Seven years of Kdramas: 2003-2009’s best and worst

Exactly three weeks ago I posted a series of polls for the best and worst dramas of 2003-2009. Thank you for your enthusiastic response (especially to the 2009 poll!) and the many comments which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading.

As promised, here is a summary of the voting. Don’t be upset if your favorites don’t make it to the Best 5 or, worse, land up in the ‘other’ category! My own favorites are often different from the popular choices and that actually makes me love them all the more.

Okay, let’s start with 2003 and work our way through the seven years. Dramas that make it, paradoxically, to both best and worst categories are in red.

2003 poll

2003 Best 5

  1. Dae Jang Geum
  2. Damo
  3. Attic Cat
  4. All In
  5. Stairway to Heaven

2003 Worst 5

  1. Stairway to Heaven
  2. Summer Scent
  3. Thousand Years of Love
  4. 1% of Anything
  5. Attic Cat

Thundie’s Best 5

  1. Damo
  2. Attic Cat
  3. Sang-doo, Let’s Go to School
  4. All In
  5. Dae Jang Geum

I admit that Dae Jang Geum is highly addictive; it sucks you in and keeps you on tenterhooks episode after episode. It is well-acted and directed (although you know those aren’t Lee Young-ae’s fingers which are slicing the veggies with such finesse). But Dae Jang Geum didn’t leave me a weepy wreck. It didn’t make me fill a notebook with page after page of quotations. I didn’t listen to its soundtrack every day for more than two years, my eyes filling with tears as I remembered particular scenes with such clarity it was as if I had watched them just moments ago. Only one drama did all that to me. Before the Soompi crash of 2005, my nick there was damoforever. Yes, I’m a Damo maniac and proud of it.

2004 poll

2004 Best 5

  1. Sorry I Love You and Full House
  2. Sweet 18
  3. Save the Last Dance for Me
  4. What Happened in Bali

2004 Worst 5

  1. Love Story in Harvard
  2. Full House
  3. Prince’s First Love
  4. Lovers in Paris
  5. Stained Glass

Thundie’s Best 5

  1. More Beautiful Than a Flower
  2. Immortal Yi Soon Shin
  3. Sorry I Love You
  4. Magic
  5. What Happened in Bali

I’ve been especially nostalgic this month. Five years ago a drama aired its last episode in December; that same drama would change my life, literally. A person whose childhood nickname was ‘Wood” (because she was quiet and timid) found herself the unlikely founder of a fan club. So Ji-sub’s acting in Sorry I Love You (MiSa) blew me away and made me a crazed fangirl (who is still quiet and timid, alas). But even though I continue to love him and MiSa (above anything else he has done so far), my top drama of 2004 isn’t about abandonment and revenge. No, it’s about a mother and her children. It’s about a man and a woman who fall in love, not realizing their ties began long before they met. It’s about family and the things that really matter in life. Approach More Beautiful Than a Flower cautiously because you won’t be able to uproot it from your heart.

2005 poll

2005 Best 5

  1. My Name is Kim Sam-soon
  2. My Girl
  3. Delightful Girl Choon-hyang
  4. Be Strong Geum-soon
  5. Resurrection

2005 Worst 5

  1. A Love to Kill
  2. Princess Lulu
  3. Sad Sonata
  4. Autumn Shower
  5. Delightful Girl Choon-hyang

Thundie’s Best 5

  1. Shin Don
  2. Resurrection
  3. Taereung National Village
  4. Green Rose
  5. Fashion Seventies

One afternoon four years ago, a group of kdrama addicts met in a Burger King restaurant for lunch. Not much eating took place, though. Even from a distance you could see each member of the group clutching her sides, her tears rolling down her face. It was Samsoon this and Samshik that; every little thing would trigger a fresh round of laughter. It was the craziest and most wonderful drama they had watched in ages and they couldn’t stop talking about it. In contrast, one 2005 drama is rarely discussed. Not many have watched it, because it’s a period drama and a long one, too. Its opening episode may put you off because it’s history, after all; this isn’t something you watch while pottering around the room. You need to pay attention, to what the monks are saying, to the king and his courtiers, to the princess you will grow to love fiercely. Listen carefully, for even a child and a camel, even the rocks, have a story. It’s more than 60 episodes and when you come to the end of it, know that it’ll feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. For some people, Shin Don is THE DRAMA. Seven or seventy years, no drama will come close to being so loved.

