2018 Best Korean Dramas: The Year Of Healing Narratives & Hero-Centric Plot

By turns, it was a shower of healing narratives, amazing thrillers, and heart-fluttering romance stories in the selection of 2018 Korean Dramas.

Hero-centric plot has been a constant fixture from the narratives which paraded this year. That has been expected given how combination of two popular actors have starred in a few series this season.

A few remarkable heroine roles were also gifted to viewers. Most of those stories propelled the “healing drama” trend that ran from the entire four seasons of 2018. Other notable genres showcased this season leaned on supernatural contents.

If last year was an exhausting chase to catch criminals and serve justice, 2018 Korean dramas provided diverse themes to choose from.

My guideline for choosing 2018 Best Korean Dramas are pretty much the basics: inventive plot, engaging narrative, novelty, character portrayals, appeal to general audience, and the re-watch value.

Below are memorable 2018 Korean Dramas not to miss. Some dramas released in 2017 are included. KDRAMADIARY follows a K-Drama calendar rule of covering January to November dramas plus all series ending in the current season.

*Note: Weekend family dramas and daily dramas are not included in the selection of dramas we watched and reviewed this year

*Originally posted on Hellokpop

Best Korean Drama List: 2000 – 2005 | 2006 – 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 |


Prison Playbook

It will be hard for the viewers not to subconsciously join the virtual cause to protect baseball star Kim Je Hyuk from any harm that comes his way. His clueless yet adorable portrayal of a kind-hearted athlete, who gets incarcerated for an assault case in trying to protect his sister, easily gains empathy points from the audience.

The daily pictures of convicts’ activities like doing wood works, gardening, field exercises, and even the mundane eating times are injected with spirited approach.

Prison Playbook lets you understand how mistakes are not supposed to define you as a person. It teaches you that personal battles are given to be won over, and that having a good heart is a blessing every time.

2017 Korean Dramas


I’m not a Robot

Pacing to an interesting love milieu, the story of a man, who stumbled on the peculiar cure for his extreme human allergy, confronts the reality of how his newfound liberty to interact with people comes with the price of admitting that he is in love with a robot.

To complicate his situation, he learns that his reservations are pointless since the supposed android he can’t love, is actually a woman, who is commissioned to pretend that she is not a human.

I’m Not A Robot communicates how the heart believes what the situation tries to conceal. It affirms how reciprocated love is felt even if it is not vocally declared.

2018 korean dramas


Welcome to Waikiki

We only have fond and happy memories to look back when we think of Welcome to Waikiki. Nothing else matters.

The series spurred to a big pile of happiness pill during its run. Capitalizing on the brilliant synergy of its small cast, the series displayed the best character sketches laid for them. The balance of romance and comedy was fused to perfection, but the breakthrough comedy skits could be credited to the drama’s success.

Whether on a binge-watch or after a day’s work, the amazing cast of Welcome to Waikiki will never ever let you down.

2018 korean dramas


Return

On paper, the cast roster speaks for an exceptional vibe, with actors known for their stellar works through the years. The casting rigmarole was sustained well to maintain its gripping legal-crime premise.

Return is a strongly portrayed drama, which relies on the precise shifting of plot bends to highlight the growth and movements of the main characters, who are caught up in the murder mystery. Viewers will be left on the edge of their seats as a battle of cunning ways erupt ceaselessly from its onset up to the pinnacle of its riveting high.


A Korean Odyssey

The series joins the fantasy-romance trend dominating K-dramaland in the recent months, and is strong in limning character sketches of the supernatural beings depicted in the story. It also highlights interesting arcs and bends that raise awareness on modern societal problems through side problems solved in the story before the culminating conflict.

A Korean Odyssey spins a thickly designed plot, which focuses on character redemption, with the romance plot acting as the supporting driver to achieve the designed pilgrimage of the characters. It makes use of a realistic storytelling inducing addictive bliss and burrowing pain following its supernatural premise.

a korean odyssey


Suits

Whether you’re a fan of the original American series or a newcomer to the legal drama’s fandom, you will surely find yourself drawn to Suits thanks to its compelling storyline and relatable characters. It was also able to provide a fresh take on the original series’ framework and characterizations without overly sticking to it, which gives everyone something new to look forward to.

May it be the thrilling legal dramas bring, the romance that makes us swoon without a fail, the life lessons we learn through the characters, Suits is able to cater to a plethora of elements and makes it blend with each other very well in just one show.

Suits goes to show that justice still does prevail – even in this cruel and unfair world.

2018 korean dramas


Voice 2

Meticulously written, Voice 2 took advantage of its known driving points that will keep its audience interest while maneuvering a scintillating serial killer chase.

