Drama Reactions & Reviews
2009 Editors’ Picks [Year in Review, Part 6]
by | December 31, 2009 | 110 Comments

Here we are! The last of the year-end review series.

This post is something new, but I thought it would be an interesting experiment. Although each of us reviewers has our personal favorites, which we outlined in our personal reviews, it’s a different thing to move past preference and try to be objective in a sort of Dramabeans Awards — hence, these Editors’ Picks.

We voted in rounds, first nominating all potential candidates, then narrowing them down to a small pool of finalists, then culling that to one or two picks. As a result, not all of us got picks that we may have personally felt were most fitting, but we all respected the process and the opinions that led us to these selections.


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I want to again give my thanks to the guest bloggers — Dahee Fanel, thunderbolt, Samsooki, and hjkomo — for making this year’s review series particularly rich and enjoyable. When I asked them to participate, I felt that they were knowledgeable enough to have written entertaining, informative posts right on the spot — but no, they wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than comprehensive preparation. I know that they all spent a tremendous part of the past month and a half diving back into the dramas they missed over the year in order to gain as wide a breadth of knowledge as they could. Not for entertainment, but to make sure their evaluations were as honest as they could be. When one person would rave about a particular drama or performance, often another reviewer would take the extra time to go back and revisit it to give it another chance, or to ensure it got as fair an appraisal as possible.

This was not an easy, or quick job — hours of watching, analyzing, and thinking may go into crafting a mere paragraph-long assessment. This review series took incredible effort on everyone’s part. I’m talking many dozens of hours, perhaps more than a hundred, and for very little material return. Could we all have done it quickly and easily? Absolutely. But each reviewer had a strong sense of integrity that required that kind of immersion.

That’s dedication that goes FAR above and beyond the call of duty — not that it’s duty, but rather the call of a favor. Your efforts are not lost on me, so I thank you guys. I also found our back-and-forth discussions eye-opening and exhilarating. I often learn a lot more from dissent than from unanimous opinions, which is why I find these reviews so enlightening.

On to the Editors’ Picks!

2009 Dramabeans Editors’ Picks



Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father

Samsooki: I feel like this drama is too important to ignore, too secret to share, too painful to watch and too funny to look away. Did I like it? No, not at all. It made me very uncomfortable and self-conscious. Unlike some descriptions, this drama isn’t so much of a black comedy as it is an indictment on the limited vision of 1950s Korea. It is an indictment on war, specifically on the darkness created by war that made it impossible to look beyond where the next stolen chicken meal would come from. That this drama makes us laugh isn’t because of the comedic aspects per se, so much as it is us laughing at tragedy. Still, the writing is what makes this so good, that and the superlative acting all around — Shim Eun Kyung is polished perfect and the rest of the cast are seasoned professionals. A worthy recommendation for those with the right perspective to watch and learn, or, watch and remember.

Other finalists: City Hall, Story of a Man



Hwang Jung-min, Accidental Couple aka That Fool

Dahee Fanel: Hwang Jung Min is one of those rare actors who are so good they can elevate the very productions they are a part of. It was evident that Hwang Jung Min’s joie de vivre infected everyone involved on the set of The Accidental Couple, and turned to (a semblance of) gold what should have been a terrible, terrible drama. The greatness of Hwang Jung Min’s performance lies in not some explosion of power and drama, but in the quiet moments that most people overlook, the subtle changes of expression, the incredible sincerity and heart that permeated every little movement. Everything he did in this drama was REAL. He’s a genius of sincerity.

Other finalists: Kim Kang-woo (Story of a Man), Lee Byung-heon (IRIS)



Go Hyun-jung, Queen Seon-deok

thunderbolt: One word to sum up Go Hyun-jung’s performance in Queen Seondeok? Jaw-dropping. At turns seductive and scary, she just eats up the screen, so commanding is her presence. If her Mishil is in a scene, you see only her and no one else, because her gaze alone can cast a spell on you. When she’s not in a scene, you immediately miss her because everything feels duller somehow. Playing her most demanding role yet, Go Hyun-jung’s acting is so exquisite she makes you root for her, despite yourself. Evil has never been so bewitching.

Other finalists: Shim Eun-kyung (Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father)



Baek Yoon-shik, Hero

javabeans: He plays a character with a shady past, but who at first glance looks like a calm old man who’s laughably behind the times. His ex-gangster character is an amusing fish out of water, but he doesn’t realize he’s funny, which is why he’s so funny. Yet Baek Yoon-shik the Actor IS fully aware of how funny the character is, and understands that he must not betray that he knows this secret and thus break the comedic spell. And that’s only half the story — he is also a man of deep pathos, whose movements carry weight even when he’s seemingly doing very little at all. He is an actor who creates truth in little details.

hjkomo: For instance, take a scene where his group has been beaten up and harassed. He dons a leather outfit with gloves, and the implication is that he’s off to go crack some heads, which he’s fully capable of doing… but he merely talks to the man. As the man’s former boss, he is intimidating, but he also has a calmness about him — and that’s even more intimidating. Watching him onscreen is just mesmerizing.

