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[PICK] Editors’ Pick: Best Korean Dramas of the Second Half of 2020

Translated by Kim Yoo Hyang

 

The second half of 2020 can be summed up with dramas about youthhood VS ‘Makjang’ dramas. (Translator’s Note: ‘Makjang’ refers to stories or plotlines which are extreme, unrealistic, ridiculous, or aloof. This usually includes plot twists such as birth/family secrets, acts of revenge, terminal illnesses, or deaths.) A series of romantic dramas about youthhood were released, from Do You Like Brahms?, Record of Youth, Start-Up, to the recent, Run On. Though their viewer ratings were a little disappointing, they garnered responses from young viewers thanks to their publicity. The ‘makjang’ drama that is securing its ratings is The Penthouse: War in Life, as it reaches new heights. Amidst times like these when viewer ratings are on the low, the series is on a high march as it breaks through the 20% barrier. Lie After Lie, with Lee Yoo Ri as its protagonist, recorded the highest rating ever for Channel A’s drama series. Marriage Lyrics, Divorce Composition written by Im Sung Han, a screenwriter famous as the ‘Godmother of makjang dramas’, will be aired in January of next year. Let’s have a look at the kind of drama series that has captivated the editors’ hearts amongst the fierce competition.

 

Editor Hwang Hong Sun’s Pick – Do You Like Brahms? & The Uncanny Counter

Credit: SBS, OCN

I’ll pick two series which I didn’t expect much at first, but fell in love after watching. Do You Like Brahms? knows how to be gradually immersive, as it follows the standard tactics of a youthhood drama, and captures the concerns of youths in a relatable manner. What touches the viewers’ hearts are the slow but delicate romance and the classical music which resonates with the characters’ emotions. Above all, the series’ greatest achievement was to discover a gem actor like Kim Min Jae. The Uncanny Counter demonstrates a perfection that deserves to be the talk of the town, like its Korean title: A Phenomenal Rumour. The clashes between modern versions of the grim reaper, counters, and the demons are stimulating. Like Kim Min Jae of Do You Like Brahms?, Cho Byung Gyu also makes a solid presence which deserves the title as the discovery of the year.

 

Editor Seo Hae Lan’s Pick – Stranger2 & More Than Friends

Credit: tvN, JTBC

Drama series which didn’t get loved by many, but did drive the editor crazy were chosen. Though Stranger 2 did not give the catharsis it did in its first season, it resonated as it was more realistic. The series proved its worth by showing the process of how small injustices and silences of many people eventually become one great evil. In an era where it is harder not to make the wrong choices, Si Mok and Yeo Jin’s existence by themselves provide comfort. More Than Friends was unable to get a big response, and in many ways, it seems hard to be listed as a masterpiece. However, the show’s focus on wholesomely portraying youths who are coming of age through experiencing work and love, and its young actors’ good performances are memorable. I also reflected on myself while watching this drama. As someone who could not endure the thought processes and decisions of immature characters in the series even while knowing that it is a “story about growth,” it made me look back on my attitude as a viewer.

 

Editor Yang Young Jun’s Pick – Record of Youth & Kairos

Credit: tvN, MBC

The picked series are the ones that I made sure to watch on rerun if I missed its live airing. Record of Youth is a work which I’d like to appreciate in more than one sense. The show’s actors were radiant, its way of looking and youths was realistic, and the ending was enough to give a lasting aftertaste. Not only was it comforting to follow on Jung Ha and Hye Joon’s journey, but it was even a source of motivation for self-improvement. While the series would not be called to be perfect, due to a few imperfect elements, that is what makes the show more attractive. Kairos keeps its viewers on their toes for its next episode with its unrestricted storyline, actors’ performances, and plot twists that recur every episode. In particular, the clarity of the series despite its plot structure which goes back and forth between the past and present is appealing. It is disheartening to know that the show’s viewer ratings are not as high as its cinematic quality and the enjoyment it provides.

 

Editor Kim Won Hee’s Pick – Birthcare Center & The School Nurse Files

Credit: tvN, Netflix

I picked two drama series which left a strong impression as bests. Birthcare Center illustrates what pregnant women go through before and after their childbirths. In each episode, the show transparently captures a variety of stories ranging from childbirth, breastfeeding, childbirth, to prejudices experienced by those who are pregnant. As the show depicts a realistic story cheerfully with various parodies and comedic elements, a narrative that could have been vague became easy and fun to understand. It is a work that can be labeled as educational material without a doubt. The School Nurse Files is an exclusively Korean superhero series with a unique appeal. The world full of colorful jellies is both odd and beautiful. Ahn Eun Young moves the viewers’ hearts through her acts of kindness in and out of the school as she was born with the fate to help people. It is a captivating work that calls for multiple rewatches as it is filled with a lively and cheery atmosphere and catchy soundtracks that will get stuck in your head.

 

Editor Hong Hyun Jung’s Pick – The Good Detective & Missing: The Other Side

Credit: JTBC, OCN

As a crime fiction enthusiast, I introduce shows that depict the harmony of the warmth of humanity amongst brutal crimes. The Good Detective is a story of two contrasting detectives digging up the truth which was covered up with their senses of conscience and mission. The genuine character development and the bromance between Son Hyun Joo and Jang Seung Jo were better than expected, leaving me to wish for the show to be serialized. Although the ending is vague, the show conveys its intentions as refreshing characters carried out a detective drama that could have easily become predictable. Missing: The Other Side is OCN’s drama which leads viewers to desperation by adding a touching element of fantasy to a mystery crime drama. The universe in which the living and the dead can coexist is invigorating, and it is easy to be attached to each character as they each have their backstories. This series too has background and character settings that are thorough enough for it to be serialized. I healed a wounded heart with Rugal in the first half of the year.

 

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

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