2019 is already almost over, so that means it’s that fun time to remember all of the amazing Korean dramas we enjoyed throughout the year. There were plenty of great ones from a wide variety of genres that I was able to get in.
It was also a another wonderful year of getting to chat with all of you about those dramas. It was so much fun sharing our thoughts, joys, and frustrations about them with each other. I really love connecting with you through our love for Korean dramas!
Now let’s check out the list! This list includes all of the dramas that I watched which aired and concluded their runs in 2019. We are going to be counting down my favorite dramas from least to most favorite. Luckily, it was another solid year where I didn’t complete any real duds with just a few that were mediocre. Full reviews are also available for all of them.
As always, this is completely my opinion on these dramas, and it does not reflect Korean or international ratings or the popularity of any particular drama among fans. Stay tuned for the grand total of how many new and old dramas I watched at the end of the article 🙂
32. My Fellow Citizens
My Fellow Citizens has a fun premise with a con man unknowingly marrying a cop. It has a caper style feel with lots of humor as well as some dramatic moments. It focuses on some interesting topics concerning politics like the vast amount of corruption going on behind the scenes including lots of lies just to get votes. The show highlighted these things well while also keeping some humor and never getting too heavy.
Sadly, the show focused heavily on campaigning and politics which caused me to lose interest because I find that stuff slow. Choi Siwon and Lee Yoo Young were both fantastic, but I did think their romance was way underutilized. This definitely isn’t a genre I love, but it was still an okay enough watch.
My Rating: 6/10 (My Fellow Citizens Review)
31. Romance is a Bonus Book
Romance is a Bonus Book was a drama I initially had trouble clicking with it, but I eventually did. Though even then I found the drama incredibly slow throughout. Much of this was due to my personal taste rather than the drama itself though. Let’s face it, I like angst and thrills, hehe
It’s a simple and low key sort of show that has relatable and realistic characters, a positive story, and a mature friends to lovers relationship between the main couple. The whole drama had a very positive vibe to it that just felt sort of cozy and warm combined with a well-written script and excellent directing.
Romance is a Bonus Book’s initial difficulty hooking me, slower pacing, and lack of angst gave me some issues, but then it’s interesting characters, fun relationship dynamics, and overall positive feel helped to balance things out. So overall, it was a decent enough watch. My Rating: 6.5/10 (Romance is Bonus Book Review)
Being that I’m not a big fan of horror or zombies, Kingdom didn’t quite fit my overall tastes. There was definitely a lot more gore than I would care for. While it had some negatives for me, there were also some positives.
After an initial slow set up, the pace really picks up with lots of action. There’s a pretty great story in place too involving a conspiracy around the king. The production is also very high quality and feels very cinematic. Kingdom really is a pretty solid drama. With its decent story, thrills, and plenty of zombie action, I think lovers of zombies and the horror genre will be pretty pleased with it.
My Rating: 6.5/10 (Kingdom Review)
29. SKY Castle
SKY Castle was a ratings monster, and that is the sole reason that I checked it out. It is a satirical black comedy about all that wealthy families go through to get their kids into good universities. I found myself feeling quite conflicted about it though. My experience can be summed up in that the first third was fairly dull, the middle was decent, and the last third was crazy good.
It was a slow burning drama built upon each episode to ramp up the intensity, and then in that last third things just get all kinds of wild! With story lines like intense family pressure, suicide, and murder, this drama turned out to be a whole lot more than just kids getting into good schools.
While I greatly appreciated the groundwork that was laid early on to result in some big payoffs towards the end, the slowness for such a large part of the drama did really get to me. But its excellent script, great production, and talented actors work together for a very unique experience that pulls you into the twisted world that is SKY Castle.
My Rating: 6.5/10 (SKY Castle Review)
28. Clean With Passion For Now
Clean With Passion For Now is an easy romantic comedy that is plot light. It’s mostly fun with plenty of cute, but it is slow at times with some pacing issues. Although the drama keeps a lighter vibe, I thought it blended the humorous and serious elements well. There was plenty of comedy and fun to add joy, but then there were some very emotional and heartrending moments.
