Well, 2020 has certainly been a year! It has been a challenge for people across the world as we all live through unprecedented times. Thankfully, one bit of normalcy in many of our lives was Korean dramas. Me included.
This is the time of year that we reflect back on all of the dramas we enjoyed, and in many ways, it was a different experience this year. I did get in fewer dramas than normal because it was such a crazy year, but I was consistently watching, just my pace was a bit slower.
I had to be more selective than ever in choosing which dramas to watch, and that was no easy task! Although my watch list is still ridiculously long, I still think I did pretty well overall and got in a great variety of dramas. I still thoroughly enjoyed connecting with all of you through our love of kdramas, and I truly cherish the wonderful interactions we had together.
So now, we see the list! This list includes all of the dramas that I watched which aired and concluded their runs in 2020. We are going to be counting down my favorite dramas from least to most favorite. It was another year with no real duds and some truly wonderful dramas. Full reviews are 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. Be sure to hang around for the grand total of how many new and old dramas I watched at the end of the article 🙂
CHIP-IN is a classic Agatha Christie style who-did-it murder mystery. It has a straight-forward set-up with a family with a whole lot of issues coming together for a birthday dinner for the head of the family. Then there’s a murder and an investigation ensues.
It doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but it executes things fairly well. A simple murder does blossom into a much more intricate story as the drama progresses. The characters weren’t particularly likable, and this was not a drama that had me anxiously awaiting to go on to the next episode, but it still held my interest for the most part. Overall, it presented a decent murder mystery story.
My Rating: 6/10 (CHIP-IN Review)
18. Meow, the Secret Boy
Meow, the Secret Boy was an okay watch that I ended up having mixed feelings towards. It’s a cute show overall with a side of angst to round things out. The story is decent but quite basic being centered around a cat who can transform into a human and what ensues as he lives a double life trying to be with her.
There’s a bit of fun with the cat having to adjust to human life, some emotional baggage the characters have to deal with, and a complicated romance. The drama is on the slow side and kind of moseys along. The story progresses, but it just wasn’t the kind of show that had me itching to go onto the next episode right away. It was a decent watch for the most part though.
My Rating: 6/10 (Meow, the Secret Boy Review)
Well, Train was another mixed bag for me. There were things I liked and things I didn’t like. The positives were that I enjoyed the overarching mystery thriller story, the sci-fi parallel worlds concept, and Yoon Shi Yoon gave a wonderful performance like he always does.
The main negative was the drama’s investigative style of storytelling, particularly in the first half, which really wasn’t to my tastes resulting in a bit of boredom. The drama gains momentum as it goes though and gets better in the second half. It had enough going for it that I’m glad I did stick around for it.
My Rating: 6.5/10 (Train Review)
16. Crash Landing On You
Crash Landing On You was a hit drama that was popular among fans and set all kinds of new records. I didn’t love it quite to the extent of most, but it was a still a good watch for me.
I liked the unique premise of a South Korean woman getting stranded in North Korea and being aided by a soldier. We get an emotional star-crossed romance between Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin that was filled with laughter and tears as they went on a difficult journey together.
Due to its very long episodes, the drama did have a lot of plot filler with the overall pacing suffering as a whole. While the story itself was quite good, it felt like the plot sort of moseyed along and lost some steam in parts.
But overall, Crash Landing On You did have a good mix of romance and humor along with a more serious plot. There are plenty of swoon-worthy moments and lots of feels to be had which results in plenty to enjoy with this one.
My Rating: 7/10 (Crash Landing On You Review)
15. Woman of 9.9 Billion
Woman of 9.9 Billion is a crazy, over-the-top makjang style crime melo which is a genre I tend to really like. There are some really interesting morally grey and bad characters going after a large sum of money.
The first half of the drama was the best since it was totally crazy with great pacing and plenty of new plot developments happening along with some fun twists and turns. Things get pretty intense!
The second half settles down a bit into more of a catch the bad guy situation and loses a bit of steam as a whole. Logic stretches and convenient plot devices abound too. Even then, it was still a good watch and took some interesting turns. So as a whole, Woman of 9.9 Billion was a solid drama.
My Rating: 7/10 (Woman of 9.9 Billion Review)
For the most part I enjoyed Alice, but that comes with some major caveats. First, the positives. The most important things to me in a drama are an engaging story, interesting characters, and good pacing. The drama had these things so I was always entertained and never bored.
But the drama was so messy, particularly the mechanics of the time travel story which worsened as it progressed, that it definitely had an overall effect because it was glaringly obvious that the show didn’t have a solid grasp on what it was doing. Thankfully, I realized early on that you really just kind of have to go with a show like this and not take it too seriously. Despite some massive flaws, it was a pretty fun ride.
My Rating: 7/10 (Alice Review)
13. Record of Youth
Record of Youth was a pretty nice drama. It has lots of heart as we follow the journeys of our characters on their road to achieve their dreams and navigate a variety of relationships. The romance was very sweet, and I really liked Park Bo Gum and Park So Dam together.
