The best K-dramas of 2022 were bookended by a pair of brutal teen-centric dramas that premiered at the beginning of the year (All of Us Are Dead) and the end (Weak Hero Class One). They frame a year of superb Korean dramas, so many that it was difficult to narrow it down to just 11 top picks.
Big Mouth, Juvenile Justice, Business Proposal, and Narco-Saints were contenders. And had Reborn Rich released all its episodes earlier, I’m fairly certain that the Song Joong-ki series would’ve made this list as well. The following list features shows that romanced and charmed, terrified and scandalized, informed and celebrated — and made me laugh, too.
Below, check out the best K-dramas from 2022 that should definitely be on your watch list.
Under the Queen’s Umbrella
This sageuk — or historical drama — is my favorite K-drama of the year. Kim Hye-soo stars as a fair and open-minded queen who serves her king but lives for her rambunctious sons. After her eldest, the crown prince, falls deathly ill, the battle over succession begins. His title won’t automatically be passed down to her other children if the Queen Dowager (Kim Hae-sook) has her way. She despises Queen Hwa-ryeong and has plans of her own: to have a prince borne to one of the king’s many concubines ascend in the royal hierarchy, kick out (or kill!) Queen Hwa-ryeong, and have the preferred concubine become the king’s new queen. What follows is a murder mystery and a tale of political vengeance with an adorable love story thrown in for a bit of levity. As a bonus, the period-piece costumes are gorgeously resplendent. (Kim Hye-soo also stars in this year’s superb Juvenile Justice, playing a no-nonsense juvenile court judge who despises delinquents.) (Netflix)
Weak Hero Class 1
Park Ji-hoon is almost unrecognizable from his Wanna One days. Leading this cast, which also includes Choi Hyun-wook (Twenty Five Twenty One) and Hong Kyung (D.P.), Park is so intensely good as a bullied boy who uses classical conditioning (Pavlov’s Dog) and Newton’s Laws of Motions to fight back against his tormentors. Unlike most bullied kids, Si-eun isn’t afraid of his persecutors. He views them as aggressive blockades to academic excellence. Not one who feels the need for friends, Si-eun eventually finds himself aligned with fellow class outcast Beom-seok, and Soo-ho – who’s the school’s best fighter. Midway through, there is a plot twist that will leave many viewers shocked and heartbroken. Be forewarned: the ending is definitive and bleak. Based on a webtoon, Weak Hero Class 1 is one of the few K-dramas where I’m hopeful for a second season. (Viki)