Dear kfangurl: What are some thought-provoking dramas?

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KS writes:

Can you suggest some dramas that are thought-provoking? As in, you get life nuggets from them; dramas that are not easy to watch but are interspersed with thoughtful life lessons?

Let me.. think about that.

Dear KS,

Thanks for your question!

I do enjoy a good thought-provoking sort of drama, and I’m glad to share some of my personal picks in this post!

That said, I’m sure there are lots more shows that fall into this category that I haven’t yet seen myself, so if you guys have more titles to add, please do share them in the comments!

I should also probably mention that what’s thought-provoking to one person, might be a completely different experience for another person.

For example, I personally found It’s Okay To Not Be Okay very meaty and thought-provoking, and enjoyed it a lot, but my sister, who watched it for Kim Soo Hyun, found it quite dull, all the way to the end.

So what they say about one man’s meat.. is true. 😅

Which means, take my list with a pinch of salt, because even if our drama tastes might be quite similar, you might not love what I love and vice versa.

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Nonetheless, I hope you find something to love, on this list!

PS: For the curious, I’m using screenshots from Lost in this post, because if I had to pick only ONE show for KS to try, in this “dense but thought-provoking” category, it would be this show.

THOUGHT-PROVOKING DRAMAS: A LIST

As a quick preface, I decided to also include dramas that I found thought-provoking, but which still fall into the reasonably accessible category.

A Piece Of Your Mind

Thought-provoking quotient: I actually really liked this show for how it was a thoughtful, worthwhile thematic exploration of love and loss, as well as solitude and solidarity.

Accessibility: I would consider this less accessible than average, because most viewers didn’t take to it, and this show got shortened due to low ratings.

I do have some helpful lens adjustment suggestions in my review, though.

Review is here.

A Poem A Day

Thought-provoking quotient: Show’s got thoughtful, lyrical nuggets of poetry sprinkled through its narrative, which I thought were very nice. I thought the poems lent a contemplative, lyrical touch to each episode, and they were nicely interwoven with each episode’s theme.

Accessibility: I would consider this very accessible, since it mostly runs like a typical trendy kdrama – just with thoughtful interludes woven in.

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It’s simple and feel-good, and would work nicely, as a drama nightcap.

Flash Review is here.

Because This Is My First Life

Thought-provoking quotient: Show is very thoughtfully written, and the ideas and themes feel deeply organic and personal, like these nuggets are things that writer-nim’s been musing over for years, and only now just thought to include it in a drama.

Accessibility: I would consider this very accessible, since it takes the form of a trendy rom-com.

I personally thought the last 2 episodes derailed the drama somewhat, but viewers are split on this, with a good number with no actual complaints about the final 2 episodes, so.. you’d have to watch it to see where you land.

Flash Review is here.

D.P. [Deserter Pursuit]

Thought-provoking quotient: Show is very thought-provoking indeed, and takes on the difficult subject matter of systemic dysfunction, abuse and violence within the military, and the effects of that, not only on the victims, but on their families, friends and colleagues.

Accessibility: I would consider this reasonably accessible, because the ideas and themes are not difficult ones to grasp. However, the dark subject matter and the necessary violence that gets showcased, might make this one difficult for some viewers to sit through.

Trigger warning that this show also touches on the topics of sexual harassment and suicide.

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Review is here.

Find Yourself [China]

Thought-provoking quotient: Show sprinkles lots of thoughtful nuggets in the form of voiceovers, through the course of its story. I liked this a lot, and that’s why this show is on this list.

Accessibility: I would consider this very accessible, because Show is presented as a light and fluffy noona romance. It does benefit from being binge-watched, however, because it can get a little meandering in its second half.

Review is here.

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

Thought-provoking quotient: Show is meaty, with the way it works to unpack the difficulties faced by people suffering from trauma and mental illness. I found this a thought-provoking watch that challenged me to also examine my own unconscious biases towards people.

Accessibility: I would consider this reasonably accessible, because Show is presented as a trendy romance, even though it is not at all light or fluffy.

I do think that some lens adjustments are helpful in making this more easily digestible, and I talk more about that in my review.

Review is here.

Lost

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Thought-provoking quotient: Show is very carefully written, and has so much to say about isolation, connection, and what it means to be human. Beautifully immersive, and with so much to unpack, for those who are so inclined.

Accessibility: I would consider this less accessible than average, because Show is pretty slow and dense, in the watch experience. However, for the patient, this really is a worthwhile watch.

Again, I do have some suggestions around lens adjustments that I talk about in my review, that I think ought to help.

Review is here.

Misaeng

Thought-provoking quotient: Show has a very thoughtful, deliberate vibe, both in its characterization of our various characters, as well as in the way it unpacks its chosen themes.

In particular, Show has something to say about gender discrimination, as well as the various ways personal relationships can affect business.

Accessibility: I would consider this somewhat less accessible than average, because Show is slow in the watch experience, and has some pretty long episodes too.

On top of that, Show can feel rather depressing in its early episodes, because our underdog protagonist struggles with more obstacles in our earlier stretch than later.

However, with some patience, you’re likely to find the characters growing on you, in spite of yourself.

Review is here.

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Move To Heaven

Thought-provoking quotient: Show has a very thoughtful, tender and humanistic vibe, in the way it delves into the topic of death, which is often viewed as heavy and difficult. And, as Show dives into the topic of death, it also brings forth thoughts about life, which I found affecting.

At the same time, Show has things to say about prejudice vs. empathy, which I also found very worthwhile.

Accessibility: I would consider this pretty accessible, because even though Show deals with delicate topics such as death, and the special needs experience, it does so with a sensitive and compassionate hand, while consistently leaning towards hope.

Review is here.

My Liberation Notes

Thought-provoking quotient: Show has a great deal to say, and does it through our main quartet of characters, often via voiceovers. There is a lot of thought and perspective around life, from many different angles.

What it means to be happy; what it means to be true to yourself; what it means to value yourself; Show explores it all. I personally found this all very meaty and intriguing.

Accessibility: I would consider this somewhat less accessible than average, because the watch experience can feel slow and meandering, and the ideas served up, can feel a little dense in the unpacking.

Additionally, our characters do start off being less than likable, and that can feel like an obstacle as well.

