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Binge-Worthiest Dramas of 2020

Updated: 5 days ago

By Rachael Lovette


Before Parasite created an international buzz by literally sweeping all the major categories at the Oscars (including best film), Asian culture and a global (dare I say) obsession with Korean Pop Culture has been on the rise. Thanks to this wave you may have heard of the boy band BTS, developed a taste for Kimbap, have a 10-step skincare routine, and have jammed out to the lyrics “light it up like Dynamite” on the radio. Television dramas have also become an indispensable part of the cultural fabric.


From suspenseful thrillers to delightful romantic comedies, there’s always something you can expect (and not expect) from dramas: The male and female leads aren’t going to end up together in the end? Arranged marriages are still a thing? It took three episodes for the leads to hold hands and nine episodes for them to kiss? While all of this may sound a little ridiculous, especially if you are used to American television where mature content themes are available for young audiences, it’s common in Asian television. They carefully and tastefully use mature content themes to entice the audience as well as try to air the more mature shows at times when children should be in bed.


So without further ado, here are my favorite and most Binge-Worthiest Chinese and Korean dramas that aired this year (and yes English subtitles are included).



Korean Dramas


Tale of the Nine-Tailed

For centuries the mythical Nine-Tailed fox, Lee Yeon, has been eradicating supernatural beings that threaten the mortal world all while in search of the reincarnation of his lost first love. Talented television producer and urban myth obsessed Nam Ji Ah is on to him. Will Lee Yeon be able to save himself, Ji Ah, and those they hold precious from the wrath of the vengeful Imugi?

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: Monsta X’s Shownu released his first solo OST in nine years as part of the Tale of the Nine-Tailed soundtrack.


More Than Friends

Kyung Woo Yeon and Lee Soo have taken turns having a one-sided crush on each other for over ten years. Misunderstandings and missed timings have continued to keep them from becoming anything more than friends. While they finally confess and have a happy ending or will another misunderstanding keep them apart?

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: Behind the scenes, videos from the crew share what it’s actually like before (or after) the cameras start rolling on set -- it’s lots of laughter.


Record of Youth

Two actors and a makeup artist fight to make their way in the fashion and entertainment industries that weigh their economic backgrounds and social classes they were born into more than their dreams and desires to love.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Fun Fact: This was actress Park So Dam's first drama following the success of Parasite and actor Park Bo Gum’s last drama series before his mandatory military enlistment.


It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Moon Kang Tae, a health worker at a psychiatric hospital, and Ko Moon-Young, a children’s book writer suffering from an antisocial personality disorder cross paths, and together they follow the extraordinary road to emotional healing.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Fun Fact: Due to the popularity of the show, the children’s book featured in the show were produced and are currently available to purchase.


Backstreet Rookie

Plot: Based on an adult webtoon, Jung Saet Byul, a former troublemaker applies for a job at a convenience store owned by the same man who she’s had a crush on for 3 years ever since he caught her smoking cigarettes with her friends underaged.

Where to Watch: IQIYI

Fun Fact: Heavily criticized and even penalized for sexual innuendos, inappropriate and provocative scenes.


Flower of Evil

An emotionless psychopath changes his identity in an attempt to leave his dark past behind. Can he deceive his homicide detective wife and keep her and their daughter safe from his cruel past?

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: Lead actors Lee Joon-Gi and Chae-won Moon previously played detectives at odds with each other in the Korean adaption of the American television series Criminal Minds.


Itaewon Class

A group of misfits lead by Park Sae-ro-yi in need of a second chance at life band together to achieve their dreams and seek revenge on the Jangga Company, the CEO and his son who destroyed Sae-ro-yi’s life years earlier (through expulsion, death of his father and prison).

Where to Watch: Netflix

Fun Fact: The writer of the webtoon that the show is based on, wrote the screenplay and script for the series.


18 Again

After losing his job, receiving divorce papers from his wife, and severely regretting his life, 37-year-old Jung Da-Jung gets a do-over when his body changes into that of an 18-year-old. Now, with his regained 18-year-old body, he changes his name and begins to live a new life.

Where to Watch: DramaCool

Fun Fact: Lead actor Kee Do Hyun is a serious method actor and once broke up with his girlfriend to prepare for a role.


The School Nurse Files

Ahn Eun-young is a school nurse with the power to see human desires, feelings, and spirits that exist in the form of "jellies". Together with a fellow teacher, Hong In-Pyo, a man with a special energy field around him that protects him from jellies, she tries to solve these mysterious cases.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Fun Fact: While the first season only received a six order episode, it was recently renewed for a second season.