Other finalists: Choi Il-hwa (City Hall), Bae Soo-bin (Brilliant Legacy), Kim Seung-woo (IRIS)



Jung Yumi, Friend, Our Legend

Dahee Fanel: It’s funny how, with her rather small screen time in Friend, Our Legend, Jung Yumi nevertheless managed to shine in every scene she was given, bringing her fascinating character, Eun-ji, layers upon layers of complexity. From the boy-crazy little princess to the wounded, courageous young lady in love to the jaded, sharp and incredibly strong woman standing on her own two feet, she essayed each transformation with verve and charisma. Keep an eye out for her in future — she’s bound to go places.


Kim Young-ok, Assorted Gems

thunderbolt: Assorted Gems boasts one of the best-looking ensembles of the year, but it is one cantankerous granny wearing frumpy clothes and no make-up who steals the show. Not only is Kim Young-ok’s tongue sharp, the wheels in her head never stop turning. It’s as if her brain is a storehouse of barbs which she tosses out with the speed of a machine gun. Her words and body language will crack you up repeatedly, and you will find yourself rewinding scenes just to watch her again. So effortless is her acting and so perfect her comic timing she really deserves more than a supporting role.

Other finalists: Kim So-yeon (IRIS)



Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father

thunderbolt: Ensemble acting is like an orchestra. The best ones sell out their performances every time, the music transporting us to a magical world. All the players play their hearts out and every section in the orchestra shines. Such is the casting in Kyung Sook. From Jung Bo-seok to Shim Eun-kyung, from Jo Hee-bong to Park Gun-tae, whether lead or supporting, young or old, every actor feels exactly right for the role and no one sticks out or fades away for the wrong reasons. The acting is always assured and heartfelt; there is no discordant note or misstep. Is there any doubt then that we get a collective performance that’s unforgettable?

Other finalists: You’re Beautiful



Return of Iljimae, director Hwang In-roi

javabeans: Directing can be a difficult quality to pinpoint — acting and writing are noticeable traits that elicit immediate praise when done well, or criticism when done poorly. Directing is more elusive, because so much of what makes a drama work isn’t in one specific part but in the way the disparate elements are woven together (hopefully) seamlessly to create ambiance, feeling, emotion. Just as a puppetmaster is most effective when the strings aren’t seen, a drama’s director wants to draw the viewer into this world without betraying the construction of that world. Bad directing can muck up a great script, but great directing can elevate it to sublime proportions. In Return of Iljimae, the beauty of its visuals is nothing compared to the beauty of the emotion it stirs with its assured pacing and poignant storytelling. All this is the work of a director who orchestrates everything with technical mastery but whose true brilliance is in making everything feel so natural.

Other finalists: Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father; Friend Our Legend



Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father, scriptwriter Kim Hye-jung

Dahee Fanel: Brutally honest and naked in its depiction of the horrors of war, yet also looking at it all through a critical, razor-sharp lens of black humour, the script of Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father was always deeply riveting. There have been scores of depictions in film and television about the Korean War, but I wonder how many of them handled it with so much intelligence, as well as such a good understanding of family and human nature?

Other finalists: Story of a Man



You’re Beautiful

javabeans: Good comedy makes you laugh. Great comedy takes a fresh approach to a familiar situation and surprises the laugh out of you. Even when the Hong Sisters writing duo employ some hackneyed situations, they have a gift for finding unexpected ways out of them, making them not-quite-so-familiar after all. Characters are quirky but react in ways that are true to themselves, adding a dash of heart to the copious jokes, gags, parodies and satires. But not TOO much heart, lest we linger too long in those “dak-sal” moments — i.e., those saccharine, lovey-dovey beats that make you cringe. The drama knows when not to take itself too seriously — which is almost always — and just wants to whisk you away for a blissful, escapist ride. You’re Beautiful is situational comedy at its bright, zesty best.


Assorted Gems

thunderbolt: Whether it is the two grandmas competing to see who can impress a new tenant more, each disparaging the other’s homemade kimchi, or one of the grandmas wondering why her daughter-in-law had breast enhancement surgery when “it costs money, is painful and can kill,” this drama will make you laugh till your sides hurt. The humor isn’t laid on thick, one slapstick scene after another. Rather it is the repartees, the thinly-veiled sarcasm, what-if imaginary situations, and the little funny moments that make this one of the best comedies of the year.

Other finalists: Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father



Story of a Man, aka The Slingshot

Samsooki: All great dramas revolve around the idea of conflict, and more specifically, the concept that something (or someone) extraordinary happens upon a person, and now that person has to deal with that. Story of a Man fits this concept, as we have an extraordinary person (the evil incarnate Chae Do Woo) happening to an ordinary person (Shin). And Chae Do Woo might have messed with the wrong person when he ran over Shin… Even as much as the story is gripping, what makes this drama the most technically proficient k-drama I’ve ever seen is that the way the story is told, layer by layer. Characters are added at the right time, developed with great pacing and deliberateness. Revelations are not dropped randomly, but in a way that makes sense if you step back to see the big picture.

