2020 K-Dramalandscape Predictions — Revisited

More Than Friends (2020, episode 13)

by Marion & Mich KDL

As part of our 2019 KDL Roundup series, we shared more about our location and neighborhood predictions for 2020 and what we thought we’d be seeing on our screens throughout the year. Well, now that 2020 is over (and good riddance to it too), it’s certainly time to revisit these predictions and find out what we got right, along with some of our own observations from the year — so take a look below!

(Yes!) Incheon: Memorials and beyond

Memorials (2020, episode 2)

Fact: Incheon will never not be a part of the K-Dramalandscape. When we mused about seeing more of this port city in 2020, we figured it would mostly be the usual suspects in the Songdo International Business District (IBD), which was the case with places like Triple Street Shopping Mall, Posco Tower Songdo, and Gyeongwonjae Ambassador Incheon.

Then came Memorials and Mawon-gu. True to its name, this K-drama is certainly one that I’ll remember for a long time to come! I’ve probably waxed lyrical about it enough in our 2020 Neighborhoods list; though one thing I’d like to add is that if travel restrictions continue to persist this year, then this streamlined approach to location setting is definitely a trend we will be seeing more of on our screens — not that we’re complaining. 😉
— Mich KDL

(Yes!) New(tro) Kids on the Block

More Than Friends (2020, episode 13)

Getting this prediction right probably has something to do with 2020’s ‘newtro’ trend, as briefly mentioned in our extensive overview of the music and media references in When My Love Blooms. Though vastly different, both the neighborhoods of Incheon Chinatown and Ikseon-dong Hanok Village have a unique vibe to each, with the former retaining its signature colorful and oriental aesthetic, while a newly youthful and modern aspect of the latter blends in with traditional architecture.

It was indeed refreshing to see Ikseon’s streets and alleyways — such as Donhwamun-ro 11na-gil, Donhwamun-ro 11da-gil and Supyo-ro 28-gil — featured in 2020 dramas such as Sweet Munchies, True Beauty, and More Than Friends, while Incheon Chinatown-ro was featured briefly in the crime series Tell Me What You Saw.
— Mich KDL

(Miss! >.<) Cuppas on Gangneung Coffee Street [강릉커피거리]

When I Was The Most Beautiful (2020, episode 16)

K-Dramaland’s characters explored Gangneung, a town along South Korea’s east coast, plenty in 2020. But somehow, they preferred to drive along Heonhwa-ro Coastal Drive (who can blame them for that though?!); and instead of stopping at a café further down the road, they preferred to spend time at the fishing harbor located right at this street. The only mention this coffee street had throughout the year was of Eun-sil organizing a coffee festival in episode 12 of When The Weather is Fine — just that we never came to see it. Instead, we were introduced to Seongsu-dong Cafe Street, which we will be sure to see more of on our screens in 2021.
— Marion KDL

More Than Friends (2020, episode 7)

(Yes!) Jeju Island more on our screens

More Than Friends (2020, episode 2)

2020 marked the year in which Jeju Island was a constant staple on our screens. Along with it being highlighted as a 2020 tourism spot, it was also certainly because the 2020 virus pandemic made a lot of overseas filming impossible. But this overall K-Dramaland presence definitely helped to showcase this honeymoon island in all its charms, and also to bucket list some locations for future travels.

We were (re)introduced Jeju Island’s lush, volcanic nature, learned about oreums, and how important the black volcanic stone walls are in shaping the landscape also through their juxtaposition with the island’s white beaches. Thanks to More Than Friends and When I Was The Most Beautiful, we also learned that it has developed quite a vibrant independent book store culture and cafés in recent years that would make you want to be able to teleport there. Finally, we discovered what Yangban houses on Jeju looked like and even an architectural gem of a church. If only I could teleport my way there too!
— Marion KDL

More Than Friends (2020, episode 2)

(Yes!) Going under in 2020

Oh My Baby (2020, episode 10)

Well, literally and figuratively. 2020 may have been a downer of a year for many of us, but it was also a time to seek some solace in underground safe havens like Gwangmyeong Cave [광명동굴], which was last seen on our screens around a year ago. Thanks to Oh My Baby for bringing it back!
— Mich KDL

(Yes!) 2000s Locations in 2020

When My Love Blooms (2020, episode 16)

