Year 2012 has been a very fruitful year of K-dramas for me, probably to many others, another year 2007. Year 2007 hosted a bunch of dramas that I loved, and down the years from 2008-2011, I never thought I’d come across a year just as close. But year 2012 was in all honesty a more eventful (good and bad) year across the board, surprising and shocking in some instances. I guess it’s not that all different in drama world? So, to commemorate my watching of K-dramas (for this freaking LONG) and the quality this year has had to offer, against the laziness nature of mine, I’m going to list down a few best and favs of mine. I may add in a review or 2 somewhere in between (the other bloggers have done wonderful year in reviews so I’m not gonna bore), give a few words and all to sum up my K-drama experience this year. I’m also a lazy bum, so if you see short weird awkward sentences, feel abrupt disconnects in between somewhere.. that’s idleness/writer’s block rearing its ugly head. ;/
So here we go!
I Live in Cheongdam Dong (ILICDD)
This drama may be the drama with the best ever cast ensemble EVER EVER EVER. A bunch of lovelies so perfect in their harmony with each other despite their individual imperfections and warts. No one character is a main character nor a supporting, no single character isn’t as emphasised as the other, everyone has a part to play, an importance no matter how small his role may appear to be. I’m only a lil bit more than halfway thru this 170-ep drama but I already feel so emotionally attached to the CDD family, their dynamics, the emotions that they put us thru (laughs and tears alike) with things that they experience together as one. The cast are all perfectly cast, believable and comfortable in their own, and most importantly, have amazingly palpable chemistry with each other (even between the least compatible in terms of physique and age i.e Hye Ja and Hyun Woo lol). They are really one family that you want to be part of.
A rookie cast with believable chemistry and rapport, giving us a nostalgic experience and look back into our youth and innocence. One of the best surprises this year.
Shut Up Flower Boy Band
Friendship and rivalry plots always get to me. The boys made me laugh and cry with them, feel their joy and pain seeing them grow up as friends and as individuals. Also comprising a bunch of rookie actors who aren’t exactly good actors to begin with, you’d be surprised with the heart they’re capable of conveying amidst their lack of skill.
Can We Get Married
The characters aren’t exactly all that close-knitted as the formerly mentioned, but the ensemble is DAEBAK. I love each and every single character in this drama, despite their flaws and obvious foibles of characters. For once we have characters in dramas who actually talk, communicate and even argue over things that we can relate to in RL. Annoying but never resentful. LOVE.
History of The Salaryman
One of the earlier dramas this year that made me a lunatic. Laughed and died of craziness. The cast were amazing together, had plentiful of chemistry and rapport, made every single scene memorable and enjoyable. Though drama faltered a bit towards the end, cast still managed to hold on and gave us their very best.
Best Rookie Actor
Seo In Guk (Love Rain, Reply 1997)
Love Rain isn’t exactly one worth mentioning, not the best drama to start off with (cuteness but lameness and dragginess overtook later on) but Seo In Guk managed to hold his own pretty well with the minor character he played. He wasn’t very impressionable the least, but for a rookie, I consider his performance to be decent and believable tho OTT to a certain extent. But Reply 1997 was where he began to show potential of being a serious or believable actor. He doesn’t have all the right techniques spot on yet, but I think he has a bit of charm and character of his own, and managed to inject a mix of macho-ness and vulnerability to Yun Jae, making him an emotionally rich character, a personality you can relate to easily. With better honing and venture into different roles, he might be able to pass as a true actor on his own good (he’s a singer, a pretty good one, if you don’t already know).
Jung Jin Woon (Dream High 2)
The drama was utter crappy shit, one of the worst dramas to have ever aired in K-drama history, with no plot, messy character set-ups and ridiculously shitty direction. I endured a whole 10 eps for Jung Jin Woon alone and just cannot give him enough props (along with Kang Sora) for doing his best with the material that he was given. He isn’t nearly as convincing as Seo In Guk, but has that slight spark of potential as an actor. If only drama could have given him the right characterisation as the conflicted Jin Sung, I believe he’d have been able to convince us good enough that he’s got it going as a newbie who hasn’t acted before in anything. But sadly DH2 ruined it all for him, I’m not sure if he’ll ever dare step into the field once more. Once bitten twice shy they say.