Not only does this take skill in writing and directing, but it requires skill in watching too! How many k-dramas require skill in watching? To sum up — story is gripping, the acting is brilliant. The writing and directing are superlative. And, the more you pay attention, the more you will get out of the drama. But don’t watch too close, Chae Do Woo might notice and come after you…



Return of Iljimae

javabeans: This was a fairly slim category, but don’t let that tidbit detract from the quality of this pick. Return of Iljimae is really a fusion historical series, and unlike most other (conventional) sageuks, it doesn’t center around the life of a great leader. It does weave in true historical context, although with its origins in a manhwa, Return of Iljimae isn’t about recreating real historical events so much as it uses them as touchstones around which the story is built. This is a drama that never faltered, that knew what it was the whole way through, and never betrayed itself (or us).

Other finalists: Queen Seon-deok



City Hall

Samsooki: Romance is a story about falling in love. And the best stories of love are ones that you can feel. City Hall‘s romance is about two adults sacrificing as much as they can, to be together, but running into the limitations of their own principles. Shin Mi Rae will not stop protecting the people she swore an oath to defend, even if it means destroying her one shot at love, and Jo Gook must do the impossible and find a way to save both Shin Mi Rae and her principles, even if it means tearing Shin Mi Rae’s heart to shreds. What makes this drama so special, even above what was just written, is that neither Jo Gook nor Shin Mi Rae could have survived the ordeal at the beginning of the drama. It is through their growth through the series that they grow strong enough to overcome the biggest odds. And guess what? You grow along with them.


Will It Snow for Christmas?

javabeans: This is old-fashioned romance played to the melodramatic hilt. A great romance not only makes you root for the couple to get together, it makes you feel the ups and downs with them as the characters fumble through their mating dance. To make the conflict credible but not tiresome, it’s got to make us desperately want the two to find happiness, but also understand the obstacles that lie in their way. Will It Snow For Christmas isn’t the most original drama ever, but as a romance it makes the longing palpable between Kang-jin and Ji-wan — aided in no small part by the smoldering Go Soo. In also building up a complicated obstacle fraught with emotions, our hearts tug along with them. (Caveat: This assessment only stands if the ending does not betray us fans!)

Other finalists: You’re Beautiful



The Sons of Sol Pharmacy

Samsooki: By definition, a family drama is something that you want to watch with your family. And generally speaking, your family will include people older and younger than you. That’s how wisdom is passed — from generation to generation, person to person. And that’s how family bonds are created. Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, that’s what Sons of Sol Pharmacy is — a set of stories about family bonds being created by wisdom being passed from family member to family member. Whether it is a happy event or a sad one, every moment of this drama is an opportunity for you to learn, or for you to teach. There is no greater praise for a family drama, and no greater family drama in 2009 than this one.


Assorted Gems

thunderbolt: At the end of the day, family is what matters. Not friends or neighbors or colleagues or even pets, although all are important. The families in Assorted Gems may not always behave like your average family (one sends its son away with a “You’re on your own for a year; don’t contact us” and the other tosses the parents out, luggage and all), but you know that when push comes to shove, each member is there for the rest. Watching the Gung children banter or the grandmas bicker, you feel like the two tenants in the drama. They arrived as strangers but are now part of the family, trading jokes and sharing stories, fighting over toilets and chasing after food burglars. There is so much warmth it fairly envelops you.

hjkomo: A family drama should be exactly about that — family relationships. And this one has the tremendous good fortune to be well-written and well-acted. Writer, Im Sung Han, surprises us with her avoidance of makjang histrionics and formulaic clichés. The characters and relationships are real, and the talented ensemble cast of both veterans and younger actors alike deliver heart-warming performances. Assorted Gems is truly the family gem of 2009.



Return of Iljimae

javabeans: The seasoned kdrama viewer by now is aware that a soundtrack, no matter how catchy in Episode 1, often wears on the nerves (and the ears!) by the time the drama is midway through. It’s no fault of the music, but inappropriate usage can be as grating as if the music were truly bad. Not only is Return of Iljimae‘s background score gorgeous, it is judiciously applied — the drama is lilting when it needs to be lilting, angry when it needs to be angry, and quiet when it needs to be quiet. The instrumental tracks are as lush and sweeping as the drama’s landscapes, and fit with the narrative’s emotional ups and downs perfectly.

Other finalists: You’re Beautiful



Go Hyun-jung, Queen Seon-deok

Samsooki: I think the best villains are the ones that you are able to grasp; they aren’t all-powerful and they aren’t totally inscrutable. A villain is someone against whom you have a real chance, a real hope of beating. Go Hyun-jung is the best villain of 2009 because she is closest person to the perfect villain as I have ever seen — strong, dignified, amoral, intelligent, and deliciously and even justifiably evil, while all the while, a flawed and beatable target. Go Hyun Jung was the person you want to be your arch-enemy, because while you know she will get her victories against you, ultimately, you have a shot at beating her if you are clever and strong enough. I know that many would say that Chae Do Woo is the perfect villain of 2009, but honestly, I’m not sure Chae Do Woo is beatable. And an unbeatable enemy isn’t a villain at all but a force of nature.


Kim Gab-soo, Partner and Hon

hjkomo: Kim Gab Soo is one of the rare few actors who can make you want hide under the nearest blanket – with his smile. Whether he’s creepily slurping up mangoes, channeling the devil incarnate while a live snake slithers around his neck, or fulfilling the adage – “Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely” – Kim Gab Soo instills spine-chilling fear in all who are misfortunate enough to cross his path.

