Best K-dramas of 2020 | Sunday Observer

Best K-dramas of 2020

3 January, 2021
When the Weather is Fine
When the Weather is Fine
Korean dramas – or K-dramas as they are more commonly called – have come a long way since my parents’ days. In the 1980s and 1990s, just about every Korean-owned grocery store in the US had a little section where shoppers could rent a VHS tape of illegally copied South Korean programs. Yes, the quality was awful. But when that’s all you had to get a taste of home, you’ll gladly rent it for a buck or two.

Flash forward to 2020, when K-dramas are accessible to stream 24/7 with a variety of subtitles for viewers who don’t understand Korean. While they may not understand the original language, fans worldwide have fallen in love with the K-drama trifecta: the one-season-and-done concept, the second male lead who threatens to win the female lead’s heart, and the gorgeous actors and actresses who pretend that their 20 and 30-something characters have never been in relationships. Ever. What’s not to love, right?

Check out 11 shows from last year that should definitely be on your watch list:

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Kim Soo-hyun’s first series since being discharged from mandatory military duty beautifully tackles mental health issues within its vigorous storyline, in which he plays Moon Gang-tae, who is struggling to keep up the facade that he’s okay with being the selfless guardian for his older brother. Seo Ye-ji is icy perfection in her portrayal of a macabre children’s book author. And as Gang-tae’s autistic older brother, Sang-tae, Oh Jung-se is phenomenal in his portrayal of the hyung who doesn’t want to be a burden. The series finale offers hope and a sense of peace. But it will also make even the most stoic viewers tear up.

The Penthouse

This K-drama starts off with the most makjang (or exaggerated) storyline of the year. As a very rich woman takes the elevator down from her 100th floor penthouse apartment, she witnesses a young girl falling, surely to her death. The teenager lands in the arms of a statue. This deliciously gripping female-centric series revolves around rival classical singers and includes a (dun dun dun!) switched-at-birth plot twist. Did I mention that one of male characters has a torture chamber in his home, because, why not? Mixed in with the outrageous content is a parable about the haves and the have nots.


The sexual tension between Kim Hye-soo and Ju Ji-hoon is palatable in this fast-moving legal procedural. She is a scrappy attorney who isn’t above getting dirty to get the job done. He believes he’s better than her in every way, yet he can’t manage to beat her in court. When they team up, they appear unstoppable, as they attempt to take down the head of a tony law firm that is anything but above board.


After their parents divorce, one daughter (played by Bae Suzy) stays with their idealistic father, while the other (Kang Han-na) moves to the US with their mother and rich stepdad. In their 20s, both sisters end up competing with each other as they start up their own tech businesses. More than any series in recent memory, this K-drama has a second male lead (Kim Seon-ho) who is so charismatic that his storyline often overshadows that of the very handsome lead (Nam Joo-hyuk). Start-Up reinforces the idea that no matter how fractured a family is, the ties remain – for better or worse.

Flower of Evil

Lee Joon-gi’s character Hee-Sung is an artist who has a past he’s trying to keep hidden. Moon Chae-won is his detective wife Ji-Won, who has loved him since she was a teenager. Even when he appears to be a serial killer, she can’t help but call him jagiya—which literally means that he is hers. The ending is ambiguous, but leaves room for a positive future.

When the Weather is Fine

It’s beautiful to watch the romance between Park Min-Young and Seo Kang-Joon’s Hae-won and Eun-Seob slowly unfold. One time high school classmates, the cellist and indie bookstore owner are reunited in the small town where they grew up. But just as heartwarming is the camaraderie between the townspeople, which harkens to a time when neighbors watched out for one another and had a real sense of community. The series also tackles how debilitating past traumas can be when they are pushed aside, rather than dealt with and acknowledged.