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Best K-dramas of 2022 (Second Half)

Since legal and revenge-themed k-dramas reigned over 2022, it's no surprise they make up more of this list than any other genre. From international hits to quiet underrated gems you may not have heard of, here are our picks for the best k-dramas that aired from July to December. (Read our first half picks here.)


GwenchaNoona | Best K-Dramas of 2022 (Second Half): "Extraordinary Attorney Woo", "Anna (Director's Cut), "Little Women", "Recipe for Farewell", and "Reborn Rich"

Doctor Lawyer

A worthy comeback for So Ji-sub, this 16-episode MBC medical legal drama is about a genius surgeon, Han Yi-han, who decides to become a medical malpractice lawyer after losing everything following a fabricated scandal. Lim Soo-hyang (ID: Gangnam Beauty) stars opposite him as a medical crime prosecutor who lost a family member after a botched surgery. The title is as good as a summary, but solid writing and cast chemistry make this show so much more.


Read our full review here.


Insider

Pessimistic, dark, and often shocking in its brutality, JTBC’s Insider, featuring Kang Ha-neul and a powerhouse ensemble cast, stands out in a genre that usually prefers the unrealistic and the fantastical. Powered by a layered plot that's compelling enough to keep you engrossed for 16 episodes, Insider is a solid show from start to finish and may well be one of the better-written dramas of 2022.

Read our full review here.


Ultimate Weapon Alice

Boy meets girl. Boy finds out that girl is a trained killer. Ahhh, yes. Love is in the air. So are teargas and blood splatter. But beyond the bloodshed and the dark humor of Ultimate Weapon Alice lies an unexpectedly sweet tale of friendship, first love, and getting through the worst of high school.


Read our full review here.



Yumi’s Cells 2

If you enjoyed the first season of this live action/animation hybrid drama, get ready for more laughs and more raunchiness in the second one as Kim Yu-mi (Kim Go-eun, Little Women) takes on a new love… and a new life! Unlike the boyfriend-centric first season though, this second one takes ample time to explore what Yumi could be without a partner. Don’t fret, the cells are back and are funnier than ever.


Extraordinary Attorney Woo

The Netflix international chart topper and second highest-rated k-drama of 2022, Extraordinary Attorney Woo features Park Eun-bin (The King’s Affection) as Korea’s first lawyer with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this heartwarming ENA series, Woo Young-woo draws on her unique strengths to solve cases together with her associates at Hanbada Law Firm. It’s the magic of the k-drama slice-of-life at its finest—a lovable lead, a convincing ensemble cast, and a story that revolves around a “long, loving look” at the ordinary life of a quite extraordinary human being.


Anna (Director's Cut)

Bae Suzy (Start-up) convincingly takes on her darkest, most complex role in this miniseries from streaming newcomer Coupang Play. Based on the bestselling novel Intimate Stranger by multi-awarded writer Jung Han-a, this quiet psychological thriller revolves around Lee Yu-mi, a talented and intelligent woman of humble origins who becomes entangled in a web of her own lies. It’s best to go into Anna cold, and to note that there are two versions due to a controversial dispute between director Lee Yoo-jung and Coupang Play. We recommend the 8-episode version as envisioned by Lee, as the shorter, 6-episode cut excludes some crucial scenes. Stay tuned for our full review.


Little Women

Kim Go-eun, Nam Ji-hyun, and Park Ji-hu star in this thrilling adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel. Little Women thrives not only from its highly competent cast, but also because it is the product of three of the best female brains working behind the scenes today: esteemed screenwriter Jung Seo-kyung, director Kim Hee-won, and veteran art director Ryu Seong-hee. When you put together Jung’s decades of screenwriting experience, the tense but elegant directorial style of Kim Hee-won, and the impeccable taste of art director Ryu Seong-hee, we get an exquisitely shot and gorgeously cinematic atmosphere that adds to the enjoyment of an already intriguing story.


Read our full review here.


Alchemy of Souls 1&2

Ranked among the top 10 most-watched Netflix non-English series for 17 weeks (Part 1) and four weeks (Part 2), Alchemy of Souls tells the story of the smart troublemaker Jang Uk (Lee Jae-wook), his mysterious master disguised as his servant, Mu-deok (Jung So-min), and the trapped soul of Naksu (Go Youn-jung). Living in the mythical world of Daeho, mages can control the element-transforming energy from the surrounding mystical lake, and prevent those with evil plans from performing the forbidden “alchemy (switching) of souls.” Rich world-building by the famous Hong sisters, outstanding production design and special effects, and a talented ensemble made up of veterans and young breakout stars, make this epic fantasy series one of the most entertaining watches of the year.


Read our review of Part 1.


Gaus Electronics

Stephen King once said that a “tragedy is a tragedy…but it takes a genius to make people laugh.” That probably explains why there’s only a handful of k-dramas that attempt 16 episodes of full comedy—the sheer brainpower needed to craft hilarious scenes and dole them out by the minute is not for every writer. This makes Gaus Electronics a rather courageous attempt to join that rather small cabal of comedy k-dramas, and it works quite well that we’d love to see more of it. Thanks to its whip-smart writing and extremely talented cast—especially to the comedic talents of Kwak Dong-yeon (Love in the Moonlight), Bae Hyun-sung (Our Blues), and forever villain Baek Hyun-jin (Political Fever)—you’ll find yourself literally laughing out loudly from jokes that wouldn’t have worked had they been given to lesser actors.


