Top 20 Pre-2020 Korean Dramas I Watched This Year!

It’s been an unprecedented year in which we all have had to adjust to a new normal. That has included needing to stay at home. Whether it is working remotely or having to self-quarantine to avoid contact with other people as much as possible. Both are certainly the case for me this year. And being at home more (pretty much 24 hours a day now) has allowed me to enjoy something that I haven’t had a chance to do very much in a while: Korean dramas!

Increasingly over the years, I’ve gravitated away from American dramas (I just suddenly stopped watching Grimm and Supernatural and I don’t know why). Filipino soap operas continue to be increasingly repetitive. So naturally for me, I had been watching more and more Korean dramas. But real life certainly did its best to limit my time to be able and enjoy them. That changed this year and I was able to finally sit down and enjoy some of the latest Korean dramas and some I have been meaning to watch for years.

I’ve divided my list into two: 2020 Dramas and pre-2020 Dramas. Like my Top 51 Songs of 2020, I’m really bad with ranking things. I’m always indecisive. Lol That’s why these lists are much longer than they really should be. Also, I don’t have all the dramas I watched this year on this list. Mainly because I wouldn’t really care to recommend them. Also, there’s a few shows I’ve already watched and written up reviews for, but haven’t posted yet. =D

So anyway, let’s get started! First up are my favorite pre-2020 series:

1. The Light In Your Eyes (JTBC, 2019)
The Light in Your Eyes might end up being my favorite drama overall (or at least tied) when I combine my two lists. But this unforgettable, award-winning series is a definite much-watch. Legend Kim Hye Ja leads an excellent cast in what is an emotional, funny, heartfelt and enlightening experience.
>Good Ol’ Review

2. I’m Not a Robot (MBC, 2017-2018)
Perhaps my favorite romantic comedy I watched this year is I’m Not a Robot. Yoo Seung Ho and Chae Soo Bin are absolutely irresistible in this warm and hilarious series. One of the best, most feel-good Korean series I’ve ever watched.
>Good Ol’ Review

3. Voice 2 and 3 (OCN, 2018/2019)
The most thrilling drama I enjoyed this year had to be the explosive second and third seasons of Voice. An explosive character-driven psychological thriller, the series never lets up and keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Lee Jin Wook and Lee Ha Na command the screen and are accompanied by a strong cast to bring it all together.
>Good Ol’ Review

4. Watcher (OCN, 2019)
Similarly to Voice, Watcher was also a character-driven thriller. Crime thrillers have become more common all over the Korean television dial these last few years. But Watcher takes the genre in a refreshing and welcome direction. With legitimately exciting twists and turns, edge of your seat action and emotionally affecting and engaging characters, Watcher is definitely a must-watch. Seo Kang Joon, Kim Hyun Joo and Han Suk Kyu’s performances are mesmerizing.
>Good Ol’ Review

5. Signal (tvN, 2016)
A breathtaking and emotionally resonant series that takes plenty of familiar themes and presents them in a refreshing and engaging way that sets it apart from the rest. The brisk pace of the story ensures there’s never a dull moment at any point in the series. There’s a twist and turn at every corner, secrets and mysteries to unravel with every episode. And at the heart, our three main characters that guide us through the emotional and exciting journey. Signal is undoubtedly an unforgettable television experience.
>Good Ol’ Review

6. Go Back Couple (KBS, 2017)
Jang Na Ra and Son Ho Jun lead this beautifully poignant and emotionally resonant drama. The series is sincere in its reminders about our everyday lives and also gives hope for those who may be facing seemingly insurmountable challenges.
>Good Ol’ Review

7. Your Honor (SBS, 2018)
Your Honor is a pitch perfect series that blends together family drama, romantic drama and procedural legal drama all into one fast-paced and fully engaging package. It is emotional when it needs to be. It is funny when it needs to be. It is frustrating when it needs to be. It is hopeful when it needs to be. It is romantic when it needs to be. Yoon Shi Yoon especially delivers a masterful performance.
>Good Ol’ Review

8. Strongest Deliveryman (KBS, 2017)
It may indeed be one of the strongest Korean dramas I’ve ever watched. The 2017 KBS series is a well-rounded story that touches on many familiar themes, but does so in a fun and emotionally affecting way. The depth that is given to its characters make for a thoroughly engaging and ultimately satisfying story that leaves you wanting more. And Go Kyung Pyo and Chae Soo Bin are two of the most engaging leads I’ve seen in a series in a while.
>Good Ol’ Review

9. Psychopath Diary (tvN, 2019)
tvN’s 2019 drama series Psychopath Diary (싸이코패스 다이어리) is a hilarious, darkly comic thriller that utilizes the strengths of its cast (led again by the versatile Yoon Shi Yoon) to support a wild, exciting and fast-paced ride. Amazing performances pull you along for an enjoyable and eye-opening adventure that is equal parts hilarious fun, edge of your seat thrills and heartfelt emotional moments.
>Good Ol’ Review