I do have some suggestions for lens adjustments, which I talk about in my review.

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Review is here.

My Mister

Thought-provoking quotient: Show is very thoughtfully written, and has packed a lot of themes and ideas into its characterization and narrative.

There is a great deal to glean from show, about what it means to be human, and how we affect one another, in the human experience.

Accessibility: I would consider this reasonably accessible, because most people seem to be able to love this one, even if they hadn’t planned on watching this drama.

Show does start out rather gloomy and might appear pedestrian at first, but given some time, it should start to pop for you.

Review is here. Open Threads are listed here.

My Unfamiliar Family

Thought-provoking quotient: The way this drama showcases family relationships is very true-to-life, and ought to provide good food for thought in terms of our own relationships and how we treat the ones who matter most to us.

The message might not always be pretty, but the points are worthwhile.

Accessibility: I would consider this reasonably accessible, because it kinda-sorta vibes like a family drama, just with more dysfunction, and sprinkled with a harder dash of reality, than your average family drama.

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Review is here.

One Warm Word

Thought-provoking quotient: Show focuses a lot on marriage and relationships, and spends a good amount of time unpacking infidelity and what that does to a relationship.

The way Show explores how there are always two sides to every story, and nothing is simple, is thought-provoking and meaty.

Accessibility: I would consider this reasonably accessible, because Show works out to be a warm melodrama that doesn’t lay on angst for its own sake.

Some stretches are angsty for sure, but the angst feels warranted, and ultimately, Show leans warm and hopeful.

Review is here.

Secret Love Affair

Thought-provoking quotient: Show vibes more like an art film than a primetime drama, and like an art film, there are lots of themes and ideas to unpack, for those who are so inclined.

Show explores what it means to be human – what’s important to us, as humans; what is human nature; what it means to really live – and it’s all very absorbing, thought-provoking stuff.

Accessibility: I would consider this reasonably accessible, because it uses a noona romance – a common trope in Dramaland – as its vehicle.

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Therefore, even if you’re not in this for the themes and ideas, you’d still likely find this an absorbing watch.

Review is here. Open Threads are listed here.

Someday Or One Day [Taiwan]

Thought-provoking quotient: Without saying too much (because this show is best entered into blind, in my opinion), Show reverberates with a strong theme of love and loss, and what those both mean.

Accessibility: I would consider this reasonably accessible, in the sense that Show isn’t hard to digest, but it demands your full engagement, in order to follow its story.

With that amount of engagement invested, you should also have no problems picking up on the themes and ideas that Show explores.

Review is here. Open Threads are listed here.

The First Half Of My Life [China]

Thought-provoking quotient: This drama is wonderfully elegant in the way it’s conceived and delivered, and in particular, I really liked the thoughtful voiceovers by our protagonist, which tend to be reflections on life, and the living of it.

I found them eloquent, lyrical and illuminating. Excellent, excellent stuff.

Accessibility: I would consider this reasonably accessible, because the story, themes and ideas aren’t very difficult ones.

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At the same time, I’d also say that this show would be most accessible to viewers who’ve had a few more life miles under their belt, due to the nature of our story.

Flash Review is here.

Youth Of May

Thought-provoking quotient: Show is thoughtfully written, and in the presentation of our characters and their stories, there is a lot to unpack in terms of themes and ideas, if you are so inclined.

Accessibility: I would consider this somewhat less accessible than average, because of the difficult subject matter, and the suffering and angst that our characters go through. This one’s not an easy watch, is what I’m trying to say.

However, it is a worthwhile one, and I do have some thoughts on managing expectations, which I talk about in my review.

Review is here.

Yumi’s Cells

Thought-provoking quotient: Show is extremely skilled and deft in the way it unpacks human emotion and relationships, and I found it so thought-provoking, to see myself mirrored on my screen so many times, as Show unveils how we’re wired, as humans.

Accessibility: I would consider this very accessible, because Show is just so relatable and on-point, in so many of the big and little things that it touches on.

Review is here.

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IN CLOSING

I hope you find this post somewhat useful, in giving you options to choose from, in your search for a thought-provoking drama to watch.

You might also find this other Dear kfangurl post, about underrated gems, tangentially useful &/or interesting.

Like I mentioned earlier, everyone, please feel free to share your own favorite thought-provoking dramas in the comments below. As they say, sharing is caring. 🥰

I hope this post helps!

Smooches.

~ KFG ❤️

I hope that helped! ❤️

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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Elaine
Elaine
4 months ago

I really agree with a lot of recommendations on this list. In particular, I want to second My Liberation Notes – if you’re feeling stuck in life, this and My Mister are must-sees! Also Misaeng is wonderful, sometimes a bit too faithful to the tedium of daily office life but full of wonderful three dimensional characters and thoughtful musings on what it means to live life well, Someday One Day is an absolute whirlwind of a show, please dip your toes and give the first two episodes a try (please excuse the hammy humour in the first half of the first episode), I really don’t want to spoil anything about it but it is not simply a rom com and has very meaty things to say about life and love.

I notice there aren’t any period dramas on his list. I would actually venture that The Red Sleeve is a good choice for thought-provoking drama. It kept me surprised with its twists and turns. As you see the Crown Prince grow through various challenges, he and the various antagonists always surprised me with their decisions. Very heartfelt and not always easy piece on what it means to rule a country well, and what the struggle to do right does to one’s character. I also want to nominate Nirvana in Fire! Clever and emotionally satisfying plot, complex villains and supporting characters, a hero shrouded in mystery. There’s a lot to chew on and ponder in this show, such as whether the ends justify the means, the meaning of virtue, and friendship, and again, what strength of character you need to rule, and rule well. I loved it a lot and the hundreds of comments on our Group Watch threads attest to how meaty and thought provoking this show is!”

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago

KFG, i am watching the untamed, but i am not going to repeat what i already wrote about it, i got carried away. do not know whether you watched it or not – in terms of swoony men, nothing can compare with it. but the drama itself, it offers all that you can crave in a drama (sure you saw what i wrote).
so i would may be suggest to have it as our next group watch, there is a lot to digest in this drama. what do you think?

