Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

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Five K-dramas that live in my head rent-free

By Ava Zardynezhad, August 20 2021 —

Back in the days of my youth, when I actually had free time to watch TV shows — as opposed to having things play in the background as I wolf down my meals — I was a K-drama addict. Over the recent years, it’s been a while since I’ve finished a K-drama because, for some reason, I keep going back to the oldies that I know and love. I thought I’d share five of these oldies with you because who knows, you might like them too. 

Secret Garden 

This is one of the earliest K-dramas I started watching and I think many would agree when I say it might be the best K-drama of all time. Secret Garden is a masterpiece. The acting is out of this world, the story is captivating and the settings just spark a strange yearning. This is the show when it comes to the “rich boy falls in love with poor girl” trope and features so many iconic scenes of a disapproving, heiress mother, desperately trying to put an end to this relationship. There are so many memorable scenes in this show, but I constantly think about the scenes where Hyun Bin is wearing his signature tracksuit. The soundtrack of the show is also fire — I have Hyun Bin’s version of “That Man” looping on Spotify. Every K-drama fan out there would consider this show required viewing. 

Dae Jang Geum 

This is the only historical drama you’re going to see on this list. There are plenty of good historical K-dramas out there and even though there have been many that I’ve liked in the past, this is the only one I rewatch the most. It might be the nostalgia of watching the dubbed version on Iranian television growing up, it might be seeing my love for food reflected through it, it might be the perfection that is Lee Young-ae or it might be the inspiring story of this appropriately-titled “jewel in the palace.” Whatever it is, Dae Jang Geum just hits a spot. I think about the food preparation scenes every night before I go to sleep. This drama is timeless and one I would highly recommend. 

She Was Pretty 

I’m going to expose myself here — I’m a first-tier Super Junior simp, so it’s only natural that I would be obsessed with this drama. Don’t get me wrong, the drama itself is hilarious and has a lot of heart. But I firmly believe that Siwon Choi’s performance contributes to at least 85 per cent of the show’s success. This show is one of the most popular manifestations of the “makeover transformation” trope. I do firmly believe that the only reason I think about this show a lot is Siwon’s existence — obviously — as well as Hwang Jang-eum’s hilarious performance in the earlier episodes.

My Mister 

I watch this drama at least once every two years and every time I start over, I start replaying my favourite scenes in my head before I even get to the episodes where they happen. This isn’t your typical K-drama. My Mister has a more mature subject matter and centres around the lives of a middle-aged engineer and his middle-aged friends and siblings as well as that of a twenty-some year old girl, struggling through life, waiting for things to get easier. With a stellar cast featuring Korea’s “little sister,” IU and Lee Sun Kyun — whom you might recognize from Parasite or Coffee Prince — and a soundtrack that can tear your heart into pieces, this show is one that I recommend to everyone. There are a lot of scenes that I love — the last scene always breaks me — but if I had to settle on one, it would be every time Lee’s character says “It’s not a big deal.” 

Reply 1988 

This is my comfort drama. No matter my mood, I can start watching this show and even after 15 minutes, I would be feeling warm and fuzzy and nostalgic inside. This show centres around the lives of a group of teenagers and their families and is told through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards. The show is more-character driven than plot-driven and keeps you curious about the lives of the characters until the very end. This might be the one drama with too many iconic scenes to choose from, so I’m just going to recommend watching the whole thing and deciding for yourselves.  

Well, there you have it. These are five K-dramas that live in my head rent-free. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. 


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