My Favourite Korean Dramas of 2012

I’ve been watching Korean dramas since I saw reruns of Full House on TV during my first year in Korea in 2005/2006. That drama captivated so completely that I looked around for others and the die was cast… I was hooked. I’ve been watching K-dramas ever since. Not all of them of course, I do have a semblance of a life ^^ but I love watching them.

A Gentleman’s Dignity (신사의 품격)

Hands down, this is my favourite Korean drama of 2012. I’ll be honest, this is my favourite TV show – regardless of country – of 2012, and will go in my all-time favourite list. I can’t say enough about how much I loved this show. It made me laugh; it made me angry; it made me cry… it made me feel. I got to know the characters over the course of the show and some of my initial impressions changed (I liked Tae San at the start and hated him by the end, and vice versa with Jung Hyuk). I chased this drama and couldn’t wait for the next show. Plus it certainly didn’t hurt that the main characters were all “oppas” – literally “older brother” to a female speaker – and hot.

Vampire Prosecutor 2 (뱀파이어 검사 2)

Now it’s unusual for a Korean drama to have a second season (unlike most American, Canadian or British TV shows) but I was super happy to have this one back. Kind of like CSI but with vampires, it’s quite different from most Korean dramas – darker and with less (but still some) romance. I found the new direction in Vampire Prosecutor 2 interesting and it definitely kept me on my toes with some unexpected twists. It’s equally good for guys & girls. If you’re looking for an unusual Korean drama, this is the one for you!

Nice Guy (세상 어디에도 없는 착한 남자)

I wasn’t prepared to like this drama because I didn’t like the initial description. Nonetheless, I thought I’d watch the first episode because I was impressed with Song Joong-ki (송중기) in the Korean film A Werewolf Boy (늑대소년). And then I was hooked, I needed to see how it would all play out. It’s also known as The Innocent Man in English. It’s one of those dramas you just can’t stop watching.

Arang and the Magistrate (아랑사또전)

One of my Korean friends recommended I watch Arang and the Magistrate and I am so happy I followed his advice. I loved it from the first episode! And it never disappointed me, right up to the sweet and poignant ending. It was an interesting take on a period romance – with a ghost who is trying to solve her own death. It kept me entertained and was my favourite period drama of the year (and there were some great ones in 2012).

Big (빅)

I loved this drama – as I knew I would because it starred my favourite Korean actor, Gong Yu (공유) – until the last episode. Never has a final episode so coloured my judgement of the whole show until Big. Nonetheless, it was fun with amazing eye candy and I’d recommend it (with the cravat that the ending sucked). But I’ll be honest, it wouldn’t have made my top five if I wasn’t such a big fan of Gong Yu.

Surprise ‘like’ of the year, although not really one of my top five, goes to:

Full House 2 (풀하우스TAKE2)

I wasn’t going to watch this drama, I really wasn’t. Remember I said the original Full House with Rain (비) was the reason I got into Korean dramas in the first place? Well, I thought a sequel eight years later just seemed odd. But curiosity is both my greatest strength and weakness and I just couldn’t stay away. I ended up liking it, it was cute and enough different from the original that I didn’t compare them much. I included it because it ended up being better than I expected (well, I really didn’t like the permed hair on No Min-woo (노민우) who looks much better with his natural hair)

Of course, there were lots of other great dramas in 2012. Here are a few others I loved:

  • Faith (신의) – this fantasy period drama almost made my top five… it was so close. I mean, come on… how often do you have time travel in a historical drama with Lee Min-ho (이민호).
  • Rooftop Prince (옥탑방 왕세자) – kinda fitting that I mention this drama after Faith as it had time travel but in reverse – from the past to the future. Cute & funny, this was a great drama to watch.

And finally I couldn’t watch all the dramas – there just isn’t enough time – so I thought I would leave you with dramas from 2012 that I heard good things about but didn’t get a chance to see.

  • Bridal Mask (각시탈) – a period drama based on a graphic novel, this one is set during the Japanese occupation.
  • Answer Me 1997 (응답하라 1997) – which follows the lives of teens in the 90s. My Korean friends loved it but I don’t know any non-Korean friend who’s watched it. If you have, let me know!
  • Fashion King (패션왕) – a drama about the fashion industry and the people in it.
  • God of War (무신) – this was one of the favourite dramas of some of my male friends. It’s on my list of dramas to watch. It’s a period drama based on a real person.
  • The Moon That Embraces the Sun (해를 품은 달) – a period drama that tells the love story of a king & a shaman.
  • Haeundae Lovers (해운대 연인들) – a romantic comedy set in Haeundae (a neighbourhood in Busan with a fabulous beach).

2012 was a great year for Korean dramas. There were several wonderful ones for every taste. Oh, and for my classification purposes, to qualify the drama had to have started and finished in 2012 – which is why King of Dramas (which I’m currently watching) and some others aren’t in this list. And now that you’ve seen my list, which are your favourite dramas of 2012? Any not on my list? What do you recommend I watch next?

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

One thought on “My Favourite Korean Dramas of 2012

  • December 25, 2012 at 6:23 am

    I’m going to try and get my boyfriend to watch Vampire Prosecutor with me. It’s easier when I watch it with him cause I can bother him to explain when subtitles aren’t good. 🙂

    I’ve only seen Coffee Prince so far, and half of Iris.

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