Why ‘Signal’ Beat ‘Descendants of the Sun’ For Best Drama

Signal Versus Descendants of the Sun

Did you see the best drama of the year?

You might easily assume that the Baeksang Award for Best Drama of the year went to “Descendants of the Sun,” which was the most widely viewed drama. And “Descendants of the Sun” did win the Grand Prize at the June 3 awards ceremony. But the Grand Prize factors in a drama’s popularity, as well as the storyline, and performances. It was the time travel police-procedural drama “Signal” that won the Baeksang award for Best Drama overall.

“Signal” did well, ratings wise, for a cable drama (it aired on tvN), peaking at 13.54 percent of viewers for its final episode and averaging 9.19 percent throughout its run. However, it was not as popular as the primetime, broadcast drama “Descendants of the Sun.”

Yet, the series, which starred Kim Hye Soo, Lee Je Hoon, and Cho Jin Woong, managed to receive three Baeksang awards. Besides winning Best Drama, screenwriter Kim Eun Hee won the Best Screenplay award and star Kim Hye Soo won a Best Actress award for her portrayal of veteran detective Cha Soo Hyun. Kim edged out popular actress Song Hye Kyo, who played a conflicted doctor in “Descendants of the Sun.”


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In “Descendants of the Sun,” Song Hye Kyo and Song Joong Ki delivered some riveting romance set amid the conflicts of war. The actors provided plenty of chemistry despite the fact that the drama occasionally skimped on both character and plot development. On the other hand, character and plot development were “Signal’s” strong points.

“Signal” is the story of a police profiler in the present who hears mysterious walkie-talkie signals from a police officer in the past. The officers work together to change the past and thereby change the present.

“Signal” used the politics of the police department to tell a very moral story about the nature of responsibility. The moral of the story is that while it is not always easy to do the right thing, it’s essential. Every person must play his or her part to keep the universe functioning as smoothly as possible.

As police officers, the drama’s main characters were responsible for seeking and implementing justice. The characters played by Kim, Cho, and Lee were each scarred by multiple tragedies, which only heightened their dedication to the pursuit of justice. It made them even more sympathetic to the plight of victims as they too had been victimized.

Kim Hye Soo played a police chief who not only felt responsible for protecting the public, but also protected the memory of the only man she ever loved. For 15 years she searched for him. He was not only the man she loved: he was her hero. Her career as a police officer was a testament to his principles.

Lee Je Hoon played a criminal profiler whose childhood was twice scarred by horrible crimes. As a child, he felt guilty for not preventing a kidnapping but he also lost someone close because of injustice. He became a police officer to see justice done, although it took him a while to recognize the part he might play. When he gets messages from the past, he inherits a mission.


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Finally, Cho Jin Woong played a police officer from the past whose tireless pursuit of justice became tiresome and inconvenient for officers more interested in protecting the privileged and their own privilege.

Cho’s character did not make compromises and was not prepared to look the other way when he noticed a crime. His desire to see justice done was so strong that it magically transcended time, allowing him to communicate with Lee Je Hoon’s character in the present. The lives of these characters connect in the present and the past, allowing them to transcend not only time but their own brokenness.

Each of the drama’s actors did a good job of portraying the tenuous way the characters functioned in the world despite the traumatic incidents that shaped their past. Life could have beaten them down and made them more cynical but they continued to fight for what they believed in. In the end, their connection helped to heal some scars and renew hope for a happier ending.

Unlike “Descendants of the Sun,” “Signal” does not focus on a romance, although there are moments of intense sexual chemistry between Kim Hye Soo and Lee Je Hoon as well as a sweet romance between Kim Hye Soo and Cho Jin Woong. Instead, the drama focuses on the persistence with which the characters fight for the truth.

“Signal” offers an exciting ride all the way to the end with plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting. The only way to know why it won Best Drama at the Baeksang Awards is to watch it.

Which drama did you think deserved to win? Share your thoughts and advice in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

‘Another Oh Hae Young’ Asks Why Women Feel Insecure

Another Oh Hae Young k drama review

[Disclosure: This article contains some spoilers]

The drama “Another Oh Hae Young” is aptly named. Yes, it’s a drama about two women who have the same name, but it’s also the story of two women who suffer from imposter syndrome and they mirror each other in their insecurity.

Imposter syndrome is a term coined by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. People afflicted by imposter syndrome feel like a fraud no matter what they’ve accomplished or are capable of. Although they are high achievers, they feel that it’s only a matter of time until someone finds out how incompetent they are and that they’ve been faking it. They anxiously anticipate being embarrassed.According to the American Psychological Organization, the syndrome is not unique to women but affects anyone who feels they have to work harder to make up for a disadvantage. The extra pressure to achieve may leave a person susceptible to the syndrome if they fall short of their own, often unrealistic, standards of success.

Both women named Oh Hae Young suffer from imposter syndrome, feeling they are secretly not as capable or worthy as others perceive them to be. Ironically, the Oh Hae Young played by Seo Hyun Jin went to school with the Oh Hae Young played by Jeon Hye Bin and the inevitable comparisons made her miserable. Jeon Hye Bin’s character was the queen bee at school, popular, and always the center of attention. Seo Hyun Jun’s character was always “the other Oh Hae Young.” Occasionally, she was unfavorably compared to the “Pretty Oh Hae Young.”


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Seo Hyun Jin’s Oh Hae Young was shy in school. She felt she was plain compared to her namesake and saw herself as an outsider, definitely not as one of the cool kids. Jeon Hye Bin’s character was the standard by which she was measured and she fell short. In the drama’s present day segments, Seo Hyun Jin’s character has matured into an attractive and stylish woman. She has the kind of quirkily endearing personality that’s often born of growing up as an outsider. Although she’s attractive, likeable, and has a good job, she’s not secure in her accomplishments or secure in her sense of self-worth. After the sudden cancellation of her wedding, she meets Jeon Hye Bin’s character again, having to work under her at the office. She’s overwhelmed with insecurity and feels like a second-class citizen. Anyone might feel emotionally derailed by a canceled wedding, but meeting Jeon Hye Bin’s Oh Hae Young adds the emotional equivalent baggage of returning to the worst part of high school.

In a conversation with Park Do Kyung, played by Eric, Seo Hyun Jin’s character tells him that Jeon Hye Bin’s character is in another league than she is. Seo Hyun Jun classifies herself as a B, while she classifies Jeon Hye Bin’s character as an A. And she classifies her former fiancé, played by Lee Jae Yoon, as another A. She figures that he must have been confused to want to marry her and that they broke up because he finally came to his senses. She’s sure the marriage was cancelled because he realized her shortcomings.

Meanwhile, the other Oh Hae Young might seem chic, savvy, and successful, but she’s also far from secure. Jeon Hye Bin’s character had an unhappy, impoverished childhood and has been working overtime to make up for it. She worries that her past will make people look down on her so she works hard at being successful and popular. When the mother of her ex-fiancé said she was not worthy to marry into the family, her fears and insecurity forced her to run away.

