K-Drama Review: ‘Happiness’: 3 Reasons Why It’s So Realistic and Captivating

korean drama Happiness

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

korean drama Happiness
Credit: tvN

Contrary to the title “Happiness,” the series lays out a series of misfortunes and crises. Is it an ironic expression of resignation knowing that the characters can no longer return to the happy times? Or is their will to never give up until the very end? Unlike the vague title, Happiness is attracting viewers with a story full of tension. It paints out the chaos caused by the mad person disease spreading through an apartment complex and faces the COVID situation head-on. Perhaps that’s why. It captures the present era in a much more realistic way than other dramas where not a single mask is seen, ensuring both fun and theme at the same time. Let’s take a look at the three reasons why viewers are falling for Happiness.


New Normal Drama that Deals with COVID-19 Era

When we watch TV series these days, we feel like we’re watching a different world, the so-called multiverse. In our real lives, masks and social distancing are essential, but the world in the drama is not like that at all. But Happiness is different. The background of the story is post-COVID, and the characters wear masks or act sensitively to quarantine. The plot’s central theme, mad person disease, is compared to COVID, and characters stay alert not to let that nightmare happen again.

We’re not giving it a high evaluation just because it deals with the COVID era. It’s because this chaotic experience we are going through acts as a vital device in the play. The importance of quarantine rules and the crises that occur when they are not followed are similar to the reality we face. In all, it’s so similar to our reality that it’s not surprising; it’s actually quite chilling.

korean drama Happiness
Credit: tvN

An Apartment Complex Named Desire

The reality that Happiness is dealing with is not limited to COVID-19. The dark shadow of the real estate craze shown through apartments is also a major factor. This is evident from the first episode. Seeing Yoon Sae Bom faking her marriage to Jung Yi Hyun to secure her spot in the housing subscription system is comical yet bitter. The discrimination according to the method of moving in and the people worrying about the house prices even in the face of an unprecedented disaster add bitterness by making us feel like we’re watching a self-portrait of this era.

Apartments in the play offer genre-related fun as well as realistic criticism. As the residence is strictly controlled due to an outbreak of mad person disease, the main characters are all locked up in an apartment. In other words, by narrowing the frame of the stage to a specific space, the density of the story is increased. The thrilling scenes, such as the main characters running through the emergency exits and shutting the gates despite the threats of the madmen, increase the dramatic tension. Also, the fact that the main and supporting characters’ episodes are organically linked within a limited space is outstanding. In Happiness, apartments become a symbolic space that reveals the hidden side of modern society and a device that maximizes the fun of the genre.

Yumi's Cells

Strangers Are Hell

Sae Bom and Yi Hyun, now locked in an apartment, struggle to prevent the spread of the virus. And in that process, they repeatedly cooperate and get into conflict with lieutenant colonel Han Tae Suk, who tries to make a vaccine by any means. At first glance, Han Tae Suk seems like a villain, but he also has a convincing story, so he isn’t just portrayed as a bad guy. Rather, as more episodes air, he looks more like aid to the main characters. After all, Sae Bom and Yi Hyun may have to be more wary of their neighbors than the mad person disease.

There are so many annoying characters, from a doctor who may have killed his wife to an elite lawyer who belittles others and a resident representative who will do anything to raise house prices. They did not commit any major crimes, except for Doctor Oh Joo Hyung. Still, they offended others and endangered the entire resident because of their selfishness to take advantage of the chaos. Sae Bom and Yi Hyun have to work for peace while playing mind games with them. The dissonance of the characters created in this process is frustrating but creates dramatic tension, making us look forward to the coming episodes. Some of the characters go beyond the nuisance that others can just laugh off and hide a rather creepy intention, bringing a major turning point in the plot. Watching these hateful characters grow their presence in every episode is another attractive feature of the drama.


Overall, Happiness is a drama that focuses on reality and still doesn’t miss the fun of the genre. With the stable acting of Han Hyo Joo, Park Hyung Sik, and Jo Woo Jin, the harmony of the actors who have turned into apartment dwellers breathes life into the story. In particular, seeing our own reality within the fictional epidemic is gnarly yet leaves us with many thoughts. As the title suggests, will they be able to overcome the threat of the epidemic and find happiness in their lives? Perhaps that wish is the hope and happiness of all of us living in the COVID-19 era.


Verdict: A new normal drama with thrilling tension and surprising twists (9/10)

Editor Hwang Hong Sun: A Korean movie buff who wishes that the warm messages in good works will warm up this world at least by one degree Fahrenheit.

Translator Kim Hoyeun: If you are a fan of K-drama, K-movie, and K-pop, I am your guy. I will continue to provide you with up-to-date K-entertainment news.

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  • Hands down the best show of 2021. So glad that I watched Happiness while it aired.
    The storyline was so fresh and nothing like I’ve ever seen before in Kdramas- the OSTs too were perfect and gradually increased in intensity when required. Hyo Joo and Hyung Shik did such an amazing job and their relationship was so very well executed that it never felt forced.

    A must watch if you can handle a new crazy disease and even crazier people 🙂

  • This show is a joke. Annoying characters. The reviews are all jokes. What best 2021 drama… save yourself the time and watch something else.

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