My Top 3 K-Drama and Korean Snacks

Hi, guys!
Entering hmm.. I want to say week 5? of quarantine, how are you all doing? Me, I feel a little bit of everything. Some days it's pretty great and other days I'm pretty antsy. Not gonna lie, watching TV series have been my escape since I'm in high school. I used to watch exclusively western series but in the past year, I have been dabbling into K-Drama (Korean TV series).

What's great about K-Drama is that it's able to tell a captivating story with well-developed characters that somehow we could relate to without too much sex or violence. It's not completely innocent either (most of them are PG 13) but if you're a veteran in western series, you'll understand what I'm talking about. K-Drama is also famous for NOT having more than one season. Which a newbie like me appreciate. Anyway, without further ado, here are my top 3 recommendation for K-Drama during this quarantine life. And as bonus, I'd also recommend my favorite Korean snacks.

1. Hotel Del Luna

Hotel Del Luna is a 2019 drama that centers around Jang Man Wol (portrayed by IU) as an owner of a hotel for ghosts (Hotel Del Luna). This K-drama has 16 episodes with 70 minutes per episode blending romance, drama, and horror. And I promise you, in each episode, it leaves you wanting more. There isn't a single minute wasted.

Jang Man Wol, forced to become the owner of a hotel for the dead, a gateway between the living and spiritual realm, her world is turned upside down when hotelier Ko Chan Sung (portrayed by Jin Goo) arrives to become the new manager. As he learns about the hotel and its charismatic staff Hyun Joong, Mr. Kim, and Ms. Choi, what follows is an unlikely love story woven around elements of horror and supernatural drama. 

What's great about this series is the way Hotel Del Luna handles its different genres. Effortlessly changing on the fly, it's not uncommon to find episodes split between tense horror and supernatural frights over to genuine laugh out loud comedy in the next scene, without it ever feeling forced. It's partly testament to the excellent script writing but also thanks to IU, who absolutely steals the show here. Putting an award-winning performance, her portrayal of Man-Wol is masterful. 

With 70 minutes of each episode, there's a consistency to Hotel Del Luna that allows each episode to weave an individual tale whilst progressing the main narrative, especially midway through the series when more of these stand-alone segments come to the foreground. The exploration of Man-Wol tortured past is nicely implemented and adds an injection of mystery to proceedings, helping to keep the show unpredictable. 

Adding to Man Wol's progressive character arc over the weeks are the various other character who are all given their own arcs. Seeing the different hotel guests fulfilling their desires or getting over their fears makes for a really satisfying watch. It's impressive when you consider the secondary and background characters, like the father and son involved in a hit and run, given enough attention to have a satisfying send-off too. 

Aesthetically, Hotel Del Luna looks amazing and the visual cues in the series, with its art-deco hotel, the use of neon colors and interesting scene composition, make this drama as visually pleasing as it is dramatic to watch. Not to mention, I would wear every single thing that Man-Wol wears throughout the series. Pair that visuals with the best soundtrack of any K-Drama I've watched, Hotel Del Luna is going to be hard to beat for me. 

Hotel Del Luna is the perfect starting point for any of you who never watched a K-Drama before.  It has romance, it has comedy, and it has a little element of magic. The series consistently surprises and has enough twists and turns along the way to keep you coming back. The ending is bittersweet but every character has a meaningful send-off.

I like watching this drama with sweet and spicy tteokbokki crackers, just like Man-Wol character! She looks sweet but holy crap on a cracker, she can be sassy and scary.

2. Itaewon Class

Itaewon Class is a 2020 series revolves around Park Sae-Ro-Yi and his revenge-mission for his father's death to a famous Korean food company Jangga Co. This K-Drama consists of 16 episodes with 70 minutes per episode blending drama, romance, and revenge.

Park Sae-Ro-Yi (potrayed by Park Seo-Joon) was a rebellious high-school student who finds himself entangled in a blood feud with a bully named Jang Geun-Won (portrayed by Ahn Bo-Hyun) following the death of his father. Consumed by rage and subsequently thrown in prison, Sae-Ro-Yi finds himself antagonized by the chairman of Jangga Co. What follows is a revenge-fueled redemption story that sees Sae-Ro-Yi teams up with the eccentric Jo Yi-Seo (portrayed by Kim Da-Mi) to open a pub in the bustling tourist area of Itaewon street and try to topple the Chairman and Jangga Co. and become the first food company in Korea.

Obviously the plot is not as straight forward as I explained, with various different characters engaged in their own angles; including Geun-Won's half-brother Geun-Soo working for Sae-Ro-Yi at his pub DanBam and Sae-Ro-Yi's high school crush Soo-Ah working for the Chairman. All of these character-driven subplots work seamlessly with the main plot, intertwining with the revenge angle until the finale.

With three time jumps, the final few episodes suddenly has a kidnapping angle that feels kinda thrown in haphazardly but does a good enough job to keep things ticking across to the well written and satisfying conclusion to the story.

The plot itself works really well, with multiple layers built up across its run-time and plenty of topical issues explored too. From racism to sexism through the taboo subject of transgender, Itaewon Class doesn't shy away from a lot of controversial topics and handles them with respect throughout.