While it might be a bizarre coincidence that Eric’s character dates two women named Oh Hae Young, it’s no surprise he dates them. His character has a history of feeling sorry for women, based on past experiences with his pitiful mother. During the course of the drama he expresses pity for both Oh Hae Youngs. He almost married the first Oh Hae Young out of pity. He figured she was so broken, so damaged by her childhood that he could not break up with her. Despite Seo Hyun Jin’s admiration for Jeon Hye Bin’s character, Park Do Kyung actually pities the “pretty Oh Hae Young” and sees her as less than perfect. He treats Seo Hyun Jin’s character as if she were more resilient.


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The drama illustrates the obvious lesson that every woman has her own battles to fight. Another woman’s life may seem perfect from a distance, but it’s often not so appealing up close either. “Another Oh Hae Young” is at its strongest, story-wise, when it shows how precarious and fragile a woman’s sense of self-worth can be.

Hopefully by the end of the drama both Oh Hae Youngs will give up on their impossible standards, learn to love themselves, and realize their true worth. Both characters have a lot to offer.

Are you watching “Another Oh Hae Young?” How are you liking it? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and to keep up with all of our posts.

K-Drama Rating Underdogs: ‘Come Back Ahjussi’ & ‘Memory’

ahjusshi

K-drama blockbuster KBS’s “Descendants of The Sun” ended its highly successful run after sixteen episodes with a nationwide viewership rating of 38.8%, a feat that has not been accomplished ever since 2013’s “The Moon That Embraces The Sun.” With its stylish cinematography, gorgeous cast and riveting storyline, it is no wonder that the drama attracted so many viewers, both in Korea and all over the world. For an industry that has not seen dramas with greater than 20% in a long time, “Descendants” has brought about a revival and perhaps even started a trend for pre-produced K-dramas. For all its success, however, there were dramas which suffered because of Descendants, such as SBS’s “Come Back Ahjussi,” which shared the same time slot, and other dramas who are severely underrated such as tVN’s “Memory”.

”Come Back, Ahjussi”

Although the drama featured familiar names like Rain and Oh Yeon Seo, “Ahjussi” suffered from dismal ratings which further deteriorated as “Descendants” became increasingly popular. While the drama cannot be seen as a commercial success, it certainly delivered in terms of its production quality and hilarious storyline. At times ridiculous and side-splitting, at times emotional and heartwarming, “Ahjussi” achieved a perfect balance and was a thoroughly enjoyable show, despite its slightly illogical plot.

While the show was largely advertised to be one about reincarnation and gender-switching, it was actually one big family drama. The main ahjusshis in the show came back to Earth from Heaven because they were not ready to leave their “families” behind. Their main motivation was love, and through the comedic hijinks and craziness this motivation always showed. Along the way, new relationships were formed both with these reincarnated characters but more importantly between their loved ones who were left behind. The characters learnt to move on with their lives and the growth in each character through the show was lovely to watch.

The main standout of the series would be lead actress Oh Yeon Seo. She’s always been recognised for her good acting but it was not until this drama that she displayed her full comic potential. Without regard to her image or dignity, she perfectly portrayed her role of Han Gi Tak, a middle-aged man who got reincarnated into a woman’s body, all the way from the gruff mannerisms to the awkward balancing on high heels. Oh Yeon Seo imitated original actor Kim Soo Ro successfully and created a beautiful character that stole the show. She was fearless, innovative and steadfastly loyal but yet remained so human that it was easy to sympathize with her. She also enjoyed a surprising winning chemistry in her part love part BFF relationship with Honey Lee, who managed to show off her humorous chops as well. Oh Yeon Seo really put on a stellar performance in this series and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her.

via @banghae on tumblr

Her co-actor Rain did splendidly as well and it was great to see him embrace his comedic side once again in a drama (the previous comedy he did was “Full House” in 2004). From admiring his ass in a lift to spazzing about his own chocolate abs, his portrayal of Kim Young Kwon was flawless and totally believable. Young Kwon might have been narrow-minded and slightly frustrating but Rain’s portrayal helped to make the character more lovable, if not relatable. His relationship with Oh Yeon Seo defied all the K-drama rules of romance and was really refreshing to watch. This drama is a rare gem which got the gender switching right and used it to its full potential.

via @dalpengi on tumblr


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”Memory”

While “Ahjussi” did not pull in high ratings in Korea it did garner an international fanbase but there is another currently airing K-drama that has been floating under the radar ever since it started its run. This is none other than the drama, “Memory” which stars Lee Sung Min (known most recently for his role in “Misaeng” ) as a lawyer with Alzheimer’s. At first glance, this plot seems extremely similar to the recent drama Remember: War Of The Son,” which featured Yoo Seung Ho in the similar role of a lawyer who also suffered Alzheimer’s. At a deeper level, however, the dramas are inherently different, in terms of realism, themes, and even the focus of the drama. For one thing, “Memory” definitely gives a more accurate portrayal of Alzheimer’s Disease. With the disease striking a middle-aged character like Lee Sung Min’s Park Tae Seok, the symptoms and problems that he goes through as a result of his diagnosis definitely feel more real and recognisable in our current society.

Despite its title, “Memory” isn’t all about Alzheimer’s; it is a drama which has many important messages to convey whether it is highlighting social inequality or bullying situations in schools. The conflicts and tragedies in this drama are fleshed out and realistic and could occasionally make for a depressing watch but at the same time is trulycaptivating. There is also an undercurrent of hope that ties the drama together, a sense of optimism which is present in each character, even if it’s not explicitly shown. It’s the same optimism which drives Park Tae Seok to keep fighting his disease, the same spirit that keeps his colleague Jung Jin (Lee Junho) motivated to stand up for justice, the same courage that allows Seo Young Joo (Kim Ji Soo playing Lee Sung Min’s character’s wife) to keep smiling even as her family falls apart.

“Memory” is a beautifully produced drama, with poignant and relevant scenes at every bend. The character arcs of the various main characters are nicely drawn out, the best of which would be Park Tae Seok. He started out looking like a heartless and vicious lawyer but as his disease started to change him, both physically and mentally, his perspective on life shifted. Rather than dismissing him as a normal cliche character who turns over a new leaf because of a terminal illness, I would argue that Park Tae Seok was just reverting back to his original self – the self that would fight for justice even if he would not benefit from it, who valued his family and friends over money, the self that would not give up. Watching him evolve as a character and the transformations in his relationships with his family or the people around him is a gratifying experience, one which I can only credit to the tight writing of the drama.


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Lee Sung Min, of course, is killing it in his role. His ability to internalize and inhibit his character is astounding and is a big reason why Park Tae Seok has become so real in the drama. His every word and action is sincere and he really carries the show emotionally. He also has great chemistry with the other members of the cast like Jung Jin whom he has created an adorable bromance with. Their banters are natural and light-hearted which bring about some much needed humor in an otherwise melancholic story.

Speaking of Jung Jin, Lee Junho ( of the K-pop boy band 2PM) is doing a great job in his debut drama role. Granted, he has quite a lot of acting experience from the few movies that he’s starred in, but the natural way he presents the character helps to make the character more relatable and likeable. He’s holding his own well in front of veteran actors like Lee Sungmin too and I hope he’ll get more opportunities to act in the future.

The two underdog dramas I’ve mentioned above are underrated for different reasons, but here’s to hoping that they’ll get their due recognition soon.

