of loyalty, Ahn Hyun, who bites the face of the treacherous subject even as he turns into a zombie.

The concept of My Holo Love is ingenious, and the way it was implemented is also quite persuasive. You can see the effort they have put into research on artificial intelligence and lifestyle. Nevertheless, I still chose it as the worst drama because there is no “taste of words” that I expected. Even in the scenes where intense emotions explode, the lines are too stiff. It is difficult to follow the character’s emotions since the lines hinder the concentration. So the moment when the main characters kiss and confess their love, the viewers are puzzled. That was supposed to be the whisper of love?


Editor Kim Won Hee’s Pick �” BEST & WORST: The World of the Married

Credit: JTBC

The most thrilling drama in the first half of this year is The World of the Married. After giving off an unusual vibe even from the poster, the drama showed a shocking twist from the first episode, stimulating viewers’ peripheral nerves. The facts revealed as the story progressed were shocking, and Ji Sun Woo always presented gratifying scenes whenever she faced difficulties. Female characters who showed various performances like Yeo Da Kyung, Ko Ye Rim, and Min Hyun Seo were also impressive. But yet…

Up until the 6th episode, it faithfully followed the original storyline of the first season of Doctor Foster, boasting an extreme satisfaction. However, from the 7th episode, it slowly drifted away from the path and only seemed to seek stimulation by presenting an overly assailant-centered viewpoint. The initial freshness, which met the expectations, ended with a flurry of violent depictions, leaving only an awkward and uncomfortable aftertaste. It is a pity that the responses in the first half and the second half are poles apart.


Editor Hwang Hong Sun’s Pick �” BEST: Hospital Playlist / WORST: Hi Bye, Mama!

Credit: tvN

Hospital Playlist is the drama that makes people think of people first before the hospital. The chemistry shown by the five main characters was as sympathetic and warm as if we were watching our own friends. Jeon Mi Do, who made her first TV drama debut with the drama, showed such a strong presence that it made me wonder why she didn’t come out earlier. There were some criticisms that such good and warm stories are not realistic, but still, the drama delivered its sincerity with delicate and emotional portrayals.

While Hi Bye, Mama! showed s fresh start, the second half was just disappointing. In fact, Kim Tae Hee’s brilliant acting as a mother and her touching story that goes back and forth between the past and the present was good. However, the drama began to crumble in the latter half that dealt with Kim Tae Hee’s reincarnation. The key points that have grabbed the attention early on were buried deep by forced stories that only sought out for tears and frustrating developments that failed to speed up when necessary. Especially, the ending was so obvious that it was boring.


Editor Hong Hyun Jung’s Pick �” BEST: Hyena / WORST: Money Game

Credit: SBS, tvN

Among the dramas introduced in the first half of this year, the most impressive one is Hyena, which gave birth to a female character “Jung Geum Ja,” who took a great step forward. Jung Geum Ja, who takes the bull by the horns in this challenging world with her own strength and takes the lead on both work and love, came to life after meeting Kim Hye Soo’s charismatic acting, presenting catharsis to the viewers. Her sexy “adult romance” with Yoon Hee Jae, a lawyer who lived a sheltered life, was a bonus.

Money Game, which depicts conflicts and confrontations among three people with different beliefs over financial scandals, is a case in which expectations have turned into disappointments. The fact that it dealt with an economic crisis, which is rare for Korean dramas, was exciting, but the slow development as they pressed the story of each and every character was certainly regrettable. In particular, it’s questionable whether the extreme setting of death should have been drawn from the beginning to build up tension. I rather wanted them to focus more on the economy.

Leave your vote

184 Points
  • “The King Eternal Monarch” was very disappointing. So I started watching “Chief Kim” and that was the best drama after “Goblin”.

    • Viewers did not understand and were not able to connect the scenes and dialogues so they gave up watching . We are all unique with different choices. The King is one of the best for me.

