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The Best Korean Dramas in the Past Decade (The 2010s)

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Arensshi is a fan of Korean Pop Culture. She has been following the industry since 2009. She loves to talk about anything Korean.

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The past decade has surely been such a great time for Korean pop culture, especially for Korean television series which are also known as K-dramas. Yes, Korean dramas were already a hit throughout Asia during the 2000s, but it was in the past decade that they boomed and spread all over the world. Koreans have produced hundreds of high-quality dramas over the past ten years. Because of that, it is really difficult to choose which one is the cream of the crop. In this article, let us find out which show owned the crown for being the top K-drama each year in the 2010s.

2010: Secret Garden

Episodes: 20
Cast:
Ha Ji-won as Gil raIm
Hyun Bin as Kim Joo Won
Yoon Sang-hyun as Oska
Kim Sa-rang as Yoon Seul
MyDramaList Rating: 8.3
Date Aired: November 13, 2010, to January 16, 2011
Available On: Netflix, WeTv, Viki, SBS World, Apple Tv, Kocowa


Synopsis:

Secret Garden is a bit of a Cinderella-type drama with a fantasy twist. It follows the love story of an average stuntwoman named Gil Ra Im and an obnoxious company CEO named Kim Joo Won. As if the difference in their social and financial status wasn't complicated enough, their souls even started switching bodies.


Why is it the best K-drama of 2010?

2010 was the year of romantic-fantasy stories and out of all the dramas that were released back then, Secret Garden was the most popular one. The show broke records with its ratings and has garnered numerous awards. It even created the phenomenon called the "Hyun Bin Syndrome", which depicted Hyun bin's superstar status which skyrocketed more after he portrayed the main male character of this show. He was so popular during that time that his face was plastered all over media platforms such as newspapers, television, the internet, and more.

2010 Best Korean Dramas Special Mentions:

Personal Taste

Dong Yi

My Girlfriend is a Gumiho

2011: City Hunter

Episodes: 20
Cast:
Lee Min-ho as Lee Yoon-sung / Poochai
Park Min-young as Kim Na-na
MyDramaList Rating: 8.4
Date Aired: 25 May –28 July 2011
Available On: Viki, Apple Tv

Synopsis:

City Hunter is a South Korean live-action adaptation of a Japanese comic with the same name. This version follows the story of Lee Yoon Sung, a brilliant employee who is a part of the communications team in the Blue House, as he takes revenge on five powerful men for the death of his father.


Why is it the best K-drama of 2011?

2011 continued the legacy of 2010 in producing high-quality Korean dramas. City Hunter was one of these. It gained positive reviews from critics and the general audience alike. The series was a commercial success and maintained very high ratings during its run. It also cemented Lee Min Ho's status as a top-quality actor for he garnered multiple awards for his performance in this show. City Hunter is perfect to watch when you crave revenge plots and sick action scenes in your dramas.

2011 Best Korean Dramas Special Mentions:

The Greatest Love

Dream High

49 Days

Lie to Me

2012: Moon Embracing The Sun

Episodes: 20
Cast:
Kim Soo-hyun as Lee Hwon, King of Joseon
Han Ga-in as Lady HeoYeon-woo / Shaman Wol
Yeo Jin-goo as 15-year-old Lee Hwon, Crown Prince of Joseon
Kim Yoo-jung as 13-year-old Lady HeoYeon-woo

Date Aired: January 4 –March 15, 2012
MyDramaList Rating: 8.4
Available On: Netflix, WeTv, Viki, iflix, Apple Tv, Kocowa

Synopsis:

Moon Embracing the Sun is a historical drama that follows the love story between a king and a lowly shaman.


Why is it the best K-drama of 2012?

When you say that the top drama of 2012 is Moon Embracing the Sun, I am sure that nobody will fight you. The series was so popular in South Korea that its final episode garnered a whopping 42.3% ratings nationwide. It was also released in different parts of the world. In the Philippines, this K-Drama was shown on television without commercial breaks, which is a great feat that not even local shows achieved during that time.

2012 Best Korean Dramas Special Mentions:

King 2 Hearts

Rooftop Prince

Love Rain

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2013: Empress Ki

Episodes: 51
Cast:
Ha Ji Won as Empress Ki
Ji Chang Wook as ToghonTemur/Ta Hwan
Joo Jin Mo as Wang Yoo

Date Aired: October 28, 2013 – April 29, 2014
MyDramaList Rating: 8.6
Available On: Netflix, Viki, Apple Tv, Kocowa


Synopsis:

This show is a fictional take on the life of Empress Ki, the wife of Toghon Temur and the empress of the Yuan Dynasty.