Choi Tae Joon (Padam-Padam, Lord of Dramas)
He played Jung Woo Sung’s son in Padam-Padam, a slightly more important role than his most recent feat in Lord of Dramas (as the actor who was asked to drink orange juice in Ep 1 for PPL reasons if you still remember). There were elements of awkwardness in his acting in Padam-Padam, but considering his rookieness, I found his portrayal and acting to be lot less offensive or cringeworthy than the main leads Jung Woo Sung and Han Ji Min. He carried his character with a charm of his own and managed to pull thru despite his lacking skill, infusing in his character with a rebellious naivete without making us dislike or hate him. I don’t know if we will ever get to see him play another important or supporting character, but he sure isn’t forgotten here.
Best Rookie Actress
Jung Eun Ji (Reply 1997)
Pretty much a given without contention. For one who hasn’t acted before in her entire life, or for one who’d merely taken 1 acting lesson prior to shooting, I consider Jung Eun Ji’s acting performance in Reply 1997 a tremendous feat. Her performance wasn’t mindblowing or stellar, but it was amazingly heartfelt and unpretentious. No cover up, no guise of over-acting (even if there was OTT it felt mostly very real and relatable). I think we can credit most of her success in portraying Shi Won’s spunky sassy character to her real nature and her closeness to her Busan roots. But it cannot be denied that the girl’s talent is effervescent enough to even cover up her green-ness and rookieness. Definitely one of the best discoveries this year.
Han Groo (Can We Get Married)
Like Eun Ji, Han Groo debuted as a singer-dancer first. They’re pretty good in what they do, their own forte, but I certainly didn’t expect their talent to extend to acting as well. Han Groo has a very her own kind of way intensity when acting, the way she delivers her performance, it has a kind of emotional grip on people. Unlike Eun Ji who emanates a more earthy relaxed kind of feeling and vibe while acting, Han Groo banks on a lot of inner implosive acting that gets to you, right into your heart. Her take as Dong Bi is lovable if not endearing, tho slightly annoying at times (which character doesn’t annoy in that drama?). I can see a bright future ahead of her, if she chooses to pursue a proper acting career that is.
Most Improved Actor
Sung Joon (Shut Up Flower Boy Band, Can We Get Married)
He first caught my eye in Lie To Me, but not for the best of reasons because I HATED him in that drama. I thought he couldn’t act, was cheesy and tried to look good all the time. But then it turned out that drama was crap and he was given a crappy character to play with. My impression changed drastically after watching Shut Up Flower Boy Band, where he played the conflicted and vulnerable boy band leader Kwon Ji Hyuk who had to make difficult choices and decisions concerning his band’s future. His effort showed during emotional scenes and scenes which required him to hold things in, I was very impressed. But more than anything, it’s his current stint as Jung Hooon in Can We Get Married which is making me love him more and more and more, as an actor. He has improved, even from SUFBB earlier this year, showing that he can nail scenes with heart even tho without the required acting technique, showing us that effort in restrained nuanced acting does make a difference.
Lee Seung Gi (King 2 Hearts):
As an avid fan of Seung Gi, I cannot be more proud with what he’s achieved in King 2 Hearts. I do not think he’s blown everything out of the water with his performance in K2H, as he does have a tendency to overact and over-stretch his expressions a bit too much to make a point. But I was thoroughly overwhelmed, and at most times taken aback by the emotional effort and intensity he’d put into his character King Jae Ha. He showed gripping and riveting emotions never seen before, grabbed our hearts tore them into pieces and made sure they never made it back. I was impressed, never thought he could come this far, one of my favourite emotional performances this year.