Have you watched any of the dramas listed above? What is your opinion on K-drama viewership ratings? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Reading The Political Signs of ‘Descendants of the Sun’

Descandants-of-the-Sun

Every year or so, there is an extremely trendy Korean drama that garners attention from fans and international media alike. KBS2’s currently airing blockbuster series, ”Descendants of the Sun” has been highlighted by everyone from the BBC to CNBC as audiences from around the world go crazy over the difficulties faced by Song Joong Ki’s soldier and Song Hye Kyo’s doctor. With propagandistic overtones amidst rising tensions between the Koreas, “Descendants of the Sun” hits on numerous socio-political issues affecting South Korea today.

Minor spoilers included. 

Vehicle For Patriotism

Like Captain America and Superman, Captain Yoo Shi Jin is exactly what a country needs.

Anything that the “Descendants of the Sun” touches has seen a rise in popularity both in and outside of Korea, particularly South Korea’s military force. Star Song Joong Ki swooped in as the handsome, baby-faced Captain Yoo Shin Jin who has morals and can do no wrong. Song, who completed his military service in 2015, is the real life super soldier offered to South Korean viewing audiences at a time when the country has been doing some soul searching regarding its draft even as North Korea makes headlines every other day for proclaiming the end of South Korea and the United States.

The threat of North Korea hangs over South Korean society in numerous ways, but none so impactful as the mandatory conscription of all able-bodied men during the prime of their life. Over the past few years, awareness has grown over social and psychological issues afflicting many South Korean men following their service with putting their life on hold for two years. In the early 2010s there was a public discussion in South Korea to diminish the service period from around 21 months to 18 months, but safety concerns led Korean politicians to make no changes to the draft requirement: All South Korean men (barring exemption due to health issues ranging from being HIV positive to tattoos) must serve in either active duty or as civic officers. According to an interview done by CBS, South Korea’s idea of masculinity is closely linked with military service and any man who hasn’t served in active duty is considered less than manly.


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Of course, that doesn’t mean that all South Korean men serve. Sons of the elite South Korean political and business worlds reportedly serve less than their poorer counterparts, getting exemptions for a variety of reasons including revoking their Korean citizenship. A celebrity service unit was disbanded in 2013 following multiple instances of favoritism, raising cries from Korea’s vocal citizens of disparity towards the average Korean male. Multiple instances of psychological issues afflicting soldiers, including a rampage by one soldier in 2007 that led to the death of several other young conscripted soldiers, has led country’s younger generation to grow up in an environment of relative peace (until the last few years) where mandatory enlistment is perceived as less of a necessary duty for protection and more of a burden.

North Korea’s recurring threats instill fear in South Korea’s populace, but Song Joong Ki and co-star Jin Goo’s portrayal of a dashing special force officers acts as a vehicle to promote desirability for soldiers. Both characters, and most of the Korean soldiers, are portrayed as loyal, warmhearted men serving others for a greater good. They are in demand both in the show and off; both men portray soldiers involved in romances with unsuitable women (but whom they will surely end up with by the end of the series) while the actors have seen a surge in popularity throughout the world.

According to the BBC, the official paper of the Chinese Communist Party China’s People’s Daily described the show as “an excellent advertisement for conscription” that does the most to showcase South Korea’s “national spirit” and “communitarian culture.” China is reportedly in talks to recreate “Descendants of the Sun” following the show’s cosmic success and the drama’s ability to seamlessly integrate propagandistic scenes, including the heartwarming raising of the Korean flag and instances of militaristic folk songs and army chants.

Even the civilian characters, such as Song Hye Kyo’s doctor and her team, are called to the greater duties of serving others in time and are also inspired by South Korean patriotism. The show also debates consistently debates the place of soldiers in the world and places doctors, who are meant to save lives, in a place where they must understand the rules of war and killing. Above all, at the end of the day, the army is there to save its country. “As a soldier, there is nothing more important than saving the life of a Korean citizen,” says Song Joong Ki’s character in the seventh episode.

The positive image portrayed of South Korean special forces and soldiers isn’t new for K-dramas, but the “Descendants” popularity crosses borders and helps spread the idea in a way never before seen from a Korean television show.

International Relations

With China acting as the go-between between North and South Korea, the show’s popularity in China and overall positive image comes at a time when tensions are tight. Chinese audiences are falling in love with South Korean soldiers even as their army is allied with North Korean ones. “Descendants of the Sun” isn’t the first K-drama popular in China, but it may signify warming public opinion towards South Korea as North Korea is using increasingly belligerent rhetoric. The Korea Content Creative Agency (KOCCA) estimates that the show will be seen 5 billion times in China by the end of its run. Even Numerous Chinese celebrities, including ex-EXO member Luhan, have parodied moments from the show.


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While the popularity of the show in China may reflect pan-Asian political trends, the drama itself displays South Korea’s turn of the head towards the Middle East and Islamic culture as a way to move the popularity of Korean pop culture into an emerging market. South Korea has long been working with Middle Eastern countries to improve international ties, and one of the major streets in Gangnam is Tehran-ro, named after Iran’s capital. South Korea’s oil imports from the Middle East are the highest they’ve been since 1980, reports Bloomberg. K-pop and Korean dramas have been popular for several years in the Middle East and other Islamic countries, and “Descendants of the Sun” follows KCON Abu Dhabi as the second push in 2016 by Korea’s entertainment industry to focus on the Arabic speaking world.

According to the United States State Department, Arabic is spoken by nearly 300 million people. Following the success of K-dramas to fill a niche in the Chinese language market (with over 935 million speakers of Mandarin around the world,) Korean entertainment is looking to make further headway amongst Arabic-speaking audiences during a time when there is warming relations between South Korea and many Middle Eastern states.

“The Descendants of the Sun” takes place partially in the fictionalized country Urk, which is actually a Greek town but appears to be a Middle Eastern country. A branch of the Korean army is the stationed there as UN peacekeepers, highlighting South Korea’s role in worldwide affairs and mostly keeping the military action poised as internationally important work, while the medical team is there on a health mission.

The first few episodes of show features major conflict revolving around Song Hye Kyo’s character saving the life of the man reported to bring peace to the Middle East, a hint of South Korea’s importance in world events. Arabic itself is also important, as Song Joong Ki says the phrase “inshallah,” the Arabic phrase for “if God wills it,” during a pivotal scene.

While “Descendants of the Sun” comes off at first glance as just a typical K-drama, albeit one with a blockbuster cast, budget, and production value, the series is also one of the most politically aware shows coming out of Korea in some time. A deeper look at South Korea’s current climate reveals that the “Descendants of the Sun” influence is far deeper than just the surface story of lovers trying to find a happy ending amidst a warzone.

What do you think of “Descendants of the Sun” and the socio-political trends it bring to light? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Park Shi Hoo’s Two-Pronged Post-Scandal Return To K-Dramas

Park Shi Hoo "Neighborhood Hero"

A scandal can crush the career of a Korean actor. But if carefully managed, a scandal can also be a mere bump in the road.

Park Shi Hoo’s agency Eyagi Entertainment recently staged a successful comeback for the actor that consisted of a two-part strategy. The first part was a carefully chosen comeback role that would reframe the actor as a gentleman and a hero and the second part consisted of legal action against lingering negative reactions. Damage control was necessary because Park Shi Hoo’s career was derailed by a scandal in 2013.