It focuses on mental health issues such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the form of germophobia. Although the illness is the source for a lot of humor and not always completely accurate, it does a fair job of bringing attention to the disorder by showing the mental and physical toll it brings. But this is a rom-com, and the show’s simple and humorous side is what the drama does best. It has a sweet couple that deliver plenty of adorable couple moments on their journey to love.
My Rating: 6.5/10 (Clean With Passion For Now Review)
27. Encounter (Boyfriend)
Encounter was a mixed bag for me. The romance between Park Bo Gum and Song Hye Kyo was the main selling point by far. I enjoyed the role reversal with the woman being the rich CEO of a company and the man as the newbie employee. The drama most excelled at telling their story. It was a beautiful relationship filled with healing, and they are what made the drama enjoyable enough.
Everything outside of them was fairly dull for me though. Everything and everyone felt average, and my interest in the story waxed and waned. Most of the obstacles our couple faced were resolved fairly quickly, and that took away most of the tension.
Overall, Encounter was a bit slow and lacking punch, but the romance makes the show. For lovers of romance, especially with a bit more maturity to it, this drama is a great fit. But personal taste is likely to be heavily at play as to whether Encounter will be a love it or hate it kind of drama.
My Rating: 6.5/10 (Encounter Review)
26. Graceful Family
Graceful Family is an interesting melodrama with a murder mystery and a family power battle. I enjoyed our leads of Im Soo Hyang and Lee Jang Woo who both had good individual stories as well as our cold and calculating villain played by Bae Jung Ok.
I did feel like the TOP management group took up a bit too much screen time and many of the characters weren’t very likable. I didn’t get very emotionally attached to this drama, but there was some juicy family stuff and bombshell secrets waiting to be revealed. Overall, the script, production, and acting were all excellent to make for a well done investigative/revenge melo.
My Rating: 7/10 (Graceful Family Review)
25. My First First Love
My First First Love is a simple coming of age drama that focuses on changing relationships between friends. It nicely sets up everything as it introduces us to the characters, and we quickly learn their back stories and their relationship dynamics. The characters are lovable, and it’s easy to get invested in their lives as we watch them navigate life, romance, and friendship.
My First First Love is a bit laid back in its pacing which left it feeling a bit draggy in the second half, but it’s a mostly easy watch with likable characters to root for, plenty of warmth, and lots of feels. It definitely has some angst, but it’s a pleasant and cozy series that offers a nice break from some of the really heavy stuff.
My Rating: 7/10 (My First First Love Review)
Abyss was a pretty fun watch despite its flaws. I liked the fantasy body changing concept to spice up a crime story. The show had an interesting mystery, multiple villains, and some intriguing dynamics between the characters.
The overall execution of the story was lacking with the rules of the magical orb being a bit wishy-washy. The pacing was good though with a few plot twists. The romance between Ahn Hyo Seop and Park Bo Young developed in a natural way, and they turned out to be pretty cute together. All in all, a pretty solid watch.
My Rating: 7/10 (Abyss Review)
23. When the Devil Calls Your Name
When the Devil Calls Your Name was overall an excellent series with the only major flaw for me being that it felt slow at times. But there were high stakes and consistent plot developments all the way through that kept things interesting as they peeled back the layers to the characters’ complicated stories.
The acting was phenomenal too. We had two powerhouse actors headlining with Jung Kyung Ho and Park Sung Woong pitted against each. Our leading ladies of Lee Seol and Lee El were also just as good and gave such engaging performances.
So even though the show had a distinct slowness throughout, the script, the acting, the production, and the soundtrack were all top notch. It’s fairly unique with its interesting mixture of genres, and that made for a mostly entertaining watch.
My Rating: 7/10 (When the Devil Calls Your Name Review)
22. Arthdal Chronicles
Arthdal Chronicles was a nice change for a historical with its ancient fantasy genre. With a big budget and gorgeous cinematography, it really set the stage for the magical world of Arthdal. The show was quite dark and did well with building up tension and intrigue.