I’ll Go to You When the Weather is Nice

After a series of unfortunate events, cellist Mok Hae-won quits her job in Seoul and returns to Bookhyun Village to live with her aunt. There, she meets former classmate and neighbor, Im Eun-seob, and together, they try to survive the harsh realities of life, heal from their past wounds, and eventually fall in love.

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: Lead actress Park Min Young is a muse in K-Dramas and is known as the queen of Romantic Comedy.


Search

The story of the ruthless attack of an unknown creature in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and the search operation of an elite special force to uncover the truth.

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: Actors playing soldiers filmed scenes with over 50lbs of real military gear on.


Into the Ring

Nosy, overzealous professional job hopper with a strong sense of getting involved in other people’s problems, Goo Se Ra decides to enter the ring by running for councilwoman of the District Assembly. With the help of stick-to-his-principles no matter what Seo Kong-Myung, can Se Ra get elected, stay elected and maybe fall in love?

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: Nana and Park Sung Hung met up frequently before filming began to discuss the script, ideas, and more to ensure they had great chemistry that felt real on screen.


Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol

An energetic, down-on-her-luck-riches-to-rags-(to-riches) pianist named Goo Ra-Ra and a mysterious, warm-hearted multi part-time worker Sunwoo Joon gather in La La Land, a small piano institute in the countryside with secrets, pain, and stories to tell.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Fun Fact: This drama was Lee Jae-Wook’s first lead role, a well-deserved honor as he recently won the Best New Actor award at the 2020 Asian Artist Awards.


Start-Up

Young entrepreneurs aspiring to launch virtual dreams into reality compete for success and love in the cutthroat world of Korea's fictional high-tech Silicon Valley known as Sandbox.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Fun Fact: Supporting actor Kim Seon Ho studied the field of startups, reading books, learning terminology, and watching various lectures to prepare for the role.


The King Eternal Monarch

A modern-day emperor, Lee Min-Ho, obsessed with the mystery behind a police badge left by his childhood savior passes through a mysterious portal in the forest in the Kingdom of Corea and into Seoul where he encounters Violent Crimes detective, Kim Go-Eun.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Fun Fact: This drama signaled Lee Min-Ho’s return to acting after completing his mandatory military enlistment.



Chinese Dramas


Something Just Like This

Childhood sweethearts Duan Ran and Qian Xi Xi may have grown up together but their personalities differ greatly because of their family backgrounds. As adults, they join forces in the e-commerce industry on the road to realizing their entrepreneurial dreams.

Where to Watch: IQIYI

Fun Fact: The drama is 47 episodes long and was filmed in just 106 days (that’s a little over two days of filming per episode).


Get Married or Not

Three female friends in their thirties are feeling the pressure to get married. One doesn’t want to, one intimidates men due to her corporate powerhouse status and the other is caught between her savior and her suitor. Will they find happiness and ultimately get married?

Where to Watch: IQIYI

Fun Fact: Great way to learn about popular concepts about marriage in Chinese culture and how attitudes towards it differ from generation to generation.


Intense Love

Popular actress Su Jin Bei and genius doctor Zhou Shi Yun refuse to have their marriage arranged by their parents. However, through career drama, family problems, and illness they find that love is destined.

Where to Watch: YouTube

Fun Fact: Actor Ryan Ding’s acting is all in his eyes -- they are expressive and convey emotions to the point where viewers feel the emotion meant to be felt.


You Are So Sweet

Xia Xiao Ning is a newcomer in the voice acting industry where she meets Gu Chen Yu. A disparity of information between the two caused a series of misunderstandings. While she was trying to gain a foothold in the workplace, she inadvertently comes to the aid of president Xie Fei. What happens when she is pursued by two men in the workplace?

Where to Watch: YouTube

Fun Fact: The Chinese title translates in English to "You Sound So Sweet."


Begin Again

Domineering CEO Lu Fangning schemes her way into the life of warm-hearted surgeon Ling Rui. Having exchanged their “I do’s” they start on a new chapter of their lives to turn a fake relationship into a real one.

Where to Watch: DramaCool

Fun Fact: Filming for this drama wrapped in May 2020 after delays due to the COVID19 outbreak.


