2023 K-Dramas Ranked From Worst To Best

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Quality is a given when it comes to most Korean content. Even in the shows that we have found to have terrible storytelling, some milestones have been achieved in terms of set design, concept, or even acting. Regardless, the decision to declare a drama good or bad depends solely on the cumulative effect of all these factors. Additionally, it cannot be debated that writing can make or break a story. Therefore, as the year comes to an end, we will be listing out the best and worst dramas of the year, starting with the worst and slowly making our way up to the winners.


10. Black Knight

To call this a disappointment is an understatement. It was adapted from a manga of the same name and was supposed to be the return of Kim Woo Bin, an actor we have missed seeing on screen. Yet, the story was a massive disservice to the expectations of the fans who were eagerly waiting for it. The writing was choppy, the character building was unimpressive, and overall, the show was simply boring. Perhaps the biggest drawback was the series’ lack of style. You can’t have a dystopian fighter story like Black Knight and an actor like Kim Woo Bin, only for it to look and sound so bland. This was a serious letdown.


9. Strong Girl Nam Soon

This may be a controversial choice since the series has enjoyed some popularity. However, we have to remember that it was because of the fanbase of its predecessor show, Strong Girl Bong Soon, and the actor, Byeon Woo Seok, who played the villain Ryu Si O. If not for these two factors, the series would have gone unnoticed, as it should have. The writing was terrible; most characters were painfully one-dimensional, and some of the more talented actors were completely underutilized. Not to mention the humor of the series, which was gimmicky to a fault. In so many ways, this show was just painful to watch. Strong Girl Nam Soon had its moments, but when you compare it to the standards expected of it, this was an absolute failure.


8. Queenmaker

This drama is one of those cases where stories based on social issues are executed in a painfully gimmicky manner. This was supposed to be a feminist tale, and it was proclaimed as such. Queenmaker also had a primarily female cast, yet the story itself was so performative that we wished it had just been promoted as another run-of-the-mill drama. It wasn’t even trying to play it safe; it was just completely wrong in terms of its understanding of women’s issues and what it means to be a woman in power. The lack of that understanding is what made the story so subpar and has placed this drama among the worst of the year.


7. I love to hate you

To be fair, this drama is quite watchable. Our irritation with it lies, once again, in its forced feminism. Don’t use feminism as a gimmick for a story, especially when you are getting it so wrong. That is what made the female lead so unlikeable at times and gave the series the kind of final conflict that was seriously nauseating. Had it been presented as just another love story, it would have been excellent and a good way to pass the time. But these forced issues, with no accountability for the men and a painful lack of nuance or intelligence, made this difficult to sit through at times.


6. The Fabulous

This is the drama we would call a ‘beige flag.’ It was watchable, but far from fabulous. In so many ways, The Fabulous was supposed to push the envelope in terms of its commentary on what went on behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. That is what was supposed to make the characters fabulous. But once again, the drama suffered from the curse of playing it too safe. It was highly upsetting that we did not even get some good fashion moments, which were supposed to be at the center of the concept.


5. Celebrity

This was one of the most talked-about Korean dramas of 2023 and essentially shot Park Gyu Young to stardom. We agree that Celebrity is another highly watchable drama, but the absolute binary of the good and evil influencers, without any grace or sensitivity to the subject at hand, was simply laughable. We had previously said that this show was written by someone who “loved to hate influencers” and that it is not nearly as funny, exciting, or even thrilling in this day and age. This is why we have such mixed feelings about this drama.


4. Doona

This is a drama we actually liked a lot. The performances were predictably good, but what stayed with us was the sensitive look at the relationships between people, not just the lead pair. It clearly showed the complications of being with someone who has a fair share of mental health issues to deal with and the kind of responsibility on both partners to understand and get through the same. One of the better parts of the drama was how Doona, the titular character, was able to express her complications and apologize for them. Her understanding of the problems she created and the way she tried to solve them with communication and accountability were admirable. We would place this on the list of compulsory watches of the year.


3. Castaway Diva

This is one story that stays with you a long time after you finish watching it. The grace of the writing, the sensitivity and care of the love story, and the struggles of the characters all add beautiful layers to the drama. We did not expect to love this drama so much, but it is simply one of those stories that we can talk about forever. It’s difficult to put into words just how much we like Castaway Diva, so it’s best to simply watch it. However, one hint that we can give is that the characters that will stay with you are Yoon Ran Joo and Kang Woo Hak.


2. King the Land

No drama has done romance better than King the Land, at least not in the last few years. To have a story only about love without the interference of any other elements is a dream come true. Lee Jun Ho’s ‘Gu Won’ wins over Song Kang’s ‘Gu Won’ any day. The only flaw of this drama is that it ended too soon, and perhaps Im Yoona wasn’t given a better wedding dress in the finale. Other than that, this is the drama to watch if you want to see what impossible ‘boyfriend standards’ look like. Also, Lee Jun Ho’s smile is everything, and the more you stare at it, the better.


Twinkling Watermelon

This drama has gone viral on social media, and with good reason. You will laugh, cry, and rewatch everything, and you will probably want to give the people around you a big hug at the end of it all. We are suckers for time travel dramas of any kind, and this one has our hearts with the introduction of the coolest ‘ahjussi’ and an ‘ahjumma’ whose silence was indeed the most beautiful we have ever seen. Do not miss this one.

This list comes nowhere close to encompassing the best and worst of the year. Some honorable mentions would be See You in My 19th Life, Daily Dose of Sunshine, A Time Called You, and Doctor Cha. The last one is especially addictive. We have also loved a Korean movie called Kill Boksoon, which had the kind of style that we usually look for in action movies. These are all just our top picks from the content we have managed to see this year. If you have any other suggestions, please let us know in the comments, and we would love to check them out.


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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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