It’s that time of the year again! No, I don’t mean getting smashed on eggnog or staying up to the countdown of the new year. It’s time for our annual K-drama superlatives-style roundup!

In this year of K-dramas, we’ve had a particularly strong showing of historical dramas (sageuks), both traditional and fusion. There was also an uptick of dramas featuring well-written, empowered, multi-dimensional women. Netflix also dipped their toes into the production of K-dramas, which affected how their dramas are structured (for better or worse? Let us know what you think down in the comments).

To honor the dramas that have accompanied us this year (or made us laugh and cry and laugh so hard that we cried), I give you, in no particular order, 2019’s superlatives.

Before you get up in arms about the lack of the Arthdals or the Nokdus, please note that this is not a list of the best dramas of 2019, but rather a fun, silly way to take a stroll down memory lane. So feel free to head down to the comments section and nominate superlatives for all the other deserving dramas!

Disclaimer: This article only includes dramas that started airing between December 1, 2018, and November 30, 2019. Also, minor spoilers ahead!

Best send-off to the military

Lee Jong Suk in “Romance is a Bonus Book”

Aired on: tvN
Air date: January 26 – March 17, 2019 (16 episodes)
Starring: Lee Na Young, Lee Jong Suk

While “Romance is a Bonus Book” wasn’t necessarily one of the buzziest dramas of the year, it still drew attention for being Lee Na Young’s return to the small screen in nine years and for being Lee Jong Suk’s last drama before he enlisted.

The drama is set in the publishing industry and is a story of how good books touch the lives of the readers. In many ways, the drama itself is very much like curling up with a good book with a good cup of coffee — it’s not particularly thrilling yet is soothing, comforting, and is like spending time with a good friend. Frankly, we couldn’t have asked for a better send-off for Lee Jong Suk. See you in 2021!

Most victorious return from the military

Kang Ha Neul in “When the Camellia Blooms”

Aired on: KBS
Air date: September 18 – November 21, 2019 (40 episodes, 35 minutes each)
Starring: Gong Hyo Jin, Kang Ha Neul, Kim Ji Suk, Son Dambi, Go Doo Shim

As we say goodbye to Lee Jong Suk, we also say welcome back to Kang Ha Neul, and boy, what a welcome! Just a week or two after his discharge from the military, Kang Ha Neul started working on “When the Camellia Blooms,” a drama that bloomed into one of the highest-rated dramas of 2019. His craft was definitely not dulled during his time away in the military, as he (along with his co-stars) turned in a spectacular performance that kept the viewers glued to this rom-com-thriller hybrid of a drama!

Best tongue-in-cheek moment

Melo Is My Nature

Aired on: JTBC
Air date: August 9 – September 28, 2019 (16 episodes)
Starring: Chun Woo Hee, Jeon Yeo Bin, Han Ji Eun, Ahn Jae Hong, Gong Myung

Lim Jin Joo (Chun Woo Hee) is a drama screenwriter who writes a script titled “It Gets Better When You Turn Thirty.” But when the drama aired, it only received ratings of 1 percent, which is just about how “Melo is My Nature” fared. Tell me they don’t have a psychic on staff! Though in all fairness, the drama aired on a cable network, so 1 to 2 percent is not too bad.

But the viewership ratings are a pale indication of this gem of a slice-of-life drama, which not only tackles heavier themes like depression but does it in a relatable and self-aware manner. It will make you laugh one second, tug at your heartstrings the next, and have you laughing again at all the meta moments! PPL inception anyone?

Also, we can’t get enough of all the “Reply 1988” jokes:

Catch the first episode of “Melo Is My Nature”:

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Most likely to have all the women say “YAAAS”

Search: WWW

Aired on: tvN
Air date: June 5 – July 25, 2019 (16 episodes)
Starring: Im Soo Jung, Lee Da Hee, Jeon Hye Jin, Jang Ki Yong, Lee Jae Wook, Ji Seung Hyun

As K-dramaland gears up to enter a new decade, we are delighted to report that there are more and more dramas headlined by talented women, and the female-oriented “Search: WWW” is certainly the creme of the crop! Our three female leads portray characters that are all successful, strong, and fabulous in their own ways. And even better? Their friendship is strong enough to support each other even though they’re from competing companies. There’s no “aggressive career woman” or “women have to tear each other down” or even “strong women date submissive men” stereotypes in sight! Instead, there are well-rounded, multi-dimensional characters that drive a grounded story of friendship and love.

Catch the first episode of “Search: WWW”:

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Most in need of a season 2, stat!


Aired on: Netflix
Air date: January 25, 2019 (6 episodes)
Starring: Joo Ji Hoon, Ryu Seung Ryong, Bae Doona, Kim Sung Kyu, Kim Sang Ho, Heo Joon Ho, Jeon Suk Ho, Kim Hye Joon

There are often times where we want a second season after watching a particularly good drama. But that’s not the case with this zombie sageuk “Kingdom” (Apparently zombie-sageuk is a genre now, and it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds). Nay, we don’t want a second season, we need a second season!

Having aired on Netflix, it has adopted the U.S. way of TV serializing by ending the last episode of season one with bombshell after bombshell and whetting viewers’ appetite for the impending doom slated for season two. If you’ve been pulling your hair out waiting for season two to be announced, then hold on to your hair because the new season of haunting zombies and hauntingly beautiful storytelling will be released in March 2020! Check out the teasers here.

