2021 seems like it’s shaping up to be a brilliant year for a slew of exciting new Korean dramas. From those that are currently airing new episodes to ones slated to be broadcasted this year, here are the ones you don’t want to miss (watch this space for updates).
What it’s about: If you prefer a more light-hearted series that includes a few laughs but all of the drama, put Mr Queen on your to-watch list.
Starring Shin Hye-sun and Kim Jung-hyun, the first episode aired in in December last year, and it marries the treacherous royal palace period drama with a comedic body-swap.
It starts with lead character Jang Bong-hwan, the arrogant head chef for the president in the Blue House, who later finds himself unemployed and questioned by detectives.
After slipping from his balcony and into the pool, he encounters a mysterious woman and suddenly wakes up in a strange place.
Not only has he travelled back to the Joseon era, he’s turned into a woman – Kim So-yong (Shin Hye-sun) – and about to marry King Cheol-jong (Kim Jung-hyun) to become Queen Cheorin.
As he tries to fit in with the court’s strict social decorum, he has to somehow try to find a way to refill the lakes – which have been drained – jump back in and return to his body in the present.
Available on Viu.
What it’s about: If you aren’t already hooked on this, you’ll want to tune in. Touching on teen insecurities and Korean culture’s obsession with beauty, the drama is adapted from a hugely popular webtoon of the same name by Yaongyi, and made it to the silver screen in December last year.
Moon Ga-young plays 18-year-old Ju-kyoung, who is cruelly bullied at school for her looks and has an inferiority complex. However, she gets massively popular after mastering the art of makeup through video tutorials.
Determined to hide her real face after enrolling at a new school, she also gets entangled with not one but two love interests (played by Hwang In-yeop and Cha Eun-woo).
Sure, the plot does border on exaggeration and slight cheesiness, for the most part, but the cast’s performance, fun graphics, and set design, and humorous elements are likely to steal your heart.
Available on Viu.
The Royal Secret Agent
What it’s about: Another period drama set during the close of the Joseon era, it follows the story of Sung Yi-gyum (Kim Myung-soo), who placed first in the state examination and now works at the Hongmungwan (administrative and research department).
After getting caught gambling, he is assigned to work as a secret royal inspector to eradicate corruption among government officials, with the help of female inspector Hong Da-in (Kwon Na-ra) and his servant Park Chun-sam (Lee Yi-kyung).
Available on iQIYI.
Sisyphus: The Myth
Up for lots of action? You’re likely to see plenty of action scenes, gunfights and explosions in Sisyphus: The Myth.
This fantasy-mystery drama sees actors Cho Seung Woo and Park Shin Hye fending off mysterious hidden beings as genius engineer Han Tae Sool and his saviour Kang Seo Hae.
Han Tae Sool’s ability in engineering and coding has set mysterious figures residing in our world after him, and he embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. Kang Seo Hae believes that if she saves him, he can save the world.
The pair then join forces to create a future different from the one that they are stuck in.
“Sisyphus: The Myth” is slated to premiere in Feb 2021.
What it’s about: Starring lead actors Jung Hae-in and K-pop band Blackpink’s Jisoo, the cast also includes familiar faces like Yoo In-na and Kim Hye-yoon.
Created by ‘Sky Castle’ director and writer, Jo Hyun-tak and Yoo Hyun-mi, the show is set in 1987, and showcases the love story of Soo Ho (Jung Hae-in), a student at a prestigious university, and fellow student Eun Young-cho (Jisoo). Soo Ho barges into a female dorm one day while covered in blood.
There, Young Cho helps hide him from his pursuers and cares for him despite the risks.
However, what Soo-Ho doesn’t realise is that the two previously met at a blind date, and Young-Cho had already fallen in love with him.
‘Snowdrop’ is expected to premiere in 2021.
What it’s about: Apple’s international drama series Pachinko stars Lee Min Ho of Boys Over Flower fame as well as American actor Jin Ha, and is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee.
Set in the 20th century, the family saga follows four generations of a Korean family as they move to Japan, amid the country’s colonisation of Korea and other seismic political and cultural shifts.
Lee Min Ho plays Hansu, an enigmatic outsider and merchant with ties to organised crime, while Jin Ha portrays Solomon, an ambitious, charming young man who is forced to deal with his family’s past.
Pachinko is slated to be released on Apple TV+ in 2021.
Hospital Playlist 2
What it’s about: The second season of the medical drama “Hospital Playlist” will also return to the small screen this year.
This drama series follows the stories of doctors, nurses and patients at the Yulje Medical Center. It is centred around five doctors who have been friends since entering medical school in 1999.
The cast sees Cho Jung-seok, Yoo Yeon-Seok, Yoo Yeon-seok, Kim Dae-myung and Jeon Mi-do. It’s directed by Shin Won Ho, who is behind the Reply franchise and Prison Playbook.
Hospital Playlist 2 is slated to premiere in April 2021. Season 1 is available on Netflix.
Arthdal Chronicles 2
What it’s about: Fans of Song Joong-ki will get to see him back in the Arthdal Chronicles 2. Other leading stars include Jan Dong-gun, Kim Ji-Won and Kim Ok-vin.
The period drama is set in the mythical land of Arth, with the inhabitants of the ancient city of Arthdal and its surrounding regions vying for power as they build a new society.
In the second season, expect to be held in suspense by the same power struggles that prevailed in season one.
Arthdal Chronicles 2 is slated to premiere in 2021. Season 1 is available on Netflix.
Kingdom: Ashin of the North
It’s a spin-off from season two of the popular Kingdom, which a mix of a period drama and a zombie thriller that is based on the webcomic series The Kingdom of the Gods.
This bonus story offers a backstory about the mysterious character, Ashin (played by Gianna Jun), Joseon crown prince Lee Chang’s (Ju Ji-hoon) group encountered on their journey north to discover the origins of the infected.
Kingdom: Ashin of the North is slated to premiere in 2021. Kingdom seasons one and two are available on Netflix.
This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly.