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K-dramas from Coupang Play

In December 2020, South Korean company Coupang Play entered the vibrant video streaming market hoping to get a piece of the lucrative k-content pie. A division of e-commerce giant Coupang, the new streaming platform offers shows that push the envelope in terms of themes and creative direction, and with only 8 to 12 episodes per series, are much shorter than their traditional counterparts.

While the app is only available in South Korea, at least two of its offerings have been picked up by larger platforms such as Viu and Prime Video, allowing a larger international audience to enjoy them legally. With its quality content that has attracted some big name stars like Kim Soo-hyun, Shin Ha-kyun, and Bae Suzy, we look forward to more groundbreaking dramas.

We watched some of the shows and give our quick reviews here.

One Ordinary Day (2021)

Kim Hyun-soo (Kim Soo-hyun and yes we found the names confusing, too), a 20-something-year-old college student sneaks out of his family home and drives his father’s taxi to attend a friend’s party. At a stoplight, a random passenger gets in. She is too enticing to refuse and before long, she has convinced Kim Hyun-soo to spend the evening with her. Against his better judgment, he finds himself trying drugs, drinking, and eventually sleeping with her. When he wakes up, he finds her stabbed to death in her own bed. And thus begins his harrowing journey to prove his innocence, survive the Korean jail system, and maintain his sanity.

This adaptation of BBC’s “Criminal Justice” is both unwatchable and completely bingeable at the same time. It is an understatement to call the drama suspenseful as it keeps you on your toes from the first notes of its opening sequence all the way till the very last second of each episode. Read the full reveiw here.

12 Episodes

Hit the Spot/Fanta-G Spot (2022-23)

Son Hee-jae (Ahn Hee-yon, aka Hani of girl group EXID) and Lee Mi-na (Bae Woo-hee) have been best friends since college and work together at publishing house Playbooks, where they are asked to co-host a podcast on women’s sexuality. Despite having been in a 5-year relationship, Hee-jae has never had an actual orgasm. Mi-na, on the other hand, only engages in no-strings-attached sex, and has a strict set of rules before choosing her next sex partner. No doubt the most NSFW k-drama rom-com we've ever seen (seriously, wear your earphones from the very beginning lest your co-workers think you're watching porn!), Hit the Spot openly takes on issues that are still taboo in the generally conservative k-drama landscape.

8 episodes.

Unicorn (2022)

CEO Steve (Shin Ha-Kyun) leads a motley crew at his startup company Maccom, trying to be the industry’s latest unicorn. Hijinks and hilarity ensue as the clueless staff attempt to recreate an American company culture that idolizes Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. The show dishes out satire and parodies at every turn, while at the same time, giving its own dose of k-drama heart. Laugh-out-loud wit and an unrestrained performance from its cast make this a fun show. At only 12 episodes of less than 40 minutes each, it is unexpectedly heartwarming. It also gives audiences a taste of what makes k-dramas so universal— good people, trying to lead good lives but in an environment that is as crazy as it is creative.

Anna (2022)

Superstar Bae Suzy plays Lee Yumi, a girl who grows up in humble circumstances. Intelligent, hard-working, and quite perceptive, Yumi quickly learns that there are benefits in telling little lies and that she can get away with them as well. She eventually builds a life for herself, completely deceiving others, even those closest to her. But her house of cards is threatening to come down on her.

Bae Suzy delivers a tremendous performance as a complex fake. But it isn’t only Bae Suzy’s performance that’s noteworthy. Kim Joon-han, who plays her husband with secrets of his own, is equally compelling. Jung Eun-chae, who plays the real Anna Lee, is also a great combination of a spoiled brat and a frustrated mother. Even when Park Ye-young, who plays her journalist friend, discovers Yumi’s secrets, we are as befuddled as she is. There’s really no one out of sync in this cast – they all deliver believable performances that keep the audiences guessing about their motives as well.

There are two versions of Anna out there – there is the hotly contested 6-episode set which its creators have denounced, and the 8-episode director’s cut, which we highly recommend. Read the full review here.

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