I found the drama to have a calming feel to it with more laid back pacing. It has an almost slice of life sort of vibe to it. The story is very character focused as it deals with careers, romance, and family issues.
The first two-thirds of the drama are very angst light and fun while the latter third was more serious and got a bit draggy. It kind of lost some steam in the end, but I was still interested to see how everything ultimately played out. For the most part, Record of Youth was a solid drama.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (Record of Youth Review)
12. Mystic Pop-Up Bar
Mystic Pop-Up Bar was a very solid supernatural drama that creates an entertaining world involving the afterlife, ghosts, and lots of other fun stuff. It was a bit on the episodic side with a woman running a mysterious pop-up bar and helping different people with their problems each episode, but the individual stories were great and full of emotion.
The overarching story was good too and builds nicely throughout the drama towards a satisfying conclusion. We also get a wonderful performance from one of my favorite actresses, Hwang Jung Eum, as well as our two leading men, Yook Sung Jae and Choi Won Young.
Mystic Pop-Up Bar is a great watch with it’s mix of humor, fun, heart, and emotion that was wrapped up in a quirky supernatural package. An enjoyable drama for sure.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (Mystic Pop-Up Bar Review)
11. 365: Repeat the Year
365: Repeat the Year is a mystery time travel thriller that quickly hooked me as it whisked a group of desperate people back in time to change their lives. Of course, nothing is ever easy, and they soon begin dying off. We then get a complex mystery to unravel with plenty of thrills and a story that is woven together quite nicely and has many layers to peel back.
365: Repeat the Year is a great watch if you’re looking for mystery and suspense. There are also lots of twists and unexpected turns. If you like time travel, it’s even better. While the drama didn’t give me a ton of feels, I quite enjoyed all of the thrills and seeing a well-written mystery play out with a unique spin on the time travel genre.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (365: Repeat the Year Review)
10. My Holo Love
My Holo Love was a nice and enjoyable drama. It’s the exact kind of story I’m into with the sci-fi/AI concept mixed in with romance. It’s a fairly straightforward drama with the main focus in the first half being on one woman’s relationships with a hologram and his creator.
Then the more serious plot running involving some bad guys coming after the AI technology begins to takeover in the second half. It was also a very touching story of a very lonely man and woman going on a journey of growth and realizing that they deserve to be loved.
Overall, My Holo Love had a lot of good elements. It had a great AI concept with interesting characters, personal journeys of growth, romance, and some baddies causing problems. It was a nice mix that kept things interesting all the way through.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (My Holo Love Review)
9. The King: Eternal Monarch
The King: Eternal Monarch was a fun watch for me. The story of parallel worlds with one being the Korean Empire and the other the Republic of Korea was an interesting one. It was great to see Lee Min Ho back and paired with Kim Go Eun too.
I usually have a similar experience with Kim Eun Sook’s dramas. I always love the grand plots and world building with intriguing stories to explore. I tend to find the humor on the dry side, which is not my favorite, and the characters are very matter-of-fact at times. The finer details are a little rocky too. This particular drama tried to do a bit to much and had lots of plot holes.
The grand stories and high stakes romances tend to outweigh those things for me though. So with an interesting story, a big romance, a good writer, and solid production, The King: Eternal Monarch was a very entertaining watch.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (The King: Eternal Monarch Review)
8. Queen: Love and War
Queen: Love and War was a solid drama overall that I mostly enjoyed. I wouldn’t put it in the exceptional category, but it has a steady pace that slowly builds and gets better as it goes. I like when a drama is able to consistently raise the stakes.
A mystery is set up in the beginning with a murder attempt and then slowly peels back the layers of the plot. Then we get an interesting power struggle and lots of plotting. Scheming baddies abound in this one.
We also had a great main couple in Jin Se Yeon and Kim Min Kyu. They were interesting characters that faced a lot of challenges, but they also shared a lovely romance that we got to see play out. Overall, Queen: Love and War was a great watch.
My Rating: 7.5/10 (Queen: Love and War Review)
7. When I Was the Most Beautiful
When I Was the Most Beautiful is the definition of an angsty melodrama. It’s incredibly soapy and filled with tropes. And I thoroughly enjoyed it! This is not going to be a drama for everyone though. It has a serious love triangle that is complicated on so many levels. Of course, when is two brothers being in love with the same woman ever not complicated?
This story is not really a happy one, and our main characters are quite tortured throughout the drama. They face so many difficult challenges as well as not always making the best decisions. This is not a fairy tale, and the relationships are extremely messy.
When I Was the Most Beautiful is an incredibly emotional watch that is filled with angst and heartbreak. It’s a long, torturous road for our characters, and we get a front seat to it all. It’s not a happy journey, but it’s a poignant one that left an impression.
My Rating: 8/10 (When I Was the Most Beautiful Review)
6. Tale of the Nine-Tailed
Tale of the Nine-Tailed is the kind of show that is right up my alley. The fantasy romance elements are strong along with an interesting mystery and plenty of thrills. The drama had a strong opening that drew me into an engaging story. The pacing and plot developments were then good throughout the series.
