In previous years since I was able to watch many more K-Dramas during COVID in 2020. I was able to list my Top 20 shows every year with a couple of extra just outside of the Top 20.
In 2023, I was barely able to watch 20 dramas (22 to be exact). Real life really caught up with me this year so I sadly wasn’t able to watch as many K-dramas as I did in the past. Even worse, a couple of the 22 dramas I did watch ended up being disappointments!
Nonetheless, I highly recommend these ten dramas from 2023!
Payback was an excellent series to start off 2023 with. Its tight storytelling allows for a fast-paced and thoroughly engaging time. Being focused and avoiding unnecessary distractions allows for the story to seamlessly unfold. And that in turn allows for an excellent cast to bring interesting characters to vivid life for a truly character-driven narrative about money, power and revenge.
Woo Do Hwan and Lee Sang Yi are charismatic and captivating leading men as two boxers who get caught up in the dark and violent world of underground money lending. A strong mix of personal, character-driven stories and exciting, pulpy action make Netflix’s Bloodhounds one fun, thrilling ride.
8. Unlock My Boss
ENA’s Unlock My Boss holds a lot of surprises. But the biggest of all is probably how much heart it has. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll gasp. The series mixes drama, comedy, fantasy and mystery into a tight package. And the unexpected bit of heart really holds everything together. Unlock My Boss is really simply just a wonderful treat. Being able to get some deeper discussions behind the bright and fun façade of the story is such an unexpected experience coming into the series. But it is a very welcome one. A perfect ensemble cast and well-written story are held tightly together by the series’ big heart. And ultimately, it succeeds as an enjoyable, emotional and fun ride. A really great way to start off the year with.
7. Taxi Driver 2
The first season of Taxi Driver was my #1 series of 2021. So when news that season 2 was finally coming, I was so excited. Though this season might lack a bit of the cohesiveness and freshness of the first season, it was still one of television’s best of the year. There is definitely a lot of potential for future seasons. SBS has confirmed it has ordered season three. But I think the series definitely needs to add a bit more of the touches that made season one so special. Instead of becoming just “another one of those,” Taxi Driver‘s unique premise really should offer it more opportunity to be much more refreshing. And the biggest part of that is the connection we have to our Rainbow Taxi friends. And in turn, the personal connections they make and the hope they provide to the clients who give them a call. Which ultimately is what will keep anyone coming back for more Taxi Driver, even if it had its faults in this run.
6. Tale of the Nine Tailed 1938
Tale of the Nine Tailed 1938 delivers a fun 12 episode ride. High-flying action, affecting stories and some great performances from its talented cast; Tale of the Nine Tailed 1938 is one of those rare times where a second season not only matches, but surpasses its first. And it is such a welcome and enjoyable surprise. Compared to season one, the series now knows what it wants to be, what kinds of stories to tell and how to effectively execute those stories in a way that results in satisfying and fulfilling conclusions. Lee Dong Wook and Kim Bum deservedly lead a strong cast and step into the spotlight that should’ve been theirs the first season to begin with.
5. Crash Course in Romance
tvN’s Crash Course in Romance (일타 스캔들/Ilta Scandal) is an unexpectedly delightful, dramatic, but sincere series. Led by excellent performances from Jeon Do Yeon and Jung Kyung Ho, Crash Course in Romance takes a refreshingly bold approach to familiar stories. And it does so in a way that is both emotionally affecting and fun to watch. Its excellent balance of tone immerses you into a fully realized world of character-driven real-life stories.
4. The Glory
The Glory is a school violence and revenge plot on the surface. But its most affecting moments involved the simple connections and bonds one is able to make with another. Those relationships are what can help get them through difficult journeys. Those friendships can help guide them toward the light at the end of the tunnel. And those bonds provide the hope to keep one moving toward healing and peace. Song Hye Kyo’s incredible performance proved critics of her acting wrong and very much bolstered what was an already strong series to begin with.
Disney+ has had a couple of original Korean drama offerings so far. But Moving just might be their best yet. This webtoon adaptation from artist and screenwriter Kang Full is a thrilling, imaginative and emotionally affecting series that boasts an incredible ensemble cast and stunning direction. The twenty episode series moves at such a brisk pace. But not in a way that prevents you from absorbing and savoring each of its story and character beats. That is something not every series is able to do. But Moving does that and then some. It’s hard not to feel a wide range of emotions while watching the series. It is most certainly a wild and crazy ride. But one that is fun and emotionally affecting. A legitimately thrilling and captivating story that works both as a high-concept action thriller and a humble, slice of life portrait of parents and children. And a little bit of social commentary too.
2. The Good Bad Mother
I challenge anyone to not shed some tears at least once during the series’ excellent 14 episodes. And that’s tears from the series’ many emotional stories or from laughing so much at its welcome and well-placed humor. Ra Mi Ran and Lee Do Hyun deliver masterful and captivating performances, leading a strong ensemble cast as they help bring to life a truly breathtaking and beautiful story. It is not often you can come across a series like The Good Bad Mother. Having all its pieces come together for an engaging experience, getting you to feel all the different emotions through both refreshing and familiar stories; it really is a major accomplishment. A perfect ensemble cast, pitch perfect writing and directing and a warmth and sincerity not often seen in a television drama; The Good Bad Mother has it all.
1. D.P. 2
Season 2 of Netflix’s D.P. picks up right where the first left off. And that’s not merely referring to the story itself, but also to the incredible performances, top-notch production and captivating, compassionate writing. Just like the first season, Jung Hae In and Koo Kyo Hwan deliver masterful, nuanced performances as they help bring to life the story of two military police officers tasked with pursuing deserters and in turn hoping to fight the injustices in a system that seems to be untouchable. The profound stories it has been able to tell and bring to light will continue to resonate after the final credits roll.