Jung Gyeo Woon (History of The Salaryman)
JGW pretty much hit the jackpot this year with History of the Salaryman, a project and character which suited him to a tee. I’ve never been really impressed with his earlier projects and thought his acting merely coasted by the fact that he’s quite my type of good-looking and the fact that he really does chaebol baddie guy pretty spot on. But I really liked what I saw in HoTS, despite the fact that it required him to be all sulky and over-confident all the time, sometimes annoying. He showed instances of softness and susceptibility to vulnerability when required and didn’t go overboard. It may be a one off performance to remember, but I think it’s definitely worth a mention.
Most Improved Actress
Jung Ryeo Won (History of The Salaryman, Lord of Dramas)
Girl rawks everything. From demure sweet nice Lee Go Eun to spunky sassy vulgar Yeo Chi, her vigor is overwhelming, her energy contagious. I cannot even remember how annoying and vapid she was in MNIKSS, it’s as if she’s shed off her old skin and transformed into someone new. Venturing into films and collaborating with solid actors must have done her a good deal. She has improved by leaps and bounds and isn’t looking to back down or regress anytime soon. If she chooses the right projects in future, I can see her going the Im Soo Jung route pretty soon.
Oh Ji Eun (ILICDD)
OJE oh OJE, how I lub you! I have to say I’ve never liked her as an actress prior to ILICDD. Even when she tried her take as the annoyingly demanding GF in 3 Brothers, and the sweet endearing GF in Smile Dong Hae, she just came across as a decent but nothing impressive actress to me. But ILICDD changed everything, it gave her a chance to showcase a lil bit more of her crazy OJE side, allowing her to challenge her own limits. I loved how she appeared to be a lil bit of everything in the drama, clumsy cute funny silly sometimes demanding, over-confident, condescending… she’s awesome in here.
Jung So Min (Can We Get Married)
She showed potential in Bad Guy, annoyed the heck out of me in Playful Kiss, but came back with kickass charm in Can We Get Married as the sassy opinionated but in fact insecure Hye Yoon. A Yoon Eun Hye lookalike to many, but IMO a meatier and ore engaging actress than the former, who could do sass without going over the board, and nail crying scenes without trying to look like a water tap. I don’t think she’s like really good yet, but she’s showed improvement worth mentioning. Gotta admire both her and Sung Joon’s guts in trying roles which are obviously far beyond their age and maturity in RL.
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor
Ryu Deok Hwan (Faith)
I took countless jabs on Faith, on the plot, direction, writing, everything that I can think of, against the hoards of fans who love this drama to bits. But one person stood out, made me appreciate the drama amidst its atrocity, made me appreciate acting in its purest form no matter how small or supporting one character is. King Gong Min, played by the amazingly talented actor who has acted his whole life – Ryu Deok Hwan. Who gave a breathtaking performance as the insecure and passive King thriving to gain the confidence and respect of his nation and subordinates. RDH’s performance was layered, explosive and nuanced at the right moments, gripping and subtle in his connection with the other characters. He was awesome, awesome awesome.
Jo Jung Seok (King 2 Hearts)
I cannot think of a single person who didn’t love bodyguard bot Shi Kyung in K2H to PIECES. I fess I have never seen him act prior to K2H and didn’t expect anything from this actor. But his performance in K2H proved to be a wonderful treat of emotions. He gave Shi Kyung so much life despite him being a stiff and stoic personality. It’s not easy because he had to maintain a certain unaffected look all the time and yet also had to portray Shi Kyung’s inner turmoil and conflicts. He was wonderful. And I do not kid because this actor is far more versatile than he seems, watch Intro to Architecture and you will be SURPRISED.
Choi Mu Seong, Kim Woo Hyun and Oh Sang Hoon (ILICDD)
I had to, I just had to. What would life be without the quirks and hilarious of the 3 stooges in ILICDD? These 3 actors must have one of the most lovable bromance chemistry I have ever seen in K-drama history. All 3 of them are so perfect in harmony, so compatible with each other I cannot break them apart. Their individual performances compliment each other so much I cannot imagine them not being in each others’ company. Thanks to ILICDD, thanks to the awesomeness of the script, these actors got to shine so radiantly in their own roles without overshadowing the other. Without the 3 stooges, there is no FUN!
