“My Dearest” was an epic journey through the highs and lows of love in a time of political upheaval. This poignant love story has no similar equal, but there are several amazing, heart-wrenching sageuks that’ll evoke the same ache if you’re looking to drown your sorrows in another show. Here are some of the best and most bittersweet sageuks of the past 10 years to add to your list!
Warfare and class politics are the real enemy in this stunning sageuk set during the end of the Goryeo period that takes us on a journey to the start of Joseon. Seo Hwi (Yang Se Jong) comes from a family of warriors, but hasn’t lived that way. Years back, his father Seo Geom (Yoo Oh Sung), one of Goryeo’s greatest swordsmen, was framed for embezzling military supplies and was executed as a traitor. That family shame taints Hwi, his sister Seo Yeon (Cho Yi Hyun), and Hwi’s goal to become a military officer like his father. On the other hand, Nam Seon Ho (Woo Do Hwan) is the brilliant but illegitimate son of the powerful Nam Jeon (Ahn Nae Sang). Despite his wealth, he’s also looked down upon due to his mother being lower-class. Both Hwi and Seon Ho become the best of friends as neither can never fit into the worlds they want to, and both have fraught relationships with their fathers that drive them forward. But while Hwi is the soul of justice, Seon Ho is bitter and dangerously ambitious.
Worse, a major power shift is on the horizon between General Yi Seong Gye (the first King of Joseon) and his ferocious son, Yi Bang Won (the magnetic Jang Hyuk). And when Hwi and Seon Ho end up as rivals in the state military exams, the resulting betrayal forever alters their lives, their futures, and Goryeo as a whole.
Why you’ll love it: There’s a sweeping love story here, but it’s one of brotherhood and loyalty against all odds. It’s worth mentioning that it is a very LGBTQ-coded drama, with the love/loyalty triangle between Yi Bang Won, Hwi, and Seon Ho making for some seriously compelling moments.
He said it!
All three leads hit it out of the park in this stunning, heart-wrenching story of love amidst civil war and the costs of loyalty to one’s nation.
“Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People”
We begin in a Joseon divided by class and wealth, with the poor becoming poorer and the wealthy profiting off their backs. Here, Hong Gil Dong (Yoon Kyun Sang) is born to a servant, which basically means that Gil Dong is nothing by Joseon standards. His lack of noble standing means that he won’t be allowed to hold office or even improve his life via education, despite being brilliant. Left with no other options, Gil Dong grows to lead a band of smugglers who steal from the rich to give to the poor. On the other hand, born into luxury, Yi Yoong (Kim Ji Suk) grows up to become Joseon’s king and an infamous tyrant, known as Yeonsangun. Gil Dong’s first love, Jang Nok Su (Honey Lee), is a former gisaeng who becomes the king’s consort but can’t forget Gil Dong. And Song Ga Ryung (Chae Soo Bin), a maid at the gisaeng house where Nok Su worked is equally in love with Gil Dong, but he doesn’t return her feelings. Gil Dong’s the Gil Chae here, haha. Each of these people will have a role to play in freeing Joseon from Yeonsangun’s tyrannical rule, that is, if the might of the powerful doesn’t crush them first.
Why you’ll love it: This one’s from the same writer of “My Dearest” and features the same loving attention to detail and amazing characters. Nok Su isn’t some scheming villainess, and Ga Ryung has the heart of a lion. The romance isn’t the main focus of the plot but is a slow burn that builds throughout the show. Most importantly, while this show has plenty of heartbreak and anguish, it is, overall, a heartwarming and hopeful story that’ll linger longer after it ends!
Check out the drama below!
“The King Loves”
What would you choose between love, friendship, and power? Wang Won (Im Siwan), the crown prince of Goryeo, is little more than a royal pawn. While his father is the king, his mother is Kublai Khan’s daughter, resulting in Won being an outcast in the royal court for having Mongol blood. His father doesn’t trust him, and his mother is determined to crown him as king. Won seeks power as well, but with the hope of finally gaining respect. Yet, his cousin, childhood friend, and bodyguard, Wang Rin (Hong Jong Hyun), is his exact opposite. Dutiful and loyal, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his prince. In the midst of great political upheaval, a mysterious girl named So Ah (YoonA) arrives in town, who seems to be keeping dangerous secrets. Won and Rin find themselves entangled with So Ah, and the three grow to become inseparable friends. But when both men fall in love with her, they find themselves caught up in the truth of So Ah’s past, with love, friendship, and the fate of the nation all at stake.
Why you’ll love it:
This is one of those rare dramas where the love triangle makes sense. Like Gil Chae, So Ah keeps her feelings close to her chest and cares about both men, meaning her final choice could go either way. And like “My Dearest,” this isn’t purely a love story but also one of loyalty and hardship in the midst of political strife. The show is beautifully shot, and all three leads give great performances. This one’s an underrated gem!
Check out the drama below!
Hey Kpopers! Which of these dramas have you seen? Which ones interest you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she fangirls over Ji Sung, and spins thrillers set in increasingly fantastic worlds. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!
Currently Watching: “My Demon,” “Moon in the Day,” “The Story of Park’s Marriage Contract,” “Vigilante,” and “A Good Day To Be A Dog.”
Looking Forward to: “Gyeongseong Creature,” “Ask the Stars,” “Queen of Tears,” and Ji Sung’s next drama.
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Author: shalini from www.soompi.com
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