Overall, Arthdal Chronicles was a unique experience. While it was a bit more political than I would like and had a lot of unlikable characters, it had a complex story, fantastic production, and a group of very talented actors. It got better as it went and brought everything together in very interesting ways. It was a great first attempt at this sort of genre, and I hope to see more kdramas try it in the future.
My Rating: 7/10 (Arthdal Chronicles Review)
21. Hotel Del Luna
Hotel Del Luna was a fun supernatural series that felt very magical. It was also gorgeous to look at with luxurious sets and beautiful costumes. The drama was much more episodic than I tend to like with shorter ghost stories taking up the bulk of each episode.
But there was an overarching story that was very engaging and did a lot to grow our characters as they faced life and death stakes. Both IU and Yeo Jin Goo gave wonderful performances that I really enjoyed and had a romance that was very moving. It’s a fun series that had enough positives to keep me entertained.
My Rating: 7/10 (Hotel Del Luna Review)
20. Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung
Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung is a somewhat lighter historical that was super easy to watch. It felt fairly unique with its workplace focus on the lives of female historians and all of the challenges they faced that was mixed in with a lovely romance as well as some palace intrigue surrounding a mystery.
I really loved Shin Se Kyung and Cha Eun Woo as a couple. They both gave wonderful performances and were just adorable together. Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung was a pleasant drama overall. It wasn’t exactly riveting, but I quite enjoyed it. The humor was balanced well with the heavier themes, and it was a nice drama to just relax to and enjoy the story it had to tell.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung Review)
19. Nokdu Flower
Nokdu Flower wasn’t exactly the kind of historical I usually go for because of the strong military elements, but ultimately, I warmed up to it. It’s well-written with good pacing, has complex characters, and a vast amount of talented actors. Yoon Shi Yoon in particular gave such a strong and memorable performance.
The series is fairly unique since the story is more centered around average people rather than royalty and palace politics. The individual journeys of two brothers who end up on opposite sides of an uprising was very interesting to see.
It also tackled a unique portion of history set during the early stages of the Japanese occupation that changed the face of Joseon. All of these elements came together to make for a pretty solid drama.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (Nokdu Flower Review)
Perfume turned out to be a pretty fun romantic comedy that dealt with lots of difficult issues surrounding weight. I’m a fan of Sung Rok and was thrilled to see him be cast a proper lead for a change, and he was very funny here. Then we had Ha Jae Sook and Go Won Hee who did wonderful as the two versions of Min Jae Hee.
Overall, I found Perfume to be a pleasant, fun, and moving drama. It was humorous and had a nice little story going for it. We had fleshed out characters who had a chance to grow as well a very positive overall message. In the end, it left my heart feeling very full.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (Perfume Review)
17. Touch Your Heart
The legal romantic comedy Touch Your Heart gave us the highly anticipated reunion of our famed Goblin couple played by Lee Dong Wook and Yoo In Na. Thankfully, their amazing chemistry carried over, and they gave us such a sweet and fun romance. Lee Dong Wook’s stoic attitude contrasts perfectly with Yoo In Na’s bright and sunny disposition. They were both actually pretty adorable!
The legal side of the drama was more low key, but it was engaging enough and rounded things out nicely. Touch Your Heart is basic in its formula, but it did what a romantic comedy needs to do most by completely selling our main couple.
Lee Dong Wook and Yoo In Na’s fantastic chemistry coupled with an adorable relationship journey made the drama quite enjoyable. Then add in that little bit of angst and a dash of thrills, and everything balanced out well.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (Touch Your Heart Review)
16. My Country: The New Age
My Country: The New Age was quite the watch! It has a fantastic story, great production, and plenty of action which includes some impressive sword fights to keep things exciting. It’s also the kind of drama that might just rip your heart out and then stomp all over it!
I liked that My Country: The New Age was more serious and angsty while giving me an intense story of two long-time friends pitted against each other, a heartfelt romance, and plenty of intrigue. Yang Se Jong, Woo Do Hwan, and Jang Hyuk gave some seriously impressive and memorable performances here. My Country: The New Age was enjoyable all the way through.