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress
Park Shi Yeon (Nice Guy)
I cannot think of a better choice this year. Not only did PSY improve tremendously over the years with her choices of projects, she has proven herself worthy as one of the most emotionally riveting and gripping actresses of her generation this year with Nice Guy. Remember how awfully she did in My Girl? Remember how almost everyone hated her back then? Compare that to her earth-shattering performance as Jae Hee in Nice Guy, a performance which shocked viewers. The depth and intensity she infused into Jae Hee was astounding and impressive, making us feel for an unlikeable character like no other. I admit I did feel frustrated over her increasingly evil ways when dealing with Maru, but PSY nailed all those emotions with such vim and vigor that it was difficult not to be emotionally sucked into the shit along with her. I am happy and am proud, this lady’s not to be messed with.
Jung Eun Ji (Reply 1997)
Kim So Hyun (Missing You)
This young girl is a ball of fire, she can burn and she burns vigorously. I might have dropped Missing You due to its incredulous plot directions, but I cannot but admit that Kim So Hyun was one of the driving factors to why I’d given this drama a chance beyond what it deserved in the first place. She’s a kiddo but her take on intensity is jaw-dropping and shocking. YEH sure can do crying scenes like an ace, but nowhere was she near Kim So Hyun the slightest in conveying the essence of Soo Yeon. They way Kim So Hyun conveyed frailty and innocence, it was amazing. This kid’s got so many more years ahead of her, but she’s already acing like a victor on her own.
Yoo In Na (Queen In Hyun’s Man)
I must give special mention to YIN for her lovely performance in QIHM. Although she isn’t as skilled or talented as many others, she breathed an element of freshness and natural cuteness into her character Hee Jin. I think she held herself excellently as a first time leading lady. Cute without being annoying, endearing without being over, she impressed me beyond imagination and belief.
Best Actor (Veteran)
Son Hyun Joo (The Chaser)
You know, I don’t think I have EVER seen a bad or under par performance from Son Hyun Joo, in any of his dramas or films. He is a chameleon, an actor who fuses into each and every single of his characters so easily and effortlessly. Remember the gay-ish and queerest of folk fashion designer in What’s Up Fox? That’s him. Remember the boring old ajusshi who didn’t know how to court girls in Sons of Sol Pharmacy? That’s him. And Son Hyun Joo in The Chaser, brilliant amazing awesome. He did not have a leading lady in this drama, and banked merely on his undying love for his daughter and steadfast resolve for revenge. Not my favourite character of his (always the designer in WUF for me hehe), but it had everything, intensity in folds, emotions in volumes, definitely one of the best performances from a leading actor this year. Stat.
Lee Sung Min (Brain,King 2 Hearts, Golden Time)
There comes a time when actors get to shine. Unlike Son Hyun Joo, Lee Sung Min never really got his big break until Golden Time, wherein he showed a very strong and understated performance as the responsible ER doctor who tried to do his best for every single patient he met. His versatility is amazing, just like SHJ, from the crazy mad doctor in Brain, to the confident and endearing king in K2H, to his most recent in Golden Time, it’s about time the masses acknowledge the wide acting range of this actor.
Jang Hyun Seung (A Wife’s Credentials, Phantom, Vampire Prosecutor S2)
I think Jang Hyun Seung’s HOT, and hot men always make me giddy. He may not be as popular or known as the rest here, but he is one damn good actor who always manages to steal the limelight of the shows he’s in. He never gets to play the lead, but whatever he plays and wherever he appears, you’re sure to get a good deal from him. His best came from AWC earlier this year, not the most likeable character that I’ve ever come across, perhaps one of the most resentful because of his nature against women in the drama. But he was awesome. Loved his portrayal.
Best Actress (Veteran)
Kim Hye Ja (ILICDD)
Kim Hye Ja is all sorts of awesomeness in one, she may be one of my fav MOMs ever because of the way she plays mom to the CDD family. Her portrayal is mixed with warmth and hilarity, and doesn’t go overboard although scenes and certain sequences require her to exaggerate. The great thing about KHJ is that she gives her very best in every single scene, be it a big scene, minor scene or even a supporting scene. She makes me laugh without her telling a joke or acting all funny, she makes me cry even with her soothing recital of poems or telling of her life stories. The reason why I love her so much, because her words actions and gestures as mom to everyone in ILICDD impact me along with many many others. She is The MOTHER.
