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5 blockbuster Korean dramas to add to your watchlist

  • Over the years, avid K-drama fans have seen the Korean wave grow exponentially.
  • Squid game follows a legion of critically acclaimed K-dramas, some of which have gone unnoticed on the world stage.
  • Here are five blockbuster K-Dramas that are worth the hype.

The resounding success of the South Korean show Squid game is undeniable. The dark drama exploring themes such as capitalism and class disparity is Netflix’s most-watched series to date. But that’s just the culmination of “hallyu,” Korea’s wave of pop culture – and there’s more to it than it looks.

For at least three decades now, South Korea has been gradually increasing its soft power by stepping up exports of its pop culture in the form of K-dramas, K-pop and K-beauty, among others. Pop culture is big business in South Korea, and the government is investing heavily in cultural productions – committing $ 440 million (7 billion rand) in 2021 to the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), which funds and oversees shows, games for mobile and virtual reality platforms. , fashion, animation and other activities.

It culminated with K-pop acts such as BTS, the world’s greatest pop group, and K-dramas such as 2019. Crash landing on you and Squid game achieve success on an unprecedented global scale.

But for those who know about South Korean cultural exports before the success of BTS and Squid game, this global craze is not a surprise. Over the years, avid K-drama fans have seen the Korean wave grow exponentially. Two decades ago, the budget for an episode of K-drama was estimated at around $ 30,000 (R459,722). Today, that price can easily exceed one billion South Korean won (around 13 million rand). An increase in the budget means more sophisticated production, better acting, impressive scores, and huge improvements in cinematography.

Anyone who saw the Oscar winning film Parasite is likely to agree that it is worthy of the universal praise it has received, with a 98% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. But South Korean series are not far behind feature films in terms of production standards.

Squid game follows a legion of critically acclaimed K-dramas, some of which have gone unnoticed on the world stage. Here are five blockbuster K-Dramas that are worth the hype.

1. Flower of Evil (2020)

Number of episodes: 16

Genre: Mystery, thriller, melodrama

Available on: Netflix

Cha Ji-won (played by Moon Chae-won) is a homicide detective who is married to Baek Hee-sung (played by star hallyu Lee Joon-gi). But as she investigates a series of unexplained murders, Ji-won begins to suspect that her perfect husband may not be who he claims to be. Hee-sung watches his lies unravel as his wife digs deeper into his past.

While this K drama leaves viewers guessing, an occasional sprinkle of comedic relief and romance eases the tension. The plot is carefully crafted and the show is rhythmic and suspenseful, with timely revelations and a haunting original score.

Flower of Evil was nominated for Best Drama in this year’s Baeksang Awards for Excellence in Film, Television and Drama.

Visually beautiful, the show’s locations match its dark and mysterious themes, from Hee-sung’s eerie childhood home to the dark abandoned swimming pool where he meets his sister.

This moving, sometimes frightening drama emphasizes emotion because, for Hee-sung, it is an elusive human trait that he has yet to grasp.

Lee Joon-gi’s portrayal of Hee-sung, a character who struggles to comprehend the desperation and anxiety he feels as his wife finds out the truth about him, earned him a 2021 Best nomination. actor for a Baeksang Award for Excellence in Film, Theater and Television. in South Korea.

Read our review here.

2. My sir (2018)

Episodes: 16

Genre: Drama

Available on: Netflix

In my Sir, Park Dong-hoon (Lee Sun-gyun) is forced to admit that his life is not happy. A middle-aged engineer working in a company where a college student is his boss, he lives with his mother and two unemployed brothers. Dong-hoon does what he can to help his struggling family, while feeling like his own life is falling apart.

Lee Ji-an (played by Lee Ji-eun, known professionally as IU) is a young woman heavily in debt and harassed by a loan shark while trying to take care of her elderly grandmother and work as a temp in the same company. like Dong-hoon.

Ultimately, the two become friends and embark on a journey of pain, hope and healing.

With an emphasis on financial difficulties, family problems, loneliness and depression, the series does not attempt to filter the human experience. Instead, it tries to show that no matter how monotonous or miserable life can sometimes seem, it can be just as fascinating and intriguing as any movie. This suggests that the struggle to find the perfect balance between our responsibilities and our personal growth can be an incredible journey.

For viewers, the message that real life is, in and of itself, extraordinary, is reinforced by the parallels between UI’s past and the role it plays. IU, one of South Korea’s most popular K-pop stars, like her character, lived with her grandmother for a while in a crowded single room after her parents got into debt.

3. Healer (2014)

Episodes: 20

Genre: Action, thriller, romance

Available on: Netflix

In the 1980s, during South Korea’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy, a group of five students who ran an illegal pro-democracy radio station came across a major scandal, which led to the murder. of a student in 1992. Another student ends up in a wheelchair and another in prison.

Decades later, an illegal night courier codenamed Healer (Ji Chang-wook), a famous radio reporter (Yoo Ji-tae) and a second-rate tabloid reporter (Park Min-young) reunite to find out the truth about what happened to the students.

The series begins slowly, taking the time to introduce the many important characters before the well-crafted plot picks up the pace with jaw-dropping twists and turns in the final episodes.

It’s worth watching the unique storyline, gripping action scenes, and character development who as they learn more about the five students draw on their bravery to deepen their very investigation. if it could cost them their lives. There’s a healthy dose of humor and romance, too, and the presence of veteran actor Kim Mi-kyung as Healer’s hacker partner gives the drama a final seal of approval.

4. The Crowned Clown (2019)

Episodes: 16

Genre: Historical drama, romance

Available on: Netflix

Set in the mid-Joseon era in the early 17th century, when upheavals and royal power struggles reached their peak, The crowned clown tells the story of a king who, fearing assassination, orders his double, a clown named Ha Sun (Yeo Jin-goo), to take his place on the throne.

When he was a child, Ha Sun’s parents died in an epidemic. He almost starved to death but was saved by a group of buffoons, and eventually grew up to be one of them. When the jesters played, Ha Sun played King Lee Hun due to the similarities in their physical appearance.

The story is inspired by the novel by Mark Twain The Prince and the Poor. A visual feast with lavish costumes and picturesque landscapes, this historical drama is an intense and gripping story of romance, palace intrigue and politics. The well-crafted but unpredictable plot keeps the viewer engaged until the very end.

As a clown, Yeo Jin-goo’s performance is heartfelt and moving, but his portrayal of the selfish and almost repulsive character of King Lee Hun is equally remarkable and will make it hard to believe that this is the same person playing both roles. .

5. Navillera (2021)

Episodes: 12

Genre: Drama

Available on: Netflix

70-year-old retired postal worker Sim Deok-chool (Park In-hwan) nurtured a lifelong dream of learning ballet. But life got in the way and he put his dream aside – until now. Despite the lack of support from his family, he enrolled in ballet lessons where he met 23-year-old Lee Chae-rok (Song Kang).

Chae-rok has a talent and a passion for ballet, but his decision to become a dancer alienated him from his father. In financial and emotional difficulty, he plans to quit smoking. But things start to change when he meets Deok-chool and becomes his ballet trainer.

The story of their friendship rises Navillera from an easy-going and heartwarming watch to an inspiring tale that primarily eschews stereotypical sentimentality.

Navillera explores relatable human issues such as how we cope with the reality of old age while showing that it’s never too late to start doing what you love.

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