Dear kfangurl: What are some shows that are not set in the big city?

Ushahin writes:

So, I’ve been looking through all the kdramas that have really helped me feel a bit better since the start of the lockdown. I found I am really craving stories that are set somewhere other than a large metropolis like the one I’m currently stuck in. So, something relaxing and contemporary as opposed to historical and action/suspense oriented. The last one I really loved was Racket Boys; for both characters and settings. Before that I watched When the Weather is Fine and found it soothing mostly based on the atmosphere. I’m having a hard time finding more though. Your recommendations have never once let me down. Can you help?

All the Love.

Hmm.. I’m sure we’ll be able to think of something.

Dear Ushahin,

I can imagine that if you’ve spent a lot of time in lockdown in a big city, you’d have a hankering for a drama escape to somewhere significantly different!

I did my best to think of shows that aren’t set in the big city, and am sharing them in this post. Fair warning that I didn’t love all of these shows equally, but I hope that this list does give you some potential titles to add to your watch list.

I certainly haven’t seen all the dramas out there, so as always, everyone, feel free to share more titles in the comments!

PS: The extra screenshots I’m sharing in this post, are from Taiwanese drama A Thousand Goodnights.

A SAMPLING OF SHOWS NOT SET IN THE BIG CITY

A Thousand Goodnights [Taiwan]

The thing about this show, is that it’s essentially a love letter to Taiwan. The scenic shots of rural Taiwan are award-worthy, they are truly breathtaking and magnificent. However, the writing around our characters tends to be a little awkward and stilted, because the writers were clearly working to get our characters into position for some kind of cultural nugget showcase.

Thinking of this as a long, unhurried travelogue experience for Taiwan helps to mitigate this. If you’re only interested in the scenic shots of rural Taiwan, you could consider watching just the first 6 episodes. Those are worthwhile on their own, too.

Flash Review is here.

After The Rain [Drama Special]

An enjoyable little drama special set in a rural small town. Instead of beautiful scenery, you get something more basic and rustic, but still with that small town charm. I found this one earthy, heartfelt and very enjoyable.

Flash Review is here.

Check Out The Event [Drama Special]

90% of this story is set on beautiful Jeju Island, so that’s a plus point. I actually liked this one quite well, but the ending didn’t sit right with me. I’d say that if you liked the ending of Something in the Rain, this one would likely work for you, and vice versa.

Flash Review is here.

Fermentation Family [Kimchi Family]

It’s been years since I saw this one, but I still remember the stunning rural backdrop, and the breathtakingly beautiful food and different types of kimchi that were featured with each episode. I remember the story as a rather gentle melodrama. I feel like this one’s worth searching for.

Review is here.

Haeundae Lovers

I honestly didn’t enjoy this show all that much, but it is set in the Haeundae area, which is Busan’s most well-known beach. If you think Kim Kang Woo is handsome, you don’t mind some jerky writing, and you’re hankering after some beach vibes, this might possibly work for you. 😅

Review is here.

Hometown Cha Cha Cha

I’m watching this one right now (shameless plug: I’m covering it on Patreon, if you’d like to join me. I’m just 5 episodes in, and liking it a lot! 🥰). There’s lots of Pretty to be had, from the seaside village setting and our leads, and there’s also a lot of that small town vibe that you find in Racket Boys.

Life Is Beautiful

Of all the shows on this list, this is the one that I most hope you’ll look for. It’s set on beautiful Jeju Island, and is such a lovely, warm, cozy blanket of a family drama, that even at 63 episodes, I never wanted it to end.

Review is here.

Little Forest [Movie]

A lovely little movie where Kim Tae Ri’s character moves from the big city back to the small village where she grew up, and finds healing and comfort through farming, food and friends. Earthy, wholesome and very enjoyable.

Flash Review is here.

Off The Course [Drama Special]

Our story starts in the city, but once the road trip gets going, our characters spend time on the mountains, and also, at the beach, like in this screenshot. I really liked this one for being funny on the surface, but poignant and uplifting at its heart.

Flash Review is here.

Ojakgyo Brothers

To be fair, I don’t actually remember the setting of this show, but I assume that it’s not in the big city, because the main family of this story owns a duck farm. I don’t think you can do that in the city? 😅 This is my second most favorite family drama of all time, after Life Is Beautiful. Heartwarming and wholesome, and great drama comfort food.

Review is here.