At the time, he’d recently finished a role in the successful K-drama “Cheongdamdong Alice” with Moon Geun Young. He played a chaebol [a wealthy heir to a large conglomerate] in love with a woman who would have traded love for money. He loved her anyway. The actor’s future looked bright.


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Then he was accused of rape. A trainee said he assaulted her while she was drunk. He said the sex was consensual following a night of drinking with friends. She filed charges. In April 2013, the Seoul Seobu Police held a press conference.

“We have charged without detention Park Shi Hoo with quasi rape and sexual battery and have forwarded the case to the prosecution,” said Yoon Tae Bong of the Seoul Seobu Police. Yoon said that the police found the victim’s statement consistent and matched it to video footage in the neighborhood

Park Shi Hoo maintained his innocence, eventually filing charges against the unnamed trainee and another person, citing defamation of character. Some rumors argued that the trainee was after a settlement. It would be difficult to pass judgment on what actually happened that night, since the only people present had differing opinions.

Whatever happened on the night in question, the plaintiff eventually dropped her charges and Park dropped his lawsuits. Korea’s network television stations decided not to ban Park, which sometimes does happen during a celebrity scandal. After all, he had not been found guilty. And there were no longer any charges filed against him.

Despite not being banned by the networks, Park would not work in Korea for another three years. He took some time off and focused on the international premiere of “Confession of a Murder,” a film that was completed in 2012. He considered a K-drama comeback in 2014 with the drama “Golden Cross.” But there was plenty of negative netizen feedback. Some fans stayed loya,l but a percentage of viewers argued that he should never work in Korea again. Park ultimately declined the role, saying that his decision had nothing to do with the negative feedback. It would be another two years before he appeared on the small screen in Korea.
During that time he appeared in a Japanese film “Scent,” then made his Korean big screen comeback in the film “After Love” alongside Yoon Eun Hye, released in March 2016.

In 2015 his agency announced that he would take a role in the drama “Neighborhood Hero” and the role seemed like a perfect fit to redeem Park’s public persona. In “Neighborhood Hero” Park plays a former agent, whose best friend dies during a mission. The failure of that mission causes him to spend three years in jail, a mirror of Park’s real-life experience; it’s exactly how long his career was confined due to negative comments.
Park’s character Baek Shi Yoon starts out seeking revenge for the death of his friend but when the former owner of the bar that he buys cautions him to take a higher path, it appeals to his noble side. Baek Shi Hoon becomes a hero in his neighborhood, unjustly convicted for his past actions, and ready to nobly stand up for the rights of his neighbors. The plot is complicated and often confusing but one thing is clear. Park Shi Hoo’s character is a gentleman and a much maligned hero.

He defends women from the bad guys, which underlines the fact that he is a knight in white armor. Baek is cautious and does not make rash decisions. He’s not given to impulsive actions and respects the opinions of others. The drama’s script takes great pains to show what a good guy he is. It’s inevitable that viewers will associate Baek’s noble characteristics with Park Shi Hoo.

In an interview with the Korea Herald, the drama’s director Kwak Eun Jong compared Park to the character.

“Baek Si Yoon has some painful memories so I needed someone who was able to be sincere about his feelings as well,” said Kwak. “Then I thought about Park Shi Hoo.”


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Around the same time, in February 2016, the actor and his agency announced that they would be filing defamation charges against 79 netizens who posted negative comments about the actor’s comeback drama. Park was not the only actor to take such action against slanderous comments that year. Park Hyung Sik, IU, and Song Hye Kyo also did so recently. But Park’s legal action was well timed to minimize negative comments about his comeback.

As all charges were dropped, Park should be considered an innocent man, one who deserves a fresh start. But even the lingering effects of so serious a scandal could have ended his career.
Choosing the spy comedy was the first part of an effective comeback strategy and ending negative comments was the second.

Ratings for the OCN drama were respectable for a cable show, reaching 1.4 percent for the first episode, which implies that a percentage of the viewing audience was prepared to watch the actor in a drama, however they felt about the scandal. Respectable ratings mean Park Shi Hoo will be offered new roles without the fear that his casting will be controversial enough to hurt drama profits.

At the same time the legal action taken against netizens effectively shut down negative comments that might detract from the show’s success.

After the scandal happened, some drama fans continued to believe in Park’s innocence, some didn’t care about his alleged crimes, and yet others were horrified at the charges and thought Park should never work again. Public opinion is still mixed but the comeback campaign is working to improve that.

What do you think about Park Shi Hoo’s saga? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

5 Acts That Define What ‘Kpop Star 5’ Is About

kpop star korean television season 5

SBS’s “Kpop Star” is deep into itsfifth season at the moment with the top 10 contestants just beginning their live shows, but boy has it already been such a fantastic ride. From outstanding soul singers to a seemingly ready-to-debut girl group, the contestants of “Kpop Star 5” have exhibited a boundless amount of talent, making for a highly enjoyable yet extremely brutal competition. In particular, here are five contestants who have really stood out and in essence and are the definition of what this season of “Kpop Star is about”; it’s not just about the discovery of vocal talents, it’s also about growth, both for the K-pop industry and for the contestants themselves.

1. Ahn Ye Eun

Ahn Ye Eun started out as one of the most underrated contestants in this competition but she has subsequently rose in the ranks ever since she started to get broadcasted on the show. She barely scraped through her first audition with the help of Yoo Hee Yeol’s life-saving wild card and did well in the ranking audition after that, but the producers did not include her in the broadcasts for the same reason that Yang Hyun Suk and Park Jin Young did not let her pass. They were afraid that her self-composed songs would not be well-received by the general public because the songs were too different from mainstream K-pop. These fears turned out to be unfounded however, because her unique compositions impressed not only the other contestants and the judges but also made many fans out of the viewers, both locally and internationally.

As a singer and songwriter Ahn also gained more confidence in her abilities and this is made evident by the risks she chose to take, especially in the round leading up to the selection of the top ten acts. Although the judges had previously criticized her compositions she decided to believe in herself and performed her strongest (and perhaps most disturbing) song “Sticker.” This song is about a stalker and is a truly creepy yet winning composition.

Her efforts paid off and she earned great feedback from all three judges for her performance. Ahn has currently made it into the top eight of the competition and I am looking forward to the music revolution she will definitely bring into the K-pop industry.

2. Jung Jin Woo

Unlike Ahn Ye Eun, singer-songwriter Jung Jin Woo has been under the spotlight ever since his first audition on the show. A returning contestant from Season 3, this talented musician garnered a lot of attention with the first self-composed song he performed on the show, “Satellite.”

He was praised for his witty lyrics and fresh compositions, prompting him to experiment with different types of music and continue his journey as a songwriter. Not all was smooth-sailing for him though and Jung had to work hard to find his own colour as he progressed through the rounds. He also had a few successful duets with contestant Lee Soo Jung, and together this couple was both electrifying and adorable.


Through each round Jung has shown consistent growth as a musician and with the aid of judge Yoo Hee Yeol, Jung’s songwriting and style has become more refined. With his high-level abilities and natural charm, it’s pretty certain that he will go very far in this competition.


