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As 2021 draws to a close, its time to begin reviewing the past year in K-Drama. Of course, with the difficulties the pandemic posed, many drama filmings have been affected and have faced various limitations. Taking this into account, 200 industry insiders gathered and cast their votes for the worst K-Drama of 2021. Note that these votes have not been cast by viewer ratings, but rather, take into account a variety of factors such as acting, cinematography, plot and writing, and more.
5. “Sisyphus: The Myth” and “Young Lady and Gentleman” Tie
We have two dramas of very different genres tying for 5th worst K-Drama. They each received 7 out of the 200 votes. Sisyphus: The Myth, tells the story of a genius engineer, Taesul, as played by Cho Seung Woo, who tries to find the truth behind his older brother’s death. A mysterious time-traveling woman, Seohae, played by Park Shin Hye, helps him to save the world. The plot’s complicatedness, loopholes and writing faced criticism in South Korea as many felt that the writing became loose towards later episodes.
On the other hand, Young Lady and Gentleman is more of your typical “morning drama makjang” type stories, with your usual archetypes of a “Cinderella”, poor but spunky and lovable female lead and a rich older man. Ji Hyun Woo plays a rich widow with three children and he hires a young girl from a troubled family, played by Lee Se Hee, to take charge of his children. They naturally fall in love. It has recently been criticized for Ji Hyun Woo’s stilted acting and typical story.
4. “Love (ft. Marriage and Divorce)”
The drama stars an ensemble cast comprising of 3 couples as they navigate married life. It received 10 out of 200 votes, making it the 4th worst K-Drama. This was surprising given that its second season soared in finale ratings, reaching a nationwide rating of 16.582%, making it the 8th highest-rated K-Drama in Korean cable television.
The drama discussed the trials and tribulations of marriage, including infidelity and more. However, it received criticism for being old-fashioned in plot and characters. In particular, many criticized it for painting women as the weaker half in marriage. Despite this, it has been renewed for a third season to air in summer 2022.
Receiving 17 out of 200 votes, it placed 3rd as worst K-Drama of 2021. Starring Jeon Do Yeon as Bujung, a 40 year old ghost writer, she feels as if she has accomplished nothing in her life. She meets Kangjae, played by Ryu Jun Yeol, a 27 year old that is facing the end of his youth and fears becoming nothing.
The drama was criticized for its overall melancholy vibes and its plateaued ending which made viewers feel as if they watched a drama where nothing progressed. However, as actor Ryu Jun Yeol concludes, such a drama must exist once in awhile, to let viewers stew on their takeaways.
2. “The Penthouse: War In Life”
Oh boy, this one’s a doozy. Receiving 43 out of the 200 votes, it’s the 2nd worst K-Drama in 2021, according to insiders. The franchise spanned 3 seasons, of which the first and second were the highest viewed. However, many viewers felt that the plot got increasingly lost as it dragged on and many characters died only to be revived later on.
Overall, the drama is about the top class in South Korea who live in a luxury building. The esteemed penthouse unit is owned by couple Joo Dan Tae and Shim Su Ryeon. Soon, death and mystery enshrouds them as birth secrets, affairs and more pop up.
1. “Joseon Exorcist”
The drama was cancelled halfway due to a bevy of criticism, the heaviest being for distortion of history. With 75 votes, it was crowned as the worst K-Drama in 2021. K-Drama Joseon Exorcist fell under fire when some of the props on a table setting were ostentatiously from Chinese culture rather than Korean. It was removed from broadcast after only 10 episodes.
The drama was originally about an evil spirit that was sealed away in the past. When the new king, King Taejong, ascends the throne, he needs to fight against the spirit that he sealed away in his youth. His son, Prince Yangnyeong, who wants the throne over his brother, enters a contract with the spirit.
With over Do you agree with this list? With over 70 K-Dramas launched in 2021 up to end October and more to come before the year rounds out, we can’t wait to see what fresh shows K-Dramaland has in store for us!