Kim Hee Ae (A Wife’s Credentials)
Kim Hee Ae had a difficult character to play much less in a difficult drama to convince. A drama about adultery and infidelity by the main leads, take that! But she took her character with caution, approached it with a mix of softness and boldness, and it made her character in such a situation understandable (albeit not acceptable). A solid performance not to be missed this year.
Lee Tae Ran (A Wife’s Credentials)
Lee Tae Ran played lead or sort-of supporting lead to KHA in AWC, but she held her own equally well. I loved that in spite of her shorter screen time, she managed to exert an equally profound presence and importance thru out the drama. Having fallen victim to infidelity by her always submissive husband was already agonizing enough, but she had to put on a tough exterior and pretend she was strong enough to overcome the pain of betrayal. It was a performance of restrained devastation and strength. A classy performance.
Lee Mi Sook (Can We Get Married)
Lee Mi Sook is awesome! I think she rawks badass and babbling characters so effortlessly it’s hard not to be convinced that they are real and relatable characters.She may be the annoying naggy mom in Can We Get Married, but the actress is on a roll doing her own thing. Her charisma is commanding, energy overwhelming, I cannot imagine she played nice sweet mom in Love Rain earlier! It takes a lot to be able to look ugly (her makeup!) and to play an “ugly” character, and I give it to LMS for giving her best in a character which isn’t exactly everyone’s favourite.
Song Joong Ki (Nice Guy)
I believe noone can argue with me on this, that SJK’s the IT guy and actor of the year. The actor made me go all giggly with his cuteness, sucked me in with his manly sexy charms, and gave me the most scary chills with his screwed up mentality as the revenge-bent Maru in Nice Guy. I can only say whatever character and emotion he channels, he does with staggering conviction and believability. He can be a boy, a man, or both. One of the most deserving of all accolades and appraisals this year (more so than Kim Soo Hyun if you ask me).
Ryu Deok Hwan (Faith)
Lee Jong Hyuk (A Gentleman’s Dignity)
AGD made its way into my list, HAHA! Joke of the year because AGD stands no chance in my Best and Favs lol But I cannot forget flamboyant Rokkie played by Lee Jong Hyuk in it. Out of the 4 stooges he stood out the most for me, everything from his playful ways, to his funny pretending ways, even during his moments of silence and thought (not a lot but I remember some). He imbued such great amount of fun into the character I couldn’t hate him. I want to give him my own award because it’s easy to play OTT and overboard, but not OTT overboard without looking awkward or pushing too hard. He nailed it.
Yeo Jin Gu (Missing You)
Jin Gu ahhhhh, come to me noona! I have no words to describe this boy other than that he is AMAZING. He may have begun acting at a tender age, and had all the time to hone his skills, but to have that kind of intensity grip on viewers at 15 (check Missing You, he’s terrific!), I do not think there’s anything that he cannot do. All I want now is for him to grow up quick, nail his own legit leading man role, and give me all the swoons and butterflies. <3333
Hong Soo Hyun (History of The Salaryman)
I hesitated, between Hong Soo Hyun and Moon Chae Won. I know many are rooting for Moon Chae Won, whom I love equally. But I just didn’t feel for her character Eun Gi as much as I’d felt for both Woo Hee and Jae Hee. If there’s a reason why HSH’s on top of my list, because she made me go thru a rollercoaster of emotions in HoTS. Her character didn’t seem important but her performance was unbelievably spot on without any awkwardness in, esp when she was required to do sexy, funny, cute, sad, stupid, and the list goes on. I honestly think she had a lot more to deal with compared to Jung Ryeo Won or the rest of the leading ladies this year, and she nailed em all perfectly. Plus BS me just because I loved her equally in the earlier TPM, and continued to give a rawking performance in HoTS, she’s my leading lady of the year!