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3. Mazinga S

The formation and success of this four-member girl group was probably the biggest surprise in this season because of the group’s origins. The members all started as individual contestants but were grouped together during the team mission round. Mazinga was formed when three individuals, Joyce Lee, Kim Yerim and Denise Kim, were put together in the same group. Their fourth member, Yuyu Liu was initially paired with another contestant, a returning young singer called Brody, but she eventually joined Mazinga to form Mazinga-S. Although the other three girls had already enjoyed a great chemistry before Yuyu joined, she fit right in and added even more charm to the group. Their teamwork was so perfect that the judges made an exception and requested them to stay as a group even after the team mission round was over.

This group has been going from strength to strength, especially as their teamwork and friendship is strengthened; this is evident in the way they are able to work together so flawlessly on and off stage. Although they are of different ethnicities (Joyce is from America, Yuyu is from China, and the other two members are from Korea), they are always able to move beyond their differences and channel their energies towards their shared love of performing, and boy, are they good at it.

There is a reason why they are always being praised that they seem like a professional girl group. They give off a very strong aura and their amazing vocals certainly complement their image. A group normally only has one or two exceptional singers, but Mazinga S is special in the sense that no member is weaker than the rest, they each have and display their unique charms but are still able to fit in with the rest of the group. They aren’t only good technically, their love for performing also shows when they are on stage; their actions are so natural and fun that it draws attention right away. If not for the fact that there are many insanely talented contestants in the top ten right now, I would say that this group has a very high chance of winning this competition.

4. Lee Soo Jung

Lee Soo Jung has been one of the most consistent performers this season and she only seems to be getting better. She has a beautiful voice, but more than that, she knows how to use her voice as an instrument to fit the song she is singing, and she is able to do this for songs of varying styles as well; ranging from R&B to ballads to pop songs. She can make each her song her own, and this artistic sensibility sets her apart from the other contestants. Lee has always been seen as a cool contestant because she is rarely affected by the performances of her competitors and doesn’t display much emotion but as she progresses through this competition, her emotions are beginning to show through her performances. The most notable example of this would be her tearful rendition of g.o.d’s “Lies.”

She adapted this song by revamping the rap parts of this song and changing some lyrics of the song; it was a beautiful testament to her growth as a musician not only because she was able to immerse herself fully in her performance but also because of her beginning attempts at arranging and songwriting. She is a contestant that I look forward to watching every week because I know that she will never disappoint.


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5. Joo Mi Yeon

Joo Mi Yeon is probably the contestant who has grown the most in this list, not just as a singer but on a personal level. When she started the show, she was still suffering from stage fright, a symptom of the psychological trauma she suffered when she failed to get into any university after her high school exams. Her nervousness and stage fright was so evident whenever she went on stage but when she immersed herself into the song, it was as if all her fear had left her. Her emotions were so real and well expressed through her performance that it touched the hearts of the other contestants, the judges, and of course the viewers of the show. This was especially true in her performance of “You Are Tearful” where she truly displayed her nuanced and sweet voice.


It was gratifying to see her gain confidence as she received compliments from the judges and even more so to watch her power through the obstacles that stood between her and a position in the top ten. While she may not be as unique and outstanding as her fellow competitors at the moment, her emotive voice is one of my favourites and I look forward to her music in the K-pop industry in the future.

Have you been watching Kpop Star? Who is your favourite contestant so far? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

‘Cheese In The Trap’ & ‘Answer Me 1988’: tvN’s 2nd Male Lead Problem

Cheese-In-The-Trap-Answer-Me-1988

South Korean cable network tvN, owned by CJ E&M, has turned into one of Korea’s trendiest channels. Since 2012’s “Answer Me 1997,” the station has produced hit show after hit, proving that the channel was able to put together a great experience for viewers as an alternative to the shows produced by Korean broadcast channels. But as tvN continues to compete, and often surpass, Korea’s broadcast programming weaknesses are rearing their faces at a time when tvN can make or break its image.

However, tvN’s growing focus on changing the show’s plot to focus on the second male lead to try and shock viewers has instead resulted in audiences growing appalled at the lack of coherence in some of their latest shows.

[Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers]

tVN’s stellar production history that began with “Answer Me 1997” and led through the successes of trailblazing shows such as “Misaeng,” “Liar Game,” and “Twenty Again” is now facing an identity crisis. tvN’s latest shows, “Answer Me 1988” and “Cheese In The Trap” suffered immensely from changes relating to the plots after the show was well under way, in part thanks to sudden changes made during the live-production of the show.


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Rare in Hollywood, live-production is rampant in Hallyuwood. Although more heavy budget dramas, such as “D-Day” and “Descendents of the Sun,” are increasingly going to air after completely finishing production, most Korean dramas are still produced while the show is airing with only a handful of episodes fully ready before the series begins airing. Over the years, last-minute production has become rarer and rarer, but 2011’s “Sign” is still upheld as a warning of live-production gone wrong: The finale featured numerous editing errors and color bars appeared on air at one point due to last minute editing, revealing that the show had been filming as late as possible.

While neither “Cheese In The Trap” nor “Answer Me 1988” had any last-minute technical issues, another peril of live-shoots has affected both shows: Changing the show in reaction to audiences. Both shows set themselves up as promising one trajectory, but then ended amidst waves of anger from viewers who felt misled by the romantic subplots of the show, a basic tenet of many South Korean dramas.

While Korean dramas are famous for second-lead syndrome, with a secondary attractive male getting his heart crushed by the lead female in favor of the show’s main male protagonist, “Answer Me 1988” allegedly changed things so that fans didn’t find the show too predictable. The result? Disappointment. “Answer Me 1988” completely changed over the show halfway through. The show, starring Lee Hyeri of Girl’s Day, Ryu Jun Yeol, and Park Bo Gum, set itself as a retro throwback mystery with viewers guessing which of the men Hyeri’s character Deok Sun would marry. Ten or so episodes in, all signs hinted to Ryu Jun Yeol. Then, with little warning, Ryu’s character was thrown to the curb as Park and Hyeri’s characters paired off with one another.

Following the show, Ryu revealed he felt disappointed in how his character was essentially ignored for most of the final episodes of the show and not given appropriate closure after certain romantic scenes made both the actors and audience believe his character was the future spouse.

According to fans online, the writer of the show changed the plot so that viewers were surprised even though Ryu had been written in as the husband at the start of the show. Scenes and hints that seemed to point in the direction of Ryu’s character as the husband suddenly came to a halt and were ignored as the showrunners tried to tie everything together.

While all actors involved played their parts perfectly, and it was believable that Hyeri and Park’s characters fell in love thanks to the pair’s chemistry, the way the show carried on for so long under one understanding was jarring for viewers. Perhaps a longer series could have recovered, but writing more than half of the show with one intent then changing suddenly was ruinous and put a halt to the near-perfection of the show.

Similarly, “Cheese In The Trap,” which aired its final episode in Korea today, began with an intriguing premise. Main character Hong Seol (Kim Go Eun) tries to understand Yoo Jung (Park Hae Jin), who acts one way most of the time while revealing darker motives that only she is conscious of. As the relationship progressed from friendship to love, Seol struggled like a mouse trying to decide if she would approach the cheese of Park Hae Jin, or if it wasn’t worth getting caught in the trap. The show focused on the pair’s interpersonal and psychological issues, hinting to the darker side of human nature and psychological disorders.