Drama with the best guests

Hotel Del Luna

Aired on: tvN
Air date: July 14 – September 1, 2019 (16 episodes)
Starring: IU, Yeo Jin Goo, Lee Do Hyun, Shin Jung Geun, Bae Hae Sun, Block B’s P.O, gugudan‘s Mina

“Hotel Del Luna” is another super buzzy drama of 2019 and so many other superlatives could’ve been bestowed on it, including “Best OST,” “Most fabulously dressed,” and even “Most dedicated firefly.”

But I chose a more encompassing “Best guests” instead. After all, a hotel would be nothing without its guests. Each guest at the Hotel Del Luna (including the staff) brings their own baggage and pain, and it was always cathartic as a viewer to join them on their journeys of healing.

And it’s not just the hotel guest characters that are entertaining, but also the guest stars themselves! With Oh Ji Ho, Lee Joon Gi, Lee Si Eon, Lee Yi Kyung, Pyo Ye Jin, Nam Da Reum, Sulli (you’re missed greatly), and so many more well-known actors popping in and doing cameos, it just made the drama even more delightful. Oh, and the biggest jaw drop of cameos? Kim! Soo! Hyun!

Catch the first episode of “Hotel Del Luna”:

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Busiest actor in town

Yeo Jin Goo in “The Crowned Clown,” “Absolute Boyfriend,” and “Hotel Del Luna”

I’m going to start off this entry (and the following one) by waving the disclaimer that I didn’t actually take attendance for every actor in the industry, so there’s no actual statistic to back this claim. That being said, Yeo Jin Goo has been a clown, a king, a robot, and a hotel manager this year alone, so, let’s just go ahead and award him this superlative!

“Hotel Del Luna” needs no introduction, and “Absolute Boyfriend” (with Girls’ Day’s Minah) is a fluffy easy watch, but if you want to see Yeo Jin Goo really flex his acting chops, then turn your attention to “The Crowned Clown.” Yeo Jin Goo plays the dual role of a burdened King who is slowly unraveling as well as a clown who is filled with much vibrancy and hope. He does a phenomenal job imbuing each role with such different energies that distinguish one character from another that it’s no wonder he’s such a sought after actor!

Catch the first episode of “The Crowned Clown”:

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Busiest actor in town (supporting actor category)

Kim Won Hae and Kim Sun Young in almost everything

You wouldn’t be remiss if you thought you’ve seen his face a few times this year, because Kim Won Hae‘s more or less been on the air for the whole year in back-to-back projects. He started the year off in “The Fiery Priest,” then “He Is Psychometric,” then “Melting Me Softly,” and now in “Chocolate.” That’s not even including the handful of cameos he’s done in other dramas. And what’s even more impressive? The number of dramas he’s been involved in this year has actually decreased compared to last year. He’s the busiest actor indeed!

Another omnipresent actor is none other than Kim Sun Young, who has played substantial supporting roles in six(!) dramas this year! She’s been in “Romance Is A Bonus Book,” “Her Private Life,” “Moments of 18,” “When The Camellia Blooms,” “Vagabond,” and also the currently airing “Crash Landing On You”! Her talent shines through in her range and versatility, imbuing even her more outlandish characters with likeability and heart. She’s always a fun addition to any drama, so here’s to seeing more of her next year!

Least bloody historical drama

“Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung”

Aired on: MBC
Air date: July 17 – September 26, 2019 (40 episodes, 35 minutes each)
Starring: Shin Se Kyung, ASTRO’s Cha Eun Woo

Historical dramas (even fusion ones) are usually about throne chasing or fighting against tyrannical leaders or something along that vein, which usually also means war, torture, and bloodshed. Yet “Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung” is probably the least violent sageuk to hit our screens, as it instead delivers a progressive story about female empowerment and social change which is won about through negotiation and debate rather than violence. While it may not be entirely realistic for that era, the issues raised are relevant to any time period, showing that there is real depth to this drama underneath all the pretty (and there is a lot of pretty).

Least desirable superpower

“He is Psychometric”

Aired on: tvN
Air date: March 11 – April 30, 2019 (16 episodes)
Starring: GOT7’s Jinyoung, Shin Ye Eun, Kim KwonDasom

After a tragic accident, Yi Ahn (Jinyoung, doing well in his first-ever lead role too!) acquires the ability to see the memories of a person after touching them. The storyline, filled with mystery and suspense, will continuously grab your attention as our leads try to solve a case that is very personal to them. That being said, I personally feel for Yi Ahn because that is not a superpower a person would ever want. With the amount of emotional baggage people carry around as well as their personal struggles and such, it would be terribly heavy to see into those memories. Teleportation for me please!

Catch the first episode of “He Is Psychometric”:

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Best guilty pleasure

Graceful Family

Aired on: MBN-Dramax
Air date: August 21 – October 17, 2019 (16 episodes)
Starring: Im Soo Hyang, Lee Jang Woo, Bae Jong Ok

“Graceful Family,” the top-rated drama this year for its network, is one delicious soapy makjang that will drag you down with it the moment you press play. There’s something ridiculously addictive about a no-apologies, over-the-top drama with vivid characters, each with their own brand of crazy. There’s a fabulous female lead who totally owns her big personality like a boss. Throw in some birth secrets, scandalous affairs, a spy agency, and an intense slow-burn of a romance, and you may very well find yourself awake at 3 a.m. continuing your descent into makjang addiction.

The peak of ridiculously fabulous: