2023 has seen a number of hits and misses when it comes to K-dramas. We’ve seen experimental plots and genres and some good ol’ rom-coms.  So before we start a fresh batch of series this 2024, the Hallyudorama team listed some of our favorite 2023 K-dramas and characters. 

Favorite Rookie

Lee Jung-ha, ‘Moving’

Lee Jung-ha floating in Disney+'s "Moving."
Lee Jung-ha in “Moving.” Disney+

Our vote for this year’s favorite rookie goes to Lee Jung-ha of “Moving.” His portrayal of a high schooler struggling with his supernatural abilities has truly “moved” us. We can’t wait to see more of this charming actor this 2024.

Hannah: “You can see that he was really into his character, even gaining weight for the role. We felt his angst as a teenager who struggles with his powers and falls in love for the first time.”

Ederic: “Lee Jung-ha really seemed like a different person as Bong-seok, and he had great chemistry with Go Youn-jung!”

Favorite Villain

Nam Joo-hyuk, ‘Vigilante’

Nam Joo-hyuk is an antihero in ‘Vigilante.’ Disney+

Myla: “It’s the first time for me to see Nam Joo-hyuk in a “bida-kontrabida” (antihero) role. It’s a difficult role to pull off. I chose him as my favorite villain because as a viewer, it’s hard to decide whether you will side with his questionable morals and convoluted idea of justice since he is also the protagonist. Nam Joo-hyuk was able to stretch his acting skills in ‘Vigilante.’”

Wi Ha-joon, ‘The Worst of Evil’

Wi Ha-joon and Ji Chang-wook in 'The Worst of Evil'
Wi Ha-joon and Ji Chang-wook in ‘The Worst of Evil’ Disney+

Hannah: “The Worst of Evil” is really one of my favorite K-dramas of 2023 because the characters are so well-written. Even if he’s the villain, you wanted to root for Wi Ha-joon’s mob boss character. You will want his character to redeem himself until the end.”

Lee Hyun-woo, ‘A Good Day to be a Dog’

Lee Hyun-woo is a mysterious character in ‘A Good Day to be a Dog.’ Viu Philippines

Ederic: “He was able to pull off the role of a best friend who turned out to be a villain — and he looks like Park Bo-gum!”

Favorite Actress

Uhm Jung-hwa, ‘Doctor Cha’

Uhm Jung-hwa returned to K-drama as Doctor Cha. JTBC

Myla: “I really felt Uhm Jung-hwa’s emotions as Doctor Cha. The story is all about second chances in life and it somehow mirrors Uhm Jung-hwa’s career as someone who has returned to acting in K-dramas and is becoming more visible in the music industry today.”

Song Hye-kyo, ‘The Glory’

Song Hye-kyo stretches her acting chops in ‘The Glory.’ Netflix

Hannah: “I was really surprised by how good her acting was in ‘The Glory.’ The subtle expressions and controlled acting were superb. You will really sympathize with her character who was bullied. You can feel her pain, anguish and pain while seeking revenge.”

Myla: “In terms of acting, hands down, no one can surpass what Song Hye-kyo did in ‘The Glory’ this year.”

Kim Yoo-jung, ‘My Demon’

Kim Yoo-jung shows a different side in ‘My Demon.’ SBS

Ederic: “Having enjoyed watching Kim Yoo-jung’s cute sageuk characters in ‘Love in the Moonlight’ and ‘Lovers of the Red Sky,’ it was good to see one of my favorite Korean actresses in a more modern role. As Do Do-hee, she is still strong and independent but she takes on a more mature portrayal.”

Favorite Actor

Jo In-sung, ‘Moving’

Jo In-sung’s return to a K-drama is definitely worth the wait. Disney+

Myla: “I’ve always loved Jo In-sung so I was really happy to see him in a K-drama this year, and with a hot character at that. But aside from the action scenes, you can still see his depth as an actor.” 

