8 K-Drama Couples That Captured Our Hearts In 2021
Dec 20, 2021   •   Andy Flores
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Dec 20, 2021   •   Andy Flores
Pairings in South Korean dramas can either make or break the entire show. Fortunately, in 2021, we were treated to lots of on-screen couples that were not only backed by solid storylines but also had overflowing chemistry. No kidding here—we practically had an entire fleet of K-drama ships to sail this year!
From a righteous dentist and an all-around chief who fell in love in a sleepy seaside town to kick-ass friends-turned-lovers trapped in a virus-laden apartment complex, these are the eight super-kilig K-drama couples we rooted for in 2021:
Dubbed as the “Dimple Couple,” Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’s Miss Dentist Yoon Hye-jin and Chief Hong Du-sik won over the hearts of viewers across the globe with their slow-burn romance that blossomed into a full-blown relationship filled with faith, maturity, and—well—aegyo.
Actors Shin Min-ah and Kim Seon-ho embodied their roles so well, industry experts in South Korea’s entertainment scene surveyed by media outlet Joy News 24 voted their characters as the year’s best couple, surpassing other entries by a landslide!
Fans of the series also noted that many of Hye-jin and Du-sik’s scenes were actually seasoned with ad-libs, bringing layers of authenticity to each moment they are seen on screen.
They said opposites attract, and such is true for “ChaCenzo” — the main couple of tvN’s hit dark comedy, Vincenzo. Song Joong-ki’s serious and sophisticated Vincenzo Cassano, a lawyer and Mafia consigliere, makes for the perfect contrast to Jeon Yeo-been’s feisty and quirky Hong Cha-young, an ex-associate of a top law firm. Striking an alliance, they are a force to be reckoned with as they put up a fight against a corrupt company run by a tyrant of a chairman.
While Vincenzo wrapped up back in May, the show’s viewers kept their tabs on Song Joong-ki and Jeon Yeo-been, who have since been openly showing their close bond, sparking dating rumors that have yet to die down.
As K-drama Land continues to inch closer to embracing diversity and inclusivity in their pairings, we are introduced to lesbian couple Jung Seo-hyun (Kim Seo-hyung) and Choi Suzy (Kim Jung-hwa) via tvN’s women-centric mystery-thriller Mine.
Lovers since their youth, the two are separated by the prejudices of society and their personal ambitions. Not all hope is lost for the pair, however, as Seo-hyun, a powerful heiress bound by her family’s expectations, slowly gains the courage to break free from the cage that has been keeping her from staying true to herself and the love of her life.
In an interview, Kim Seo-Hyung expressed her delight in playing the role of Jung Seo-hyun, a character that is still considered pretty unconventional in conservative South Korea. She said, “I chose the drama because it was a romance. Rather than a story about sexual minorities, it was a story about love. As an actor, I felt a sense of ambition in playing this character. Her background is also quite different from mine. Every actor aspires to play a cool role like this. When I thought about playing this kind of character in the past, I always believed that I could do it comfortably. That’s why I chose this project.”
When it was announced that up-and-coming actors Lee Do-hyun and Go Min-si were to star as the main couple of KBS2’s period melodrama Youth of May, the news was met with mixed reactions, especially from viewers who previously saw Netflix’s Sweet Home, in which the two played as siblings.
They shattered all doubts, though, with their memorable (and ugly cry-inducing) portrayal of young lovers Hwang Hee-tae and Kim Myung-hee, whose romance was caught up in the turbulent time of the Gwangju Uprising in 1980.
Based on a popular webtoon of the same name, Yumi’s Cells brought a refreshing and realistic romance drama through Kim Yu-mi (Kim Go-eun) and Koo Woong (Ahn Bo Hyun), who became a couple after an adorably awkward blind date.
Unlike the rest of the couples on this list, much of the “processes” involved in developing the relationship of Yu-mi and Woong was explained through the characters’ scene-stealing animated “cells,” making viewers explore the idea of having their own cells taking over various aspects of their emotions and thought patterns—think Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out, only a little more specific, with representative cells for love, lust, hunger, and even fashion—among many others
Spoiler alert—Yumi and Woong’s romance eventually met a foreseeable end, but that doesn’t take away the good times we had with the couple. Anticipation is also high, as Yumi’s Cells is set to return for a second season next year.
JTBC’s sports drama Run On was widely praised for its depiction of healthy romantic relationships, with gutsy foreign film translator Oh Mi-joo (Shin Se-kyung) and track-and-field athlete Ki Seon-gyeom (Im Si-Wan) at the heart of the show.
The pair’s romance arc is beautifully paced, allowing growth and self-discovery for the characters as they come to realize their growing feelings for each other.
When the show aired, Seon-gyeom’s confession of love to Mi-joo became the talk of the town for its simplicity and sincerity.
South Korea’s current Friday-Saturday night timeslot brings some tough competition. On SBS, we’ve got the Song Hye-kyo and Jang Ki-yong-starrer Now, We Are Breaking Up, and on MBC, we’ve got the historical drama The Red Sleeve, which headlines Lee Jun-ho and Lee Se-young.
If we were to consider viewership ratings and buzz rankings, it’s pretty clear why the main couple of The Red Sleeve is gaining a lot of attention and minting records while they’re at it: Apart from its actors’ undeniably fun chemistry, the show’s plot, depicting the whirlwind love story of crown prince Yi San and court lady Sung Deok-im, is found by many to be more compelling than its competitor’s, which—according to critics—suffers from mediocrity and unwelcome familiarity, despite featuring high-caliber leads who are serving top-tier visuals.
Enjoying popularity among casual K-drama viewers and sageuk fans alike, The Red Sleeve was extended to 17 episodes from its original 16-episode run. We guess we’ll be seeing more kilig moments from Yi San and Sung Deok-Im till early next year then!
Yoon Sae-bom (Han Hyo-joo) and Jung Yi-hyun (Park Hyung-sik) have been close friends for so long, they didn’t need to exert much effort to look like a real couple after entering a contractual marriage to score a provisional apartment unit from their job as civil servants.
Having a high level of natural intimacy, they don’t overanalyze each other’s gestures of affection. In fact, the most ordinary things they do are enough to send viewers’ hearts to a frenzy—be it rubbing sleep off the other’s eye, offering one’s jacket on a cold night, or drinking beer while talking about random topics at midnight. And when an adorable little girl is left to their care at the height of a virus outbreak, they prove that they also have parenting skills to boot. It’s just so obvious that they’re perfectly cut to be partners in this thing called life.
Of course, we’ve got Han Hyo-Joo (who finally concluded her five-year K-drama hiatus) and Park Hyung-sik (who was recently discharged from the military) to thank for bringing Sae-bom and Yi-hyun to life in their major small-screen comeback. With their free-flowing chemistry, even their behind-the-scenes clips are a treat to watch! No wonder, their characters in Happiness easily became one of K-drama fans’ favorite OTPs this year.
–The Hospital Playlist 2 couples (Haven’t we been rooting for them since last year, anyway?)
–Racket Boys’ Bang Yoon-dam and Lee Han-Sol (Ah, young love, so sweet!)
–Law School’s Han Joon-hwi and Kang Sol A (So, when are we going to get a second season that explores the relationship of these two?)
We know there are a lot more K-Drama couples that made hearts flutter this year. Tell us who else should be on this list in the comments!
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