South Korean Dramas started with cheesy rom-com stories but soon expanded into diversified genres like Comedy, Thriller, Suspense, dystopian, corporate, crime, etc. After the boom of OTT platforms, there has been a lot of experimentation in Kdramas. What didn’t seem fit for the naïve television audience, made their place on the OTT platforms like Netflix and Viki.
2021 gave us a variety of dramas from Comedy to Dystopian, but Thriller/Suspense dramas surely ruled the year with multiple titles that won viewers’ hearts, but some less explored genres and off-beat stories have secured their spots in the best. Here is the list of the 10 best Kdramas released in 2021 (in no particular order).
A genre that is less explored in kdramas, Law School, brings the legal drama back in full action and keeps the audience hooked from the beginning to the end. A professor from the law school is accused of murdering another professor. His students help him come clean in his case and learn not only law and judiciary but also camaraderie. The genius professor Yang is highly disciplined, but you still wish you had such a mentor in your life. Veteran actor Kim Myung Min plays Professor Yang along with Kim Beom and Ryu Hye Young, who play his top favorite students.
Vincenzo Cassano, played by the Hallyu star Song Joong Ki, is adopted by a Mafia at the age of 8. He grows up to become a Mafia lawyer or a Consigliere and the right-hand man of the mafia boss. Situation twists when the Mafia dies and Vincenzo comes to Korea. He wants to claim his deceased client’s hidden gold in Korea. Vincenzo helps the residents of Geumga Plaza to save their residency and also his gold which is hidden under the building. His opposing lawyer Hong Chang Young also joins him after her father dies a tragic death. A series packed with comedy, drama, action, thriller, and ruthless villains, Vincenzo is a full-fledged package for Kdrama lovers.
Hometown Cha Cha Cha
City life can sometimes be challenging with rude bosses over your head, being so busy not to meet your loved ones, and not being happy. Yoon Hye Jin, a successful dentist in Seoul, is fired from her job, so she goes to Gonjin, a seaside village, to seek mental peace. Cold-hearted city woman, Hye Jin, is touched by kind villagers and meets Hong Du Sik, the sweetheart of all villagers. She opens her own clinic in the village and becomes one of them. Featuring Shin Min Ah and Kim Seon Ho, Hometown Cha Cha Cha is a refreshing series to binge-watch on a lazy weekend.
Racket Boys brings a very fresh concept of Sports drama on the front. It is a story of teenagers from a small city who have ambitions. A bunch of middle school kids somehow manage to save their badminton team and start participating in tournaments. Apart from sports, the series follows the ordinary life of teenagers and explores their friendships and hardships. Their camaraderie will remind you of your school days and all the fun you had with your friends. Racket Boys is a relaxing watch, best enjoyed with your friends.
Nevertheless broke the boundaries of a typical Kdrama. Instead of cute and bubbly romance, it is bold and flirtatious. Park Jae Eon, played by Song Kang, and Yoo Na Bi, played by Han So Hee, are art majors in the same university. Both of them do not believe in love, but their reasons are different. Na Bi is heartbroken by her previous lover, and Jae Eon simply thinks that love is a waste of time. As they feel attracted towards each other, their belief is challenged.
The dystopian Korean series that took the world by storm in 2021. People in loads of debt, criminals, homeless and unemployed people from all over Korea participate in the Squid Game to win a hefty sum of money. What looks like a kid’s play, in the beginning, turns out to be deadly when the losers of a game die right at the spot. Out of 456 players, only one will come out alive with the money. The desperation makes people go to the lengths of killing each other. The cruelty of a capitalistic world is depicted in the Squid Game, where people are ready to die just for a chance to get the money, and filthy rich people are enjoying the game while sipping on their champagne.
A mix of comedy and historical fiction, with the impactful acting of Shin Hye Sun, Mr. Queen is a comedy you do not want to miss. Jang Bong Hwan from current age Korea swaps bodies with Queen Choerin from the Joseon era when he falls in a swimming pool. A modern man in a queen’s body creates chaos in the conservative society of Joseon. Shin Hye Sun’s performance as the real queen and the ‘Mr. Queen’ and her satire on Politics and women’s lifestyle in Joseon makes this show a must-watch. The queen’s creative chaos is sure to make you laugh out loud.
A disturbing series that discusses the beliefs of life and death. Based on the webtoon of the same name, Hellbound is a fantasy thriller featuring Yoo Ah In in the leading role. People are receiving prophecies of their death, and on the mentioned day, some supernatural monsters come and destroy them, literally. Cults like New Truth Society and Arrowhead are formed that are promoting the abolition of all the sinners and the end of the world, causing fear in public. The series can be disturbing or scary to watch for some but not for those who love some dark storyline with a touch of extreme philosophy. Hellbound is directed by Train To Busan director Yeon Sang-Ho.
‘Mouse’ is a psychological thriller that is not for the weak-hearted. Jang Ba Reum, played by Lee Seung Gi, is a newbie police officer assisting in a serial killer’s case. His life changes completely after he confronts the serial killer. The series is full of twists upon a twist and will take you by surprise every time. Despite the complex plot, it is executed smoothly, and the gruesome scenes are good enough to scare you. If your Kdrama favorites are only romantic, then maybe this is not for you, but if you are a fan of criminal and psychopath thrillers, you are in for a treat.
Yet another stunning thriller that was released in 2021. Taxi Driver is a revenge story of a son whose mother was murdered by a serial killer. Lee Je Hoon plays Kim Do Gi, a Korean Naval Academy graduate who now works in the Navy. ‘Rainbow Deluxe Taxi’ is a company that gets revenge calls from its clients, and the company takes revenge on their behalf. Do Gi joins the taxi company as an undercover driver. When the law cannot help the victims, Rainbow Deluxe Taxi helps them. Inspired by real crimes, this series will make you want to binge-watch.
Based on a webtoon, ‘Navillera’ follows a young man and an old man that will make your eyes moist at quite a few intervals. Sim Deok Chul, a 70 years old retired mailman, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Despite his old age and his family’s denial, he decides to learn Ballet from Lee Chae Rok, played by Song Kang. The drama stands out the most amongst all as the focus is not romance or action. Just an older man following his lifelong dream with a passion that will inspire people of all ages and genders. If you want to experience an emotional ride, then this drama is for you, and yes, you don’t want to miss this mesmerizing ballet of Song Kang and his charming looks.