Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin—the couple who starred in the hit K-drama series Crash Landing On You (CLOY)—announcing this week that they are finally getting married: you can’t get a more romantic runup to Valentine’s Day than that.
When the couple announced last year that they had been dating, K-drama fans the world over let out a collective sigh, like a protracted swoon that began when CLOY became such a global hit in 2019 and set many home-stranded individuals on the path to K-drama addiction.
In an IG post of his agency, Hyun Bin said, “…. I made an important decision to get married and I’m going to carefully step into the second phase of my life. Promised with her she always makes me smile….” (in Korean auto-translated into English)
Son Ye Jin posted in IG: “….I found someone to spend the rest of my life with…Yes…The person u think is right…” (again in Korean auto-translated into English).
We asked a few readers of TheDiarist.ph their top 3 favorite K-drama love stories—perfect for binge-watching this Valentine weekend, even if it’s a tall order to limit your choices to three. You will note that with your favorite K-drama, watching it only once is never enough; you go back to it over and over.
Crash Landing on You—This has all the elements of a beautiful love story. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, something prevents them from being together (can you get any more challenging than North Korea?) but love defies all (even borders) and they end up together.
Fight For My Way—I love watching the banter between Ko Dongman and Choi Aera. I also love how protective Ko Dongman is of her, and how he shows respect by berating her for wearing a dress that he deems too short, or going out without (gasp!) a bra.
Something in the Rain—While this is pegged as a May-December romance, I love the intensity of Seon Joon-Hee in his pursuit of the beautiful (and older) Yoon Jin-Ah.
Coffee Prince, Crash Landing on You, Love in the Moonlight— Apart from the great chemistry between the lead stars, the casting is perfect to a T. Lastly, the male leads in these three series are able to hit the right chord to give that “kilig” factor to the female viewers.
CLOY—a unique love story between a South Korean and a North Korean…. Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin are superb veteran actors.
Itaewon Class—also unique love story, well acted by Park Seojun and Kim Da Mi
True Beauty—I’m an avid fan of Cha Eun Woo, for me the most naturally handsome Korean actor. Very fun cute young love story
Goblin (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God)—It’s a love story so powerful that it continued to go on beyond death and rebirth. The words they used were so powerful. The Goblin said, “Even the deepest sorrow cannot last one thousand years and there is no such thing as a love that can last a thousand years either.” However, Eun Tak disagreed and said that such a thing lasts and it’s neither sorrow nor love, but sorrowful love. There were so many other declarations of love that tugged at the heartstrings such as the “physics of love,” “first love” and the Goblin’s promise that he will come back to her as the first snow and that he will beg the Almighty to allow him just that. Only a supernatural being can love like that. The most important love lesson I have learned from the Goblin: “You can never lose someone who is meant for you.”
Crash Landing On You—Love against all odds. They both risked their lives and “took a bullet” to protect the other. However, what I liked most about their love story was that they decided to have a non-conforming (or non-conformist?) relationship. They designed their own rules and defied the norms of society and politics. They saw each other only once a year in a neutral country, but they remained happy and content. Contrary to the saying, “You can’t have it all,” I believe the lead characters have it all…. But not all at the same time.
The moral lesson is as clear as day:
“When a man loves you, nothing can keep him away and when a man does not love you, nothing can make him stay.”
True Beauty—Only because the leading man is disarmingly handsome! The rich, intelligent, talented, and extremely good-looking boy (who is almost too good to be true) fell for the mediocre and plain-looking girl who was considered by her peers as ugly. Despite all that, he loved her for her true beauty or her inner beauty. As the saying goes, “Love has no other desire, but to fulfill itself.”
Truly a work of fiction since this hardly happens in real life, but hopefully, life will imitate art. It sends a message of hope and empowerment. No matter who you are and how you look, you have the right to choose what and who is best for you. True Beauty imparts a moral lesson that though outer beauty captures the eyes, it is inner beauty that captures the heart.
Crash Landing on You—very exciting from the beginning to the end. Both Mr. Ri and Seri were excellent in their roles. They share a beautiful love story on cam and off cam, as they have officially announced their engagement.
My Love from the Star—made me cry a river. I fell in love with Kim Soo Hyun. Love is such a beautiful thing indeed.
Moon Lovers Scarlet Heart—Great love from two different worlds. The OST and cinematography are fantastic. Lee Joon Gi as usual was excellent.
Mr. Sunshine—superb story, actors, direction, cinematography, production design
CLOY—excellent actors, beautiful story, interesting twists, made me laugh and cry, I’ve watched it six times and will never get tired of watching it over and over again
Reply 1988—hilarious, good script, good actors
CLOY—since it’s my first ever K-drama
Start Up—since it’s such a nice introduction for young peeps to how to open your own company
Youth of May—since it’s closer to home, thanks to the backdrop of Martial Law and my first ever K-drama where the protagonists did not end up with each other
Love in the Moonlight—good looking couple Park BoGum and Kim YooJung
Secret Garden—fun to watch and the couple had good chemistry
Hwarang—a love story with focus on friendships
Mich del Rosario:
Descendants of the Sun—this is really my all-time favorite! It has all the simple, classic kilig moments with the lead protecting the girl. I loved how the drama is also both funny and exciting, to keep you on the edge of your seat!
Her Private life—Their relationship is healthy! The lead guy allows the girl to enjoy and have her own space (fan girling!) while keeping their relationship strong and fun!
Snowdrop—At the end of the drama you will understand why the lead guy did what he did for the girl, that even if they spent only a short period together, because of his past, it’s with her that he is able to receive love. It’s been quite a while since I’ve watched this type of K-drama (maybe since CLOY) and I loved this so much! Please watch!
Kristine Delos Reyes:
The main ingredients I look for in a romance are realism, depth, character growth—all of which are products of the writers’ and PD’s genius—and then OTP (One True Pair) chemistry.
Bonus points go to technical elements such as cinematography, OST, set design and costume, then story pacing and a smooth landing in the end, to tie up all loose ends in an unhurried and satisfactory manner.
Our Beloved Summer
This romance tops my list as it is so realistic it could have been my story or yours.
It masterfully checks all the other boxes. What I appreciate most about this drama is how commonplace the story seems to be on the surface, yet each character is cloaked in layers upon layers of complexity. The series then gently peels off each layer with much respect and consideration for each character’s journey from pain to healing. Complementing the understatedly profound screenplay are the magnetic chemistry and outstanding performance of leads Choi Woo Shik and Kim Da Mi, along with the rest of the cast.
Three weeks post-finale, I am still reeling from the emotions of OBS and can’t think of moving on to another drama, which will most probably pale in comparison to this one.
Crash Landing On You
CLOY is the Titanic of K-dramas. Aside from being the Mother of All K-dramas for me, as CLOY started me on this K-drama journey from which there was no turning back, the iconic DMZ-crossed lovers put me through the wringer of emotions. Never could I have imagined alternating between tears and guffaws in a span of a minute, much less an episode. CLOY is THAT good in reeling the audience in and in making us fall hook, line, and sinker for every other oppa in every other K-drama that followed suit.
My minor quibble about CLOY was its less than satisfactory ending. But since the modern-day fairy tale ending of Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin has overwhelmingly made up for whatever deficiencies the series might have, then all is forgiven and forgotten.
Hometown ChaChaCha (tied with) The Red Sleeve
I loved HomCha because it painted my mood pastel shades of pink and blue whenever the bedimpled smiles of Shim Min Ha and Kim Seon Ho filled my screen. The show floods you with feel-good vibes emanating from touching displays of kindness, friendship, love, loyalty, forgiveness. It highlights the best in people. And whatever mournful sadness there was, was necessary for character growth, resolution, and healing. The OTP relationship, aside from being electric, was very mature. Never overly dramatic or tropey, any conflicts were handled maturely and promptly resolved.
I was tempted to choose the epic masterpiece of a sageuk that is The Red Sleeve over HomCha, but since the central romance was less than healthy or ideal IMO for most of the show, I had to downgrade TRS to a tie with HCCC. The San-Deok couple was again as iconic as DiCaprio-Winslet or maybe even Burton-Taylor, but the tug of war between YiSan the King and DeokIm his court lady, and that core dilemma of choosing freedom over love, gives this otherwise sweeping, melty romance a thorn on its side. Don’t get me wrong, this drama was MAGNIFICENT, if not perfect, in every way, and in its gravitas clearly outweighs the modern-day romance of HomCha. But if I were to pick whose shoes I’d rather be in, whose relationship I’d prefer to have, then it’s Dimple Couple of HomCha over the tragic San-Deuk couple of TRS.
The Winter the Wind Blows
Record of Youth
Moon Embracing the Sun
Oh My Venus—So Ji Sub is my favorite.
It’s Okay, That’s Love—Jo In Sung is Korea’s foremost actor, as far as I’m concerned; and Gong HyoJin is my favorite actress who isn’t reluctant to tackle even “un-pretty” roles.
Uncontrollably Fond—It’s sad yet you keep watching it.
Thelma San Juan:
Park BoGum and Lee Min Ho hits: Encounter, Love in the Moonlight, Reply 1988 for PBG; The Inheritors, Legend of the Blue Sea for LMH—I’ve watched these more than once, and still was touched each time;
True Beauty—how can a teen love story appeal to people of all ages, so simple, funny, yet profound with its issues of suicide, alienation, bullying, insecurities about one’s looks. The acting can’t be more natural—where I discovered the highly intelligent idol Cha Eun Woo.
Gong Yoo—Coffee Prince, Goblin…classics
My Roommate is a Gumiho —how can a fantasy about a fox be so humanly poignant, romantic and insanely hilarious? That’s thanks to the acting of Jang KiYong and Hyeri, to me, one of the strongest couple chemistries in recent K-drama. This led me to binge-watch JKY dramas where he proves his range, playing diverse roles, from serial killer, abusive husband to cuckolded boyfriend. JKY is one actor whose good looks is only an introduction to his strengths. (Sorry, I broke the top 3 rule; obvious that I choose to binge-watch based on actors/actresses.)