Hotel Trainees

From endlessly difficult guests to bosses making things difficult and everything in between Yue Ran, and her fellow interns have their work cut out for them if they want to become full-time employees. Despite facing pressures from all angles they find a sense of accomplishment, forge strong bonds of friendship and open their hearts to a long-awaited romance.

Where to Watch: IQIYI

Fun Fact: The drama is 36 episodes long and was filmed in just 54 days (that’s just a day and a half of filming per episode).


Basket Loveball

A year after his death, freshman Su Nuan Xia sets out to reassemble Qingmeng University’s basketball team and lead them to victory. From sneaking into the male dorms and leafleting the school to competing in games one-on-one with the boys, she will stop at nothing to bring a group of handsome and extraordinary weirdos with a basketball team back together.

Where to Watch: YouTube

Fun Fact: Each episode includes a three to a five-minute epilogue after the credits role of scenes that didn’t make the cut includes dating, basketball, and more.


Dating in the Kitchen

Gu Shengnan is the assistant chef at Zijing Hotel, but may lose her job due to the impending hotel acquisition by prodigy and hardcore foodie Lu Jin. In a rash move to stand up for a friend she mistakenly keys Lu Jin’s car -- which makes things ten times worse for the hotel. However, thanks to an accident in the kitchen Gu Shengnan impresses Lu Jin and they bond over food.

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: Dating in the Kitchen was adapted from the novel ‘Finally I Get You’ by Lan Bai.


My Girl

Makeup Artist Meng Hui suffers from a multiple personality disorder that turns her into a different person whenever her stress level reaches its maximum point. Through a chance encounter, she meets LS Cosmetic CEO, Shen Yi, who learns of her disorder and sets out to help her heal (as well as relinquish his own guilty) from the injury he caused her as a child.

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: The Chinese title translates in English to “99 Points Girlfriend.”


Love is Sweet

After almost ten years Jiang Jun reunites with close childhood friend Ma Yuanshuai in the workplace, but not as an ally as a rival keeping her away from the cruelties of investment banking. Behind the scenes, Yuanshuai is avidly trying to protect her from someone plotting against her both in the workplace and in life.

Where to Watch: IQIYI

Fun Fact: Love is Sweet was originally ordered for 40 episodes but was cut to 36 to keep audiences engaged.


My Love, Enlighten Me

Girl group trainee Liu Nuannuan lost everything when she lost the chance to debut due to a lighting engineering named King. With no job, no money, no roof over her head, and no dream to chase she runs into Han Che, a man who has all sorts of disorders, thus starting a sweet romance that began because of a 'burglary'.

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: Lead actress Eleanor Lee has been on the rise and is considered a C-Drama sweetheart at the young age of 21!


Go Ahead

Growing up in dysfunctional households, three individuals who are unrelated by blood treat each other like family as they yearn for the love that they cannot find at home. Can they fix the personal issues of their past and become better versions of themselves as adults.

Where to Watch: IQIYI & Viki

Fun Fact: Go Ahead was released in two different versions, the tv series had 46 episodes while the online version has only 40.


Midsummer is Full of Love

Aspiring songwriter Luo Tianran is conned by her best friend into selling her house to superstar Jin Ze Yi. Determined to get her house back she will do anything, including cohabitation, “marriage,” and more.

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: Based on the Korean Drama, Full House.


Poisoned Love

Due to an unfortunate kidnapping as a child Fang Yan is faced with a disorder that sends her into a catatonic, zombie-like state for ten hours, she is scared. She accidentally finds the perfect cure when she falls into the arms of overbearing CEO, Shi Meng during one of her episodes. But what happens when she mistakes his superstar brother, Shi Yi as the person who can cure her?

Where to Watch: IQIYI

Fun Fact: Ao Rui Peng and Ma Meng Wai had great chemistry on and off-screen, often picking on each other before and after takes as shown in many behind-the-scenes clips.


Nothing but Thirty

Three women on the cusp of their thirties take matters into their own hands to find happiness, love, and success. From love at first sight style marriage and a power imbalance as the wife becomes the breadwinner to another woman trying to steal someone’s husband and everything in between it’s an uphill battle to save themselves and their families.

Where to Watch: Viki

Fun Fact: The original actress set to play Wang Manni was heavily criticized online for playing a woman who was cheated on by her husband yet tries to make the marriage work.



So much to watch, so *much* time — amirite?



Rachael Lovette is the Digital Director at Flower Bomb Media with a passion for everything K-Pop, fashion, model advocacy, and pop culture. Follow her on Instagram @kindofvoguish.

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