My Rating: 8/10 (My Country: The New Age)
15 Extraordinary You
I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed Extraordinary You! I love meta stories like this with comic characters becoming self-aware. The drama is bright and fun with lots of humor including poking fun at many of the classic tropes we all know.
The rules of the comic world were very interesting, and there was a solid mystery concerning why the characters acted certain ways as well as why so many unusual things were happening. There were also a lot of great themes explored as the characters became self-aware, coped with their new knowledge, and attempted to change their fate.
Kim Hye Yoon and Rowoon were an adorable couple, and I really enjoyed their relationship which was a mix of cute fun and low-key angst. I really enjoyed all the characters and the world that they inhabited. Extraordinary you was a lot fun with lots of heart, and I had such a wonderful time watching it.
My Rating: 8/10 (Extraordinary You Review)
14. Melting Me Softly
Melting Me Softly was such a fun drama for me. I got hooked quickly and enjoyed it all the way through. It leans heavily leans towards the romantic comedy side with a dash of sci-fi surrounding the frozen experiment our main couple undergoes. The comedy is quite silly and over-the-top, but it worked for me.
Not everything makes logical sense and there is just a basic problem to solve regarding our couple being frozen and a straight forward villain looking to cause trouble. This part of the story isn’t particularly hard hitting, but it adds in a nice back drop for the romance and the comedy.
The sci-fi concept of Melting Me Softly was interesting, and I loved all of the characters who made me laugh quite a lot. I also thoroughly enjoyed the sweet romance that blossomed into such a caring and nurturing relationship. Both Ji Chang Wook and Won Jin Ah were wonderful individually and as a couple. (Melting Me Softly Review)
13. Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency
Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency was a great drama overall. It starts out pretty light with a lot of fun surrounding the Flower Crew. Nothing like a group of handsome men matchmaking to keep things interesting. It gets more serious as it progresses as the stakes for everyone become very high.
Even though I didn’t love the direction the love triangle went, I liked the mixture of humor and serious and thought the pacing was good all the way through which is something I always appreciate. The story was solid and the characters were both interesting and entertaining. All in all, it was a very fun watch.
My Rating: 8/10 (Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency Review)
12. Absolute Boyfriend
Absolute Boyfriend is a pretty simple drama that’s mostly cute fluff. It has a more laid back pace that I would normally find slow, but in this instance I found it quite cozy because I loved the characters and the atmosphere. I really enjoyed its focus on relationships.
I also liked that issues of humanity and the complexities of a human/robot relationship were explored. I loved watching the relationship between Yeo Jin Goo and Minah develop. They were cute, loving, and had to endure a lot of hardships. And Yeo Jin Goo was super adorable in this drama!
Absolute Boyfriend is best viewed with the right set of expectations. Don’t expect anything too grand, don’t take it too seriously, and just go with the flow for what is a simple but cute series with some relationship angst and a touching journey of a robot trying to find his humanity.
My Rating: 8/10 (Absolute Boyfriend Review)
11. He is Psychometric
He is Psychometric is that exact mixture of elements I love. There is a nice romantic side to the show that is very sweet and fun, but then there is the main crime element that is much darker and was quite serious.
The show did an excellent job by having a very intriguing mystery included from the very beginning that nicely peels back those layers throughout. This drama is the definition of a serialized crime drama with all of the crimes dealt with tying into the main mystery.
Everything was laid out well with fantastic pacing, and it got more suspenseful as it went which really kept me interested. The mix of mystery/crime and romantic elements blended together nicely to create a type of story that I really love. He is Psychometric was very enjoyable all around, and I really wish there were more dramas out there that pulled off this mixture so well.
My Rating: 8/10 (He is Psychometric Review)
10. The Crowned Clown
A historical with Yeo Jin Goo in dual roles as a villainous king and a kind clown is pretty much what I would want from a drama. It’s the best of both worlds! And he was truly phenomenal as always.
There was plenty of intrigue to keep things exciting all the way through. The romance between Yeo Jin Goo and Le Se Young was also very sweet. I really thought they had a lovely and comfortable chemistry.
