It’s starting to feel like Christmas… and if the holidays translate to snuggling up with a hot cup of tea and snuggling up in a fluffy blanket watching your favorite drama, then you’re on the right track. Warm embrace of nostalgia, toe-curling romance, laugh-out-loud to fantasy novels, the K-drama universe is a gift that keeps on giving.
From a walk down memory lane, reminiscing about the lingering and bittersweet emotions of first love, to unforgettable friendships and some heady office romances with plenty of misadventures, here are seven great K-dramas that are sure to get you in the holiday spirit.
A favorite among K-drama fans (there is hardly anyone who is NOT a fan of the show), “Reply 1988” has a universal and timeless appeal and is the perfect way to reset yourself in these times.
Flashback to 1988, when Seoul was waiting for a major event preparing for the Summer Olympics. Meet the famous five from Ssangmundong, a sleepy neighborhood who have been besties since childhood. Brave school slacker and the only girl in the boy group Duk Sun (Hyeri), cute introverted champion and genius player Go (Park Bo Gum), reliable, hardworking model student Sun Woo (Go Kyung Pyo), pensive quite yet attentive Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol) and the goofy, mischievous and easy-going Dong Ryong (Lee Dong Hwi) live a leisurely life. If they’re not at school or sneaking around their parents, they’re practically in their rooms, eating and fighting over the last bite of ramen and pizza, scrambling to get their hands on a VHS copy of the latest American blockbuster or music tape, or obsessing over the new denim or sneakers from of import: they are in it together for better or for worse.
The performance evokes a wave of nostalgia for the miraculous years past. A strong sense of community and friends like a family who find comfort in each other celebrating their joys, comfort in their sorrows and cheering each other on through many challenges will stir your heart with emotion with its evocative storytelling. “Reply 1988” is a solace for the soul, an ode to friendship, life and everything in between.
“Twenty Five, Twenty One”
If a show’s success is measured by its ability to get viewers so invested in the lives of the characters and their story that you can’t separate the reel from the real thing, then “Twenty Five, Twenty One” is that one show.
Young teenager Min Chae (Choi Myung Bin) discovers her mother Na Hee Do’s (Kim Tae Ri) old diaries and curiously starts reading them. We are taken back in time to the late 1990s, when the world was recovering from an economic crisis and was on the cusp of an as yet unknown millennium. Spirited teenage fencer Na Hee Do dreams of playing for her country, defeating her rival, and experiencing true love and heartbreak. She meets an idealistic and determined young man named Baek Yi Jin (Nam Joo Hyuk) who is trying to rebuild his life and that of his family. The two strike up a friendship with Hee Do’s lively nature in stark contrast to Yi Jin’s reserved personality. “Why are you rooting for me? Not even my mom,” Hee Do tells Yi Jin, who just replies, “Because you give me hope. And I want more for you. And it makes me feel good, too.” This statement encapsulates their deep bond as they chart the course of life with the promise of becoming great together.
“Twenty Five, Twenty One” is an achingly poignant coming-of-age tale of young love, friendship, hope and dreams that will make you laugh and shed a few tears along the way. It’s Kim Tae Ri’s golden performance that made the reckless, impulsive Hee Do so famous, and Nam Joo Hyuk’s stellar portrayal of Baek Yi Jin makes him our man for all seasons. Last but not least, the show also has one of the best drama soundtracks.
“A Business Proposal”
In the mood for a heady office romance with a handful of laughs and a few mishaps? Then “Business Offer” is the show for you. Shin Ha Ri (Kim Sejeong), a food researcher, is forced by her heiress friend Young Seo (Seol In Ah) to enter a blind date for her. But the date in question is none other than Kang Tae Moo (Ahn Hyo Seop), the handsome CEO of Go Foods, where Shin Ha Ri happens to work and has no time for love or marriage. The two enter into a contractual relationship, but before you know it, the inevitable happens – sparks fly and they are hopelessly in love.
Meanwhile, Young Seo falls in love with Tae Mo’s best friend Cha Sung Hoon (Kim Min Kyu). What could have been a recipe for disaster turns out to be a perfect meal served with all the romantic clichés, cheesy lines accompanied by the perfect seasoning of humor, romance and misadventure. With sizzling chemistry between the two couples and camaraderie between friends, “A Business Offer” is wholesome and fun, and the perfect pick-me-up to banish the holiday blues.