      • I don’t understand what’s parallel and after 3 episode i gave up.. i’m dumb tho, no one to blame😢😧 plus english isn’t my first. But i don’t think this drama is bad (my sister already finished watching it and she’s sad now😂)

  • For me,
    Best- Hospital Playlist and Itaewon class.
    Honestly this dramas showed transition in dramas. Hospital playlist was the one of the most realistic dramas. Here leads that is the doctors had to face more realistic problems. It was actually about their lives rather than how unfair the world is. It is the one drama that made me smile and enjoy every moment in it. Based on values of friendship ,love ,family ,loyalty and personal beliefs hospital playlist made my first half of the year worth it.
    Itaewon class was another drama to win my heart. It was a ambitious tale of a boy who rather than compramising his beliefs to achieve his dreams achieved them with hardworking and focus . This drama kept me on the edge.
    Worst drama -Born again and The King Eternal Monarch
    Born again was……. boring .Honestly I was exited for the drama. But I could go no further than the 6th episode.
    The King Eternal Monarch was a huge disappointment to me. I was sooooo exited. The cast, direction,writing on paper seemed so perfect! I was watching since last September. And then after it aired I was very much disappointed. I think the worst part was direction. The concept was huge so already 16 episodes weren’t enough. Like parallel universes as well as time travel and only 16 eps was well too much! In that they wasted the first 2 episodes. And the villain was so lame! He only talked and did less. Kim go eun and Lee Min Ho did have a chemistry but their story was quite rough at the start. She was too stubborn and he was too cheesy and honestly he was a king and kings do have a lot of pride.
    And she turned all loving so suddenly. It felt a little weird. The only reason why I completed all the episodes was Woo Do Hwa. Honestly he deserves a few awards. He banged both his characters . It felt like he had a good chemistry with himself. I would also like to mention tat the second half was slot better . It did got me a little excited but as editor Yang Young Jun said it was already too late.
    Currently watching – It’s okay to be not okay.
    Looking forward to- Startup.
    All the time favorite – Goblin , Coffee Prince, Hotel Del Luna, Dream high, W, Pinocchio.

    • Your taste is traditional that’s why you still stereotype KINGS with pride- like Kings cannot be cheesy. Oh well your analysis analysis of the dramas is not in depth.

    • The king has to be Pride….. My goodness… Taeeul is the representation of strong independent woman in modern times. In which era are you living 14/15 century… Only few Korean drama has the portrayal of women as equal to men. This means the stereo type in Korean society is breaking and women are given space to breath…. Don’t you look at that thing when a drama or film is made… My god I’m bemused…. Korean society,culture and tradition are very well reflected in every drama. Don’t you relate to that or you’re still in that fantasy world… I’m so happy korean script writers are focusing more on women empowerment yahn those cliche moment drama…. A guy will be rich, handsome and perfect and CEO… Then the girl will be from a very poor family and clumsy and naive…and all the time struggle to survive….but Korean film industry is changing….

  • I disagree re hospital playlist. It ended with no Conclusions and is dependent on a second season to see what happens. Every season of a series should stand alone, and not be dependent on a second season. Viewers invested their time and energy to watch a season, writers owe it to viewers for it to bea full story.

  • Hong Sun’s pick of Hospital Playlist as best is atrocious
    show is pretty lightweight. As for Hi Bye Mama being worst, he must be smoking dope. It’s has many layers & as far as a show with Ghosts being a central part of the storyline I thought it was very creative. Much better show than playlist as I’m forcing myself to watch episode 10.

  • Sorry, but I loved The King, I found it to be very interesting and Korea vs Corea was awesome. I also enjoyed Iteawon Class. I watched both because actors Park and Lee are my favorites. I also watched Kingdom and Hi Bye Mama. Kingdom was awesome as well and I thought Hi/Bye wasn’t too bad. Hospital Playlist is good as well as I’ve enjoyed it. Money Game and Hyena I’ve still got to watch and over this past year, I’ve gotten used to how Korean writers have not yet learned how to end a show without making me wonder. All in all. I have been pleased with the shows that I have watched and can’t even imagine being super negative about them….. Guess it’s all about personal taste and not expecting the show to be perfect.

    • I’m in agreement with your comments. Couldn’t have said it any better myself.

    • cjam457, I agreed with everything you said, except for the comment on endings without leaving you wondering. If by leaving you wondering you are referring to a nebulous unsatisfying ending that does not fully explain, or wrap things up, then I would suggest that there are some series out there that would absolutely fill your bill. For example try, cheese in the Trap, last winter the wind blow, or, one spring night, all incredibly great series that leave you feeling somewhat empty and dissatisfied with their endings. I’m still waiting for the second season of one spring night which has an ending that fully suggest there is more of the story to be told.

  • But hospital playlist seem to be incomplete… yet the drama was great…I think there could be some more episodes…

  • I agree to this above review. King eternal was not to the standard as expected.