Or it used to, at least.

It was very clear at one point of the show that both Yoo Jung’s hidden and manipulative behavior and Seol’s lack of getting close to her peers emotionally hinted to psychological issues. Yoo Jung’s character showed signs of antisocial personality disorder, while Seol appeared to be suffering from depression. Neither situation was life threatening or as dramatic as the autism featured in “Good Doctor” or schizophrenia as seen in “It’s Okay, That’s Love,” but the show seemed to be walking the line between raising awareness regarding worrisome behavior and for praising it. tvN appeared to be aiming at the pair coming to terms with their mental health issues and helping one another through the difficulties.

But then Kang Seo Joon’s character of Baek In Ho was more sympathetic to the audiences and the showrunners seemed to write Park Hae Jin out from many scenes of the drama. Scenes that were important to show the reasons behind Yoo Jung’s darkest actions were cut and plotlines went unresolved. Park, the forerunner, was all but cut from many episodes.


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Park, who has appeared in numerous popular Korean dramas and previously revealed that he took the role seriously and reread the webtoon “Cheese In The Trap” multiple times to get a feel for the complexities and nuances of Yoo Jung, publicly stated that the final version of the drama was not what he had expected it to be.

“I believed in the original and decided to commit the the drama before anyone else was involved, even the director,” Park told OSEN. “Now I don’t believe in anything.” If it was a one off situation, where a main actor was disappointed with his character’s role, it would be fine. But not only is this the second time, following “Answer Me 1988,” that a male lead character was thrown under the bus for the sake of the showrunners, but the “Cheese In The Trap” producer went so far as to apologize to webtoon writer Soonkki for how the show mistreated the author’s characters and plot.

Tropes get a bit boring after time, but the suddenness and lack of exploration depicted in both “Answer Me 1988” and “Cheese In The Trap” highlights the fact that tvN’s attempt to respond to the reactions of viewers backfired. “Answer Me 1988” was ruined because fans were aware of the planned plot so the writer altered things, while “Cheese In The Trap” was kept from delving into deeper issues throughout the latter episodes of the show by the audiences’ reaction to Seo Kang Joon’s character.

If tvN wants to reclaim the trust of its fans, changing plots based on Internet opinion is not the way to do it. Fans look forward for tvN dramas to deliver relatable characters with storylines that inspire and make sense. tvN’s previous hits make it clear that the company’s showrunners know how to intrigue without being overly dramatic and it is to that point where tvN should aim to return once again.

What do you think about “Cheese In The Trap” and “Answer Me 1988”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

5 K-Dramas To Get You In The Mood For Valentine’s Day

vday kdramas

It’s Valentine’s Day again and despite its grisly origins, the 14th of February is probably the most romantic day of the year. Romantic comedy is a really popular genre for K-dramas, so there will never be a shortage of dramas to get you in the right mood for this special day. Ranging from period dramas to hit modern ones, here are five spectacular K-dramas to put you in the Valentine’s Day mood. Who knows, you could even get some last minute celebration ideas from these shows!

1. “Queen Inhyun’s Man”

“Queen Inhyun’s Man” was so much more than a romantic comedy because it remains one of the few K-dramas to actually get the time travel trope right. At the heart of it all however, the beautiful relationship between Yoo Inna and Ji Hyun Woo was the drama’s winning factor. They had a perfect chemistry, they looked good together, and their relationship was so well-crafted that the romance became real. Despite being star-crossed lovers, they managed to overcome all odds (including that of distance and time) and their sweet resolution will definitely leave you swooning.

2. “The Greatest Love”

Gong Hyo Jin seems to click very well with every actor she works with but “The Greatest Love” is definitely one of her best works. Her romance with Cha Seung Won was chock full of chemistry and this showed even when they were having petty arguments. The drama had a pretty interesting set-up as well, with the show being centered around Korea’s entertainment industry, but it was the iconic character of Dokko Jin (Cha Seung Won) that stole the show (and probably the hearts of all the female viewers as well). A top star with a horrible personality and a machine for a heart, Dokko Jin was at first just another bad boy, but Cha Seung Won played him with a subtlety and depth that made him extra relatable to viewers.


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3. “You Who Came From The Stars”

Easily the biggest hit of 2014, “You Who Came From The Stars” had many novel plot points along with great and dedicated actors, but above all an addictive romance. Despite their age gap, actors Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun were a very believable and shippable couple. Whether it was their lively banter or their sizzling eye gazes, the couple was a joy to watch. There were many ultra romantic moments in this drama as well, whether the couple was hanging out at a secluded island or when fairy lights just magically lit up around them (perks of having an alien boyfriend).

4. “Pinocchio”

Another drama with many fairy-tale like moments, “Pinocchio” didn’t have the strongest storyline or premise, but it definitely succeeded in the romance department. Lee Jongsuk and Park Shinhye displayed such a great relationship that up till today, rumors of them dating are still rampant (despite the actors denying it sometime last year). Just like Gong Hyojin, Park Shinhye has had many wonderful co-stars (Jang Geun Suk, Lee Minho), but her romance with Lee Jongsuk was definitely the most believable because both actors threw themselves into their respective characters. The characters were enthusiastic about journalism, but also about following their heart. As you can probably imagine, their romance was filled with many heart-melting/stopping/wrenching moments that made this drama very memorable.


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5. “She Was Pretty”

From a brother-sister relationship in “Kill Me Heal Me” to that of lovers in “She Was Pretty,” Park Seo Joon and Hwang Jung Eum presented a natural chemistry that was more romantic than I thought possible. There was nothing original about their romance, which included being each other’s first loves when they were young and reuniting as adults, but somehow it magically worked. “She Was Pretty” was like a fairytale at some points because of its encouraging message that superficial beauty didn’t matter as much as inner beauty. Park Seo Joon in his role of Ji Sung Joon showed his love for Kim Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum) perfectly, not only through big gestures (back hugs, kisses) but even through actions like affectionately gazing at Hye Jin and smiling slightly to himself. There are many beautiful and romantic scenes in this drama which will definitely warm your heart even on cold winter days and will leave a smile on your face.

Have you watched these dramas? What are you going to do for Valentine’s Day? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

5 Mangas That Need To Be Made Into K-Dramas

Kare Kane, The Devil Does Exist, Skip Beat

“Boys Over Flowers,” “Goong,” “Bridal Mask,” “City Hunter,” and other popular K-dramas are varied in their plots but they all have one thing in common: They’re based on a genre of comics known collectively as manga (or manhwa in South Korea). While webtoons are the current trend forKorean dramas to take cues from (“Misaeng,” “Orange Caramel,” etc.) there are still many mangas that have fodder for K-dramas to turn into absolutely amazing series. So, without further a do, here are five mangas that need to be made in K-dramas asap.

1. “Kare Kano” by Masami Tsuda

“Kare Kano,” or “His and Her Circumstances,” starts off as in innocent enough high school drama, with two rivals falling for one another. But the series quickly darkens in a way that fits a growing trend in K-dramas along the lines of “Cheese In The Trap” and “It’s Okay, That’s Love,” tackling mental health, family difficulties, abuse, etc. There’s a musical element and numerous subplots that tie back to the heartbreaking relationship of the main characters as the struggle through high school and unsettled childhood trauma that threatens the current state of their relationship.