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago

i want to add another drama to this list, even that i am still just in the middle of it. if extraordinary absolute beauty can count as thought provoking (or may be emotions provoking) -for me it is. that’s this drama : untamed . although, of course there are also some philosophical ideas, like “good versus evil”, courage, relationships.

don’t get scared of the amount of episodes – it is actually a very pleasant watch. it’s just such a pure unadulterated beauty – many times you can not even peel off your eyes from the screen. if you can watch it on a big screen, the effect is even… no words. everything in it is done with utmost attention to the smallest detail, fitting the particular event, or character, or a specific clan personality – from costumes, to colors, to the décor, to the lighting, etc. the cinematography all the way – it must be one of the most gorgeous or THE MOST gorgeous scenes i ever seen in dramas, totally designed to enhance each event or character. and it even has some nirvana vibes, not that it is similar to that iconic drama, but even the very beginning when they present the names, titles and so on – it’s like straight from nirvana. the monochrome hues of the costumes and many decors also remind me of nirvana, although even richer and more elaborate. or there is a scene where the boats are gliding on the serene surface of the lake, and people are just standing there without anybody doing anything (like the scene of mei chang su playing his flute in the boat on the lake). i can’t even explain it, but it somehow gave me this nirvana vibe.

but the most mind boggling, mind bending are the two mail leads – xiao zhan (the role of wei wu xian) and wang yi bo(the role of lan wang). as a side note, i saw xiao zhan for the first time in joy of life, he does not have much screen time, but when he appeared, i had to rewind and rewind, i could not believe my eyes: HIS EYES and he – stunning beauty. yes, no joke, On July 20, 2022, Nubia Magazine announced that after a very lengthy poll spanning 141 countries, Xiao Zhan was chosen as The World’s Most Handsome Man of 2022. he IS.
so , he uses his eyes to the full advantage, and in general, the acting of both of these most handsome men deserve highest marks.
i better stop here, but it’s definitely worth your time. especially if you want to see “the world’s most handsome man” – not a joke.

Lisbeth
Lisbeth
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

Oh, I think you just sold me on this one. I’ve avoided the whole costume or period drama genre up until now (haven’t even seen The Red Sleeve), but this show appears to have swept up all the positive reviews, viewer ratings and awards, when it aired, and now I’m curious.

Hah, “The Word’s Most Handsome Man” – what a title. I hope the story grabs me fast, otherwise I’ll just end up sitting there staring at his face and contemplating his title. 🙂

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Lisbeth

lisbeth,
tempted to see for yourself the most glaring perfection in a form of a human, who’s a very talented actor on top of how god created him?
but do not worry, underneath all this beauty, there are those most profound philosophical/psychological/spiritual torrents of ideas and thoughts, exploding exactly at the middle of the drama. so just be patient, as at first it might seem light and easy, a pleasant “walk in a beautiful park”, and then… you are just swept into this whirlpool of questions that humanity has been dwelling on for eternity, with no way out…pushing your brain into a myriad different directions. everything is explored by this drama and under the microscope: good and evil, do people have the right to label anything as good or evil, as beneficial or distractive, can good be turned into evil and vise versa, the essence of true friendship and love, the extent of brotherly/sisterly love and care, the value of it or lack of it, the power of human collective thought… and many more.
i did not finish this drama yet, but am already waiting to start rewatching it, as i would not be able to say good-buy to it (even that i have a huge list of new dramas i am committed to watch).
this drama is joining my two all time favorites: the rise of the phoenixes and nirvana in fire.

Timescout
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

Ah, The Untamed…the drama that people went TOTALLY gaga over when it first aired and quite a few had a very hard time moving on. I wasn’t quite that taken but I did become quite captivated with the story as well. 😁 I read the webnovel and also watched the donghua (animated series), which is pretty awesome in it’s own right. Drama has an absolutely wonderful ost too. Have you got to the Yi City arc yet? Xue Yang’s theme song is one of the loveliest in the ost, such a hauntingly beautiful and sad one.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

i am at the 2 thirds plus of this show, but have a difficult time dealing with all these chinese names, especially the towns, so do not know about the yi city.
i kind of lost it a little bit when the story abruptly jumped from the past to the present, i think it was the weakest part so far (disjointed, abrupt, muddled), but now i am back on track, totally into it.
the scene with lan zhan drunk, i could not keep the grin of my face, and i totally melted watching these two interacting, with lan zhan drunkenly/lovingly falling on wu xian, transforming from a stone cold highly spiritual being into an adorable, cute sweetheart.
the music is very enjoyable, but did you know that it is the same composer as in the rise of the phoenixes (it did sound to me kind of familiar, so i checked and it was true. i loved loved the music in TROP.) it’s a pity i do not understand the words, and they do not have a translation. but i especially enjoy when the two of them play together, the flute and the guqin.
do you have an idea if this novel is printed in english? i guess you read and may be write chinese ( i envy you to no end). also, i never saw a donghua, can you tell me where i can may be see this?

Timescout
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

It’s been a while so I don’t really remember whereabout in the story the Yi City part is, but I’m sure you’ll know when you get there. 🙂 Lan Zhan drunk is always fun. Nope, didn’t know it’s the same composer, but then I didn’t watch Phoenix.

Oh, I don’t speak or read Chinese. I read the English translated ver., which should be available at Exiled Rebels site, under Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation. Never could understand why they renamed the drama. It’s a shorter name… maybe? Donghua can be found at https://wetv.vip/en — The Founder of Diabolism. “Favored child has many names”. 😆

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

i am so grateful to you and so glad it exists in english. i’ll definitely read it, as i can not say good buy to the story, and would be curious to read about lan zhan and wu xian’s relationship in more details, especially stuff that was not included in the drama (like, how would a chinese native approach some particular topics that seem to be taboo in china.)
i am not so fond of animations in general, as i like acting and good actors – it’s a very big part of my drama experience. i looked a little at the site you suggested, but it just does not do it for me, yet it was still interesting to catch a glimpse of what they did with it.

is the yi city that you are referring to the coffin city?

if you like historical chinese dramas, out of this world acting and much more, i would recommend the rise of the phoenixes. the ost there is even better than here, and it is the same composer.
by the way, did you see nirvana?
and thanks again.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

timescout,
forgott to tell you, do not know if you are aware, but there are 2 chinese movies related to this drama: fatal journey and the living dead. i have not seen it yet, but intend to, if it is available here.