One Fine Day

Ok, full disclosure, I hated this show with a passion, and would never recommend it to anyone. I just.. wanted an excuse to mention Gong Yoo, who looks admittedly great as a beach boy type, and this show is set in some sort of beach locale, if memory serves.

If you’re a total Gong Yoo fangirl or -boy and have lots of fan loyalty to spare, there’s no harm checking this one out (I watched it twice, despite hating it. That was the absolute – never to be repeated – height of my fangirl dedication, truly. 😅). If you don’t have lots of fan loyalty to spare, then it’s best to steer clear of this one. 😂

One Sunny Day [Mini Series]

A very enjoyable little jaunt to Jeju Island, where serendipity brings our leads, So Ji Sub and Kim Ji Won, together. I found this easy-breezy and charming; a great little drama snack.

Flash Review is here.

Padam Padam

I remember loving this show when I watched it back when it aired, in 2012. I don’t remember the locale exactly, but I have vague memories of the countryside being a backdrop. Fair warning that this is a fantasy story, so it’s not your typical earthy countryside story. I did think that Jung Woo Sung, Han Ji Min and Kim Bum were all excellent in this, though.

Review is here.

Racket Boys

I feel like this little show deserves more love than it gets. The writing admittedly feels rather scattered, but this one is so full of heart, and the small village sort of charm is so present, that it feels worthwhile. Plus, Show got me to feel completely invested in competitive badminton at the middle school level, which is an impressive achievement all on its own. Lots of fresh faces, and it’s great that our middle-schoolers are actually played by young, age-appropriate actors.

Review is here.

Thank You

Our story takes place on a rural island, far away from the big city, and is a gentle healing sort of melodrama, featuring Gong Hyo Jin as a single mom, Seo Shin Ae as her young HIV-positive daughter, and Jang Hyuk as the arrogant-on-the-surface hotshot doctor from the city who comes into their lives.

The Package

Full disclosure; lots of people love this one, but I didn’t. But since lots of people do love it, I’m including it here. Plus, France is very prettily shot in this little show, which runs kinda-sorta like a travelogue to France.

Warm and Cozy

I personally bailed in episode 1 of this (I dunno, I just couldn’t get into it), but because Show does have its fans, I thought I’d include it on this list. It’s set on beautiful Jeju Island, and is meant to be a warm and mild healing sort of romance.

When The Weather Is Fine

I personally felt that Show could have done some things differently, but this was still a reasonably pleasant watch overall, especially if you’re hungry for the remote, quiet, small town sort of vibe.

Review is here.

IN CLOSING

I really hope that you find some shows to add to your watch list, from this post. Like I said earlier, if you guys have any other titles, thoughts or insights to add, please share them in the comments!

Thanks, you guys.

Smooches. ❤️

~kfangurl

I hope you enjoy!

POST-SCRIPT:

1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!

2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!

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Gkval
Gkval
1 day ago

Hi Kfangurl,

My first comment here, been a silent reader for a while, whenever I need to find a review for some KDrama I’ll look it up at your site. Thank you for keep writing and sharing.

Like you, my love for Gong Yoo helped me to sit through that never-watch-unless-you’re-a-loyal-Gong Yoo-fan One Fine Day. I can’t believe I was able to finish that drama. Btw, this is not a related question but since we are on One Fine Day, do you have any idea where is Sung Yu-ri now?

Gong Yoo –> Coffee Prince –> Yoon Eun-hye, so I watched The Vineyard Man for her and I love it. Simple story, heart warming and sweet country vibe, Oh Man-seok was so charming and manly, Yoon Eun-hye was at the height of her fame. It was quite old (2006) but the story will make you smile. I really love The Vineyard Man.
When the Camellia blooms (2019) and Hometown Cha Cha Cha (2021) are the two recent village setting dramas that deserve their high ratings.

Do Do Sol Sol La La (2020) was so warm and cute until episode 13,14!!!. The ending of Do Do Sol Sol La La belongs to that WTF ending of Fashion King and High Kick Through the Roof.

Shopping King Louie: not village setting but female lead from countryside and the story also has that country vibe. Same writer of Do Do Sol Sol La La but Shopping King Louie is so much better because it has good ending.

Be with you (2018, Korean movie remake), small town setting, fantasy, beautiful and healing story.

Racket boys = love <3

Fermentation Family (Kimchi family): solid, beautiful story and cinematography.