The only thing that “Kare Kano” is missing is a romantic triangle or square, as K-dramas tend to do; this is the story of the two leads and the people important to them in their lives, nothing more. The tender, occasionally shockingly sad, manga has never been made into a drama despite being completed in 2005 and the Korean television industry is at the perfect point to create a show that appropriately represents the light-hearted and complex storylines of “Kare Kano.” (Come on tVN, let’s make this after “Cheese In The Trap” finishes!)


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2. “Black Bird” by Kanoko Sakurakoji

This manga takes place in a fantasy world where demons are very real and the heroine lives next door to a tengu, or a type of avian supernatural creature. And did I mention she’s the current reincarnation of something known as the senka maiden? Which means that she’s haunted by demons around her who want to eat her flesh. Don’t worry, the handsome tengu next door is there to protect her, until they realize that their romantic relationship may lead to her untimely death. This sort of drama is perfect for people who love shows like “Arang and The Magistrate” or “You Who Came From The Stars” with its fantasy twist on daily life and love.

3. “The Devil Does Exist” by Mitsubi Takanashi

Wealthy male teasing the poor female lead? Yup. Meddling grandmothers? Check. Random events trying to ruin a happy ending? Oh, yes! The fact that “The Devil Does Exist” hasn’t been made into a drama yet is positively shocking, given the fact that it is chock-full of K-drama tropes that hit us at the heart time and time again. The Taiwanese drama “Devil Beside You” shot Rainie Yang and Mike He to fame because of their portrayal of the loyal main couple in this drama, and it’s time that this series makes it way to Korean audiences. There’s laughter and heartbreak in this series that is sure to please K-drama fans around the world.

4. “Yona of the Dawn” by Mizuho Kusanagi

A fantasy drama that could easily be transposed to an early era of Korean history, “Yona of the Dawn” is about an immature princess who witnesses her father’s murder and has to escape with her life. The character development is key to this story, but so is the love triangle and fantasy elements as the manga is interspersed with references to Asian traditional mythlore as the princess and her bodyguard try to save the kingdom. Fans of “Rooftop Prince” or “Queen Seondok” will surely like this sort of manga-to-drama treatment.


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5. “Skip Beat” by Yoshiki Nakamura

You may be ready to shake your head and shout “already done!” at me, because the entertainment industry-based manga was already made into a Taiwanese drama in 2011, featuring Super Junior members Siwon and Donghae alongside Ivy Chen. But that version focused only on the first few volumes of the ongoing series, ignoring the more than 30 volumes that came after (as of publishing this article, there are 37 volumes released). The story of “Skip Beat” matures along with the character development throughout those latter volumes, exploring the struggles of a young woman to get revenge on a childhood crush by rising in the entertainment industry.

Unlike “Kare Kano,” there is a K-drama worthy romantic triangle going on throughout the series, as the heroine undergoes her transformation from country bumpkin to hardworking actress. There’s family members who stand in the way of happiness, rivalries, beautiful looking men, and overseas foreigners who speak the native language fluently for no apparent reason; “Skip Beat” was practically written to be made into a K-drama.

What do you think of these manga to drama ideas? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

5 Must See K-dramas of 2015

top 5 kdramas of 2015

With the arrival of 2016, it’s another new year for K-dramas but before we look to the fresh selection of anticipated dramas such as “Cheese In The Trap” and “Moorim School,” let’s take a look back at the wide array of dramas we enjoyed in 2015. In particular, here are my top five picks.

Though there was no official criteria for my selection, these five dramas were engaging, both in their plots and in their character developments. The actors did a fine job as well and ensured that viewers cared for their respective characters. Some of them were recognised by the public through drama awards and high viewership ratings, but most of them were criminally underrated (not by international fans though) despite having strong storylines and a consistently high production quality.

1. “Kill Me Heal Me”

Perhaps my pick for drama of the year, “Kill Me Heal Me” was more than a story about a man who suffered from multi-personality disorder (MPD) and had seven personalities, as fun as they were. It was about Cha Do Hyun’s (Ji Sung) journey to find himself, even if it meant digging through his forgotten memories and painful past. Though the plot did get a bit absurd and draggy sometimes, the character development was always tight and definitely kept the show going.

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It takes some writing and acting skill for one actor to successfully portray seven different personalities, each of whom had their own moment to shine throughout the drama. I mean, I never expected to get so invested in Shin Se Gi’s (also played by Ji Sung) feelings for Ri Jin (Hwang Jung Eum), at one point I even wanted Se Gi to take over Do Hyun’s body permanently so that he could be with Ri Jin forever. It’s silly, I know, but this show made me think ridiculous thoughts, whether it was imagining Ahn Yo Na (Ji Sung…again) dating Oh Ri On (Park Seo Joon) or Perry Park (Ji Sung) being a bomb-making father.

With the exception of the villains, who were hilarious in all the wrong ways, the characters were generally fun and relatable, especially Ri Jin and her family. They shared the sweetest family bond and best family dynamic I have ever seen in a K-drama; I really enjoyed watching the scenes of them together. Through this family and the contrast made between Do Hyun’s cold family the show really drove home how important the support and love of family is, a reminder I appreciated.

Of course, the wonderful acting performances put in by the actors really made this drama, with the biggest credit given to Ji Sung, who gave life to the seven different personalities and made them really endearing. Ji Sung’s dedication and hard work was certainly recognised by MBC (he won a Daesang for the role during their Drama Awards) and by the public (he gained a lot of fans) and I can’t wait to see his next production! Hwang Jung Eum and Park Seo Joon did well too.

2. “Punch”

Probably the most melodramatic and dark drama on this list, “Punch” received lots of critical acclaim and love from viewers, and for good reason. It was heart-wrenching and sometimes painful to watch because of the injustice that takes place in the story, but it all makes for good drama.

Callous lawyer Park Jung Hwan (Kim Rae Won) is diagnosed with a brain tumor at the start of the drama and is left with a short time to live. Instead of wallowing in self-pity though, he starts to take action against his former allies and create a world in which his daughter can live safely in, a world with a trustworthy government and fair legal system. Sounds idealistic? Probably so, but that just might be the point the drama was trying to prove. Each character in this drama had a bad side to them, be it the main hero (if you can even call him that) or the various figures of authority (Minister of Defense, Prime Minister Candidate and so on) portrayed here; they were at times ruthless and got their hands very dirty, but they were also complex and layered. Take the supposed main villain for example, Lee Tae Joon (Jo Jae Hyun), though the series is essentially focused on Jung Hwan trying to take Tae Joon down, their relationship was far from what you would expect between a hero and a villain. From having virtual jajangmyeon dates to occasionally sharing touching moments, this was a pair that I always felt conflicted about; should I be hoping for them to go back to becoming friends or should I hope that Jung Hwan wins and Tae Joon gets destroyed?