Although the first four episodes are slow, around episode 5 and 6, Itaewon Class starts to settle down and deliver a much more driven story. To be fair, the first episodes are needed to create a connection with some of the characters. The revenge plot that consumes a lot of the middle portion of episodes is interesting and believable enough, with DanBam rising up from obscurity to begin challenging the Chairman, who finally starts to take things seriously as we reach the third act of this tale. It's around this point that the show starts to build up various peaks in the run-time that deliver some really well-written reveals and emotionally rewarding segments. 

Visually, the series adds in a few different musical montages with all the usual Korean drama tropes you'd expect. The soundtrack has some nice catchy songs and overall the shows paints a really colorful urban palette across its 16 episodes, reinforcing the neon-awash streets of Itaewon itself and the producer's love of N Seoul Tower apparently, since I can't remember an episode without a shot of the famous tower. And personally, I do like that little detail.

Itaewon Class captures my heart since episode 4 (the dream kiss scene!) and I was especially enamored by Kim Da-Mi' character Jo Yi-Seo. Generally, K-Drama leading actress are sweet and most of the time needing a male lead's saving so it has been a true pleasure watching a female lead that is brazen and also at the same time smart enough to do all the job. She basically help the male lead to reach his goals. Because ladies, we really can have it all.

All in all, Itaewon Class is a solid, well written Korean drama that is both simple enough to follow and intricate enough to keep things interesting. The ending ultimately makes this Korean drama one of the best entries on the calendar this year. With a satisfying conclusion for every character and all the big plot points resolved by the end, Itaewon Class is worth a watch.

I like watching this series with various flavors of almonds since this series have a little bit of everything! For some heart-wrenching scenes, I turn to sweet honey almond to soothe the tears. And for some sweet romance, definitely a burst of fresh yogurt almond to snap you out of reality. No real life scene is ever like in K-Drama. LOL. And of course some fiery spicy almonds for any scene involving Geun-Won and Chairman Jang because they portray bad guys a little too well.

3. Crash Landing On You

Crash Landing On You is a 2019 series that centers around Yoon Se-Ri who one day ends up landing in North Korea after a storm blew her to the country while paragliding. This K-drama has 16 episodes and 90 minutes per episode blending romance, politics, and hilarious moments.

Yoon Se-Ri (portrayed by Son Ye-Jin) is an heiress and a successful CEO of her own company who find herself in North Korea after a paragliding accident. There, she meets and falls in love with Captain Ri Jeong-Hyeok (portrayed by Hyun Bin) while hiding and getting used to North Korean customs. What follows is a race against time as she tries to escape back to her country with the help of her new friends as she faces multiple obstacles and challenges. Along the way, she makes some unforgettable friendship which will change her life in ways she never thought possible.

After reading that, you might think it sounds a little crazy and wonder how the story would turn out. However, from its first episode through the emotional climax, Crash Landing On You (CLOY) manages to deliver its story in a clever and believable manner while staying respectful to both countries' customs. Each episode is 90 minutes but that shouldn't deter anyone from watching it, as the show never feels too long.

Seeing Se-Ri experiencing the harsh life in North Korea was quite the eye-opener; offering up some powerful and tense scenes while she tries hiding and returning to South Korea. By contrast, during the second half of the season we see the difference between the two countries as the drama concentrates on the South. Without spoiling too much, there are some pretty funny but also touching moments involving our favourite four soldiers. It has been really interesting to see the polarity between the North and South.

The four soldiers is an icing of this CLOY cake with each having its own distinctive personality trait. From Ju-Meok loving South Korean dramas to sweet and caring maknae Eun-Dong, handsome and reliable Kwang-Beom, right to the way through Chi-Su who tries his best to be indifferent to Se-Ri but ended up failing. They are a vital part of the show and add some much needed depth to it. Some of their scenes had me laughing while others had me shedding a few tears.

The North Korean village ladies, Yeong-ae and friends, also give some comedic relief for Se-Ri's scenes where she's adjusting to the North Korean life. Without them, Se-Ri's life while waiting to return to her home country would be plain.

Se-Ri and Jeong-Hyeok is the couple everyone rooted for during the show season and their chemistry is excellent throughout. Both Hyun-Bin and Son Ye-Jin gives brilliant performances. And might I say, a little to believable since lots of the viewers assume they both dating in real life.

Artistically, the cinematography boast some stunning imagery of Mongolia (for the North Korea scenes) and South Korea, but the real winner is Switzerland. The gorgeous scenery had me longing to revisit the country. 

Crash Landing On You is a worth to watch series, delivering a simple and touching story of love and friendship, the drama hits all the right notes when it comes to balancing suspense and romance. All the characters are likable and will certainly be missed by anyone who watched this drama from start to finish. 

I like watching this drama with soft and fluffy choco pie since that is how I feel when I'm watching any interactions between Se-Ri and protective Jeong-Hyeok. 

Also worth a mention is What's Wrong With Secretary Kim. It's purely a romantic comedy (with a dash of drama) that is light and easy to watch. I mean, we do need our nutritiously dense food but a cake every once in a while is also good for our mental health. I'd recommend this to anyone who is up for a good laugh and looking for a pick-me up especially in this unsure situation with the pandemic. 

In conclusion, K-drama always ended up as a love story even though it wasn't the premise. So if you're more of a Westworld and Money Heist type of gal, I totally get you. Also, how good is Westworld so far? I love the fact the we FINALLY get out of the Westworld background. It feels like a new series, honestly.

Hang in there and don't feel guilty if you can't be productive! We are in the middle of a pandemic after all. The key here is to stay alive and stay sane. Have a great day, all.


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