Timescout
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

I guess Yi City could be the Coffin City as I seem to remember that there were lots of coffinmakers in Yi City.

I looked up Rise of the Phoenixes annnnnd it’s not really my thing. I find palace politics generally boring as heck and there seems to be heaps of it in Phoenixes. 😆 Yes, I have seen Nirvana in Fire.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

just a clarification, if you will. the rise of the phoenixes is mainly the unbelievably sizzling hot OTP, between chen kun and nini. it is worth watching it just for that – everything circles around that, even that politics are the background and the source. i do not know where you were reading about it, but it’s the love story, quite unusual, and also the acting through the roof, but the synopsis you read might not be accurate, as in many cases.

if yi city is indeed coffin city, why did you specifically ask about that?

i thought that there were a lot of characters in this arc that were not necessary or had too much screen time. pretty rare for this drama.

Timescout
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

The crux of the matter is, I don’t watch dramas solely for the OTPs, no matter how swoony. There needs to be more meat on the bones to keep me interested. I know, I’m strange. 🙂 It was actually KF’s flash post I read and based my assesment on.

Yi City arc is the telling of the doomed Xiao Xingchen/Xue Yang “friendship”, which is sort of like a dark mirroring of Wei Wuxian/Lang Wangji. Xue Yang is what Wei Wuxian might have become had he not been rescued and taken in by the leader of Yunmeng Jiang Sect after his parents died. He had a happy and carefree childhood and people who loved and cared for him. Not so for Xue Yang, who lived on the streets after his parents were killed. Shunned, mistreated and abused he turned into a monster. I found it a pretty compelling story arc, but… ditterent strokes for different people.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

The crux of the matter is, I don’t watch dramas solely for the OTPs, no matter how swoony. There needs to be more meat on the bones to keep me interested. I know, I’m strange.
no, you are not strange, i am the same way, and do not watch a drama for the OTP only, and i absolutely need “meat on the bones”, and can not stand simply OTP’s that are lollypops on sticks. for example, i watched love and destiny solely for ni ni, as her performance in TROP was nothing short of spectacular (you have to see it to believe it). love and destiny, where many scenes were simply plastic, the costumes and ni ni herself -drips with “melted refined white sugar” – was a disappointment. i wanted to drop it so many times, but stayed because of ni ni. i saw your take on this drama, and felt you were not too impressed there too. for me, i did not see any “extraordinary chemistry” between the ML and the FL. and the ML was quite disappointing also, he was stiff as a broom, the constant expression on his face was the two wrinkles on his forehead above his nose. and i understand that he was the god of war, who must be COLD. but his coldness was expressionless. i now can compare it with lan zhan’s coldness, and what a difference, lan zhan, even when he does not say anything, (which is most of the time) we are acutely aware of his emotions and thoughts. so even ice can have colors.
as you can see, i can look at dramas with a pretty critical eye, for good or for bad.

and i understand now what you were talking about the coffin city, and your identifying with the circumstances of xue yang. yes, his story could have been one to pay attention to, but i feel it was not thoroughly developed, it was very briefly mentioned before as a character, and then suddenly a whole segment (the coffin city) devoted to him. in my opinion, the drama should have given him and his story a much wider representation, or keep it to a very minimum, as most of the time he was just a “mention in the back ground”.
so now i finished the drama, and the last few chapters i was very sad, as i wanted to continue being involved in our two male leads lives and adventures.
i am reading the book (thanks to you) and rewatching the untamed – could not move on to anything else. this is a very rare occurrence in my drama watching habits.

Timescout
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

The book, as most of webnovelstend to

Timescout
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

Dang, accidentally pressed send. So lets start again…

The book, as web novels tend go be, is wordy and looooong. There was no way they could have crammed all that in the drama. Hence some storyarcs like the Yi City one wasn’t fully explored. I’m glad they kept it though. I already knew Xue Yangs backstory by then so I had a more complete picture of the whole thing.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

yeah, it will take me forever to read this, but…
right now i am reading it on line on the computer in the office, having to sit in a chair that is not very comfortable. and there are more little problems with it.
i saw amazon has it printed in a book format, but only the first volume. would you recommend to get the book, rather that reading it on the computer?

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

ok, so now amazon already has the first two volumes available, so i ordered, as i am getting sick of reading it on the computer. the 3d volume is going to come out on august 16th, and the 4th – in december (long time). but i saw somewhere that it is supposed to be 5 volumes, and amazon is not saying anything about another volume. is it 4 or 5 volumes?
i am hoping to experience another ending from the drama, as it left me in a weird space –

spoiler for the ones who did not watch and did not read it
after all they went together and accomplished, at the end each goes in a different direction. really?!

Timescout
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

You are in good company.There were SO many who found it almost impossible to move on from The Untamed.

Thankfully I have a pretty large screen, so reading the novel online wasn’t too much of a chore. Though I have to admit I did skip parts I wasn’t that interested in. 😄 I wouldn’t buy the book myself, but then I didn’t get as addicted as countless others did.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

i guess wei wuxian’s charm and tricks extend beyond the realm of evil spirits, and also effects us regular good 21st century folks.

anyway, i never before wanted to follow up with a book after a drama, although i did encounter a few( 5 fingers on one hand would be enough to count such) that properly sucked me in, leaving me in a temporary drama paralysis. but even when i knew that a book’s ending would be more satisfactory than what the drama provided, i was still not interested to read the book.

this is a first for me, reason being that i feel that there is much more to this story and i have a feeling that i am missing it. it’s powered by intense curiosity.
my first 2 books are arriving today.
and you kind of inspired me.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

timescout,
just wanted to add that the book is quite a bit more extensive and detailed than the web novel on the computer(why would the web novel cut some stuff out, after all it’s not a drama). i was reading the web novel prior to getting the book. and then noticed the missing parts.

but reading the book and watching the drama simultaneously is truly a unique experience.
i must also add, that i am impressed and amazed what a good job the drama did with it!

MC
MC
4 months ago

I’m late to the party but I enjoyed this list and everyone’s comments and have now added so many shows to the list of to-watch, I fear it’ll never end. Haha!