This conflict could probably be extended to my feelings on the characters as well, especially with morally ambiguous ones like Jung Hwan. Contrary to popular belief, just because a character is afflicted with a terminal disease it doesn’t and shouldn’t make the character a more likeable one. While it is a common trend in K-dramas for the characters to undergo a drastic personality transformation after finding out that they have a limited lifespan, this drama didn’t go down that old route because Jung Hwan didn’t become a nicer person. He still resorted to underhanded and sometimes cruel means to get what he wanted, including using his illness to trick his ex-wife at one point, but his motives were no longer selfish. He worked so hard to clear his own name, to protect his family and all for his beloved daughter. That was perhaps the most moving part about this drama, a father’s unfailing and unconditional love for his child. It motivated Jung Hwan and kept him going even after he was defeated time and again, each time worse than the last, but he gave it all he got, even till his deathbed.

These layered characters probably worked because of the committed performances put in by the various actors, in particular Kim Rae Won. He pulled off the heartless lawyer very well, but managed to tug on viewers’ heartstrings in emotional scenes with his daughter and even in wordless scenes when he was temporarily paralyzed. This drama may not be for everyone because of its serious and constantly suspenseful nature, but I thoroughly enjoyed how it kept me on my feet while still having the time to enjoy the performances and character development shown.


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3. “Healer”

Another underrated drama which has quite an international fanbase, “Healer” finished airing early on in 2015 but remained as one of the standouts of the year. With a strong narrative and generally fast-moving plot, this drama was at times suspenseful and at times plain adorable.

This drama had one of the best K-drama couples of the year, or even of all time, because both the main characters, Seo Jung Hoo (Ji Chang Wook) and Chae Young Shin (Park Minyoung) helped each other to change and grow through their relationship. Their bond was so strong and they trusted each other so much that the drama was able to take a different approach to so many situations which would typically have led to a breakup or other tiresome angst in other dramas. It was this bond that allowed the couple to accomplish their ultimate goal together in the end.

I’m also glad that this drama defied K-drama norms because even with Seo Jung Hoo being the “Healer” (a night vigilante essentially) he wasn’t always the hero, just like Young Shin wasn’t always a damsel in distress. They both had moments to shine, be it through Young Shin’s earnest reporting or Jung Hoo’s fighting skills, and I really appreciated this aspect of the drama. Their chemistry was also very convincing and truly made viewers root for this couple.

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The supporting cast of this drama was fantastic as well, with Kim Mi Kyung in her best role yet as a hacker ahjumma and Yoo Ji Tae as the poor tortured Kim Moon Ho. They added a lot of depth to characters who could have easily been overshadowed by the main couple and caused viewers to be as invested in their stories as in the main story. Yoo Ji Tae in particular made me totally infatuated with Kim Moon Ho and I found myself caring about his welfare and happiness a lot more than I expected to. His complex character was also written very well, because he constantly faced dilemmas and internal conflicts between what he knew was right and the interests of the people around him, namely his brother Kim Moon Sik (Park Sang Won), who is the show’s main villain. Kim Moon Ho lived with a strong guilt within him because of past traumatic events and it is evident even through Yoo Ji Tae’s pitiful gaze and smile.

That is the great thing about “Healer”: the show balances suspenseful action with emotion and heart; even if you’re not a typical fan of thrillers (I’m not) you’ll probably be sucked into this addictive ride that leaves your heart pumping rapidly by its end.

4. “Sassy Go Go”

Now this is truly an example of an underrated drama, by Korean viewership standards at least. Ratings for this drama stayed stagnant at around 4% throughout its run, which for a show of this quality, is truly undeserved. Due to the idol appeal however, international fans from all over the world picked up on it and soon enough everyone started watching it. Although the drama was supposed to be about cheerleading, it was never the main focus of the story. This drama was what “School 2015: Who Are You” was not, a coming of age tale about a group of underdogs trying to survive in school and find success. The friendships, the betrayals, the romance, the familiar challenges posed by authoritative (and a little crazy) adults along with the constant pressure of academics, all these elements blended together to create this story that was relatable and full of heart.

The main characters were all well developed and had interesting character arcs, the most memorable of which would be the main villain, Kwon Soo Ah (Chae Soo Bin). She was perhaps the most emotionally unstable of all the characters due to the immense pressure placed on her by her mother to go to a prestigious university, and this pressure eventually drove her to commit some atrocious acts throughout the drama. Although I hated her character because of how despicable she was at times, I still found myself sympathizing with her, and I credit this to how the writers portrayed Soo Ah as a character, along with Chae Soo Bin’s breakout acting performance. The struggles that she faced in particular were ones that I could empathize with; this definitely helped me to appreciate her fall and eventual redemption better, although I did think that she was forgiven by her peers a little too easily.

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The main couple of this drama, Kang Yeon Doo (Apink’s Eunji) and Kim Yeol (Lee Won Geun) were fantastic as well. Their romance wasn’t just adorable it was also believable and enjoyable to watch. Their relationship was not forced despite this show being only 12 episodes long and felt organic to the story. Another relationship I especially loved was the close friendship (and bromance) between Kim Yeol and Ha Joon (Ji Soo). They were always there for each other, no matter what problems they faced they knew that they had each other’s back. They were also fiercely loyal to each other and valued their friendship above everything else, refusing to even let a girl get in the way. These strong and meaningful bonds were what made me love this drama so much so that I still get teary-eyed thinking about it.


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5. “She Was Pretty”

This drama was highly anticipated because of the reunion of Park Seo Joon and Hwang Jung Eum after “Kill Me Heal Me.” Only this time instead of being siblings, they were first loves. The pair certainly didn’t disappoint with their chemistry in this drama though.

Set against the backdrop of fashion magazine “Most”, “She Was Pretty” was an entertaining and touching story about the reunion of two childhood friends who ended up as lovers, only with appearances vastly different from before. While it sounds superficial (and I admit to judging it as so at the beginning) it turned out to be more meaningful and heartfelt than I expected. Perhaps the best part about this whole romance was Ji Sung Joon (Park Seo Joon), who ended up loving Kim Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum) all over again despite not knowing her true identity. To add a cherry on top, he loved her before she even tried to improve her own appearance (which to be fair, I never found that bad in the first place), proof of how deep and genuine his love was.

The rest of the drama was pretty simple in my opinion, but that’s not a bad thing because the romance was developed well and empathized upon. It’s nice to take a break from serious shows and watch romantic comedies like this one, especially with its numerous lovable characters, the most notable of which would be Kim Shin Hyuk (Super Junior’s Choi Siwon). His acting ability is already recognised widely but his complete portrayal of Shin Hyuk really brought the character to another level. Even in the midst of the angst his character was a bright point of the show and never failed to bring humor to the story. He wasn’t just a comical plot device though. His cute and considerate relationship with Hye Jin gave viewers another heart-throb second lead to cry over.

via letsgokdrama on tumblr

Hye Jin’s best friend, Min Ha Ri (Go Joon Hee) also had her moments to shine as her character matured and grew through the drama. From being pampered and insecure Ha Ri grew to become an independent woman who was fully accepting of herself and willing to make her own decisions in life. It was heartening to watch her find purpose in her life and work towards the goals that she set for herself. Of course, it was also sweet to watch her friendship, or more appropriately, sisterhood with Hye Jin, even if they did go through some rough patches in their relationship. Ultimately, this was a drama about inward beauty, and how important our characters are as compared to our outward appearances. You can’t really go wrong with a meaningful and hopeful message such as this, but She Was Pretty definitely did a good job in making the journey very enjoyable.

What was your favourite K-drama of 2015? What do you hope to see in the upcoming releases of 2016? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.