Lee Dong Wook and Jo Bo Ah were a fun couple with a big romance that spanned centuries. It was a great relationship to watch play out. Kim Bum was also fantastic as one of the villains, and his love/hate bromance with Lee Dong Wook was very entertaining.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed Tale of the Nine-Tailed. Dramas like this are my bread and butter. It’s always great to see shows like this come together so nicely and treat the audience to such a fun story.
My Rating: 8/10 (Tale of the Nine-Tailed Review)
5. Find Me in Your Memory
Find Me in Your Memory really was such a nice surprise, and I really enjoyed it. It had all of the ingredients I tend to like in a drama with a romance, a good back story that has lots of affects on the present happenings, a good mix of humor and serious, and some very engaging and emotional character journeys.
Kim Dong Wook and Moon Ga Young also had some really fantastic chemistry as well as such a naturalness and ease with each other. Their romance as a whole was very touching.
I loved the whole feel of the drama with its melancholy atmosphere. It was a romance that had a mixture of melo, humor, and thrills that all came together very nicely. I’m so glad I took a chance on this one and was able to enjoy such a well done story.
My Rating: 8/10 (Find Me in Your Memory)
4. Psychopath Diary
Psychopath Diary hooked me immediately with its unique twist of a pushover thinking he’s a serial killer. The drama leans towards the comedic side, but the comedy and thriller elements are integrated well and stay nicely balanced throughout the series. The comedy is a bit dark at times, but it’s so absurd that you can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous the scenarios are.
Yoon Shi Yoon was absolutely hilarious with his wannabe serial killer shenanigans and really brought the series to life. We also had excellent performances from our real serial killer, Park Sung Hoon, as well as our dedicated police officer, Jung In Sun.
The pacing was great which kept the drama engaging all the way through. There are some nice little twists and surprises throughout too. Psychopath Diary was a whole lot of fun that made me laugh a lot. It’s always great to come across such a fresh concept and see it executed so well.
My Rating: 8.5/10 (Psychopath Diary Review)
I had high hopes for Start-Up because it comes from one of my favorite writers, and she is known for creating worlds filled with wonderful, well-rounded characters and incredibly heart-warming stories. Thankfully, it was another highly enjoyable drama!
On paper, the premise for the show doesn’t sound all that interesting, but I pinned my hopes on the writer and the fantastic cast. It had all of the elements I love with lovable main characters and supporting ones, great character journeys, and an engaging story. Watching all that the characters had to go through to achieve their dreams of creating successful companies was fun to watch.
The romance between Nam Joo Hyuk and Suzy was sweet and meaningful. I got so many feels! Start-Up was such a wonderful drama. It was full of heart and lots of emotion. The drama left me feeling very full and content in the end.
My Rating: 9/10 (Start-Up Review)
2. Flower of Evil
Flower of Evil is the Lee Joon Gi and Moon Chae Won drama that we deserved! The reunion between this duo was everything I could have hoped for and more. These two talented actors wowed me with their amazing performances and wonderful chemistry. This was a complex romance that took us on a roller coaster of emotions.
The story was filled with suspense as well as in depth character exploration. There are plenty of surprising plot developments along with some great cliff hangers. The soundtrack also really enhanced the drama. Mystery, heart, and thrills all came together to make for a highly enjoyable ride.
My Rating: 9/10 (Flower of Evil Review)
And the #1 drama of 2020 is…
1. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Wow! It’s Okay to Not Be Okay is a masterpiece! It hooked me right from the start, and then I was glued to my seat all the way through. This is one of those special shows that captures your heart and takes you on an emotional journey that leaves you changed when you are through.
The drama is like a dark, modern fairy tale with a magical quality to it in the way the story is told. The script was so incredibly well-written with every line of dialogue having meaning. A lot of thought also went into the production with so much attention to detail in constructing the sets as well as how the scenes were shot. All of these elements blended together beautifully to carry us away into this slightly disturbing yet very healing fairy tale.
We had a powerhouse trio at the center of this story with Kim Soo Hyun, Seo Ye Ji, and Oh Jung Se. I can’t praise their acting enough. The romance, the brotherly relationship, and so many other wonderful relationships were explored.
This is a heart-wrenching yet beautiful story of growth and healing. The characters are flawed, but we come to understand them and root for their personal growth and happiness. They don’t have to be perfect to achieve that either. Love and acceptance can be found in imperfection. This is a truly special drama that is not to be missed.
My Rating: 10/10 (It’s Okay to Not Be Okay Review)
Other Dramas I Completed in 2020
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 19 new dramas and 8 other dramas for a grand total of 27 dramas! Definitely not as impressive as previous years, but I would say it’s still pretty good. I’m so glad I had dramas to enjoy during the difficult year that was 2020. The time has now come to move forward, and I hope we have many wonderful dramas to look forward to as well as a better year for everyone in 2021.
How was 2020 for you? What were your favorite dramas of the year?