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
6 days ago

Agree with the previous mentions for:
Thank You – A simple story that grows on you and is watchable for years to come.
When the Camellia Blooms – This one was a hit in Korea and I like most parts of it (except for the excessive self-pity)
Padam Padam – About a former inmate and his guardian angel. It has this pure, old-movies type of feel to it. Seeing from the lead’s eyes how things have changed in the outside world (from before he was put in prison) was really affecting. The story and acting is good but there were some character decisions later on that made me stomp my foot and grind my teeth in frustration.

I think the following hasn’t been mentioned yet:
City Hall – One of the lesser-loved dramas of Kim Eun Sook (who wrote Goblin, Descendants, King Eternal, Mr Sunshine etc). It looks slightly dated, and it took me a while to get into the female lead’s brand of humor, and it took me extra effort to follow the politics BUT the story kept getting better and the lead’s journey to become mayor is so satisfying that the pains from earlier episodes are worth it.
Beyond Evil – Exceptionally done 🙂 and almost completely in a rural setting.
Tell Me What You Saw – Story is nowhere near as captivating as Beyond Evil but the acting’s good (it’s Jang Hyuk after all).
Radiant – Feels very rural to me. As
KFG said, it’s best to watch this with as little info as possible.
Hospital Ship – About a bunch of medical practitioners in a ship that goes around far-flung areas in Korea. Some parts are in Seoul but most are filmed on the islands if I remember right
House on Wheels – One of the few variety shows I watch and would recommend (especially if you’re familiar with the “owners”). They go around in their tiny house and set-up camp in picturesque corners in Korea.

j3ffc
j3ffc
3 days ago
Reply to  Jiyuu

I’d second House on Wheels, especially if one is up for some relaxing, non-demanding watches. It’s great on the exercise bicycle…

beez
6 days ago

@KFG – I’m afraid that now that the same team of producers have made other shows similar to Becky’s Back, that the novelty of it’s setting won’t be as captivating and unique as it was to me at the time But the story and quirky characters will still hold up, I think. And it’s ONLY 4 one-hour episodes! 😉

Ezzra
Ezzra
7 days ago

Hi kfangukl,

Loved your review on Squid Game.
Hope you can do a review on Hometown Cha Cha Cha 💕💕

Timescout
7 days ago

I would personally welcome more kdramas about ordinary people and set in somewhere else than Seoul but I guess those are not in high demand in Korea. 🙂

Here’s few more for the list:
Adolescence Medley – A fun 4 epi KBS drama special about high school students in a village high school, featuring Kwak Dong Yeon in one of his early outings. The rest of the cast ain’t too shabby either (several familiar faces :D).

Wonderful Days – A 50 epi familydrama set in Gyeongju. Lee Seo Jin as a prosecutor who comes back home after 15 years in Seoul. Kim Hee Sun plays his love interest. Available @ KBS World TV’s YT channel with subs, btw.

Yoo Na’s Street – Another 50 episodes. YNS is actually set in Seoul but in a rather shabby neighbourhood, so it’s almost like not in Seoul at all. Drama is also a variation of a “found family” premise as the main characters all live in the same old apartment building. What I loved about this one is that the characters are not what you generally find in kdramas. E.g the FL (Kim Ok Bin) is a pickpocket and the ML (Lee Hee Joon) is an unemployed jack of all trades, studying for the civil service exam. The cast on the whole is great! Can be found @ Viki, at least in Europe.

Ushahin
Ushahin
7 days ago

I’m compiling a list, including those in the comments. Can’t thank you enough for this. Now onto important matters; my problem with Gong Yoo began with Coffee Prince.He was so absurdly charming with Yoon Eun Hye that it completely spoiled me.I have a terrible time suspending my disbelief when I see him in any other OTP.And yes, I sat through the entirety of Goblin just for him; so I can relate.I’ve adored his more dramatic roles. Most recently, he very much stole the scenes he was in on Squid Game.

beez
8 days ago

I’ll add one of my favorites – Becky’s Back ala The Return of Baek hee. It’s produced, and has a lot of the same supporting actors, as Hometown Cha Cha and When Camellia Blooms. It has the same feel except Becky’s Back is a bit more camp. Mainly because the actors backflash to their teens and they play themselves which is all fun even as you know not using younger actors is ridiculous.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
7 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Fangurl – it is good. I watched it after reading Beez’s comments and I was glad I did.

Carulhein
Carulhein
8 days ago

Hi Kfangurl, another one to add is Topstar U-back. I really enjoyed it. Kim Ji Suk was just a treat in it. 😁

Think also its time for me to plunge into Life is beautiful. The 63 episodes always put me off, but seeing as it’s your favourite, I need to check it out.