In the crazy world of show business, star wars, anti-fans, fake news and click headlines, “Sh**ting Stars” follows the life of popular matinee idol Gong Tae Sung (Kim Young Dae) and his PR boss. star management firm Oh Han Byul (Lee Sung Kyung). The only problem is that Tae Sung and Han Byul don’t seem to get along at all, as she is constantly fighting between his fandom, plans, and publicity. The inevitable happens when Tae Sung and Han Byul realize that they have strong feelings for the other, but everything is even more complicated than they imagined.
This drama will give you a fly on the wall what could actually be happening behind the scenes of the so called glamorous world of showbiz. And it takes you on a rollercoaster of mishaps where many characters juggle love, life and lawsuits. A special shout out to Lee Sung Kyung and Kim Young Dae’s amazing chemistry and the love-hate romance between Gong Tae Sung and prickly lawyer Do Soo Hyuk (Lee Jung Shin) will also give you the laughs you need.
“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” is as cozy and snug as a frayed sweater or the comfort of a soft worn comforter that envelops you in its warmth. An adaptation of the 2004 Korean film “Mr. Hong,” the drama takes place in the picturesque seaside town of Gongjin, filled with its loyal tight-knit community of residents.
A smart and ambitious dentist named Yoon Hye Jin (Shin Min Ah), who loves her high-end brands as much as she loves drilling or putting implants in people’s teeth, leaves her clinic and lands in Gongjin, a place that holds a special place in her heart. He meets Hong Doo Shik (Kim Seon Ho), popularly called Chief Hong, who is the city’s chief maintenance man. There’s nothing Doo Shik can’t do, but all for a wage.
So, are sparks flying? Well, not really, because Hye Jin’s prickly, sophisticated personality is the opposite of Doo Shik’s easygoing, laid-back attitude. He notes, “Money and success are not the only valuable things in life. Happiness, self-satisfaction, and love are.” The plot may sound simple, but it’s the many subplots that are woven together that make the show wholesome. On the one hand, there’s a love story, but there are also basic human issues of self-acceptance, loss, abandonment, regret, guilt and heartbreak handled sensitively, “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha” is unmissable, as is Kim Seon Ho’s dimples.
“Love in Contract”
Choi Sang Eun’s (Park Min Young) favorite pastime is getting married and divorced, and she’s done it more than a dozen times. She is a single life help but has never been lucky when it comes to matters of her own heart. But things change once he decides to retire. Sang Eun discovers that she has feelings for the socially awkward Judge Jung Ji Ho (Go Kyung Pyo), who has been her most reliable client for five years. The twist is that a superstar named Kang Hae Jin (Kim Jae Young) also hires her as his wife, and as a love triangle forms, Sang Eun is also haunted by the demons of her past.
“Love in Contract” is a brisk watch. You have two amazing male leads from the stoic Ji Ho to the sensitive Hae Jin, who may butt heads at times but each protect Sang Eun in their own way. However, Gwang Nam (Kang Hyung Suk) is the best. As an “ex-husband” and a man dealing with his own sexual identity, Sang Eun remains her rock-solid support throughout. All that can be said is that Sang Eun is a lucky girl.
“My Love From the Star”
A drama that is at the top of the favorites list among many K-drama fans and has also been on fire in the popularity ratings was this 2013 drama starring Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun, which continues to hold high ratings.
What happens when a movie star is literally swept off her feet by a man who himself descended from the stars? “My Love From the Star” offers a dreamy romance that will make your knees go weak. Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun) is a 400-year-old transient inhabitant of Earth and an alien who looks human and is also very gorgeous. He keeps to himself, enjoying his solitude and waiting to return to his planet. Cheon Song Yi (Jun Ji Hyun) is a superstar, funny, and even though she sometimes throws a tantrum, she is a lost little girl at heart. Not only does Song Yi find herself going back to college, she ends up in a class taught by Min Joon, who is a professor. Eventually they also become neighbors, and as they find themselves drawn to each other, a love triangle, power play, and intrigue unfold around them.
Whether it’s Min Joon and his malice towards the modern world and keeping people at bay, or Song Yi finding solace in eating her emotions, ordering boxes of fried chicken and cartons of beer, they both give top performances. Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun provide unforgettable moments on screen with their sizzling chemistry.