2006 poll

2006 Best 5

  1. Goong
  2. Soulmate
  3. Fantasy Couple
  4. What’s Up, Fox?
  5. Bad Family

2006 Worst 5

  1. Exhibition of Fireworks
  2. Spring Waltz
  3. Goong, Snow Queen and What Star Did You Come From?

Thundie’s Best 5

  1. Hyena
  2. Soulmate
  3. Goodbye Solo
  4. Bad Family
  5. Alone in Love

Ah, Goong. I ran from you thrice, unable to stomach the awful acting in the first episode. Then I watched Devil and found myself rooting for the lawyer in the story. Because I loved him in Devil and because he was playing your lead, I tried watching you again and this time I succeeded, all the way to the end. Your sets were so lavish, your production values solid as steel (even if the acting was generally putrid). I was addicted, for about 15 episodes, and then you started going downhill. Your last four episodes made me paw the wall, so frustrated was I by the incredibly loopy and mindless plot twists. Thankfully several other 2006 dramas were good from start to end. This was a great year for dramas and it’s hard to pick a No. 1 because I love every one of the dramas in my top 5 with almost the same passion. In the end Hyena wins… because of Oh Man-seok and Shin Sung-rok, and because it is so daringly written and so criminally underrated.

2007 poll

2007 Best 5

  1. Coffee Prince
  2. Dal Ja’s Spring
  3. Thank You
  4. Que Sera Sera
  5. 9 End 2 Outs

2007 Worst 5

  1. Witch Amusement
  2. Goong S
  3. Bad Love
  4. Hello! Miss
  5. Air City

Thundie’s Best 5

  1. Conspiracy in the Court
  2. White Tower
  3. Evasive Inquiry Agency
  4. Devil
  5. Que Sera Sera

One day I will finish Coffee Prince. I liked it for about six episodes, so why did I stop abruptly? I even forgot completely about it, aigoo! Tsk, tsk, Thundie. But wait. In a year of fantastic pickings, it’s forgivable to overlook one gem among so many gems, right? Just look at the list! White Tower, Devil… Someone please knock me senseless so that I can stay stuck in 2007 and not have to fall back to Earth with a thud. On second thought, if I hadn’t gone on to 2008, I would not have discovered my top drama of 2007. January 2008 was when that drama dropped into my lap and left me reeling. Only eight episodes, yet filled with so much intrigue you need to watch each episode twice to fully understand what is going on. This little drama will raise the bar for all other period dramas to come. Three young and untried leads helm Conspiracy in the Court; you will never forget their acting. Never.

2008 poll

2008 Best 5

  1. Hong Gil Dong
  2. Last Scandal of My Life
  3. Who Are You?
  4. Beethoven Virus
  5. Painter of the Wind

2008 Worst 5

  1. East of Eden
  2. One Mom and Three Dads
  3. On Air and Worlds Within
  4. Beethoven Virus and Robber

Thundie’s Best 5

  1. Bittersweet Life
  2. Scale of Providence
  3. Fight
  4. Who Are You?
  5. Women of the Sun

Hong Gil Dong, did I drop you after the fourth episode? Goodness, what was I thinking? Fear not, you are one of the first dramas that I’m going to resume watching when 2010 rolls around. (If you suspect the reason is because of a You’re Beautiful connection, you are absolutely… RIGHT.) Anyway, I dropped so many dramas in 2008, some after just one episode, so making it to Episode 4 for Hong Gil Dong was quite the feat especially given that it felt like all kinds of silly (albeit of a charming kind). Perhaps I was in the mood for serious? Because you can’t find a more serious and intense 2008 offering than the one I fell head over heels for. A cheating husband and his cheating wife. One psycho and another. A really cute dog. The same writer-director pair that gave me the drama of my heart, Shin Don. Acting so sublime it makes me want to weep. Is it possible for me not to love Bittersweet Life?

2009 poll

2009 Best 5

  1. City Hall
  2. You’re Beautiful
  3. Queen Seondeok
  4. Brilliant Legacy
  5. Boys Before Flowers

2009 Worst 5

  1. You’re Beautiful
  2. Boys Before Flowers
  3. City Hall
  4. Take Care of the Young Lady
  5. IRIS

Thundie’s Best 5 (undecided)

I will unveil my top 5 dramas in the year-end review which I’m writing for Dramabeans. As of today I have a best drama in mind, but that may change as I catch up (most frantically) with a few more dramas before the review deadline. I still have not decided which are my top 5 dramas, but I have certainly decided which are the worst 3! (Psst, Brilliant Legacy and You’re Beautiful recaps will resume as soon as I get that year-end review written. So sorry to keep you waiting!)