My own suggestions

  • Romance Is A Bonus Book – it dealt with women in the workplace thoughtfully
  • This Week My Wife Will Have An Affair – combines adultery with internet commentary. It sounds like a strange combination but it worked.
  • Stranger/ Secret Forest had much to say about corruption. But imho this show is pretty much perfection and deserves to be on every list!

Movies wise

  • My Tomorrow Your Yesterday is a Japanese film. One of those that it’s best to go in blind. Just know it’s a love story with a twist. It made me feel and think so much.
  • My Brilliant Life will make you cry and think about family and parental love, living life to your best despite limiting circumstances
  • Your Name (J movie) is also another one of those that looks like it’s just a body swap teenage angst movie but it is so so much deeper. Please watch if you’ve not!

Ah, thanks so much KS KFG and everyone who commented on this. Can’t wait to be off to watch more shows!

Lisbeth
Lisbeth
4 months ago
Reply to  MC

Thank you for these recommendations. I’m pleased to find a couple of more Japanese titles to add to my watch list. 🙂

Question: Isn’t “My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday” and “Your Name” the same movie? And if not, could you tell me the year these two were released, because sometimes looking up titles with the search function on Mydramalist can end up in some confusing results.

MC
MC
4 months ago
Reply to  Lisbeth

Ah yes I understand. Here are the shows:

Your Name: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Your_Name

My Tomorrow Your Yesterday: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Tomorrow,_Your_Yesterday

But don’t read both synopsis as the details are within! Enjoy!

lotusgirl
lotusgirl
4 months ago

Love this! Definitely Lost! It’s a shame it is less available for everyone. Such a well done show all the way around–as long as you’re not in a hurry.

I also agree that Our Blues and One Spring Night would fit well into this list. I would also add Pachinko. I found that it opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know about and the story has stayed with me.

Lisbeth
Lisbeth
4 months ago

Great question and answer. I love the list and agree with all of your suggestions. 

A couple of titles that appear not to have been mentioned yet:

THROUGH THE DARKNESS 

Honestly I started this not expecting too much besides a Korean version of Mindhunter. I loved the Fincher/Netflix collab on Mindhunter immensely and was bummed enough to learn a season 3 is indefinitely on hold, that I really wanted something similar to watch. Well, it IS kind of a Korean version of Mindhunter, since like Mindhunter it deals with the birth of criminal profiling by use of criminal psychology and the struggle to get the accept, ressources and respect for this method as a way to help catch killers. There are references to Mindhunter, because THROUGH THE DARKNESS is also based on a real-life profiler, and Korea started using profilers inspired by the knowledge and work done by the ones from the US/FBI who paved the way. And like Mindhunter this series is based on a memoir. 

Of course being “entertained” by a show detailing true crime is bleak, but the thought-provoking part for me was not the cases and actual profiling (even though it’s both fascinating and terrifying), but the impact journeying into the minds of serial killers has on the profilers. The cost of getting close to that kind of inhumane darkness, despair and hopelessness on a daily basis. How do you remain human and avoid jumping into the abyss, if you spend most of your time at the edge staring into it? 

Kim Nam-gil is spectacular in this, but in general the cast is strong and has fantastic chemistry. I highly recommend giving it a chance in spite of the very grim subject matter, because there are also (much needed) lighthearted moments, a very nice bromance and most of all humanity and hope. On a shallow note I fell so hard for Kim Nam-gils charisma in this, that I must now watch everything this man has done. 

MOTHER

I’d decided this one was not for me based on the synopsis, but the reviews were so glowing, my curiosity got the better of me. I haven’t watched the Japanese original it’s based on, but it’s on my watchlist now, as I’ve been getting more into Japanese productions lately and they seem to be more daring and edgy than Korean ones in some ways. 

The thought-provoking part for me here was the overall theme of what it means to be a mother, what makes someone a suitable parent and the harsh reality of how a lot of people become parents, when in truth they should not have. Plus of course the consequences everyone involved (especially the children) has to suffer. In addition some great focus on how much powerlessness is tied to helping neglected and abused children. So given the subject matter – as with THROUGH THE DARKNESS – this is a bleak and troubling watch, but it’s sprinkled with light, hope and some downright stellar performances.

JOURNEY TO THE SHORE (2020)

This one is a short (30 minutes) and almost impossible to find online. You have to go to strange sharing sites or Mydramalist, where users are friendly enough to provide links to those strange sharing sites. It’s not optimal, but even the director gets blocked when trying to share it on Youtube, as the copyright belongs to the film school he attended while making this. So, it IS available for viewing online, if you do some digging and can accept a low picture quality. 

The reason I’m including this is because I recently dipped my toes into the BL genre and have been both floored and amused by how massive this genre is becoming. It’s like a factory of fluff – mostly mediocre and forgettable storylines, subpar performances and lowbudget productions. A genre clearly directed at a female audience. There are some shiny gems to be found though – TO MY STAR on Viki is one – especially season 2 where there’s less fluff and more angst. TO MY STAR also benefits from some solid leads with great chemistry and a writer/director who wanted to do more for the genre than just fluff and pretty boys kissing. I’d actually recommend that show as well. The online debate after the show was actually primarily focused around introverts vs extroverts and it was quite puzzling to see how much the viewers got riled up over season 2. 

In terms of the LGBTQ community and how it’s represented in dramas, I think we can all agree, that it’s lacking and that 90% of productions are not really trying to represent anything or showcase/discuss problems/issues close to reality or that anyone can learn from. But there are some movies and shows daring to cast aside most of the fluff and move outside the bubble to at least attempt some complex and thought-provoking storylines. 

JOURNEY TO THE SHORE does just that. It’s not pretty. It’s not perfect. But it’s poignant, gritty and heartbreaking. And it’s trying to do and show something different and actually sets a lot of thinking and feeling in motion within a very short running time. I started tearing up within the first couple of minutes and was sobbing at the end. I still get a lump in my throat just thinking and writing about this show. It was that effective. Also it’s one of the earlier performances from Kim Dong Hwi and I’m pleased to see he’s booking more and more shows now. Do the digging for this short – it’s worth the time and effort. 

