K-Drama

The 10 Best K-Dramas of 2023: Staff Picks

From new seasons of The Glory and D.P. to other series like Mask Girl and Moving, here are some of the best K-dramas to catch in 2023.

HallyuSG

| December 30, 2023
K-Dramas
The Best K-Dramas of 2023. Photos: Press; Illustration: HallyuSG

Besides K-pop tracks, 2023 was a year where we saw quite a good number of K-dramas. More sombre ones were talking about pertinent societal issues like bullying, hazing and objectification of women. Some K-dramas like The Glory and D.P. also got new seasons.

Others also raised awareness for certain overlooked sections of society, which made the series a heartwarming and comforting watch altogether. Read on for HallyuSG’s staff picks for the best K-dramas of the year.

Editor’s Note: The K-dramas listed below are numbered in no particular order of merit.


1. The Glory Part 2

This slow-burn revenge series is a satisfying watch with Song Hye-kyo as its main lead, playing Moon Dong-eun. Lee Do-hyun plays Joo Yeo-jeong, her beau in the series. Its storyline is already familiar to many, a school teenage bully incident morphed into a tormentuous revenge plot. What makes The Glory shine, is the depth that Dong-eun goes to take revenge, which makes the series all the more gripping with her overblown revenge plan. Aside, there are other subplots in the series that add to its already juicy storyline.

There isn’t too much to nitpick about the drama itself. But its aftermath was slightly problematic, with both the director and a cast member embroiled in real-life controversies. – AVIER TAN

2. Moving

Moving stars Lee Jung-ha, Go Youn-jung and Kim Do-hoon as classmates who train to control their special abilities and put them to good use. All while learning to keep a low profile. With superpowers inherited from their parents, the drama follows the trio as they try to keep themselves, and their families out of sight and out of harm’s way. 

The drama also stars Han Hyo-joo alongside her veteran counterpart Zo In-sung and Ryu Seung-ryong. The cast flaunted their strong chemistry and physical stamina in this exciting action-packed series. Its visual effects and motion graphics were also so stunning that it even bagged multiple awards. – ESTHER LOW

3. Mask Girl

Mask Girl begins as a social satire with a dose of black comedy. It explores the themes of unrealistic beauty standards, societal pressure, sexual desires and objectification. The story centres around Kim Mo-mi (played by three actresses) — an ordinary office worker by day, but a masked, live-stream personality by night. Her double life soon gets exposed in the series.

Behind the deeper messages it intends to bring across, Mask Girl is visually appealing with its fair share of glitz and glamour. On the flip side, there’s that bit of thriller and suspense too. Unlike other K-dramas, viewers may find this series slightly colder. But we’re not surprised, since it’s yet another signature masterpiece from director Park Chan-wook. – A.T.

4. Revenant

This thriller mystery series centres around the theme of doors; being an entrance to the other world. The drama follows Gu San-yeong, played by Kim Tae-ri, a civil service exam-taker struggling to make ends meet. She then meets Yeom Hae-sang, played by Oh Jung-se, a professor and exorcist who can see demons. 

The show takes viewers through a suspenseful and horror-filled adventure, where San-yeong and Jung-se collaborate to investigate the mysterious deaths and the five sacred objects related to these cases. It’s easily one of the dramas of the year – owing to its gripping storyline and the show-stopping acting skills of the cast. Special mention to Kim Tae-ri’s acting prowess, successfully bringing out the dual personalities of her character. – BELINDA POH

5. Daily Dose of Sunshine

This Netflix drama is inspired by the webtoon Morning Comes To The Mental Ward, a direct translation of its Korean title. The story is based on the actual life events of Jung Da-eun, a competent psychiatric nurse at Myungshin University Hospital. 

Park Bo-young plays Da-eun and takes viewers on her interactive journey with various patients as she assimilates into her work. It’s a journey of compassion with her as she explores the subject of mental health in South Korea. This heartwarming and healing drama carefully tears down barriers and prejudices and generates awareness about mental well-being. Daily Dose of Sunshine is a beacon of hope for more empathy and acceptance of mental illness in our society today. – E.L.

6. Twinkling Watermelon

Twinkling Watermelon is a coming-of-age and youth drama about hopes and dreams beautifully presented. It hits differently as opposed to other K-dramas, as it creates awareness in the deaf community too.

The series tells the story of a gifted CODA (child of deaf adult) student, played by Ryeoun. He goes back in time to 1995 through a mysterious music shop and meets his 18-year-old father to start a band. The 16-part series is heartwarming, like comfort food for the soul. This inclusive drama also strikes a delicate balance between educating and entertaining viewers. A must-watch indeed. – E.L.

7. True To Love

A rather underrated Disney+ series, this drama follows Yeon Bora, played by Yoo In-na, a best-selling dating advice book author and renowned dating coach as she navigates her love life. Ironically, despite being a dating coach, her dating life seems to be especially turbulent. She then meets Lee Soo-hyuk, played by Yoon Hyun-min, a publisher planner. The two have contrasting personalities, with Yeon being a hopeless romantic while Lee is the exact opposite. 

Due to their personality clashes, they experience conflicts, but have no choice but to work together. True to Love is perfect for comforting and entertaining the hopeless romantics, or just those who are looking for a classic enemies-to-lovers plot. – B.P.

8. The Escape of the Seven

From the creators behind Penthouse, this makjang (exaggerated plots or extreme) drama reunited Penthouse actors Uhm Ki-joon, Yoon Jong-hoon and Shin Eun-kyung in this roller-coaster revenge series. 

The drama revolves around seven adults, each with their intentions and desires embroiled in the disappearance of a girl. While seeking the truth, these seven high-society members face bloody retributions. Like the well-received Penthouse, The Escape of the Seven has its fair share of twists and turns. With bloodshed and betrayal, this intense drama is for the ones who look for extremity and unpredictability. – E.L.

9. D.P. 2

An Jun-ho (Jung Hae-in) and Han Ho-yeol (Koo Kyo-hwan) return in the second instalment of D.P. to chase deserters yet again. We are taken on Jun-ho’s journey in his attempts to run away. Viewers can also experience his emotions during this cat-and-mouse race, as thoughts of how he will evade his pursuers, and where he will run to, surface.

This short series continues to highlight the pertinent issue of bullying as the dynamic duo fights for change. If you’re uncomfortable with violence, think twice before starting the series. But for the others who can sit through it, D.P. 2 is a relatable drama that sheds light on a problematic matter that plagues different societies today. – E.L.

10. The Good Bad Mother

The Good Bad Mother tells the tale of a driven prosecutor Kang-ho (Lee Do-hyun) who is left physically disabled and with a child-like mind after a tragic accident. Veteran actress Ra Mi-ran plays the main matriarch as his domineering and overbearing single mother. The accident forces the mother-son duo to begin their path of healing and forgiveness in this genre-defying drama that has comedy, drama and emotional moments all infused together.

This healing series has its fair share of plot twists as it does its melodramatic and funny moments. The Good Bad Mother is a breath of fresh air as it delves into the subtleties of a mother-child relationship that is relatable and makes for good food for thought. – E.L.

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