Other finalists: Kim Kang-woo (Story of a Man), Kim Mi-sook (Brilliant Legacy)



Lee Min-jung, Smile You

Dahee Fanel: She’s been on the outskirts of stardom for a while now, quietly handing in strong performances, waiting for her moment to shine. And this year, it’s finally happened, with her star-making performance in the cultural phenomenon that was Boys Before Flowers, and now her first leading role in the popular weekend drama Smile, You. Lee Min-jung is one of those rarest of actresses, someone with all the makings of a star: A beautiful face, truckloads of talent, and bubbly screen presence. Most actresses have just one or the other of those things, but she has them all. This is one lady who deserves all of her success.


Lee Min-ho, Boys Before Flowers

javabeans: Lee Min-ho practically defines the term “breakout” — he appeared out of nowhere, turned in a splendid performance, and not only proved himself as a rising talent but damn near carried the show. His was a difficult character — moody, bullying, and at times violent — but on top of that, he already had a lot to live up to, with the previous performances of Jerry Yan and Matsumoto Jun still leaving their imprint upon fans’ minds and hearts. That he would be scrutinized and compared was a given; one false step and this could have spelled disaster. Instead of caving under the pressure, he dove into the role and made it his own. Lee Min-ho fever swept the whole nation and his newly acquired fans are eager to see if he can follow it up with another winner.



Smile, You (Jung Kyung-ho & Lee Min-jung)

thunderbolt: Both have been newly disappointed in love, but you can’t tell unless you watched this from the start. Seeing them now, it’s as if they have always been together. The way she gazes at him, you have no doubt she loves him completely. As for him, he has unfinished business that he must tend to, but from now on she will always come first. Theirs is the sweet flush of first love, looking and smiling shyly at each other as they walk hand-in-hand. Yet it also feels like an old couple’s relationship, where trust is unwavering, and where there’s comfort in just being under the same roof without having to talk or do the same things. When you see Jung Kyung-ho and Lee Min-jung together, you feel an unmistakable sense of joy and hopefulness.

Other finalists: City Hall (Cha Seung-won & Kim Sun-ah), You’re Beautiful (Jang Geun-seok & Park Shin-hye), Family Honor (Park Shi-hoo & Yoon Jung-hee)



Assorted Gems (Kim Young-ok, Jung Hye-sung)

hjkomo: First, there was Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Then came John Gustafson and Max Goldman. Now, here comes the Korean halmoni version in Gyul Myung Ja and Baek Jo. The fabulous duo, Kim Young Ok (Gyul Myung Ja) and Jung Hye Sun (Baek Jo), are in-laws, neighbors, nemeses, and even best friends. They trade barbs as sharp-wittedly as their talented predecessors, engage in hilarious physical brawls, dress-up in clothes befitting Cinderella’s step-sisters, and shake their booties to Brown Eyed Girls’ Abracadabra. Every scene they’re in is pure comedy at its side-splitting finest.

Other finalists: Accidental Couple (Hwang Jung-min & Baek Sung-hyun)



Kim Ji-seok, 2009 Hometown of Legends

thunderbolt: A vampire who’s a one-man freak show. A vampire who bares his fangs and flashes his speckled talons, whether a scene warrants that display or not. This vampire hisses like a snake, roars like a lion, and prances about like a drunk chimpanzee. Hear how Kim Ji-seok moans and you would think he’s having sex instead of enjoying yet another bloody meal. A teardrop is studied with such intensity his eyes are about to exit their sockets. His hunters pursue him, not because he’s a vampire, but because he’s an annoying show-off. Hands down the most hysterical acting of the year.

Other finalists: Gu Hye-sun (Boys Before Flowers)



Oh Man-seok, Everybody Cha Cha Cha

Dahee Fanel: Oh Man Seok is easily one of the most talented young actors in Korea, which he’s proven again and again through roles like the gentle monk who slowly goes berserk in Shin Don, to the prickly farmer in Vineyard Man, to the ever-suffering and deeply loyal eunuch in The King and I. He deserves some of the best and meatiest roles, and yet instead, he’s getting roles like…this. I don’t think anyone who watches or has seen Everybody Cha Cha Cha thinks that it is even close to being a good drama, and nor do they expect it to be, what with its daily drama trappings. But it’s supremely frustrating to see Oh Man Seok’s talent be wasted in uttering the same lines and recycling the same scenes over and over. He does the best he can with the extremely little he’s given, but anyone who is a fan will feel that he’s been cheated. Let’s hope he snags a meatier role next time.


Lee Jung-jae, Triple

javabeans: As a result of cultivating a career mostly in movies (such as An Affair, Il Mare, Oh Brothers, Typhoon), Lee Jung-jae possesses a charisma and gravitas that many television actors lack. Blessed with a talent for infusing his characters with sincerity, this is a man who knows the power of restraint — his characters simmer with intensity below the surface, but don’t feel the need to act OUT to get their point across. Granted, everyone in Triple was underutilized — a hazard of its scattered plot — but the worst travesty was seeing Lee Jung-jae relegated to the side and not given a chance to do… much at all. But whenever he found an opening, he grabbed it and made the most of the brief moment, bringing an emotional groundedness to his Hwal character.