Another movie I’d recommend in this genre is NIGHT FLIGHT (2014). Don’t let the movie poster fool you though. This one is not a fluffy, easy watch either. 🙂

I’ll end this (very long first comment) with a shoutout to WHEN THE WEATHER IS FINE because while it’s not a grade A show, it’s so charming, warm and heartfelt in a lot of ways. I personally loved the focus on books, nature and quietness. And I loved the blog entries as epilogues so, so much. If you don’t simply adore Eun Seob from his first scene, I’ll lend you a piece of my heart, because you’re definitely missing a chunk. 🙂 In terms of what’s thought-provoking – for me it’s the theme of home as both a place of healing/safety and a place of hurt/stagnation. Because that is very, very true to life.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  Lisbeth

Kim Nam Gil is great! He can do both comedy and drama. My favorite KNG dramas are Queen Seondeok, Live Up To Your Name, and The Fiery Priest.

Lisbeth
Lisbeth
4 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Duly noted and I’ll add them all to my watchlist instantly. 🙂

OK. I just checked out the trailer for The Fiery Priest and I believe I’ll grow to love Kim Nam Gil even more based on that role. This show looks like such a fun ride and with an apparent season 2 planned, it must have done something right.

wonhwa
wonhwa
4 months ago
Reply to  Lisbeth

I haven’t seen the Korean version of Mother, but the Japanese version definitely falls into the category of thought provoking and powerful (and often quite hard to watch). It’s a brutal look at how society fails women in big and small ways and all the horrors that result from that.

Lisbeth
Lisbeth
4 months ago
Reply to  wonhwa

I just started on the Japanese version. I’d recommend you give the Korean one a go as well, as apparently the two differ both in endings and character developments. I actually just found out there are also Thai and Chinese adaptations of this story. Hah, I think I’ll pass on those two, as it’d be a bit much to go another two additional rounds with this story. I’m bracing myself for this Japanese watch, as they tend to be more dark than other Asian productions.

Leslie
Leslie
4 months ago
Reply to  Lisbeth

@Lisbeth – Thanks for these recommendations. They seem right up my alley!

Lisbeth
Lisbeth
4 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

You’re most welcome. I just realized all of them are very, very dark, but Kfangirl used all my other suggestions for her blog post. 🙂

Antonio
4 months ago

I’m watching Heaven’s Garden (2011) and I think it’s an underrated gem. Very classic and traditional.

Also, not mentioning Mother (2018) on this blogpost is really criminal!

Kdramaislife
Kdramaislife
4 months ago

Our blues is a good one that I recently finished it discusses matters that is not dealt much on shows but are happening In real life. Same thing with Tomorrow.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago

and here are a few dramas i would also add to the list (i am not going to repeat a few that have already been mentioned): it’s ok it’s love; one spring night; jang ok jung; (although a difficult watch, but how can you miss YAI), the devil judge; doctor john; (question of euthanasia, life and death); my wife’s having an affair; something in the rain;
and a few movies very thought provoking: seabok; kingmaker: the fox of the elections;

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

i just wanted to add that the dramas that i mention here are not necessarily my most favorite dramas, but they just raise different questions about different topics.

MariaF
MariaF
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

“One spring night” is not shiny at all, but I loved it. After “Something in the rain“ success, creators of the show offered Son Ye-jin the FL role in OSN, but she refused. I’m so happy she did! She would’ve ruined the show for me. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the show as much, if she were in it.

Trent
4 months ago
Reply to  MariaF

I just finished One Spring Night last month, and I likewise loved it, quite a lot. I have not seen Pretty Noona–I’ve been successfully warned off by all the adverse commentary about it–but I simply can’t imagine One Spring Night working nearly as well without Han Ji-min playing the FL role. I have a certain soft spot, a respect, for Son Ye-jin for her work in CLOY, but yeah, I can’t picture anyone but HJM in One Spring Night. She and Jung Hae-in made magic playing off each other, in my opinion.

Oh, and I agree with Eda, it is pretty thought-provoking, particularly on a couple of themes that I think that, although universal, had a particular Korean flavor that I found fascinating: single-parenthood and dating; and the dynamics and ethics of leaving one relationship and starting another one.

MariaF
MariaF
4 months ago
Reply to  Trent

I have to say, Son Ye-jin has achieved a rare perfection in playing hysterical women.

Re One Spring Night, I was surprised to learn how much stigma is attached to single parenthood and divorce in S. Korea. Even men are not spared.

And I agree, HJM and Jung Hae-in are great together. They are exactly what the show needed.

Last edited 4 months ago by MariaF
eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  MariaF

agree with you, i share your lack of enthusiasm for son ye-jin. i do not even know why, she’s not a bad actress, but for the life of me i can not warm up to her. even in CLOY, which is supposedly one of her best projects, or may be THE best, i still was not a 100% on board with her. can’t explain it.
show offered Son Ye-jin the FL role in OSN, but she refused. I’m so happy she did!
so am i!

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago

excellent topic, thought provoking dramas are of most interest to me, and as always KFG, you are not disappointing. but now my drama list grew so fat, it’ll have to go on a “diet”. how do i do that?

the dramas that would also be on my list, is of course: secret love affair, my mister and misaeng. actually, i just recently finished misaeng, after postponing it and postponing it. i just could not get myself to watch some office workers in an office setting, it just seemed so grey. but little did i know, from the very beginning, it reached the deepest layers of my innermost thoughts and feelings, and i am sure it will stay with me for a very long time. i rarely cry, i cried watching this office and office workers. yeah, i did! and now i even contemplate, which one is more special to me and i like more my mister or misaeng. the quiet intensity of both is mind bogglingly
intoxicating. and definitely thought provoking.

maj
maj
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

So interesting..I’ve postponed Misaeng for the same reason. Now I’ll try it

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  maj

go for it. you will not regret.

MC
MC
4 months ago
Reply to  maj

I echo everyone. Misaeng is not an easy watch (especially the first 2 episodes) but it is so so so worth it. It is long and slow. But by the end I was absolutely reluctant to finish and leave these wonderful characters behind. It gave me courage to face my (then) new job. It is absolutely thought provoking and makes you feel all the feels too.

j3ffc
j3ffc
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

I, too, really felt that Misaeng was worth the effort.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  j3ffc

i am starting the ordinary glory, which is the chinese remake of misaeng. did you see it and what do you think of it if you did see it? it’s with bai jing ting in main role.