Thank you again for voting. The polls will remain open until December 31.

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24 thoughts on “Seven years of Kdramas: 2003-2009’s best and worst

  1. OMO the suspense just is killing me:-D Waiting for your year-end review with bated breath,Thundie .;-) Also, I hope you do get to finish watching Coffee Prince finally.That was one awesome drama:-)

    I find it hilarious when the same dramas are leading in both the best and the worst categories.I guess one man’s pleasure is another man’s poison.:-)

  2. Good analysis. Anyway, it’s really fun reading your poll results. It confirms my fears that I will always be in the minority of what constitute a good drama. Well, each to his/her own.

  3. thundie, I’m glad that you put fashion 70s on your top 5 of 2007, I really like this drama and the ending was unforgettable, Oh so you decided to watch Hong Gil Dong? so do I and the reason remains the same, You’re Beautiful, I cant wait to read your review on dramabeans

  4. Finally, after days of stalking this blog, I find a new blog post from Thundie! Yay!

    And now, after reading about your fave dramas and why you like them a lot, I have more dramas to include in my must-watch list.

    I can’t wait for your year-end reviews.

  5. Glad BSGS made it! which makes me want to see More Beautiful than A Flower (lol), because I too love that HOT connection among Hgd, BSGS and MBtaF.. thanks for the new post and looking forward to your year-end review and brilliant legacy recaps :)

  6. Interesting! Based on the polls I’m missing out on a lot of great dramas—will need to fix that :) 2007 was a really good year for dramas! I love reading your end of the year reviews for JB and am looking forward to read the one for this year!

  7. Thundie, I believe the outcome would be very different if each visitor can only vote once. Some would vote as many times as they possibly can just to get their favorite on top….

  8. Thanks for all the comments. *muah* The post isn’t as detailed as I would like it to be, but I don’t have time now to delve into the dramas. I’ll have lots more to say about the 2009 dramas in my year-end recap.

    Hi Helena

    Are you referring to the 2009 polls? That was the only one where I allowed repeat voting because I thought people were still not done with many of the dramas and would appreciate a chance to change their minds.

    I edited the poll on Dec 11 to disallow repeat voting, but that hasn’t altered the positions of the front-runners. The reason, I strongly believe, is because people are NOT voting many times. (I trust all of you and I still do.)

    Instead, the reason why City Hall is the overwhelming 2009 winner is because City Hallers are spreading the word about this poll and they are coming here to vote in droves. I have about 2000 referrals from China’s baidu.com alone and they are from different threads. Referrals are also coming in from Korean sites like naver.com and dcinside and from other City Hall and Kim Sun-ah sites. I was told that Soompi City Hallers are encouraging one another to vote; I’m getting hundreds of referrals from Soompi’s City Hall and KSA threads.

    If someone is simply voting many times just to ‘rig’ the results, it wouldn’t show up as a referral. So my conclusion is this:

    City Hallers from everywhere were somehow told about the poll at Thundie’s Prattle. Whether they were galvanized to vote here by You’re Beautiful’s overwhelming lead at Dramabeans or by other reasons I do not know. All I know is that they have shown up in great numbers and as a result they have made City Hall the No. 1 drama of 2009 here. If that fact makes City Hallers happy, I’m happy for them as well.

    Now… whether City Hall is in my Top 5… All shall be revealed soon! :D

  9. Hi Thundie,

    Thank you for your wonderful blog. I stumbled upon it when looking for an episode summary of Brilliant Legacy and continued to visit regularly. :)

    I cannot believe you’ve not Coffee Princed! I love the OST and still rank it tops among those of contemporary K-dramas.

  10. Hi makeupmag, thank you! I’m definitely finishing the Brilliant Legacy recaps and will try and make time to finish Coffee Prince one day. :)

    Hi amy, there’s a strong likelihood that Tamra could be one of WITHS2’s upcoming projects when the director’s cut set is released. After trying unsuccessfully to watch it on Viikii.net last week, I’ve decided to wait until we sub it in early 2010 (if we take it on, that is).