Other finalists: Uhm Ki-joon (Job Well Done)



Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father

Dahee Fanel: Every year some dramas will quietly broadcast and then quietly fade away, never having really succeeded at gaining public recognition. Some of these dramas are fiercely loved and respected by a core group of loyal followers, making their existence not quite so futile as it may at first seem. Yet it is undoubtedly true that, for many of these fans, there is regret that they did not gain as much popularity and notice as they may perhaps deserve. Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father was one of the biggest examples of this sense of underrecognition this year, but I’m glad that, here at least, it gets its little moment to shine. For some, this is a drama that never even existed. But for me, it will remain in my memory for years to come, shining like a beacon of hope.

Other finalists: Assorted Gems, Return of Iljimae, Story of a Man, Tamra the Island



Boys Before Flowers

javabeans: Never have I enjoyed a show that needed so many qualifiers when explaining to others. It’s fun — but doesn’t make sense. It’s well-acted — except for half the cast. It’s good-hearted — except when people enjoy random acts of cruelty. It’s super-fun and fast to watch — until it screeches to an angsty halt in the middle. It has a catchy soundtrack — but omygod is that Almost Paradiiiiiiiise for the thousandth time? This is a schizoid show of contradictions, and no doubt it has an infectious draw… but it was so riddled with problems that it feels like it didn’t deserve, or at least earn, its immense success. It’s lucky for Boys Before Flowers that fans were generous with its many flaws. I don’t mean that this drama has no appeal, rather that the strength of the viewers’ response far outweighs its quality, and that extreme unbalance makes this my pick for most overrated.

Other finalists: Queen Seon-deok, IRIS



Wife’s Temptation

Samsooki: “Worst” can mean many things. In the drama-context, it can mean simply, the least interesting or the most boring. Or it can mean the least watchable. For me, “worst” means the most likely to be to your detriment to watch. Wife’s Temptation might be addictive for those who are caught up in the revenge game, but it will not add a single useful thing to your life. You will not learn anything, you will not gain wisdom. All that will happen is that you will have overstimulated the revenge seeking part of your brain for an extended period of time. Still, if you have no use for your brain or for improving yourself, then Wife’s Temptation isn’t a bad way to kill a few weeks of your life. Perhaps the best analogy is that watching this drama is like going on an extended alcoholic bender where the only end result is that your brain and liver are damaged. In a nation known for its high per capita consumption of scotch, it is small wonder that Wife’s Temptation was a juggernaught ratings monster.

Other finalists: Again My Love, Heading to the Ground, My Fair Lady


110 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Nano

    This is awesome. Wanted to be the first to comment, so I’m off to read now. 😀

  2. Anonymous

    great reviews!

  3. wananie


  4. Icarusfalls

    I agree with most of the editor’s picks except for the best couple as Smile hasn’t finished yet and there is still a chance that the OTP will separate (I hope not! I hope not!). But for all the episodes so far.. it deserves it. For a completed series though the City Hall couple and/or Family’s Honor couple deserve at least some recognition. The latter for its cute and endearing chemistry and the former for its sizzling chemistry.

    Thanks JB and guest reviewers for the great job of analyzing so many great and not-so-great dramas. I will take your recommendation of Assorted Gems; Friend, Our Legend, and Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father to heart and (hopefully) watch them in 2010!

    Happy New Year!

  5. Snikki

    This tramples all other network drama awards. No other award show has the “Most Over-the-Top Acting” category… love it!

    BTW, how did you guys go over all these? Skype; email?

  6. missjb

    awsome… i’ll try to watch jyung sook kyung sook’s father

    agree with you about You’re beautiful is the best comody drama.. this drama will make u laugh out loud…

  7. Sonam

    I am so happy Smile You got the best couple.
    Also LMJ and LMH for best newcomers. I wish they’d headline a drama soon. But then I also want to see fiery LMJ opposite quietly intense Go Soo. She would make any guy look good.
    Agree agree agree on the most overrated drama.

  8. Celest

    Interesting…I’ve never seen Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father but dayyyum! it got so much praise and awards from you guys. My favorite dramas this year were Tamna, Smile You, Story of a Man, Sons of Sol Pharmacy and of course, QSD. The praise for Go Hyun Jung is well deserved but I’m so proud that you guys included Lee Min Jung and the breakout actress (not Gu Hye Sun!) and that the Lee Min Jung/Jung Kyung Ho couple got the credit it deserves. For me, it’s the most natural chemistry I’ve seen in a looong looong time.

    I’m still curious as to why Will It Snow for Christmas is one of the best romance drama this year. I mean, I’m not really a fan of YB but I think that show beats WISFC. I dunno, I guess I’m not feeling the chemistry as when I watch Tamna (my inner Team Park Kyu is speaking here) or Smile You.

    From everyone’s recommendations, I think I’ll be watching KSKSF fairly soon. I’m sad I dropped Assorted Gems so early (there were no working online videos with subs to be found). Assorted Gem seems to also have a lot of promise (can you tell, I’m a huge fan of family dramas?)