OCN has made sure that every actor it will tap in its crime series gives justice to their role, just like how Lee and Kwon have amazed with their outwitting match, and making it the same feel yet different approach compared to Jang Hyuk and Kim Jae Wook’s contention last year.


Switch Change the World

Time whizzes enjoyably in the swift paced story of Sa Do Chan. The mood, the characters, and even the music sets up an engrossing legal-crime drama, powered by caper activities and clever showdown between the heroes and the villains. It maintains its upbeat tone and clever narration, while unraveling the back stories.

Throughout, Switch Change The World has never played favorites on the outsmarting game between the heroes and villains. The turning of tables and mind tricks powers the engaging core of the narrative. If you like heist stories, you would most certainly be delighted to join Team Switch in their adventure.


My Mister

My Mister has introduced characters who are living up to the weight of life realities. Through their shared pain, they find out the meaning of life through mutual healing.

The series pictures ordinary flawed characters, making the viewers able to relate to their pains as if they are their own. Narrated in the perspective of a young woman who has long given up with the miserable life she had to live, My Mister takes you to a breathtaking acceptance of how happiness never amounts to the level of success, fame and money, but by living life to the fullest.

2018 korean dramas


Partners For Justice

Partners For Justice is reminiscent of the feel Western crime TV series usually imbibes. That if it goes for more seasons to come, I would gladly remain loyal as a fan. It has mastered an approach to make crime stories not too emotionally taxing to watch, and the diverse human atrocities depicted are carefully selected and given proper redemption. It was a surprise favorite for me this year, given how I did not have any expectations of how it would go about when I first read the synopsis.

2018 korean dramas


Something In The Rain

Taking subtle storytelling that is focused on the bliss and complication of the love tale, viewers would be immersed to cheer for the fulfillment of the romance which is belatedly realized, crazily enjoyed, and painfully let go in Something In The Rain.

The series reinvents the romance drama landscape with how it fervently keeps the serenity of the storytelling by its heartfelt dialogues and spontaneous scenarios.

2018 korean dramas


The Grand Prince

Grand Prince announces its presence through an engaging symphony of love and drama, involving a woman caught in between the affection of two Joseon princes. The grandiose design, powered by indelible portrayals of the actors, makes up the familiar contours of classic historical masterpiece which we have loved in the past, visibly evident in this new spectacle.

As the only period drama aired in the first half of the year, Grand Prince superbly unravels the poignant events of the story.  It drives a balanced energy by incorporating the trademark political strife of historical dramas and cushioning it with the romance elements of the story.

It secures a well-blended serious and bright notes, while drawing the viewers to its stunning love tale. The seamless narration easily navigates the viewers to the compass of the narrative.


Lawless Lawyer

One unambiguous conflict plus precise hero-villain showdown makes Lawless Lawyer a thrilling crime drama that does not suffer with pointless plot insertion and indecisive characters. The airtight narration consistently conforms to the shifting of the plot bends.

It banks on a sane trajectory approaching the solid portrayals of the lead cast and facile story thread of crime, and its deserving punishment. The approach to bank on the powerhouse cast in terms of trusted acting prowess pays off to reach a fulfilling culmination.

The attention to whirl within the borders of its courtroom premise is made more clear-cut owing to the well-utilized cast. If you like hero-centric stories with the right mixture of drama and action, Lawless Lawyer Lee Jun Ki will be happy to serve you.


What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?

There was no wasted episode in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? – even with the parade of acceptable cliches. The engrossing mood explained well the immense following it generated throughout its run.

While it does not have a neatly written and creatively imagined plot, it is still an enjoyable watch to make you smile and laugh. It relies on the perfect execution of the couple’s love journey and targeted people, who prefer a light and comfy story full of romance and heart-flutters.

2018 korean dramas


Mr. Sunshine

Looking back, Mr. Sunshine took a simple route following how period set stories are usually done. We got the historical problem scenario to spur the web of the events, the heroes and the villains to move inside it, and the path to a satisfying closure. Furthermore, the quality of the cinematic experience of every episode is one for the books, that even with its somber tone, it would yield a trance moment for you to appreciate its worth.

But it was the expressive depictions and garnished screenplay execution that made Mr. Sunshine a force to reckon.


Miss Hammurabi

Weighing the judgment on who deserves to be gratified, Miss Hammurabi gives off a consoling effect as it courageously probes in showing how human flaws and pains either motivate or shatter a person.