Ji Chang-wook, ‘The Worst of Evil’

Ji Chang-wook is a man in conflict with his true self in ‘The Worst of Evil.’ Disney+

Hannah: “His character was supposed to be good who pretended to be bad to infiltrate the gang. You can see the conflict in himself. You can feel the insecurity of his character. You will really pity his character because in the end you’re gonna ask ‘what’s the point of all of these?’”

Ahn Hyo-seop, ‘A Time Called You’

Ahn Hyo-seop and Jeon Yoo-been in "A Time Called You"
Ahn Hyo-seop and Jeon Yoo-been in “A Time Called You.” Netflix

Ederic: “Ahn Hyo-seop is convincing as the high schooler Si-heon. His character Yeon-jun is someone you’d want in your circle in college. He was even in a mini-BL with Rowoon. In the time-travel drama ‘A Time Called You,’ he showcased his acting skills by playing multiple characters in different timelines.”

Favorite K-drama Ship

Ahn Hyo-seop and Lee Sung-kyung, ‘Dr. Romantic 3’

Ahn Hyo-seop and Lee Sung-kyung brought the romance in ‘Dr. Romantic 3.’ Disney+

Myla: “We’ve seen them in “Dr. Romantic 2” before but this time their relationship has become more mature. It’s fun to see two different characters coming together. Visually, they look so good together. All their scenes together will make you swoon.”

Han Hyo-joo and Jo In-sung, ‘Moving’

Jo In-sung and Han Hyo-joo are a super couple in ‘Moving.’ Disney+

Hannah: “Are you looking for tension? This is it. This is the couple we were deprived of in the earlier episodes. Those small moments when they were together were just so cute. Their interactions in the elevator, talking by the coffee vending machine, and eating in the tonkotsu place were all kilig-inducing.”

Song Kang and Kim Yoo-jung, ‘My Demon’

Kim Yoo-jung and Song Kang are a visual treat in ‘My Demon.’ SBS

Ederic: “The drama’s story is not my main priority. I just spend each episode looking at the beautiful couple.”

Dark Horse

‘Twinkling Watermelon’

Twinkling Watermelon
‘Twinkling Watermelon’ captured our hearts with its heartwarming lessons. tvN

The Hallyudorama team got into this drama without any expectations but left with so many valuable lessons. 

Myla: “We all thought it was just a cute story when we started it but we learned a lot of life lessons. There’s the fantasy element but it’s also a heartwarming family drama.”

Hannah: “There are a lot of quotable quotes. The best part is how the characters learned how to understand their parents. They understood that their parents were young once and that they also underwent the same problems. That’s the biggest realization.”

Ederic: “While time-travel dramas are among my favorites, ‘Twinkling Watermelon’ initially confused me. As the story unfolded, however, I appreciated it more. I loved how it gave the main characters a chance to be with their parents in the latter’s heyday.”

Favorite K-Drama

‘Moving’

Myla: “In terms of production quality, it’s at par with other big budgeted series abroad. We’ve seen stories about characters with superpowers but this drama is more focused on the relationships, which makes it similar to classic K-dramas that I miss. The drama also features an outstanding ensemble.”

Hannah: “What made this drama very Korean is the issues that were tackled, particularly the North-South conflict. What also made it Korean is the family relations. ‘Moving’ has a lot of ‘hugot.’”

Watch our discussion of our favorite 2023 K-dramas and characters.

‘The Glory’

Hannah: “I rooted for the character of Song Hye-kyo. I liked this drama, first, because of the acting. Everyone was excellent. Second, the plot made you want to root for the character of Song Hye-kyo, and want the villains to be punished.”

‘Tale of the Nine-Tailed 1938’

Ederic: “I love fantasy and period dramas, and ‘Tale of the Nine-Tailed’ offered this and more. It had action, comedy, and even a love story featuring Kim Bum’s gumiho character and her mermaid love interest. I hope this story of family, friendship, and love gets another season so we can continue to join the adventures of the gumiho brothers and their friends.”

Which 2023 K-dramas and characters were your favorite?

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