    Thanks for all the amazing reviews and insights everyone! This must have taken such a heck of a long time to doI enjoyed reading every single Year in Review. Happy New Year to all!

  9. ohemgee

    incredible. you have all done an amazing job reviewing the year in KDramas. thank you for the last 365 days, and here’s to another year of Kdrama, be they terrific or terrible. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

  10. 10 langdon813


    Outstanding job you guys, truly! I agree with every selection, and the few that I haven’t seen yet from your picks have now been added to my “must watch” list.

    Thanks for all the time and effort (and blood, sweat, and tears) that it must have taken to put all of this together. Very impressive, but not at all surprising, given the participants!

    Can’t wait to get cracking on 2010 with all of you!

  11. 11 kpm1111

    great review series..

    I realised i haven’t watched quite a few of them (though i’ve been watchin kdramas for just over 6 months now…)

    I thank God everyday for the day i stumbled over this site while i was looking for something about CP….

    Thanks to everyone who contribute to this site… !!
    Oh and happy New Year (well it is Jan 1, 10:40 am wer i am :)..)
    looking for a grt yeah ahead

  12. 12 Anon

    Totally enjoyed this article. I like the over all assessment. 🙂

    Great work editors! 😀

  13. 13 Helen

    I’ve been an avid reader of your blog and this is my first time posting because I totally disagree with your choice of ‘Will It Snow For Christmas’ for best romance drama. We’ve only seen half of this drama and depending upon how the story is completed, you should not prematurely give them such an accolade…and Han Ye Seul can’t act worth a damn…In my eyes, ‘You’re Beautiful’ belongs in this category with ‘City Hall’.

    • 13.1 jet,md

      quite true!

  14. 14 D

    Thank you for your hard work.. hope we’ll have a better 2010..

    mmm, I guess I’ll try to watch KSKSF properly the next time it appears on KBSW

    Happy New Year everyone!!!

  15. 15 serendipity

    Great fun to read! What a treat. Thanks to all. Much more illuminating than the aware shows!

  16. 16 Penn

    Every time I read about someone complaining about a drama, I wonder why he/she is still watching or even reading about the drama. I for one will move on with life and discharge any boring or annoying drama within a heartbeat because my time is too precious to waste. After reading the reviews from the last few days, I really sympathize with you all. To have to endure all these countless hours watching something you really hated. Because it’s part of your fan sub assignment, you continue to watch these drama even if you don’t like it, someone else out there does. For that, I thank you and have been honor to read your many reviews. Happy New Year!

  17. 17 bbm

    this editor’s pick is SOOOOO much better than the station awards shows where it’s all about ratings and such…
    (still can’t believe KAJ had an award while HJM didn’t, darn you KBS!!)
    i still think Chae Do Woo is the best villain though, but it’s just my opinion, and even though i never saw any Kim Gab Soo’s work before, but seeing him in Partner make me agree with this “one of the rare few actors who can make you want hide under the nearest blanket – with his smile”…

  18. 18 Muihils

    thanks for the review……
    it have provent that k-drama is wise enought to learn… many characters smash me lush ohhss… QSD my favorite one… for this year 2009. GHJ promising evil.. follow CITY HALL, SOUL/HON, QH and HIGH KICK was not included in the review hehehee ^.^…!!!!!

  19. 19 djes

    Wow, I’m amazed with the Editors’ Picks.

    Wife’s Temptation – the way you guys described it, makes me want to see it. My aunt is watching it now, and we used to love “Miss Mermaid” ( another Jang So Hee’s makjang drama, which also had (too) many episodes ). I guess both of us just love to see OTT stories! 😀

    Great reviews from everyone, really enjoy all of them! How about make predictions for the upcoming dramas ? 😉

  20. 20 Trang Briggs

    Thank you so much for all of the time and hard work you put into the recaps and summaries of the dramas. I watched “The Return of Iljimae” because of your recommendation, and I totally agree with your assessment and thoroughly enjoyed the drama.

    Keep up the great work and I will look forward to seeing more of your excellent evaluations of the films I love. Happy New Year, and may 2010 be your best year ever.


  21. 21 ausming

    oh, yippee the best couple went to the Smile, You couple. Think they beat HHJ and LSG anytime. Agree with EVEYRTHING that thunderbolt wrote about them. ooo, this makes me wanna rewatch the earlier episodes leading to their courtship!

  22. 22 Reese

    I think I agree with all of these. There are a few I’m a bit iffy about. For me Assorted Gems is definitely the most underrated…at least in the beginning it was, but now that the rating are increasing, I guess that can’t really be said?

    This was a good awards/editors pick. Good job!

  23. 23 nabi

    JB, isn’t that Wang Ji-hye’s picture that’s placed next to Jung Yu-mi in Best Supporting Actress?

    Thanks all the editors! I had a blast reading your reviews… I appreciate all the efforts you put in to make this happen.

    @ #8 Celest, I agree with you.. I think the chemistry between the leads in the two dramas in Best Romance was great, but I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t like the way their romance developed. It felt abrupt in City Hall and unnatural in WISFC.. whereas I liked how the love between PK and BJ in Tamra or JI and HS couple in Smile developed gradually… without them even realizing it… but I guess we’re in the minority..?

