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Korean Dramas of 2011: Hitting the Notes, and Missing the Marks.

When Korean dramas (Kdramas for short) made their way to the Philippines in 2003, I was nothing but a passive audience - the type who would watch only because I still happen to be awake at that time (ergo, the 2230H primetime slot). Back then, I had no favorite actor or actress, missing an episode or two was okay, and dialogues dubbed in Tagalog were all fine with me.

All this changed when Queen Seon Deok hit primetime TV in early 2010. I was so enthralled by the storyline and mesmerized by the casting (Bidam, portrayed by Kim Nam Gil - to be precise) that I found myself watching the drama on YouTube instead. Before QSD came to an end on local TV, I was already watching Kim Nam Gil's next drama, Bad Man, via live streaming.

Last year, I took my Kdrama addiction to a new height. I was able to watch 42 dramas in 2011. Yes, forty two. That's a combination of dramas that were airing during that time, some not-so-old but still very popular dramas (for instance, Boys Over Flowers and You're Beautiful), and one that was almost a decade old (Memories of Bali).

I can prattle about all these dramas, but it would take me more than just one article to do that. But since this is a year-end recap, I'll limit it to Kdramas from 2011. Narrowing it even further, I will point out the ones that I loved, the ones that bored me to pieces, and those that made a mark on me as Kdrama fan.


Secret Garden. (Hyun Bin, Ha Ji Won, Yoon Sang Hyun) This to me, was the perfect blend of drama, comedy, and romance. Even the fantasy aspect of the story worked for me. The chemistry between Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won was so perfect, you'd want them to be a couple in real life. Moon Boon Hong was the most terrifying mother-in-law ever that you'd think twice about getting married, especially to someone from an affluent family. Yoon Sang Yon made this drama even more memorable with his impressive singing, charisma, and Oska socks. But it was Hyun Bin's track jacket (and how a man in sequins can still look so hot) that left a lasting impression on its audience.

I actually memorized that 'Kim soo han mo' thing that Joo Won kept on murmuring in this drama.

City Hunter. (Lee Min Ho, Park Min Young) Halfway through the first episode, I was able to understand why this drama got high ratings. It had lots of explosive action scenes and a suspense-laden plot that would entice even the male population to watch a flower boy on the small screen. Of course there's the romantic aspect of this drama between Lee Min Ho and Park Min Young that sold to the females - ahjummas included. This romance eventually blossomed to something real, much to the delight of Lee Yoon Sung and Kim Na Na fans. Starting off strongly and ending with the same bravado, the twists in the story would leave you at the edge of your seats and make you look forward to what's heading towards you in the succeeding episodes.

Lee Min Ho finally grew on me with this drama. 
The Princess' Man. (Park Shi Hoo, Moon Chae Won) I love period dramas, and this gave me yet another reason to love them even more. This drama bears resemblance to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, with its star-crossed lovers, ill-fated romance, and tragic deaths. Making this drama more compelling are political liaisons, the hunger for power, political dynasties, and the thirst for revenge. But the things that I love the most about The Princess' Man were: Park Si Hoo's gorgeous mane (coupled with the transformation from gigolo to rebel with a cause), Moon Chae Won's spunk and her ability to tackle a lead role, and the story's bittersweet ending.

Eat your heart out, Claire Danes.


The Greatest Love. (Cha Seung Won, Gong Hyo Jin) From the Hong sisters who gave us My Girl, You're Beautiful, and My Girlfriend is a Gumiho came another breakthrough in the romance comedy genre. Cha Seung Won made Dokko Jin a household name in this drama, together with little 'Ding Dong' and the story of azaleas.

Fake relationships in the entertainment industry. Piolo and KC, isdachu?

49 Days. (Lee Yo Won, Jo Hyeon Jae, Jung Il Woo) Death Angels are meant to be freakin' hawt to make 'fetching for souls' an easier task. Such as the case of Jung Il Woo who plays The Scheduler (aka Angel of Death). His pretty boy image and splendid acting made him the star of this drama, and not Jo Hyeon Jae (at least from my point of view).

Episode 19 broke my heart. :(

Dream High. When I started watching this drama, my only intention was to check out Kim Hyun Joong's cameo appearance, which came in the early part of Episode 1. Surprisingly enough, I found myself getting hooked to it as the drama progressed. Kim Soo Hyun's acting was indeed award-worthy - watch out Hallyu, here's your next big star! I can't say much for Suzy's acting (was she even acting?), but her rendition of Winter Child is, for me, the most beautiful version of the birthday song ever.

It came to a point when I ditched Glee in favor of Dream High.  

What A Waste.

Lie to Me. (Yoon Eun Hye, Kang Ji Hwan) Don't get me wrong, I love these two. I really, really do. And I wanted to love them even more because they're together in this drama. It's the drama itself that I consider a total waste of sheer talent. I mean, come on. These two are oozing with talent, and all that went straight to the dumpster with this drama's storyline. I've seen almost all of their previous works, so I know what Eun Hye and Ji Hwan are capable of. (If you can recall, Eun Hye rose to stardom with Coffee Prince, while Kang Ji Hwan will forever be remembered as Hong Gil Dong.) If not for the infamous cola kiss, I wouldn't even bother finishing this. Hurray for carbonated drinks, the saving grace of this drama!

I swoon.


Flower Boy Ramyun Shop. Just to be clear, I haven't seen this drama. It was my intention to watch this after it has finished airing. That way, I can enjoy the drama from start to finish without the anxiety and anticipation for next week's episode. Judging from the reviews I've read online, and from fellow Kdrama addicts who have experienced the drama firsthand, Jung Il Woo (once again) shines through and outperforms the male lead. Why he chooses to play second lead in almost all of his dramas remains a mystery to me.

Next on my Kdrama queue!

I wonder how many Kdramas will I be able to watch this year. Will I be able to outnumber my record of 42? We'll know by this time, next year. Here's hoping though that there'll be more praiseworthy dramas and less (if none at all) of the ones that can turn my neurons to mush. (By far, nothing has toppled my harrowing experience with My Fair Lady. Ironically, it's another Eun Hye and Il Woo starrer.)

I can't wait for February. Because another brilliant actor is making a comeback after two years in the military. Come on come on come to J-style!

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