KS
KS
4 months ago

Dear Fangirl,

As expected, another great post by the drama expert. 👏

I’m truly happy to have a long and outstanding collection of thoughtful shows in the post and in comments as well. Thank you everyone for your recommendations. 😊 I’m going to be super busy devouring all these excellent shows. 🤗

BE
BE
4 months ago

Nee Hom Dok’s Our Blues and Dear My Friends are thought provoking dramas. Our Blues covers so many different issues, the issue of shame especially as it relates to our most intimate relationships, whether young, in maturity, or elderly, Dear My Friends, as it relates to aging and its very real complaints, particularly for women, but also the thornier aspects of family, marriage, mothers and their children, again with shame and regret a part.

Insofar as history is concerned, and political power, it is hard to deny that so many Korean series focus in on this. Tree With Deep Roots is an excellent examination of such, the political debates being often more thrilling to witness than the choreographed sword derring do. And if one wants to understand the Japanese colonial period from a cultural perspective, the one two punch of Nokdu Flower and Mr. Sunshine are hard to beat. Sandglass. which is hard to find, is a ruthless examination of the 70s and 80s in South Korea and its, sometimes violent, contradictions. As an American viewing these dramas, I wish we had here such comprehensive and well told stories that bring to light the faultlines and heroics of our own history with such unflinching honesty. There are others of course, as I am sure Snow Flower might be able to point out, but the combination of a very sophisticated understanding of political evil, and how tragedy can be uplifted by heroism despite a tragic outcome are quite thought provoking motifs in Korean drama.

j3ffc
j3ffc
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

@BE, so nice to see you here! And a vigorous second for Tree With Deep Roots. Nodku Flower and Mr. Sunshine have been on my list forever and I will be sure to promote them to a higher tier based on your comment.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

@BE, happy to read your comment! I did mention Nokdu Flower in an earlier comment to KFG’s post. I agree Mr. Sunshine and Tree With Deep Roots belong to the list as well.

I have never seen Sandglass but I would like to if and when it becomes legally available. Watching historical/period kdramas made me look more in depth at Korean history and find parallels with my own country’s history.

Six Flying Dragons is another thought-provoking political drama. The clash between Jung Do Jeon and Lee Bang Won is both fascinating and frightening to watch.

Overall, I think that even the fluffiest dramas offer some food for thought.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

snow flower,
Six Flying Dragons is another thought-provoking political drama.
i have been trying to find this drama for the longest time, but to no avail. this has been really frustrating. where did you manage to see it?

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

I watched it back in the day when Dramafever still existed. I want to rewatch it now, but it is nowhere to be found, alas!

Trent
4 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

If you’ve got a decent VPN, it looks like it is available via UK server on Viki (not U.S. Viki, unfortunately).

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Trent

thanks, trent. but with my limited electronic ability i do not think i can master something like this.

Kdramaislife
Kdramaislife
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

Have to agree with this.. both Our Blues and Dear My Friends dealt with real life situations that are or will affect each one of us.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

BE – seeing this post made my day! Happy to see you comment.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

BE, welcome back. hope you are doing good, but nice to get your input again.

j3ffc
j3ffc
4 months ago

Great list and question (thanks @KS!). I’d add two shows from very different parts of the drama spectrum, the first being Tree With Deep Roots, which seriously dealt with questions pertaining to the rightful owners of knowledge, education, and with them, power – the people, or the elite? What can be done to address such a great chasm in a limited life time? Add to that the stress between personal responsibility, the pursuit of happiness, and the greater good. And despite its prestige drama trappings, it’s one heckuva entertaining and accessible ride. And I’m not so much of a saeguk fan.

But sometimes, as kfangurl notes, thoughtful themes can come wrapped in bright, shiny packages. My Exhibit 1 for this is the two series of Age of Youth, which can be enjoyed as a simple young adult dramedy, but especially as it goes on, the seriousness of the question “how will I find my way in the world” impacts by nearly all of the characters in the show. (And not just the Big Six but secondary characters as well; I’m thinking of the idol wannabe in S2 as a great example.) To me, the best arc was that followed by Park Eun-bin’s character. I just watched Eps 14 and 15 of Our Blues and got similar vibes.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  j3ffc

j3ffc,
tree with deep roots is on top of my list also (i am still working on my list), but i am not going to repeat it.

it is definitely most educational and thought provoking drama i have seen so far.
the debate between the king and lee bang ji on the edge of the mountain – is the crux of the matter in this drama and IN POLITICS IN GENERAL. i doubt if anybody would know what was said between these two in reality, unless there is a written document about this, somehow.
but the writers, that is what amazes me, they must be super political junkies, (i am one of such junkies, until the asian dramas came along and swept me of my feet), to understand it and present it like this – it was nothing less than riveting to me. it explains the two major sides in society, perceptions in politics, which is timeless and place less. i think everybody who’s interested in thought provoking ideas would benefit greatly from watching just this dialogue.

and this king, was not just a genius (which he was), but also a great revolutionary.

and so you are now watching our blues? i was totally quietly into every nooks and crannies of this little amazing piece of awesomeness, it’s warmth, it’s true loyalty and friendship, even the flowers growing out of the volcanic stone fences, and the ocean, o this ocean! i almost felt like running to lee dong seok’s van (lee byung hun) and buy something from him – it was so irresistible. and the captain and his boat – such an attractive man and equally attractive actor. the production is one of the best – every little detail of it, the acting is uniformly good. hope you are enjoying it.

j3ffc
j3ffc
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

Not surprised to hear that you admired Tree. Your comments on those of BE put it beautifully.

Yes, I am enjoying Our Blues and nearing the end. I have some quibbles with it here and there, namely that some characters were nicer to one another, and maybe less prone to hold grudges, and that Koreans were better drivers, as a whole, but it’s been a solid and heartfelt watch. I will admit that I set upon it because I am a sucker for anything set on Jeju Island or involving Shin Min-ah, but it’s been a pleasure throughout.

Faye
Faye
4 months ago

Very nice selection of dramas in the post and comments. I would add Ode to Joy 1 and 2 (cdrama) and Go Ahead (cdrama).

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Faye

faye, where did you find ode to joy 2? youtube has a few first episodes with subs, but the rest lack subs.