Jung Ae Yeon (Can We Get Married)
I have never seen Jung Ae Yeon act before, but she totally overwhelms with charisma and class playing the submissive turned vocal wife in Can We Get Married. When required to be bold, she struts with overpowering confidence. When scenes require her to be weak and helpless, she exudes vulnerability in sheer and desperate need of consolation and pity. Thanks to this drama I found another hidden gem who never got her chance to shine in the past. CWGM, you rawk!
Moon Chae Won (Nice Guy)
Feisty Moon Chae Won may be awkward in the beginning eps of NG, but she gradually stepped up her game as drama progress, and made Eun Gi a character that we could feel for and empathise with. Eun Gi wasn’t an easy character, probably more complicated than we thought, but MCW managed to infuse an subtle touch of frailty behind the mask of EG’s formidable front and made her more human. It’s MCW’s best performance in a drama to-date.
Can We Get Married – breezy and lovely
A Wife’s Credentials – soothing and never intrusive
Golden Time – no better OST for a medical drama
ILICDD (Park Hae Young) – awesomeness packed into one, original and creative
Can We Get Married (Ha Myung Hee) – relationship woes, want some realism?
A Wife’s Credentials (Jung Sung Joo)- realism at its best
A Wife’s Credentials (Ahn Pan Seok) – White Tower PD never fails
Can We Get Married (Kim Yoon Cheol) – MNIKSS PD never fails
Fav Drama Character
King Gong Min (Ryu Deok Hwan) – Faith
Kwon Ji Hyuk – Shut Up Flower Boy Band
Kim Boong Do – Queen In Hyun’s Man
Kang Hyun Min – Lord of Dramas
The Cheongdamdong Family (All Cast) – ILICDD
Can We Get Married (All Cast)
History of The Salaryman (All Cast)
Best / Fav OTP
King Jae Ha – Hang Ah (Lee Seung Gi – Ha Ji Won) – King 2 Hearts
King Gong Min – Princess No Guk (Ryu Deok Hwan – Park Se Young) – Faith
Kim Boong Do – Hee Jin (Ji Hyun Woo – Yoo In Na) – Queen In Hyun’s Man
Yun Jae – Shi Won (Seo In Guk – Jung Eun Ji) – Reply 1997
Hang Woo – Woo Hee (Jung Gyeo Woon – Hong Soo Hyun) – History of The Salaryman
All 4 Can We Get Married OTPs
ILICDD – The 3 Stooges (Mu Seong, Woo Hyun and Sang Hoon) + Sang Yeob/Hyun Woo
Shut Up Flower Boy Band – Flower Boy Band
A Gentleman’s Dignity – The 4 Ajusshis
I think I’ve written enough in my earlier entries, so this gonna be short!
ILICDD – awesomeness
Can We Get Married – loveliness
A Wife’s Credentials – realism
Shut Up Flower Boy Band – friendship
Reply 1997 – youth
And so that sums up my year 2012’s BEST and FAVs. That might have looked like a split award recognition for my biases and loves, but who the hell cares haha. I had fun, had laughs, cried, swooned and squeeeeed. I loved those dramas, the characters, the stories entailed, enjoyed the wonderful ride and treasured the beautiful moments that they’d given me this year.
Writing this gave me a headache for days, it’s one of my longest and long-winded entries EVER. And I am so not going to attempt something like this ever ever again. So I applaud all the awesome bloggers out there, who always give us their all, their humor and wit, in their recaps and reviews. Their determination to humor and entertain us amidst the stress of having to cap one scene and describe it to us, you guys are awesome. Kudos to the production teams of all the dramas out there, who constantly rack their heads and brains, to give us the entertainment and leisure that we crave for. Thanks to the many Anthony Kims out there, who strive and thrive hard to give us the dramas, characters and OTPs that we want. I may not have listed or mentioned your dramas in here, your favs your beloved actors. But drama watching, it’s as good and entertaining as you want it to be. Kudos to all of you!
I wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas and an awesome new year ahead! ^^
credits: photo as tagged