    Even though I won’t be including Tamra in my write-up, I’m sure it’ll be included in at least one of the other DB year-end reviews. We are going to cover A LOT of dramas. :D

  11. tHIS IS THE FRUIT OF OUR LABOR!
    Bravo City Hallers, continue spreading CH love….
    foreversuna (Korean fans),
    City Hall addicts in koreandrama.org,
    Asianfanatic forum (KSA),
    KSA fans in soompi and CH thread.
    suna4u
    onlysuna
    Baidu
    Dcinside/city hall
    Thanks guys!

  12. Truly this is the best platform to unveil the Best of the Best in KDramas. All drama fans have says spelt out in votes for their most favorite KDrama of the year 2009.

    In fact the sayings goes, one man’s food might be another man’s poison. We shall now leave the matter to the honorable judges and wise drama critics to announce the Academy awards winners in its various categories.

    Least but never last, allow me to share my humble opinions and views with all about CityHall drama, it has never happen to me before but CityHall carried me away! I was like in lost season!

    Now!! See no miracles; see CityHall, Mirae and JoGook in CityHall drama with such impact and transformation and feelings taking place amongst many viewers and fans across the globe can a massive success on a KDrama like CityHall be bequeath accordingly.

    Congratulations will be in order to the winners in each best category. We believe the results will make this path right and the ultimate shall take its course in the noble way via the red carpet glory moments to the Peak.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all drama fans.

  13. This will be a good source to refer to when scouting for something to watch. Why am I not surprised that both BOF and YB made it for both Best 5 and Worst 5?

  14. @ Thundie
    You’re completely right on City Hallers – or Stalkers, as we may like to be called sometimes – ain’t that right, jangerr? ^^ This drama is so exceptional, unforgettable, breathtaking, witty, romantic yet mature, bringing you on such an emotionnal roller-coaster (especially in the 5 last episodes) that we can’t help but spread the news everywhere we can about it and anything related to it. =)
    So glad that CH is number 1. Hope that SBS will do provide them with many awards too. :)

    @ Jastinel
    lol at your comment. And if I may borrow President Obama’s campaign word: “YES WE DID”. :)
    Big hugs to you, sis, and to our fellow Inju Citizens.

  15. I’M FOR CITY HALL ALL THE WAY!. there is definitely no doubt!. This drama isnt the typical romantic dramativ love story. it’s way UNIQUE. nothing i’ve seen before!!!. and for the fact that it’s getting voted on many times i dont believe that it’s because of revoting or otherwise. but it’s true many people has fallen head over heels for both the actors and the whole cast.!!!.. The STATES LOVE CITY HALL!!!. esp. KSA and CSW. their chemistry was so intense and just speechless!!!!!!!!!!.. MAKES ONE SAY WOW!. didnt see that coming! :D.. my all is for CITY HALL!. always!!! HWAiTING! CITY HALL BEST DRAMA OF 2009!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. i don’t know how dramas like “Stairway to Heaven” could be worst AND best at the same time =.=;
    I thought it was great! the storyline is really touching and moving and it hooks you up since ep 1 due to the cruel step mother D:
    and also, the acting of Choi Ji Woo and Kwon Sang Woo was beyond good! I loved it!

    hehe and I agree that Dae Jang Geum is best ^^

    • I recommend watching thru ep 7 then stop. It goes downhill -I would say fast but no- it drags another 13 eps. I gave it 3 stars for those 1st 7 ep then half a star for the rest. If you drink 3-4 glasses of wine before ep 19 thats a good one to laugh thru. What a show -middleschool love, evil step mom & sister,forbidden sibling love, jealousy, attempted murder, blindness, public confessions &humiluation,terminal illness, attempted suicide. This shows got it all- well everything but a good script. Its criminal how they used Led Zepplins song (violins?? really??)
      Respond

  17. I heard about your abandonment of Hong Gil Dong when I read 2008’s year-end reviews on Dramabeans months ago and frankly, I was disappointed with you.

    But for giving it another chance, thank you. ^^

    (Oh and don’t bother looking at my blog. Surprisingly, we have the same theme. But don’t worry, I’ll change my theme soon. ^^ )

    Oh and too bad, You’re Beautiful is on the top worst for 2009. -_- Man, anti’s perhaps?

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