Each month, polling website KingChoice runs different polls on different topics in Korean entertainment, from the most popular K-Pop idols to the best songs or most handsome actors, and everything in between! For November, they ran a month-long poll for fans to vote for their favorite K-Drama of 2021. While some of the top choices did come out this year, others are older classics that are still highly popular today! After over 4.3 million votes, here are the top 10 choices for the best dramas of the year.
10. Hospital Playlist
While the first season of Hospital Playlist ran from early to mid-2020, the second season ran from June to September of this year, just recently wrapping up on September 16! The K-Drama stars Jo Jung Suk, Yoo Yeon Seok, Jung Kyung Ho, Kim Dae Myung, and Jeon Mi Do, and the first episode of the second season set the record for the highest premiere ratings tvN‘s history!
The show follows five doctors in their 40s who have been friends since they attended medical school, and it “revolves around the group of friends as they embark on hospital adventures involving medicine, music, and relationships”.
Vincenzo aired on tvN from February 20 to May 2 this year, and stars Song Joong Ki, Jeon Yeo Been, Ok Taec Yeon, Kim Yeo Jin, and Kwak Dong Yeon. It has the fourth highest-rated premiere for a drama on tvN, the ninth highest-rated drama in Korean cable history at the time of its airing, and the sixth highest-rated drama on tvN specifically.
The series follows Joong Ki’s character Park Joo Young as he joins the Italian mafia and later has to flee after an attempt on his life by his adopted father’s biological son. Upon returning to Seoul, and with the help of the “quirky tenants” at Geumga Plaza, he has to use his skills to reclaim his fortunes that he left in the basement of the plaza, which has been illegally taken over by a real estate company.
8. When the Weather Is Fine
When the Weather Is Fine aired from February 24 to April 21, 2020, and stars Seo Kang Joon and Park Min Young. Though it doesn’t have any viewership ranking awards, it was clearly still a hit among fans since it ranked at #8 on this list!
The series follows a young cellist that quits her job in Seoul to a small village where she lived briefly while in high school, and reunites with a former classmate who now runs a bookstore. It follows the pair of them as they fall in love as they bond through a cold and harsh winter.
7. Zombie Detective
Zombie Detective aired from September 21 to October 27, 2020, and stars Choi Jin Hyuk and Park Ju Hyun. The series won an award at the 18th KBS Entertainment Awards, and also featured the members of A.C.E in an episode as zombie dancers!
The series follows the story of a man who wakes up one day as a zombie with no memory of his past. He teams up with a former investigative journalist to discover the mystery behind the existence of zombies.
6. Squid Game
Of course, the list wouldn’t be complete without Squid Game! The series became available on Netflix on September 17 this year, after 10 years of being unable to find a production company to fund the idea. It stars a large main and supporting case including Lee Jung Jae, Park Hae Soo, Wi Ha Joon, Jung Ho Yeon, O Yeong Su, Heo Sung Tae, Anupam Tripathi, and Kim Joo Ryoung.
With a theme about the class disparity in South Korea, Squid Game shows the story of a man participating in a series of deadly games along with 455 other desperately in debt competitors in order to win ₩45.6 billion.
5. Crash Landing on You
Crash Landing On You is one of the older series on this list, airing from December 14, 2019 to February 16, 2020, and stars Hyun Bin, Son Ye Jin, Kim Jung Hyun, and Seo Ji Hye. It’s still the highest-rated drama on tvN and the third highest-rated drama in Korean television history!
The show follows the story of a successful South Korean businesswoman and chaebol heiress who crash lands in the North Korean portion of the DMZ after getting caught in a storm while paragliding. She ends up meeting an army captain in the Korean People’s Army who decides he will help her hide, and over time, they fall in love despite the divide between their respective countries.
4. Flower of Evil
Flower of Evil aired from July 29 until September 23, 2020, and stars Lee Joon Gi, Moon Chae Won, Jang Hee Jin, and Seo Hyun Woo. It has been nominated for a dozen different awards and won three of them, with two of the awards going to Lee Joon Gi specifically.
The series follows what seems to be a perfect marriage between a man and his detective wife, but as she investigates a series of unexplained murders, she realizes that her husband might be hiding something from her about his past.
3. The King: Eternal Monarch
The King: Eternal Monarch premiered on Netflix on April 17, 2020, and stars Lee Min Ho, Kim Go Eun, Woo Do Hwan, Kim Kyung Nam, Jung Eun Chae, and Lee Jung Jin. With so many big names in the case, the series was highly anticipated, and ranked number one on different drama charts in terms of viewership and ratings.
The series is about an emperor of the Kingdom of Corea that discovers an alternate reality of the Republic of Korea through a magic door opened by his half-uncle, who assassinated the previous king and has committed atrocities that must be stopped.
2. Mr. Queen
Mr. Queen aired from December 12, 2020 until February 14, 2021 on tvN, and stars Shin Hye Sun and Kim Jung Hyun. It’s the seventh highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history, and the fifth highest-rated on tvN.
It follows the story of a chef that ends up in the body of Queen Cheorin of the Joseon period, and wife of the reigning monarch of the era, King Cheoljong. Though the king seems like a gentle and easy-going person, the queen discovers that he isn’t what he seems.
1. Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha
And finally, fans voted that Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha was the best K-Drama in 2021! The series aired from August 28 to October 17 this year, and starred Shin Min A, Kim Seon Ho, and Lee Sang Yi. It quickly became one of the highest-rated series on cable television history, and ranked first place during its entire eight-week run, with the last episode earning a 12.665% nationwide rating!
The series follows a dentist living in a big city that loses her job after rightfully accusing the head doctor of overdoing patients’ treatment for profit, and she ends up moving to the seaside village of Gongjin. There, she meets a jack-of-all-trades man who takes care of the village elders and gladly takes on odd jobs, and they end up taking a liking to each other.