CarpControl
CarpControl
8 days ago

Special Rec for a korean variety: Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast. She takes off from her city idol-life, and runs a lovely homestay in Jeju island. S1 has IU help her, and S2 has Yoon-ah!… I think one of the seasons is also on netflix! Also, another rec for Park Seo Joon’s season of Youn’s Kitchen. It’s on viki, and kind of like free therapy, heh! Except it’s not Korean countryside this time, it’s Spain! <3 <3

Natalia
Natalia
8 days ago

What I get from this post, K, is that generally speaking you don’t particularly like rural settings! You seem to be rather indifferent to most of these shows.
I can add one more that I didn’t really like but it was all about the two leads running about in a Forest, hence the show’s title. I can’t recall the leads’ name, but they were both pretty. He was the psycho in Bad Guys and she was the annoying fox girlfriend in Tale of the nine tailed.
I can also add Descendants of the Sun, set in different places in rural Greece at least up to where I watched.
A show in a rural setting that I did watch and loved was It’s OK to not be OK. Set in some small town by the sea. But then, it can be dark at times even if the view from the hospital is lovely.

Eric
Eric
8 days ago

Sweet Stranger and Me – also has a small town setting for almost the whole series.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
8 days ago

Ah, Thank You…such a nice little drama.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
7 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

@KFG, It’s been a while since I watched it, so I had not checked the availability. Glad to hear that it is available for streaming. And yes, the drama is worthy of consideration for group watch. Now I want to eat choco-pies…

Eric
Eric
8 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Great name! This is my all time favorite Korean word! Snow Flower! Wonderful way to describe snow flakes. I kind of want to translate it as snow blossom as well, which also is nice.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
7 days ago
Reply to  Eric

It is the name of a character from my favorite drama (Chuno)

j3ffc
j3ffc
8 days ago

Another show that belongs on this list is When the Camellia Blooms, which I know got mixed responses from the drama community, but I thought was enjoyable more than not, with a terrific OTP and a lovely community setting. To tie into another discussion here, I think that Camellia was to Gong Hyo-jin as Hometown C Ch Cha is to Shin Min-ah.

j3ffc
j3ffc
8 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

You are so right. I have blotted that whole subplot out of my mind 😳!

Trent
8 days ago

I hesitate to even bring it up, but….

DoDoSolSolLaLaSol fits the criteria laid out pretty well, as long as you have the discipline to stop a couple episodes before the end. It’s not a straight rural setting, but it’s got more of a seaside, smaller town, outside-the-big-city feel (similar to Hometown ChaChaCha, more or less, although with fewer stunning seascapes), and it also leans into the quirky charming characters, with Go Ara at her cheery best in a fun little noona romance.

…right up until the last couple episodes, when the writers lose the plot (literally), and you should run away very quickly.

Eric
Eric
8 days ago
Reply to  Trent

You nailed it. It’s the shows that start out so good that rip your heart out when the writers drop the ball. Potential to be the best small town and best noona romance ever. If they quit about episode 13/14 or so. Or just resolved some plot points that they left hanging (like the super shady way FL looses all her money in episode 1, they could have had her figure this out, get her money back, etc.) Was anyone tuning into this show to suffer or watch the leads suffer? No. Was everyone tuning in for happy, quirky small town romance where the two protagonists overcome their problems for a straight up happy ending? YES. I put this under:

  1. failure to understand your audience
  2. failure to understand what makes your show good in the first place.
Trent
7 days ago
Reply to  Eric

Yeah, that’s the thing that’s so hard to understand. The show just didn’t need to go…where it went the last 2-3 episodes. Just run through the tape, just like you have been doing, and it’s all good! And then the completely ham-handed attempt to salvage a surprise happy ending in literally the last 5 minutes…just made it that much worse. Whew!

They’re going to be teaching this one as a cautionary tale of what not to do in writing seminars. At least, I hope.

manukajoe
manukajoe
8 days ago

Hey I started Hometown Cha Cha Cha too, and am pleasantly surprised. I like Shin Min-a at this age and feel that I don’t need to finish My Girlfriend is a Gumiho now!

manukajoe
manukajoe
8 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

She is but the rest of the show doesn’t seem to have the quality (I’m half way).

manukajoe
manukajoe
8 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

See, I ought to have knuckled down to the group watch, oughtn’t I?

manukajoe
manukajoe
8 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

By the way I just sent you a link to an interesting article – it’s on your Contact Me page I think.