Timescout
4 months ago

Children of Nobody and Mawang are the ones that came to mind. Neither was an easy watch. Though I don’t know what sort of life lessons you might glean from them. “Try with all your might not to become ‘that’ person, no matter what the circumstances may be”? Not an easy feat in many cases, especially if one is powerless and alone.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

Children of Nobody is excellent indeed. Very difficult to watch but it stays with you forever.

wonhwa
wonhwa
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

I found Mawang (The Devil/Lucifer) to be one of the most extraordinary shows I’ve ever seen, both for its utterly uncompromising look at evil and the long term effects of violence and its refusal, even in the face of all of that, to preclude the possibility of redemption and grace.

ngobee
ngobee
4 months ago

Thanks for this!

I’d like to add:

Navillera
Mad for Each Other
Special Labor Inspector Mr. Jo (watch only on the dark side, unfortunately)
On the Verge of Insanity
Tomorrow

I went into Tomorrow thinking it’s some light fare with pretty Rowoon but it turned out the suicide cases the team has to prevent poke right into the heart of social injustice, historical and present. It wasn’t an easy watch for me, and I had to take breathing pauses in between episodes, but ultimately a good one.

Archie A.
4 months ago
Reply to  ngobee

Navillera!!! Very much agree with you on this one.
Also hi!

ngobee
ngobee
4 months ago
Reply to  Archie A.

Hi Archie!

Archie A.
4 months ago
Reply to  ngobee

Hello! I liked your recommendations. Plus I’m planning to start On the verge of insanity so your comment drew me. Hopefully I like this one as much as the others.
Hope you’re doing well though!

ngobee
ngobee
4 months ago
Reply to  Archie A.

I am, thank you! Overworked, underchallenged and frustrated but gearing up for the holidays – in Denmark. Wonky WiFi where we’re going, so downloads from Netflix will have to do …
Hope you’re well, too! And please enjoy On the Verge of Insanity – I totally fell for Lee Sang Yeob as morally in the grey zone but irrepressible Han Se Kwon. The whole thing has what the French call “grain de folie” which I love.
Have a lovely summer, if that is your current season!

blessingbarca
4 months ago
Reply to  ngobee

Ouch! Overworked and underchallenged will make anyone frustrated. Sorry to hear that. I hope you find something you actually enjoy and don’t mind overworking at.
I know Netflix is getting a bad rap but it’s not all bad so enjoy. I haven’t started the show yet, between work and books, starting a new show is always a major production for me but I am excited to watch it so that should hurry the process up…Hopefully.
I am well, thanks. Though would like to earn way more than I am now but that’s probably a large number of people so I thank God for everything and keep praying.
Summer aka Rainy season is quite lovely here (sorry if that sounds insensitive due to the weather reports we’ve been hearing from around the world).
Hope the summer in Denmark is okay!
Have a lovely summer yourself.

Archie A.
4 months ago
Reply to  ngobee

I’m blessingbarca, that was from my WordPress acct.

ngobee
ngobee
4 months ago
Reply to  Archie A.

Thanks, I had a tiny moment of disorientation but then understood you were replying to me … Thanks for that and enjoy!

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  ngobee

ngobee, if you fell for lee sang yeob (so did i), i would recommend my wife’s having an affair and jang ok jung – he’s worth watching in both, although very different roles., i liked him in both.

ngobee
ngobee
4 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

Thank you, eda, for the recommendation. Will look them up!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
4 months ago

This is a wonderful topic by KS. A nice list of shows, and some I’m fully onboard with 😂😂😂Also, adding the level of accessibility is a master stroke and thought provoking in itself, kfangurl 😊

I think we are seeing a change regarding the emergence of thought provoking content across more and more Kdramas – especially around societal issues. With CDramas we are seeing thought provoking content filter through despite the censorship. And as far as Jdoramas go, well, they have never had an issue with thought provoking content.

My list of additional thought provoking Kdramas are:

A Beautiful Mind 

Fantastic 

Good Doctor

I’m Not A Robot

Mad For Each Other

My Lawyer, Mr Jo

Oh My Geum Bi

Stranger 1 and 2

That Fool

Tomorrow With You

Your House Helper

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I do remember your lack of engagement re Your House Helper, kfangurl 😊

For me, it was a show that addressed a number of key issues: the loneliness of the elderly (her grumpy neighbour across the street), young women living and sharing a place on their own, how some people need help organising their lives and also how being LGBTI in business and hiding it is extremely challenging 😉

Trent
4 months ago

A good list of thought-provoking shows.

Possible additions:
I personally found SKY Castle pretty thought-provoking, just in terms of some class issues and what the more wealthy, successful strata of society might be willing to do to perpetuate their status via their children.

Also fairly thought-provoking along similar lines–class, privilege, etc.–is our current group watch, Heard it Through the Grapevine.

I found Hellbound pretty thought-provoking, with the caveat that there are those for whom this will be off-putting for its subject matter, and others who won’t find it particularly interesting.

Also potentially controversial, but I did find Squid Game to be fairly thought-provoking as a look at what people might be willing to do, or not do, in extremis.

eda harris
eda harris
4 months ago
Reply to  Trent

yes, heard it through the grapevine totally thought provoking, and if anybody follows the open thread of it right now, you would get the idea.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago

Another great list, !

I would like to add a thought-provoking sageuk to the list: Nokdu Flower.

The show deals with a real historical event and shows how the lives of various (mostly fictional) characters are changed by it. The story provides important commentary of Korea’s class system as well. The writing is well researched without resembling a lecture.

Accessibility: Not an easy watch. It is not a typical sageuk, so there is not much of court intrigue and pretty hanboks. The Donghak peasant uprising is not very well known to the casual drama viewer, so reading a little bit on the topic before watching the drama is very helpful.

maj
maj
4 months ago

Fascinating list; which includes 5 shows I’ve debated watching and felt they were too heavy for me. Now I’m encouraged to try them. I also found OK a great watch, for me it was the visuals..the child stories..so interesting.
Also, I wondered if you would consider “Radiant” for this list. It has other names..when I watched it a few years ago I was sort of spellbound.
Anyway, thanks for this list

Trent
4 months ago
Reply to  maj

Radiant (aka The Light in Your Eyes) is indeed very thought provoking, although it is difficult if not impossible to say why, since it is one of the very very few shows that I think actually does really benefit from going into it not knowing what is going on and where it is headed.