10. Weightlifting Fairy, Kim Bok Joo (2016-2017, MBC)
The series may give off a specific first impression when you first start it. But as the series progresses, it develops into a surprisingly heartfelt, emotional and wholly romantic story that will definitely leave you with a smile on your face. Led by excellent performances by Lee Sung Kyung and Nam Joo Hyuk, the series definitely carries itself with a well-deserved “swag” like its characters regularly do as well.
>Good Ol’ Review

11. My First First Love (2019, Netflix)
As one of the first dramas I watched at the beginning of the lockdowns this year, My First First Love became a wonderfully comforting experience. As we live in a time of great global uncertainty, My First First Love is able to present a hopeful, yet strongly realistic story that engages you and in turn maybe instills a little bit of hope and happiness in your own life.
>Good Ol’ Review

12. When the Camellia Blooms (2019, KBS)
When the Camellia Blooms is a genre-bending series that somehow successfully takes the typical Korean romcom, the always popular weekend family drama and the trendy mystery crime thriller and rolls it all into one. The series’ warmth and wisdom offers the complete package for viewers. Well-developed characters, an intricate, well-executed plot, beautiful direction and a stunning cast. It is not hard to see why When the Camellia Blooms deserves to be hailed as one of the best.
>Good Ol’ Review

13. Something About 1 Percent (2016, Dramax)
For a simple, thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy, look no further than the 2016 series Something About 1 Percent. It isn’t groundbreaking nor does it push the envelope, and that’s perfectly fine. This Ha Seok Jin/Jeon So Min-starrer is a classic Korean romcom. Sticking to what it wants to be and doing it very well makes the series an amusing, enjoyable and romantic winner.
>Good Ol’ Review

14. My Secret Terrius (2018, MBC)
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a series as charming, loveable and exciting as the 2018 MBC drama series My Secret Terrius (Terius Behind Me). The series achieves the almost impossible feat of having the perfect balance of exciting spy action, hilarious comedy and sweet romance. As familiar as many of the series’ qualities and plot points are, the fast-paced story and irresistibly charming cast of characters make My Secret Terrius an absolute joy to watch.
>Good Ol’ Review

15. Extraordinary You (2019, MBC)
The 2019 MBC drama series Extraordinary You is a fun, romantic slice of life adventure with a twist. Poking fun at some Korean romcom tropes, the series gives new flavor to familiar themes. With an engaging fantasy mystery, irresistible romance, fun comedy and relatable real world emotions, Extraordinary You indeed makes for one far from ordinary drama experience.
>Good Ol’ Review

16. At Eighteen (2019, JTBC)
The 2019 JTBC drama series At Eighteen is one of the sincerest depictions of teenage life in Korea I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Tackling both familiar and difficult issues, At Eighteen manages to maintain a large ensemble cast of characters that all work hand in hand to present what is a deep and honest picture of youth today.
>Good Ol’ Review

17. Save Me (2017, OCN)
The 2017 OCN drama Save Me may frustrate and enrage you at the start. But this 2017 OCN drama series quickly evolves into a bizarre, terrifying and twisted psychological thriller. A stellar ensemble cast powers this drama about an eerie and mysterious religious cult that engulfs a provincial Korean town from the shadows. The investment in the series pays off big time in the end at a level not often seen on Korean dramas.
>Good Ol’ Review

18. Room No. 9 (2018, tvN)
Led by excellent performances by Kim Hee Seon and Kim Hae Sook, tvN’s 2018 series Room No. 9 is an emotional thriller with a deep mystery that unfolds in a familiar, but nonetheless engaging way. And with a little bit of supernatural spice to add some extra flavor. Room No. 9 may be a typical revenge drama on the surface. But the cast and characters are able to draw out something extra to keep the series from being “Been there, done that.”
>Good Ol’ Review

19. Hello Monster/I Remember You (2015, KBS)
Hello Monster is as thought provoking as it is simply an exciting and emotional thriller. With some good romance thrown in, the series’ many plot threads come together with excellent performances from its cast for a truly enjoyable package.
>Good Ol’ Review

20. Strangers From Hell (2019, OCN)
OCN’s 2019 series Strangers from Hell is a psychological thriller to end all psychological thrillers. Ten fast-paced episodes explore the often-tumultuous depths of people’s minds and often-frightening depths of today’s society. Powered by amazing performances from Im Siwan and Lee Dong Wook, the series shocks, awes and delivers a television experience unlike any other.
>Good Ol’ Review

Special mentions: My ID is Gangnam Beauty, Dear My Room/Eunjoo’s Room, Hit The Top, Cinderella and the Four Knights, Love Alarm, While You Were Sleeping and He is Psychometric.

To read all my Korean drama reviews from this year, head on over here:

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