Most people might look for horoscopes at the start of the year, but real k-drama fans look for dramas to start marking their calendars. We asked the GwenchaNoonas what's on their 2022 watchlist.
As a huge fan of Son Ye-jin and Kang Ha-neul, 2022 is my lucky year since they each have two dramas lined up. I’m so excited to see Son Ye-jin in the slice-of-life female friendship drama Thirty-Nine with Hospital Playlist’s Jeon Mi-do next month! Kang Ha-neul’s legal thriller Insider is coming in the second quarter, and I’m sure it’s going to be yet another great transformation. Then, towards the end of the year, these two faves of mine will be working together in A Tree Dies Standing with veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung. My fangirl heart is already full!
I’m also looking forward to Kang Han-na’s first leading drama role in the sageuk (historical drama) Red Single Heart; writer Noh Hee-kyung’s new all-star cast drama Our Blues with Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-ah, Kim Woo-bin, and Han Ji-min; Jo In-sung’s comeback supernatural drama Moving; and, of course, season two of Work Later, Drink Now!
Because of the amazing shows Netflix brought us last year, and because of its increased investment in the Korean content this year, its 2022 lineup seems to be watch-worthy as well: We're getting zombies again in All of Us Are Dead, kink in Love and Leashes, high-octane action in Suriname, and a dozen more titles to enthrall fans all over the world.
My favorite girl Jun Jong-seo (of The Call and Burning) will also be in the Korean Netflix production of Money Heist. For actors, I am also excited for the googly-eyed and eccentric Koo Kyu-hwan (from D.P.) and ex-boybander Lee Joon (from The Silent Sea, and honestly, he’s just the best thing in Bulgasal) to grow even more popular in 2022. Both Koo Kyu-hwan and Shin Hyun-been have definitely paid their dues in small roles and indie films, and it's about time they take on lead roles in the k-drama Monstrous in March. Lee Joon will team up with Kang Han-na and premium oppa Jang Hyuk for Red Single Heart, and I hope the sageuk (historical drama) makes full use of their incredible charisma and attractiveness.
This may also be a year of noteworthy comebacks from "scandals". Having weathered many the unsavory accusation when It’s Okay to Not Be Okay ended, Seo Yea-ji comes back with Eve and now she's paired with Lee Sang-yeob, who was deliciously evil in On the Verge of Insanity. I can’t think of a better pair with anti-hero energy, so let’s hope the director maximizes their charisma and edginess as well.
I’m hoping Our Blues, set in Jeju Island, with its all-star cast will be a healing drama. I’ve always enjoyed small-town dramas and I’m hoping it will fill the void left by Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha.
I’m also on the lookout for some light romance so I’m looking forward to Twenty-Five Twenty-One with Nam Joo-hyuk and Kim Tae-ri, and Crazy Love with Kim Jae-wook (Her Private Life) and Krystal Jung (Police University).
But other than that, I’m just being open to whatever k-dramaland throws at me. I was pleasantly surprised that my favorites from last year weren’t the ones I was looking forward to at all.
Liam Yeon Kimin
As some of the best and most imaginative k-dramas of 2021 came from Netflix, I’m eagerly looking forward to the titles backed by the streaming giant this year. Of the confirmed releases so far, I’m expecting the six-episode drug crime thriller Suriname starring big names like Yoo Yeon-seok (Hospital Playlist) and Park Hae-soo (Squid Game) to be an exciting binge-watch. And I’m definitely going to check out the Korean version of the massively popular Money Heist, which will also star Park Hae-soo (so busy!)
Netflix’s success means I’m also curious about whether Disney+ can step up and compete. While it has fewer Korean titles in the pipeline, the webcomic-based Moving about students with superhuman abilities is definitely on my watchlist.
I’m also cautiously optimistic that Ji Chang-wook’s next project, the musical drama The Sound of Magic based on a fascinating webtoon about a mysterious magician, will finally be the one to redeem his reputation. If not that, then I’ll definitely cry with him in Tell Me Your Wish, a drama inspired by a foundation that grants cancer patients their wishes.
I look forward to much higher-quality k-drama content in 2022: friendship series Thirty-Nine (Son Ye-jin, Jeon Mi-do, Kim Ji-hyun), family drama A Tree Dies Standing (Son Ye-jin, Kang Ha-neul, Youn Yuh-jung), court action True Sword Battle (Do Kyung-soo), and thriller Monstrous (Koo Kyo-hwan, Shin Hyun-been, Kwak Dong-yeon, Nam Da-reum).
Their directors and writers are as talented as their actors: Thirty-Nine takes Kim Sang-ho (Age of Youth 2) as director and Yoo Young-ah (Kim Ji-young: Born 1982) as screenwriter. A Tree Dies Standing screenwriter is Jo Sung-geol (The Target) while Kim Seong-ho (Move to Heaven) is True Sword Battle producer-director. Taking the helm of Monstrous is director Yeon Sang-ho (Train to Busan, Peninsula), working again with screenwriter Ryu Yong-jae (Peninsula).
I anticipate equally compelling stories for season 2 of my 2021 favorites Yumi’s Cells (Kim Go-eun and GOT7’s Jinyoung) and Work Later, Drink Now (Lee Sun-bin, Secret’s Han Sun-hwa, A-Pink’s Jung Eun-ji).
Finally, I am cautiously optimistic about Red Single Heart (Lee Joon, Kang Han-ha), Link (Yeo Jin-goo, Moon Ga-young), Shooting Star (Lee Sung-kyung, Kim Young-dae), and Money Game 2022. This last one on my list is the first k-drama to be directed by Han Jae-rim (Rules of Dating, The Face Reader) but Ryu Jun-yeol is still considering this project. With streaming platforms vying for a fair chunk of the lucrative streaming market, I hope English subs will be widely available.