In a year with a few standout shows, varied themes ranging from an expansive superhero saga (‘Moving’) to a time-travel coming-of-age tale (‘A Time Called You’) emerged as winners。
For a period of time in 2022, every eliminated Korean drama seems to shoulder the mission of surpassing its predecessor. Saying that our choices have been spoiled is a light hearted statement. After experiencing a year of “Special Lawyer Wu”, “Little Women”, “Business Proposal”, and “Our Dear Summer”, this year’s queue has a higher threshold.
2023 may not have as many exciting programs as the past two years, but those successful programs have redefined the genre. On the other hand, there are a large number of highly anticipated Korean dramas that were full of hope from the beginning, but were severely disappointed by their shockingly poor writing and seemingly fruitless chaotic themes.
At the beginning of this year, we received the second installment of Honor, which is a noteworthy follow-up to the first installment released in 2022. Song Hye Kyo, who played Wen Dong’en, once again performed a restrained and career best performance, seeking revenge for the cruel bullying she suffered in high school. This is a rare TV drama, and the second one successfully retains most of the sharp writing, rhythm, and performance of the first one. In most other programs, bullying in schools – a problem that South Korea has been striving to solve – is always dealt with in a casual, almost ruthless way because it is a neglected plot point. Glory is often vivid and unsettling, as it attempts to deconstruct economic disparities, power, privileges, and a system that is detrimental to victims like Dong’en. Dong’en was told from the beginning that there is no poetic justice or karmic retribution in her world.
As the debate between Hollywood’s two superhero universes, their relevance, and the decline in the quality of content being produced intensifies, Moving, a highly original and expansive superhero legend, emerged with its captivating writing and outstanding cast. Apart from a simple story of good fighting against evil, the advantage of Moving lies in its carefully crafted characters – their stories, relationships, and how they bear the weight of a system determined to exploit and exclude them. For a TV series full of action and violence, the romantic love between Jo In sung and Han Hyo joo, as well as the growth curves of Lee Jung ha and Go Yoon Jung as they fight against superpowers, are all the most exciting moments in the series.
A Time Called You
In a more relaxed situation, 2023 is a year of romanticism. There is an era called You, which is a remake of the Taiwanese TV drama “One Day or One Day” and is widely promoted. Although Korean TV dramas seem to fully embrace the idea of incorporating serial killers in secondary storylines, the results are often unsatisfactory. However, “A Time Called You” is an exception, as it benefits greatly from horror and time travel narratives. Actors Shin Hye sun and Ahn Bo hyun. Although this character was easy for Hye sun after “The Queen”, his quiet and fragile portrayal of Seo ha is indeed surprising given Bo hyun’s love for characters in thrillers and action dramas.
Perfect Marriage retribution, which starred Sung-hoon and Jung Yoo-min, may have been about rebirth and retribution, but its real success came from the beloved contract marriage motif in K-dramas and the passion that developed between the protagonists. With the release of The Story of Park’s Marriage Contract, starring Bae In-hyuk and Lee Se-young, and more recently, My Demon, which has garnered a lot of praise and discussion from an audience that has been largely devoid of a swoon-worthy, frothy romance, contract marriages and relationships appeared to be making a big comeback this year.
My Demon, starring Song Kang and Kim Yoo-jung, appears to have made very few mistakes in its first 10 episodes in terms of both romance and fantasy. The two have swiftly established themselves as a cherished on-screen pair during a year when the romance in many shows felt missing.
If Teo Yoo had a fantastic year with Celine Song’s Past Lives, which is ranked highly on many lists of the best movies of 2023, he also became the archetypal grumpy protagonist in K-dramas with a dislike for romance in the web serial Love to Hate You, which was enjoyable to watch and one of the easier ones of the year.