Stories that present life’s daily, ordinary things and portray humanity’s ups and downs have always been the most heartwarming ones to watch. So far, here are the best relatable slice-of-life pieces from Korean dramas this year:
1. My Liberation Notes (JTBC)
“How have you been? Have you managed to liberate yourself?”
JTBC’s My Liberation Notes (2022) is a warmhearted tale of three siblings and Mr. Gu, the stranger and their inmost quest for life’s meaning and purpose. Set in the quiet, slow-paced countryside of Sanpo, the story elements from theme to character development stand out in this series as the writer, in a pensive mode, impressively and beautifully utters the unspoken words of humanity about yearning for wholeness and freedom from the mundane. You will find yourself contemplating with the characters as the drama presents engaging dialogues about multiple relatable topics such as family, career, money, lifestyle, and relationships. All the actors are commendable and believable in portraying their given roles, starring Son Su-kku, Kim Ji-won, Lee Min-ki, and Lee El. Whether the assignment is being introvert or one who speaks his mind out loud, each one has brought the character to life with much delight. This drama captivates you from the start and leaves a meaningful message of liberation from the complexities of life to discovering who you were simply meant to be.
Cast: Lee Min-ki, Kim Ji-won, Son Su-kku, Lee El
Writer: Park Hae-young
Director: Kim Seok-yoon
2. Twenty-Five Twenty-One (tvN)
“In some moments, we’re doing our best but all of that is just a practice.”
tvN’s Twenty-Five Twenty-One (2022) takes you to a nostalgic experience of youthful dreaming and young love set in the late 1990s. It also tackles friendships, family, forgiveness, chances, and teaches viewers to live positively, wisely, and freely amid hardships. It stars Baeksang winner, Kim Tae-ri, who played as Na Hee-do, a bubbly and highly optimistic character who inspires the most to dream on and carry on amid the negatives of life. Her story is also a reminder that there will always be pitfalls and failures along the way that teach us to grow in wisdom as we deal with life’s ambitions. Co-star Nam Joo-hyuk portrayed Baek Yi-jin, a character from riches to rags that conveys the innate strength in us, enabling us to conquer the unbearables and stings of life. The drama also displays a healthy kind community or a good company of friends that makes life more meaningful. Moreover, it teaches that not everyone we meet in life remain with us forever, but comes for the purpose of breaking us and molding us for growth.
Cast: Kim Tae-ri, Nam Joo-hyuk, Bona, Choi Hyun-wook, Lee Joo-myung
Writer: Kwon Do-eun
Director: Jung Ji-hyun
3. Our Blues (tvN)
“You can’t always have everything your way in life. That’s life.”
A star-studded drama, tvN’s Our Blues (2022) feels like a tour to a museum of stories that depict humanity’s sorrows in various canvases of circumstances. Teenage pregnancy, clinical depression, bullying, parental neglect, abandonment, divorce, poverty, discrimination, friendship conflicts, Down Syndrome, career setbacks, are some of the real-life topics presented in the series. It’s amazing how these multiple characters are strongly interconnected to each other with Jeju Island as the main common element. You will be drawn to the top-notch performances from the cast, the visual charm of Jeju, as well as the excellent screenplay that reminds us that we are lifelong learners, changing and maturing through life’s series of ups and downs. At the end of the day, what matters the most is to be with the significant people in your life and keeping them close to your heart.
Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-a, Cha Seung-won, Han Ji-min, Kim Woo-bin, Lee Jung-eun, Kim Hye-ja
Writer: Noh Hee-kyung
Director: Kim Kyu-tae
4. Extraordinary Attorney Woo (ENA)
“Though my life is unusual and peculiar, it’s valuable and beautiful.”
ENA’s Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022) is a heartfelt legal drama that explores a wide range of courtroom cases handled by a brilliant lawyer who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Realistic topics such as discrimination against the disabled, parental abandonment, workplace politics, family feuds, phishing, and others are discussed in episodic manner. Besides the interesting courtroom battles experienced by ordinary people, the drama also highlights the character growth of extraordinary Attorney Woo where viewers are allowed to experience life through her perspective, her heartbreaking past, and struggles around people and emotions, romance included. Actress Park Eun-bin displayed an impressive performance enough for Attorney Woo to be one of the most memorable and inspiring K-drama characters of the year.