Although slightly sprinkled, romance is not an integral plot game-changer for Miss Hammurabi. Humor is evident, but it is the overall design of the main leads’ growth coinciding with the lessons they learned from the legal problems they handled – that makes jTBC’s legal story a must-watch drama you should include to your list.

 


My ID Is Gangnam Beauty

My ID is Gangnam Beauty thankfully proves how youth dramas does not warrant immature characters, while treading on excess baggage of being young, chasing dreams, and discovering love.

It easily hooks due to its refreshing mood, and successfully elevates its game through romantic notes in the waning episodes.

One of those rare few youth dramas that I gladly recommend if I will be asked for K-drama suggestions on the spot; because of its nicely paced, decently acted, and engaging overall appeal.


Life On Mars

The remake has the feel and essence of the original series but also adds a Korean feel to it, which makes for a successful adaptation. From the props to the music, the production team put so much effort in capturing the authentic feel of that time. The conflicts, crimes, villains and the characters’ back stories provided much intrigue that makes it an enjoyable watch.


100 Days My Prince

If you’ve grown tired of watching the same story about people having bloody and scheming fights over the throne – whether it be Joseon’s, Goryeo’s, or Silla’s, then 100 Days My Prince’s slightly fluffier take on palace wars is definitely for you. The drama focuses more on the love story between its two lead characters, rather than the fight for the throne.

Beware when we say fluffy though. Because as light-hearted and funny the most of the drama is, there are also several moments when we almost wanted to enter the screen and showed the characters a piece of our mind. Hint? Well, we all know that historical dramas are not historical dramas without character deaths which crush our hearts, right?


My Secret Terrius

MBC scored one of the best series for 2018 in My Secret Terrius. Creatively conceived in complete package, it even included extra perk for fulfilling the dreams of So Ji Sub fans to see right before their very eyes the imaginary romance they all dream of with him — a picture of him taking care of children plus doing house chores like a dream husband. *wink

For its polished and lively screenplay and sane story direction, it is one drama worth adding to your watch list.

my secret terrius


The Smile Has Left Your Eyes

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes put me on that realization on how I underestimated melodramas to be just relying on tears and series of unfortunate events to whirl its narrative. If given proper treatment, even with bare setting along with essential conflicts and characters, it can paint an idyllic picture that goes back to one of the fundamental goals of storytelling — providing clear inspiration to its viewers.

Brilliantly penned, portrayed and executed, it has streamed to one of the best melodramas in the recent years. What you can change to because of love, and to which extent you would be willing to go to for that same love, are the questions answered in the thrilling strips of this series.

2018 korean dramas


The Third Charm

The Third Charm is reminiscent of the feel I had with heartwarming romance drama Because This Is My First Life, in the sense that the love lessons cut deep to people who have experienced the anguish that always comes with heartfelt adoration we feel for someone.

In a sea of Korean romantic dramas, it is rare to find an unfeigned love story. Most often than not, avid followers can already predict the flow of the narrative. Hence, going an extra mile with a simple love premise is already a feat hard to accomplish.


The Guest

The Guest is the kind of drama that grows on you. Sure, the premise is dark and horrifying, which may be reasonably enough to scare some people away. However, every episode manages to keep your attention and makes you want to know what would happen next.

This series focuses on eerie supernatural events that may or may not transpire in real life, but all throughout its entire run, it is centered on only one subject – humanity.

Faith, friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, hope, and the will to survive are just some of the things that makes us human and The Guest was able to touch on these things, even the darkest side of each.


Memories of the Alhambra

Sans the safe landing, and if we were given a definite answer if Jin Woo’s return in the game also transcends to his real life, the series would have been perfect.

Memories of the Alhambra still scores high among the dramas I saw in the recent years owing to how it kept surprising me with its imaginative premise and well-utilized cast.

It was all magnificently gliding up to the last episode that I refuse to wallow in the frustrating last note of the series. Still my drama-to-beat parameter for parade of 2019 Korean dramas this season.


SKY Castle

Beautiful on its own right, SKY Castle was not something spectacular that ever graced K-Drama land to be honest. If we mull over the lessons from its fictional world perspective, all those family dramas are honestly sad realities, which can make the viewers retrospect.

All the four featured families had imparted indispensable lessons about family relationship, parental failures and marital hitches. Depicting the debilitating pressure of youth on strengthening their education merits for their future was another excellent highlight.

On that note, presenting the disheartening truth of how educational attainment has been an agonizing criterion that contributes to one’s success is my takeaway for all the crazy sentiments I got from SKY Castle. Pictured in context of privileged mothers, I think the rolled complication can appeal to all mothers regardless of economic status.


Photos: KBS | SBS | MBC | tvN | OCN | JTBC

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