The Crowned Clown really tied everything together quite nicely with its talented actors, script, and direction to create a wonderful story that was filled with intrigue, romance, and heart. All in all, that makes for a pretty great historical!
My Rating: 8/10 (The Crowned Clown Review)
9. The Secret Life of My Secretary
The Secret Life of My Secretary was a wonderful surprise! We get a light and fun romantic comedy that has a nice little mystery on the side. The drama also had an older feel to it which I loved.
The Secret Life of My Secretary was just such a fun series. It won me over right from the start and held my attention all the way through. The show was cute, funny, thoughtful, and delivered plenty of heart. Kim Young Kwang and Jin Ki Joo were wonderful in their roles, and I was invested in their relationship from the beginning. A great series overall!
My Rating: 8/10 (The Secret Life of My Secretary Review)
8. Memories of the Alhambra
I like sci-fi type stories, so the very anticipated AR based Memories of the Alhambra was right up my alley. This is a pretty different topic for sure. I loved that so much of the drama was set in Spain which definitely gave it a unique atmosphere.
This is a crazy journey as the game gets out of control. This drama is full of twists and crazy cliffhangers to make for a pretty wild ride. But there are a fair share of plot holes and unanswered questions. The concept is fantastic, but the finer details and overall execution is sloppy.
Memories of the Alhambra worked well for me though. It has lots of unique qualities with its AR story, being set on location in Spain, and its ample use of special effects. Then add in a thrilling story with plenty of surprises as well as a dash of romance from our talented stars, Hyun Bin and Park Shin Hye, and you have a pretty entertaining drama. It was definitely a fun one!
My Rating: 8/10 (Memories of the Alhambra Review)
7. My Strange Hero
My Strange Hero is fairly simple in terms of story, but where it shines is with its characters and their personal journeys. It’s got a very quirky side combined dash of angst and a lot of heart. I loved the high school portions of the drama and watching Bok Soo and Soo Jung’s romance blossom.
The emotional beats were also very strong concerning the big incident that happened between Bok Soo, Soo Jung, and Se Ho. I loved that our villain Se Ho had his back story fully intertwined with them and that we were able to dig deep into his character and motivations. Kwak Dong Yeon was simply amazing in the role!
So My Strange Hero was quite a fun drama. It never felt heavy despite some of the serious topics, and it always had a very feel-good tone to it. Yet, it still delivered plenty of very emotional moments from the characters that really touched my heart. The entire cast was just fantastic and made for an all round wonderful experience.
My Rating: 8/10 (My Strange Hero Review)
6. Her Private Life
Her Private Life is exactly how I like my romantic comedies. It has a good amount of comedy, a sizzling romance, and a solid main story to push everything forward. Park Min Young was fantastic and perfectly showcased the duality of being a mature working woman while being a dedicated fangirl too. Kim Jae Wook was also great as the prickly but softhearted man who turns out to be a bit of a fanboy for Park Min Young. They also provide all kinds of swoony and heart-fluttering moments for us to enjoy.
The drama was always completely engaging with wonderful pacing that never felt draggy. That’s frequently a challenge in romantic comedies, and I sure do appreciate how well this drama put everything together.
My Rating: 8.5/10 (Her Private Life Review)
Vagabond was a fantastic drama that was jam-packed with action, intrigue, and life and death stakes. If you just go with the flow, it’s a wild ride. It had a great story with many talented actors.
Lee Seung Gi and Suzy’s long-awaited reunion was also wonderful to watch. It was great to have this duo back together again. Shin Sung Rok was very underutilized in this drama, but I still enjoyed getting to see him.
Vagabond was a fun drama on so many levels. The thrills just keep coming thanks to a great pace, intriguing corruption mystery, and consistent plot developments. The characters are interesting and sympathetic as well as being very entertaining. Action dramas of this quality and scale don’t come around very often, and it was definitely a treat to see.
My Rating: 8.5/10 (Vagabond Review)
4. Angel’s Last Mission: Love
The fantasy romance Angel’s Last Mission: Love had me intrigued early on with it’s premise of a trouble-making angel helping a woman with an icy heart find love. We’ve got interesting characters with rich back stories, a bit of mystery, and a forbidden romance that packed such an emotional punch.