Cast: Park Eun-bin, Kang Tae-oh, Kang ki-young
Writer: Moon Ji-won
Director: Yoo In-shik
5. Today’s Webtoon (SBS)
“It doesn’t matter if it’s after 100, 1,000 or 10,000 attempts. A success is success.”
SBS’ Today’s Webtoon (2022) revolves around the highs and lows of career life. While it highlights the world of webtoon artists, the core message of the drama is relevant and applicable to everyone who dreams of becoming someone with their given talent and hopes to achieve a better career path. It teaches the good fight of faith for the team, however shaky the boat is. It inspires to move forward with a clear vision and strong will amid the rocks that life’s antagonists throw at you. It presents failures and setbacks as stepping stones to a mature self, a better self, a stronger self. It is rare to find a person who believes in what you can do amid life’s uncertainty and society’s discrimination. It is rare to find a good team that stays strong amid workplace injustice and works together to unlock your full potential. This drama serves enriching life lessons and is highly recommended to watch and discuss with family and friends.
Cast: Kim Se-jeong, Nam Yoon-su, Choi Daniel
Writers: Cho Ye-rang, Lee Jae-eun
Directors: Jo Soo-won, Kim Young-hwan
6. Tomorrow (MBC)
“What saves people is not your powers but the weight of your words.”
MBC’s Tomorrow (2022) is a fantasy series with a touch of reality that bravely explores the delicate topic of suicide, introducing the Risk Management Team of grim reapers from Jumadeung Company whose special mission is to prevent cases and save those who are about to give up on their lives. Although fictional, it serves as an eye-opening experience that unearthes what goes on in the mind of a person who takes one’s own life. The drama presents various stories of individuals who are victims of abuse, bullying, injustice, and other social issues that many people can relate to. Most importantly, it highlights the power of words when talking to a person, friend, family member, or even a stranger who is going through a hard time—words that could either break a person’s will to live, bring a person to the edge of a cliff, or strengthen someone’s heart to live life anew. It teaches viewers that we can help prevent suicide when we simply speak life-giving words.
Cast: Kim Hee-sun, Rowoon, Lee Soo-hyuk, Yoon Ji-on
Writers: Park Ran-i, Park Ja-kyung, Kim Yu-jin
Directors: Kim Tae-yoon, Sung Chi-wook
7. If You Wish Upon Me (KBS2)
“Wherever you are, if you are with the people you love and don’t feel lonely, that will be your Hogeweyk Village.”
KBS2’s If You Wish Upon Me (2022) revolves around a hospice hospital, where patients get to see their last wishes granted by a team called Genie and the abandoned, bullied, abused, hopeless, feel the warmth of new beginnings. In whatever background a person brings, whether dark or blemished, this home welcomes anyone who wishes to bathe in that soul-deep peace away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Beyond the theme of pain, death, and suffering, this drama reminds us to make time to unclutter our personal perspective of living—to rethink life, to rebuild human connections where life is grown and celebrated—to liberate ourselves from the fears of the unknown and regrets, and begin to savor each moment and to live each day more fully in such a way that we leave behind a worthwhile legacy. Actor Ji Chang-wook’s stellar performance and pure display of emotions will also move you through the screen. He is a scene stealer.
Cast: Ji Chang-wook, Sung Dong-il, Choi Soo-young
Writer: Jo Ryeong-soo
Director: Kim Yong-wan
8. Forecasting Love And Weather (JTBC)
“Signals are simple. Sometimes they are sounds. Sometimes they are colors. And sometimes they are vibrations. They keep signaling to me that nothing is safe in this world.”