Why is it the best K-drama of 2013?


Despite the numerous controversies it faced, Empress Ki is still a force to be reckoned with. It was top-rating when it was shown in South Korea and even earned the top spot in its timeslot with a peak viewership of 33.9%. It was successful overseas as well. This Korean drama was coined as the best foreign drama of 2014 in Taiwan, and it maintained a double-digit rating in the Philippines when it premiered there. Furthermore, this drama also catapulted Ji Chang Wook into the mainstream media and international viewers. His pairing with Ha Ji Won's character in the drama was so iconic that it pioneered a major change in the show's plot itself.
A big part of Empress Ki's success is thanks to the well-written plot, strong acting skills, and captivating cinematography.

2013 Best Korean Dramas Special Mentions:

My Love from the Stars

The Heirs

I Hear Your Voice

The Master's Sun

2014: It's Okay that's Love


Episodes: 16
Cast:
Jo In Sung as Jang Jae Yeol
Gong Hyo Jin as Jae Hye Soo

Date Aired: July 23,2014-September 11, 2014
MyDramaList Rating: 8.6
Available On: Netflix, Viki, We Tv, Kocowa


Synopsis:

It's Okay That's Love is a K-drama that tackles and breaks the stigma about people who have mental health issues. It tells the love story between a novelist and a psychiatrist, who are both dealing with emotional and mental struggles. Together, they help each other heal from their traumas.


Why is it the best K-drama of 2014?

This is the best k-drama of 2014 not because it was the most known one that year, but because it was the drama that gave us the most inspiration during that time. It opened many people's eyes to the situation of people who are mentally ill. Besides, even though its ratings were not that high, it still maintain a double-digit percentage of viewership, and it was such an iconic series that people still talk about it up to this day.

2014 Best Korean Dramas Special Mentions:

Fated to Love You

Healer

Emergency Couple

Birth of a Beauty

2015: Kill Me Heal Me


Episodes: 20
Cast:
Ji Sung as Cha Do Hyeon
Hwang Jung Eum as Oh Ri Jin
Park SeoJoon as Oh Ri On
Date Aired: January 7, 2015 – March 12, 2015
MyDramaList Rating: 8.7
Available On: Netflix, Viki, Apple Tv, Kocowa, China Huace TV

Synopsis:

Another series that is about mental health, Kill Me Heal Me is a K-drama that talks about the story of a man who has seven different personalities inside him and a beautiful psychiatrist who is determined to help him manage his life.


Why is it the best K-drama of 2015?

Just like It's Okay that's Love, Kill Me Heal Me is another iconic drama that tackles the struggles of people who are far different from being normal. Its plot was so unique and intriguing that it captured the hearts of the viewers. Aside from that, the performances of the actors in this drama are truly note-worthy. This is most especially true of Ji Sung's portrayal of Cha Do Hyeon and seven of his personalities.

2015 Best Korean Dramas Special Mentions:

Pinocchio

Who are You: School 2015

Oh my Venus

2016: Descendants of the Sun

Episodes: 16
Cast:
Song Joong Ki as Yoo Shi Jin
Song Hye Kyo as Dr. Kang Mo Yeon
Date Aired: February 24, 2016 – April 24, 2016
MyDramaList Rating: 8.7
Available On: Netflix, Viki, We Tv, Hulu, Apple TV, iflix


Synopsis:

Descendants of the Sun is a love story between a surgeon and a Special Forces officer. This is a beautiful drama that deals with the ironies of dating a person with opposite principles especially when it comes to life and death.


Why is it the best K-drama of 2016?

Before Descendants of the Sun, the K-drama scene was already dying. This show brought back the excitement for Korean dramas and its impact extended to the economy of South Korea. It was able to boost the number of Korean tourists, the number of exports, and more. It was also very popular in many countries outside South Korea. Its popularity in China even threatened the Chinese government! Descendants of the Sun credits its success to its simple but impactful storyline, good performance of the actors, and brilliant screenplay.

2016 Best Korean Dramas Special Mentions:

Weightlifting fairy Kim Book Jo

Scarlet Heart

Dr. Romantic

Goblin

Legend of the Blue Sea

© 2022 Arensshi

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