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[PICK] Best K-Dramas in The First Half of 2021

best korean drama
Credit: tvN, JTBC, KBS

In the first half of this year, makjang, hero, and historical dramas excelled. Although it wilted somewhat in season 3, The Penthouse: War in Life is still thriving, and River Where the Moon Rises and Bossam: Steal the Fate had a stable viewership. The hero series, including The Uncanny Counter, Vincenzo, and Taxi Driver, also enjoyed continued success. On the other hand, romances such as She Would Never Know, Oh My Ladylord, and Doom at Your Service failed to attract many viewers. Meanwhile, benign dramas such as Navillera and Racket Boys also became popular. Here are some of the dramas aired this year so far that captivated the editors.

 

River Where the Moon RisesVincenzo

best korean drama
Credit: KBS, tvN

Editor Seo Hae Lan: More than ever, I fell in love with Korean dramas. Among them, thanks to The River Where the Moon Rises, I was able to resume ‘drama fangirling’ after a long time. I liked how it reinterpreted the tale of Princess Pyeong Gang and On Dal as a passionate love that changed history and surpassed death. It was a good move to break through the controversy over the school violence head-on and it kindled my love for the drama. As a fan, I will never forget the time full of ups and downs.

Meanwhile, by watching Vincenzo, I realized the power of a superstar who can either make a production happen or make us watch the series. Indeed, there are well-established characters, attractive narratives, and a trustworthy director and a writer, but it is Song Joong Ki who made the drama popular. Because he is Vincenzo, I was able to cry and laugh at this unfamiliar black comedy. It is the power of a star actor that convinces viewers of the drama’s nature, thread and lets them enjoy it.

 

Run OnYouth of May

best korean drama
Credit: JTBC, KBS

Editor Kim Won Hee: If I had to pick a drama that left a deep impression on my mind in the first half of this year, it was definitely Run On and Youth of May. Run On is a drama that satisfies movie fans in a difficult time to go to the cinema or to attend a film festival due to the pandemic. The beautiful footage and the actors’ chemistry delighted the eyes. And the cliché-twisting narrative and witty lines are attractive enough to make you want to keep watching whenever you have time. 

Youth of May is a drama in which I chose to watch the chemistry between Go Min Si and Lee Do Hyun from Sweet Home, but I was immersed in each episode and ended up shedding tears. Gwangju in May 1980, our painful history, was portrayed in a non-inflammatory manner through the youth of that time while deeply resonating with the stories of ordinary people in various situations.

 

Sisyphus: The MythMine

best korean drama
Credit: JTBC, tvN

Editor Yang Young Jun: Thanks to the actors, I spent a great first half of the year with fun dramas to watch. Having the three women’s story of ‘Finding What’s Theirs’ and creating solidarity, Mine completely erased the initial concern whether ‘it’d be another majkang drama’ with its solid storyline, soundtrack, and perfect acting of the main and supporting actors. The only flaw is the obvious romance between the master and the maid, but it’s not a big deal since the other elements were so good. I added another work to my drama list so I can watch whenever I feel like to.

However, Sisyphus: the myth is a work that caused as much disappointment as it had good elements. However, the reason why I finished it is because of the presence of Cho Seung Woo and Park Shin Hye and the way it dealt with ‘fatalism.’ It had the go-to cast, the intriguing subject of ‘time loop’ and an ending with many possibilities. It would be great to have the next season with a bit of improvement.

 

NavilleraYouth of May

best korean drama
Credit: tvN, KBS

Editor Hwang Hong Sun: I had enough provocative subject matters such as infidelity, murder, and conspiracy. And these two works made me shed tears and cleared my tired mind. Navillera reminded me that age is just a number when it comes to pursuing one’s dreams. The chemistry between Park In Hwan and Song Kang left a deep impression through laughter.  And their presence sends cheers to many people who have hesitated to take a challenge, including myself.

My heart still breaks to think of Youth of May even after a month from its last episode. Because the first half of the story was beautifully warm, I couldn’t dare to watch the second half. The sincerity of this drama during the tragic times is more appealing because of its perfect quality. In it, there is a line that says, “I don’t want a May without you.” Just like that, it feels empty and heartbreaking now that the work is over.

 

Beyond EvilRacket Boys

best korean drama
Credit: JTBC, SBS

Editor Hong Hyun JungThe two works that I did not expect much from before the airing turned out to be the most impressive ones. First, Beyond Evil captivated my mind with its ‘mutual salvation narrative,’ which was closely related to the characters’ minds. The process of uncovering the truth of the incident is interesting enough. But the complex and subtle psychological warfare between the two men, each filled with pain and cynicism, was truly intense. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the two characters’ desperate cooperation that the drama closely accumulated along with its deeply emotional storyline. The work enjoyed a harmony of excellent performances of the actors, meticulous directing and a solid script. 

Racket Boys is a rare drama that is easy to watch. Even though each episode has no prominent villains or conflicts, the characters are full of vitality so that we naturally immerse ourselves in it. It also focuses on the growth and teamwork of characters rather than on the fierce competition. Hae Gang says to Se Yoon, “It’s OK to lose.” I appreciated this one line so much.

 

Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.

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