L and Shin Hye Sun both gave wonderful performances as our lovely couple who just wanted to be live and be together. I loved the angsty and desperate love that they experienced and completely felt their joy and sorrow.
This is the kind of romance story I would like to see more often because it allowed me to be completely invested in the couple by focusing so strongly on them and their amazing love story. In the end, Angel’s Last Mission: Love really won my heart.
My Rating: 8.5/10 (Angel’s Last Mission: Love Review)
3. The Tale of Nokdu
I loved this drama so much! The Tale of Nokdu is one of those dramas with a little a bit of everything: action, romance, intrigue, mystery, humor, angst, and heart. And that combination makes for a pretty terrific drama!
Jang Dong Yoon was wonderful in the portrayal of a man having to disguise himself as a woman, and there was lots of fun humor surrounding that. He and Kim So Hyun also made a wonderful couple with a relationship that was quite swoony as well as heart wrenching. The rest of the cast was really amazing too.
The Tale of Nokdu was a wonderful historical. It set up a great story early on that blossomed into an intense drama. The pacing was great throughout with humor to make me laugh, and then it upped the stakes with some serious plot developments. All of the elements blended together nicely to make for an entertaining watch all the way through. My heart was left feeling very full!
My Rating: 9/10 (The Tale of Nokdu Review)
2. Eulachacha Waikiki 2
Eulachacha Waikiki 2 is one of those beautiful rare dramas that actually makes me laugh out loud from start to finish. It was a ton of fun with a hefty dose of heartwarming goodness.
The comedy style is completely over-the-top and focuses a lot on characters getting into crazy trouble all of the time. The characters are also unique, quirky, and become quite endearing as the drama progresses as they each have their own little personal journeys to go on.
There are several romantic pairings that serve as cute side plots too that offer plenty of sweet moments. And for me, Lee Yi Kyung was the true star with his amazing comedic abilities that make me laugh like no other. He’s truly wonderful! Eulachacha Waikiki 2 had me smiling and laughing all the way through which makes it quite special.
My Rating: 9/10 (Eulachacha Waikiki 2 Review)
And the #1 drama of 2019 is…
1. The Last Empress
I knew I was diving into some serious makjang with The Last Empress, and it really was all kinds of crazy! There was scheming, murder, cover ups, revenge, seduction, and lots more. And I was there for all of it! It’s over-the-top and over-dramatic in every way, and there are plenty of convenient plot devices, cliches, and loopholes. But if you just go with the flow, the craziness is quite thrilling. This is the kind of show you just have to roll with and not think too deeply about. Just enjoy the crazy!
I loved getting to experience the mixture of a historical and modern drama in The Last Empress. We get all the intrigue of a historical in a modern day setting. Things were so messy and twisted that I was always excited to see what new crazy and angsty goodness was about to head my way! It also boasted a star cast that I completely loved with Jang Na Ra, Shin Sung Rok, and Choi Jin Huk.
The Last Empress is far from being technically perfect, but it was perfect for me. It delivered deliciously over-the-top melodrama and angst at a thrilling pace that never left me bored because of the intrigue and constant plot developments. Leaving me completely entertained is all I could ask, and it did that perfectly. It’s makjang at its finest, and for those who like the genre, I wholeheartedly recommend it!
My Rating: 10/10 (The Last Empress Review)
Other Dramas I Completed in 2019
As a year end review, here is a list of the older Korean dramas that I completed this year. Full reviews for each drama are available by clicking on the drama title. Here they are broken into categories depending on how much I liked them with each category listing the dramas alphabetically:
That ends up being 32 new dramas and 8 older dramas for a grand total of 40 dramas! So while I definitely didn’t get in all of the dramas I wanted to, I would say I got in a fair amount. 2019 was a fun drama year for sure. And now we close another chapter and prepare to ring in new dramas for a new year in 2020!
How was 2019 for you? What were your favorite dramas of the year?