  • Everyone please watch 365 Repeat The Year for once without getting any spoilers at all for the best experience. This is the first drama that has so many twists, and it is sooo unpredictable until the end. For me 365RTY is the best drama until now.

    • Couldn’t agree more.
      I watched this drama and Memorist together
      They are both good and deserves much attention 🥺

  • The King Eternal Monarch is the BEST TV SHOW series of all time. The actors All did an exceptional job at acting to where I sae many said they forgot it was fictional. Also the plit is Ingenious, and it kept me excited from beginning to end. Comments show that it scored #1 and i agree and hope they continue to do other seasons. Hi. Bye Mama and Crash Landing on You are also GREAT !!! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • I totally disagree with your review and listing. The King ‘s plot is unique and creative not just the conventional or usual straight forward storylines. Also you don’t use “ unattractive characters” as one of your metrics in your analysis. It’s ratings may not be high as general viewership settle for less complicated stories which THE KING did not showcase. Don’t say it’s a regrettable work for the writer either. The writer is so creative to connect characters , scenes and dialogues that the viewer uses thinking skills and analysis to put the story together. Not all viewers admire this – they probably want to see and know the obvious so they didn’t appreciate the thrill and excitement the drama brought along. The subtle romantic scenes and dialogues in The KING resonate deeper into the hearts of the viewer. It’s unfair that THE KING is in the worst category . I put it in a high pedestal.

  • I liked Eternal king monarch the concept was slow at times but I am a super fan of both leads. However nothing compares to goblin.

  • Honestly this list couldn’t be more wrong. This I’d the worst list of best and worst kdramas I’ve seen. Canse hi bye mama was one of the best shows I’ve ever watched. And the king eternal monarch was far from the was interesting, even though I admit a bit confusing.

  • The King: Eternal Monarch. Is “BEST of 2020 so far. Lee Mongolia gave a stellar performance as did Kim Go Run. The person who stole the show was the king’s bodyguard and his double in the parallel world. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire cast and couldn’t wait for the next episode.
    LOVED IT!!!!!

    • Agreed… Jeong and Eun sup still the show….. And he is the best who calls ” Pheya” with such love,. respect, admiration and affection in Korean film history. Woodahwon will be the next rising star… Lobe his acting.

  • 1. Where is your Netflix location because Goblin is still not on mine which sucks, hands down my favorite K-Ddama
    2. I mostly agree with these. I still enjoyed The King but it was definitely slower than I liked and the 2nd half did much better, but definitely not Goblin standard in terms of overall enjoyment. Great actors though.

  • Whoever said that about Hi Bye Mama must not be in the right mind. That show was a work of art . Commenter must be high on something.

  • To be honest most of the people who don’t like The King seem to not like it because it was ‘hard to follow’ which I find disappointing. The King admittedly makes you figure out some things on your own, which I personally liked. It makes you engaged when watching not just mindlessly watching TV. If you turn away for a minute you’ve already missed a couple of points. I like that. It’s similar to game of thrones where it won’t hold your hand through the plot. For me it’s one of the best K dramas. The romance scenes are mature and the dialogue, pacing and scenes (bar the rescue scene in the street) are very realistic. That’s what made it great coz it was immersive and you got the feeling you were looking into people’s actual lives. None of that BS where someone is a CEO and is rarely in the office galavanting with their girlfriend.

    • I totally agree on that. First phase is the ground planning base for the next part of the drama. Each and every line of all the cast is very important and need concentration for us to understand the drama…..man I was always on the edge….. What a melodrama this is….wish there is a season two ….

  • For those who are thinking that the king is not good well I guess you were not able to understand really the drama. I can really say that this is my all time favorite because of the story line . it is not the typical kdrama that we are used to. It has depth , it needs a lot of undestanding to see the beauty of it. It just shows that Kdramas can be alot better(well I am ot saying that other kdramas are not good, some are good actually but TKEM is the best for me).TKEM is a limited edition -not everyone can afford to understand it because it is too expensive for everybody . GREAT DRAMAS LIKE THIS ARE FOR GREAT MINDS ONLY . ✌✌🤘

  • For me The king eternal monarch is a masterpiece and I find it very amusing ti read PPL find it boring or bad. … This drama is an art and the best if KIM EUN SUK. I don’t like Heirs, Dots also was a hit because the lead actors tried to pull it off … maybe people cannot relate to parallel universe theory and quantam physics… That’s the reason why… It’s one of the best Korean film their industry has produced by far. Trust me I watch a lot of Kdramas but nothing like this one

  • Nothing beats the King. Don’t listen to this editor. He doesn’t give the right comments.