  24. 24 Gembul

    You guys are amazing!!!
    I have never watched KyungSook, but with your quality of wok and analyisis, I think I better not to open my mouth.

    Thank you very much for the recaps and analysis, it gave me other perspectives and insights.

    Wish you all the best for 2010, and hope we will watched many good dramas in 2010

  25. 25 kaedejun


    (and it helps someone like me organize which drama to watch/put higher on my priority list).

    it impresses me so much that you guys watch all these dramas and faithfully summarize them or recap them or review them. some of these dramas i’ve never even heard about until now. it inspires me to watch more dramas and pay more attention to upcoming ones for the following year!!!!!!


    great job you all!!!!!!!!

  26. 26 moochi

    hands down editors and javabeans

    like seriously, what adds to my happiness is that you put MOST OVERRATED DRAMA…WHICH GOES TO the famous korean version of hana yori dango

    omg please, hands down to everyone
    this made my 2010 very HAPPY indeed =D
    probably might add more in depth insight later

  27. 27 hjkomo

    Thank you, JB!
    I am constantly amazed at how much time and effort you put into this blog (even more so after seeing what it took to write just one tiny review).
    You are TEH awesomest awesomesauce!!! 😀
    (and thanks for putting Jung Il Woo’s smexiest pic up at the top 😉 )

    I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth discussions with all the reviewers. While we often had dissenting opinions, I learned so much from all of you. Thank you, JB, thunderbolt, Dahee Fanel, and Samsooki. 😀

  28. 28 soysauce

    Oyyyy, the only 2009 drama that I saw from beginning to end is You’re Beautiful. With all these end of the year reviews, I want to spend a whole entire month catching up. Anyway, thanks for all the reviews- I greatly enjoyed those, and have a wonderful 2010 JB and everyone else! 🙂

  29. 29 wontonsoup

    i love how gu hye sun is on most overacted.
    i still refer to her as jandi because of the way she portrayed jandi’s character. That is what i see her as now. i hated her acting so much that i cringe everytime i see her. whether it’s watching bof or even her on a variety show.
    i like these reviews.
    They are positive and happy haha and i agree with most of them. (:

  30. 30 Brenda

    Thank you for this! It was an interesting read 😀

    also i agree with 29. i laughed when i saw the other contender “most overacted” xD

  31. 31 Molly

    All six parts of the Year In Review were incredible, written by very talented writers and avid drama watchers. Thank you so much for a wonderful year, and I can’t wait to see what happens in 2010. I always think, if only the drama writers, directors, and actors read Dramabeans…They’d have a lot of great feedback on what they’re doing right and wrong, and would probably improve their weaknesses tenfold. Thank you, Javabeans, now and always! Happy New Year – you deserve it.

    And to Dahee Fanel, thunderbolt, Samsooki, and hjkomo, thank you so much for your hard work on the reviews. They were well-thought-out and each was unique in its own way. You are amazing people!

  32. 32 shinhyesungluv

    Javabeans, what can we do to get Story of a Man more recognition? It’s such a disappointment that it lost in categories like best drama and best villian. Did the other reviewers besides you and Samsooki even watch it?

    Story of a man will forever be the best drama of 2009 IMO!

    thunderbolt, thank you for your hilarious description of Kim ji seok

  33. 33 Juwo

    Thanks JB, Dahee Fanel, thunderbolt, Samsooki, and hjkomo for having such dedication and love towards dramas to wrap up 2009 for us viewers! It’s been fascinating reading everyone’s insights, emphasising that an enjoyable drama does not boil down to a formulaic check-list (and that differing opinions give a richer, broader picture!). Happy 2010 =].

  34. 34 mems

    Thank you all for taking so much time to put these reviews together for us!

    I’m elated that Smile, You got picked for Best Couple. They totally deserve it.

    “Kim Gab Soo is one of the rare few actors who can make you want hide under the nearest blanket – with his smile.”

    I’ve only seen Kim Gab Soo in Partner and ohmygoodness, was he scary! Initially, I would’ve liked to see Kim Kang-woo get it but then again, it only took a few scenes for me to shiver watching Kim Gab Soo.

    @ Sonam

    I’d love to see LMJ and LMH in a drama again- one where they actually end up together.

  35. 35 Laica

    You guys are amazing. Just when I think there can’t possibly be anymore year-end-review goodness, I am impressed with yet another installment!

    I absolutely agree with Hwang Jung Min as best actor. His performance was so sincere it broke my heart. Multiple times.

    City Hall – best romance, definitely! I loved how for once it was a serious love story between mature adults, and faced real obstacles rather than manufactured plot twists to extend the drama’s conflict. Not to mention the SMOKIN’ chemistry between the leads. I’m not so sure about WiSfC. We’ll have to see how that one turns out.

    Also – most overrated drama, BBF! I so agree! I tried to watch it more than once because I wanted to understand the hype, but I just could get past the first few episodes. Even that much was painful.