Read our full review here.


One Dollar Lawyer

This hit SBS legal series marks Namgoong Min’s return to comedy after five years and just as many dramas. In One Dollar Lawyer, he plays Cheon Ji-hoon, a brilliant former prosecutor whose unorthodox methods guarantee that he wins any case he agrees to take on for a mere ₩1,000 (cheon won, approximately one US dollar). Fans of his hilarious, take-no-prisoners performance in 2018’s Chief Kim/Good Manager will not be disappointed, as this award-winning premium oppa is in top comedic form, ably supported by Kim Ji-eun, Park Jin-woo, and Choi Dae-hoon.


Under the Queen’s Umbrella

Unlike most sageuks (historical dramas), Under the Queen’s Umbrella focuses on women driving court politics while touching on themes as diverse as identity, suicide, and tiger parenting. Kim Hye-soo (Juvenile Justice) marvelously portrays the speed-walking Queen Hwaryeong, a politically savvy queen who struggles to turn her sons (save for the almost-perfect crown prince) into proper princes. She must keep them under her "umbrella" to protect them from corrupt ministers, competitive concubines, and her scheming mother-in-law, the Queen Dowager (Kim Hae-sook, Inspector Koo).


2022’s third highest-rated cable series, the 16-episode tVN/Netflix sageuk features several up-and-coming young actors, including GwenchaNoona 2022 breakout star Bae In-hyuk (Cheer Up) as the Crown Prince.


Yonder

Adapted from the Kim Jang-hwan novel Good-Bye Yonder, this six-episode k-drama explores the story of Kim Jae-hyun (Shin Ha-kyun), a husband who faces unique existential dilemmas after the death of his beloved wife. Yonder accomplishes a feat rarely seen in k-drama—the ability to tackle a multitude of themes such as the meanings of life, death, existence, heaven, hell, love, religion, God, and despair—and carefully lays them out in a manner that embraces speculative sci-fi at its very best without being simplistic, overbearing, nor pretentious.


Read our full review here.


Reborn Rich

Song Joong-ki shows the world that he’s the current king of k-dramas by starring in the highest-rated show in Korea in 2022. Shot and thrown off a cliff by the conglomerate he has devoted his life to, he finds himself reborn into the family that owns it. With all his memories from his former life intact, he schemes his way into a company takeover. The real star of the show though is veteran actor Lee Sung-min (Misaeng: Incomplete Life), who plays the family patriarch and founder of the Soonyang empire, and who both intimidates and wins the audience over with his powerful performance. The fascinating script sees Jin Do-jun (Song Joong-ki) go through several turning points in Korea’s history as he and his uncles fight over who would inherit the family’s wealth. With stellar casting and an interesting premise, the show was definitely one of this year’s best, despite its divisive ending.


Recipe for Farewell

Kim Seo-hyung (Mine) and Han Suk-kyu (Dr. Romantic) star as Jung Da-jung and Kang Chan-wook, an estranged couple who reunite when Da-jung asks Chan-wook to care for her following her colon cancer diagnosis. A book translator with zero cooking skills, Chan-wook pours his heart into learning how to prepare healthy meals to help her through treatment, and creates a food blog to document his cooking journey.


Based on It May Be a Little Spicy Today, the memoir of writer Kang Chang-rae, this touching 12-episode family drama beautifully portrays not just how food brings people together, but how the act of preparing it can be a manifestation of love and devotion.


Honorable Mention:


Why Her?

Seo Hyun-jin’s multi-layered performance as ice queen Oh Soo-jae, a brilliant, ruthless lawyer clawing her way back after falling for grace, is reason enough to tune into the hit mystery drama Why Her?. Her scenes with her TK Law Firm boss and mentor, played by the diabolical Heo Joon-ho, are a spine-tingling pleasure to watch.


Read our short review here.


Love Is for Suckers

Love Is for Suckers is a straightforward romance that keeps its focus on two longtime friends who must decide if they should finally risk their beautiful friendship for a shot at love. That’s a trope that’s been done to death but Lee Da-hee and Choi Si-won still make it work and get the audience invested in their long, meandering love story.


Read our full review here.


Behind Every Star

This 12-episode tvN series stars Lee Seo-jin (Marriage Contract), Kwak Sun-young (Hospital Playlist), Seo Hyun-woo (Flower of Evil) and Joo Hyun-young (Extraordinary Attorney Woo) as talent agents at the fictional Method Entertainment. An adaptation of hit French workplace comedy series Dix Pour Cent/Call My Agent (2015), Behind Every Star offers an entertaining look into the inner workings of Korean show business and plenty of fun celebrity cameos.


Weak Hero Class 1

Ace high school student Yeon Si-eun (Park Ji-hoon, Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency) usually just keeps to himself until an incident gets him entangled with transferee Oh Beom-seok (Hong Kyung, D.P.) and the class bully. He eventually becomes friends with Beom-seok and a mixed-martial-arts-trained classmate, An Soo-ho (Choi Hyun-wook, Twenty-Five Twenty-One). Together, they use the means at their disposal—analytics, money, or fighting skill—in order to survive the rampant violence in school and in their community. The eight-episode Wavve original action-drama was screened at the 2022 Busan International Film Festival.


Read our full review.

 

Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know!


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