  • The king eternal monarch is great drama. I am totally disagree with you. It is new story with science twist. My crush is lee min Ho ♥️♥️

  • The best has just started….and it’s blowing our minds while endearing to our hearts! Masterful. Creative. Original. Fresh. Unique. Innovative. Genius. Creative. World class. #ItsOkayToNotBeOkay (International Title)/ #PsychoButItsOkay (Local Korean title) is not your typical romcoms, nor dealing with societal problems nor a mind boggling science fiction. It deals with often taboo subject/theme, but their take is something fresh, delightful and insightful. This has upped the level of Kdramas to a level of respect and recognition. After PARASITE (a movie), an international award is too early at this point, but this drama must be the FIRST to be considered in this category. Please remember you read here this, later on. Kamsahamnida!

  • The King Eternal Monarch and the cast are still the best…c’mon!
    All in all TKEM is the best drama this YEAR 2020.

  • I love Lee min Ho but oddly I can’t bring myself to watch TKEM a second time .For me this is not the norm as I have watched BOF at least 23
    times, LOTBS at least 3 times and all his other projects multiple times as well. I was not sold on the chemistry between the two leads in TKEM,
    for me it was what ruined the whole thing, it was not believable in my view. The acting was brilliant from the Villain and the supporting cast but it was simply too complicated to endure and drawn out with wasted scene space while they stared at each other.
    As for the other aforementioned shows in the article ,I have not seen any if them yet, otherwise, loving “ It’s Okay …..” , Kim Soo Hyun and cast have already made
    this compulsive, exciting viewing.

  • I disagree with his worst picks. I loved the King, Holo love and Piece of your mind. This was totally based on his preference. The only one I agreed with on his likes was Itchawan Class. I think this review was unfair to the other dramas.

  • Commenting on the ones that I saw. Itaewon Class absolutely deserved the high marks that you gave it. However, your grading system failed miserably on The king Monach, and hi Mama bye Mama. Hi Mama bye Mama was absolutely wonderful, and matched with Itaewon Class in the manner that it gripped your attention for viewing. The king Monarch was a romantic imaginative action filled romp, that also kept you glued to the screen. I do agree with you that my halo love was bad.

  • I find this article very disrespectful, who gave this editor the right to choose the best and worst drama. If you don’t like a drama then watch something, why on earth would you slander someone’s hard work and dedication by labelling it the worst drama of 2020, I think this is the worst article of 2020, how does that make you feel?
    The King eternal monarch is not the worst drama of 2020 and neither are the others you mentioned, people watched it and they loved it, you don’t have to be a fan of a drama, if you don’t like it just don’t watch it, the king is on Netflix top 10 most watched series, I can’t even imagine how much hate comments you will be getting for this article, you asked for it so be prepared for the consequences. You are very rude and disrespectful, I hope the comments you get are exactly what you deserve for this attitude.

  • I think this editor is soo stupid how can you say the king eternal monarch is a worst drama maybe you don’t like it for your own personal reasons

  • Hi Bye Mama had me in tears the second half – yes, it started out well enough. The last half was torture to get through. I found myself fast forwarding through all the crying because they just milked those scenes for so long, it was depressing – I watch for entertainment. I liked the The King. Not enough to watch it 3 times like Goblin, The Three Musketeers or Kill Me Heal Me. But maybe after a year or two I’ll watch it again. I’m not much for zombies so I’ll probably pass that one up, but Meow, the Secret Boy wasn’t terrible. I thought it kind of clever. Not great but totally watchable if light fantasy if your genre. Right? It’s all about personal taste.

  • I loved My Holo Love, and this review is saying something opposite of what I thought when I watched this drama. I believe the dialogues were clear and I can relate with the emotional ups and downs of each character was going through in this drama, I really loved the Leads, and also the second leads which were male lead’s sister and the guy opposite her. This is my favourite korean drama of 2020 <3 my mom is not a fan of kdramas, but she liked "descendants of the sun" and after may years she enjoyed this drama too at netflix where it is available with english dubbing <3 XD I wish there were more dramas like this one. <3

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