    And You’re Beautiful – more than the romance, I loved the humour in that show. It’s the only one that made me laugh out loud. Assorted Gems, not so much. As far as family dramas go, I liked Sons of Sol Pharmacy much better.

    Thanks to all of you for the wonderful summing up of the year. It was a perfect New Year’s gift! Happy 2010. 🙂

  36. 36 moimoiness

    wow, i finally finished reading all the reviews..
    before i say anything else, HAPPY NEW YEAR to all, especially javabeans, samsooki, hjkomo, thunderbolt, dahee fanel and all the readers here at dramabeans…thank you for wonderful year end wrap ups, although i wasn’t able to watch all of those (i discovered dramabeans abit late), i was able to appreciate the reviews that made my to-watch list into a i-don’t-know-when-i’ll-finish list..hahaha =D but there were those that really touched my curiosity, especially kyung-sook, kyung-sook’s father, assorted gems and city hall..
    and before i go, i want to extend my gratitude to javabeans for everything, from ost’s, recaps, reviews, and what not..you made me appreciate kdramas and kmovies much more (in other words, made me more addicted to them, just kidding) although i am not korean in any way, although i want to be, really really bad!!! hahaha..although i don’t comment much, know that i’m very thankful..
    i look forward to 2010 with your words of wisdom =D
    again, thanks!

  37. 37 sue

    ahh this is so much more fun than watching the actual kbs/sbs/mbc award shows! tysm!

  38. 38 diana

    LMAO. i agree with boys before flowers being the most overrated

  39. 39 karened

    Of all the top picks, I’ve only watched a few like You’re Beautiful, Boys Over Flowers, Smile, You and Slingshot. But I doubt I’ll be back-tracking the editors’ picks for they don’t really evoke any interest. A fun read though. =D

  40. 40 more

    No one reviewed HON, that was far better then most of dramas this year

  41. 41 MEIKO**** ^-^

    wow, this is a handful!

    Great, great,reviews all! thanks to all of you, I got to get a glimpse of other dramas I havent really took notice of…

    Weee…. story of a man, and return of iljimae got in!!! and Go Hyung Jung, yup, she is one awesome actress!

    Kim Kang Woo or Go Soo for best actor….

    some of the dramas i like didnt get in but that’s ok….

  42. 42 Ariel

    It is almost worth it to be working this New Years Day to be able to read 2009 editors picks. I was laughing like a loon when I read thunderbolt’s description of the MOST OVER-THE-TOP ACTING. Now I have to look for the DVD of Hometown of Legend.

  43. 43 Amg1

    What a way to close the year in Dramabeans world! Thank you guys for your hard work, I do appreciate the great effort in making this blog the best blog in cyberspace. I hope 2010 is good to all of you…. JB, thank you for making my drama viewing a more perfect art form, lots of love to all….. : o )

  44. 44 Elena

    I am new to Korean Dramas. And I do not understand why Tamra was not even mentioned in any of the articles, not just this one (maybe I missed it?). I loved that show. It was wonderful – granted the two supporting actors struggled, but one started to shine in the end. The entire ensemble was marvelous. I don’t get it. Was it really that bad? Or did I only focus on the good stuff?

    Every other comment resonated with me, so I am confused.

  45. 45 Nonbirira

    Can’t thank you all enough! The amount of work you must have put into all these reviews is staggering and yet you manage to remain passionate & articulate to the end. THANK YOU JB, Dahee Fanel, thunderbolt, Samsooki & hjkomo! WIshing a great year of Kdrama in 2010!

  46. 46 joelib

    I thought YB’s OST was by far the best of all the dramas i watched this year..it alone made a lot of the scenes in YB that much better..and its been on replay on ipod forever..

  47. 47 Anonymous

    I don’t know why there are complaints about what was left out or whatever. Dramabeans mentioned Hon in her review and for commenter Elena (#44), at least three (or four) of the individual reviews mentioned Tamra.

  48. 48 movall

    Wow, outstanding review.
    You guys are amazing.

    Thank you JBs, Dahee Fanel, thunderbolt, Samsooki, and hjkomo for countless hours and effort to present us such incredible reviews.

    And a review is not what you agree with but what you learn from. Though I’m surprised by some of the results, I’m more than happy to see the finalist’s items.

    HAPPY 2010 to all editors and JB’s readers.

  49. 49 Denali

    Nice recap, indeed.

    Lee Jung Jae’s talent was in fact so underutilized in Triple, especially after his performances in movies (seriously, who can ever forget Il Mare and An affair?).

    In underrated dramas: Family Honor (far better than Assorted Gems, though I like it too, despite its slow tempo).

  50. 50 crzycpl

    Thanks for the editor’s picks, guys. I have never heard of Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father before but have now downloaded it to watch immediately.

    I agree that Lee Min-ho was the best newcomer/breakout for 2009 and I am eagerly anticipating his new project.

    Whilst I know BOF has its flaws (many), I still enjoyed every bit of it and it will always hold a dear place in my heart.

    I’m surprised that the GuMi couple did not win best couple for 2009. I was sure that with samsooki’s die-hard devotion it would have won. 🙂

    Looking forward to many more laughs, over analysing and debates over the next year on more kdramas. Happy new year, everyone!

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