JTBC’s Forecasting Love And Weather (2022) brings us to a level of grasping love’s red flags conscientiously and perceiving what traces are good or not. Signs. Sounds. Visuals. Hints. Warnings. Advices. Name it. Life has bestowed us every opportunity to discern something as healthy or unhealthy. We also have every freedom to choose which path to walk or words to take heed. And yet, despite all the cards laid down in front of us, we sometimes still pick what is strange, dangerous, or unknown. Out of curiosity or perhaps out of brokenness? Park Min-young’s character in the drama is an intelligent and dedicated career woman who knows what she wants in life and clearly perceives what is wrong or not. And yet, despite this strong character, she still finds herself drawn to life’s risks and perils. Like the weather forecasting that needs lots of attention and staff on standby to foresee dangers and avoid damages, love also needs lots of good accountability to help us steer clear of painful traps.
Cast: Park Min-young, Song Kang, Yoon Park, Yura
Writer: Seon Yeong
Director: Cha Young-hoon
9. Yumi’s Cells 2 (TVING)
“Right. I only just got started. So I can’t let myself be disappointed already. This is only the beginning.”
TVING’s Yumi’s Cells (2021-2022) is a deep dive into the unseen cells of various emotions that any human being could relate to especially women through the life of an ordinary lady named Yumi. She is a relatable character who goes through all kinds of relatable emotions played by multiple adorable animated cells. From heartbreak to misery to letting go and moving on, the drama conveys what every woman experiences in their head, heart, sleep, even in alone moments. In part two, we see character growth in Yumi as she ventures into a new career as a writer and blooms into a more empowered woman, discovering self-love and taking risks. The drama’s character may seem simple but Kim Go-eun presents one of the most relatable and heartfelt performances of the year.
Cast: Kim Go-eun, Jinyoung, Ahn Bo-hyun
Writers: Kim Kyung-ran, Kim Yoon-joo
Director: Lee Sang-yeob
10. Thirty-Nine (JTBC)
“I’ll probably only get to live half the amount most people get to live. But it’s quality over quantity. It was more than enough for me.”
JTBC’s Thirty-Nine (2022) lays down the reality of life and death and the matchless joy of keeping company close to your heart through the story of three longtime friends. The trio reflects the fact that when life nears 40, that’s the time when life hits differently. You get to look at life with depth, ponder upon what is truly valuable or not, and chase not the wealth but the health. Stories of adoption, terminal illness, relationship issues, as well as parental abandonment are tackled in this drama. It reminds viewers that life is short, unpredictable, limited, and temporary but full when it makes time for families, friendships, and other significant relationships. This drama conveys that we need people, whether in small or large communities because to be with people is what makes life meaningful and richer.
11. Mental Coach Jegal (tvN)
“The ones who smile at the end are the winners in life.”
tvN’s Mental Coach Jegal (2022) is an ongoing drama that highlights sports life and what athletes experience physically and mentally. Although fictional, it present some realistic topics on mental health and social issues—trauma, stress, verbal abuse, sports politics, maltreatment, included. It introduces Jegal Gil, a Taekwondo athlete who quit sports due to a leg injury and becomes an inspirational life speaker and coach, guiding young athletes with mental care. So far, the drama entertains well and serves enriching life lessons, especially on mental training.
Cast: Jung Woo, Lee Yoo-mi, Kwon Yul, Park Se-young
Writer: Kim Ban-di
Director: Son Jeong-hyun
12. The Law Cafe (KBS2)
“I know that life can fall apart very easily. And when it falls apart, you suddenly need something you never cared about before. You need the law. Desperately.”
KBS2’s The Law Cafe (2022) is an ongoing legal drama that follows two former lovers, a melancholic prosecutor who quits his job due to political issues at work, and a sanguine lawyer who resigns from the law firm to open her own cafe with the vision of counseling customers who need legal advice. The duo happens to meet again and becomes a team in helping people solve legal problems while they sort out their own personal issues of the past. Although the plot is geared towards romance, it still presents various realistic cases experienced by ordinary people such as fraud, inheritance issues, child abuse, and others. You will be drawn to Lee Se-young’s fun character, the rollercoaster romance between the leads, and learn several helpful points on legal matters of day-to-day living.
Cast: Lee Seung-gi, Lee Se-young
Writer: Im Ji-eun
Director: Lee Eun-jin
Copyright Myra Bansale for KORB Blog.