K-dramas have been making quite a splash this year, with shows like All of Us Are Dead, Money Heist Korea and others drawing in thousands of viewers across the world. The super success of Netflix’s Squid Game has brought Korean dramas into the spotlight, and Netflix has been ruling the roost, belting out one superhit K-drama after the other.
All of Us Are Dead opened in January with a bang, followed by the humongous success of A Business Proposal, which has become the most-watched non-English series on Netflix so far, proving that office romances are still very much in vogue.
Kim Tae-ri and Nam Joo-hyuk took the audience on a roller-coaster ride of nostalgia in Twenty-Five Twenty-One. Actors like Kim Hye-soo and Son Ye-jin graced our screens with terrific performances in dramas like Juvenile Justice and Thirty-Nine.
Ji Chang-wook made a smashing comeback with Netflix’s The Sound of Magic. Seo Yea-ji and Seo Hyun-jin attested to why they are reigning queens, leading the June K-drama pack with Eve and Why Her? respectively.
Top 6 K-drama performances of the year so far, featuring Nam Joo-hyuk, Son Ye-jin and more
While we can safely say that female actors have outdone their male counterparts so far this year, we have also had some lovely performances by our favorite K-drama leading men in the form of Nam Joo-hyuk in Twenty-Five Twenty-One and Kim Woo-bin in Our Blues.
Here, we have curated a quick rundown of the top six K-drama performances on Netflix that you cannot miss out on.
Disclaimer: This list is based entirely on the author's opinion.
6) Nam Joo-hyuk in Twenty-Five Twenty-One
Nam Joo-hyuk was sublime in his role as Baek Yi-jin in Twenty-Five Twenty-One.
For fans who have grown up watching Nam Joo-hyuk, it is wonderful to watch the actor grow from a rookie to a promising young star, and he has delivered his career best so far with this K-drama opposite this year’s Baeksang award winner and his leading lady Kim Tae-ri.
5) Son Ye-jin in Thirty-Nine
Mom-to-be Son Ye-jin returned to K-dramas after two years, with Thirty-Nine. The women-centric drama revolves around three best friends who are about to turn 40 years old and the various challenges they encounter in love, romantic relationships, friendships, and life decisions.
Son Ye-jin takes on the role of Cha Mi-jo, director of Gangnam Dermatology Clinic. Although Son Ye-jin has done some fantastic roles on screen, this is one of her best performances in a K-drama.
Her bonding with co-stars Jeon Mi-do and Kim Ji-hyun is amazing, as she absorbs every facet of Cha Mi-jo’s personality into her being, making audiences feel empathetic towards the character.
4) Shin Min-ah in Our Blues
We were most thrilled to have the talented Shin Min-ah headline another tvN K-drama after a successful run with Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha last year.
Shin Min-ah portrays Min Seon-ah, a single parent who comes to Jeju and works with Lee Dong-seok, played by Lee Byung-hun.
While her character in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha was verbose and expressive, in Our Blues, Min Seon-ah conveys her emotions through her eyes most of the time.
Shin Min-ah makes the audience feel for her through a remarkably subtle and effective performance, making viewers root for.
3) Park Hae-soo in Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area
Despite being a very recent drama, we definitely think it deserves to be on our list of best performances of the year so far. Squid Game fame Park Hae-soo plays Song Jung-ho aka Berlin in the official K-drama remake of the Spanish show, Money Heist.
Given Berlin's popularity in the Spanish version of the show, this was a difficult character to portray. Yet Park Hae-soo not only delivered a wonderful performance, but also made viewers empathize with his tragic and horrifying past.
He is quiet, steadfast and almost intimidating with his fantastic screen presence, and proves to his detractors why his role in Netflix’s mega-hit K-drama Squid Game was not a fluke!
2) Kim Hye-soo in Juvenile Justice
From one Hye-soo to another! Second on our list is veteran actress Kim Hye-soo who headlined the popular K-drama Juvenile Justice.
The story revolves around Shim Eun-seok, a tough judge of the Juvenile Court with a bitter past that has shaped how she perceives juvenile offenders. She dislikes juveniles, but when she is appointed as the judge of a juvenile court, her outlook towards life changes.
Kim Hye-soo has often portrayed tough characters on screen in shows like Signal and Hyena, yet it is her versatility that makes all her performances stand out and K-drama Juvenile Justice is no different!
As Shim Eun-seok, she once again proves why she is considered one of the best actors in the business as she effectively walks the tightrope between sensitivity and sternness and venerable and vulnerability.
1) The entire cast in All of Us Are Dead
The surprise hit of the year so far has been the massively popular series, All of Us Are Dead. In this coming-of-age, high school zombie thriller drama starring Yoon Chan-young, Park Ji-hoo, Cho Yi-hyun, Park Solomon and Yoo In-soo in lead roles, the students must do whatever it takes to survive the zombie apocalypse.
The cast comprises of a group of young and talented actors with minimal acting experience, who give it their all and put forth terrific performances, making the show a resounding global success, and sending it right atop our list of favorite performances in the year so far.
Which has been your favourite K-drama performance this year? Let us know in the comments below!