In our 2020 neighborhood round-up, we highlighted Jongno 1(il).2(i).3(sam).4(sa)-dong as “the dormant K-Dramaland princess of the 2000s” that “came back to life”. This is not the only place in K-Dramaland that seemed to have been revived in 2020 K-Dramaland. Main 2000s infrastructures like this bridge, this stadium, this airport, this hotel, and this convention center made a reappearance.  Even Namiseom Island, forever associated with Winter Sonata, seems to have shaken off its 2000s dust a little bit. But as much as I love to discover how these locations traversed time, it also makes mea little wistful as sometimes they seem to be the only remnants from that period — as most restaurants, cafés or movie theaters simply don’t exist anymore.
— Marion KDL

More Than Friends (2020, episode 8)

(Yes!) Reel vs Real Royal Palace Grounds

Do You Like Brahms? (2020, episode 3)

When discussing if palace grounds we’d be seeing in 2020 would be the ‘real’ or ‘reel’ thing, the both of us had mainly kept our focus on sageuks (historical/period dramas). But interestingly, it was the contemporary dramas that brought back the real palaces and historical landmarks in various ways.

For instance, Gyeonghui Palace was the place for Park Joon-young to find solace amidst the bustle and busyness of the megacity in Do You Like Brahms?, while Deoksugung Palace Stonewall Walkway also proved to be rather popular in 2020, particularly as a dating course. Woljeong Bridge was seen in The King: Eternal Monarch, while there was some ‘reel-ception’ at Gwanghallu-won Garden, where Sa Hye-joon filmed a drama in Record of Youth.

Tale of the Nine Tailed (2020, episode 5)

Of course, the ‘reel’ palace grounds and historical villages —MBC Dramia, Mungyeong Saejae Open Film Set, Korean Folk Village— continued to show up on our screens over 2020, and naturally we can be sure to continue seeing them, and the ‘real’ historical landmarks alike in many more 2021 dramas to come. For a start, spot Gungnamji Pond in Royal Secret Agent and Mr. Queen!
— Marion & Mich KDL

(Yes!) Unearthing more of South Korea’s History

Once Again (2020, episode 64)

With many travel plans being upended in 2020, it was time to rediscover the many facets of South Korea, from the bustle of its cities and towns to the beauty of its natural surroundings.

As predicted, we got to learn more about the country’s history this year. Along with seeing these locations in 2020 dramas, there were also various efforts to promote these places through online travelogs, such as the ‘Korean Heritage Travelog’ by the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration, featuring K-pop group MONSTA X.

One such place featured in the travelog and 2020 dramas alike is Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. As in the previous section, it’s certainly interesting to see how it’s been seen in more modern-day dramas than Suwon Hwaseong Haenggung Palace, which is in more sageuks. In A Piece of Your Mind, we got to see Haengju Fortress Park, where the Battle of Haengju (행주대첩) took place in 1593.

Live On (2020-21, episode 3)

Among the other places we got to discover was the Royal Portrait Museum at Gyeongjijeon Shrine in Jeonju; Eungchil Bridge, which takes its name from the pseudonym of South Korean independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun; the quaint House of Hong Nan-pa, where violinist and composer Hong Nan-pa lived the last 6 years of his life; and Daejeon’s Pai Chai University, which was founded by the first Methodist missionary to Korea.
– Mich KDL

(Miss! >.<) South-North Korea Relations and Negotiations

Maybe it was just our drama choices, but there wasn’t much that we saw on screen in 2020 that was as heavily themed as Crash Landing On You. That said, Search (써치) appears to be one of them; could it be a sign that we should give it a try?
— Mich KDL

(KDL) Turning real locations into filming sets

Private Lives (2020, episode 15)

One of my personal observations of trends in 2020 was how real places may have been used instead of filming sets, possibly for authenticity. Rooftops aside, this appeared to be the case for both Private Lives and Zombie Detective, whose production companies could have rented spaces in their respective locations to set up the actual detective agencies for the duration of filming. It would certainly be pretty cool if it were the same for Samsan Tech’s office in Start-Up as well, but if my experience seeing Strongest Deliveryman‘s ‘Palpal Guksu’ restaurant was anything to go by, it’s usually just the facade. But, one can still hope, right?
— Mich KDL

Start-Up (2020, episode 2)

(KDL) Building up and tearing down


Talking about film sets, 2020 is the first year (I think) which had filming locations –houses of main characters at that!– that were built from scratch, only to be destroyed after filming ended. This was the case, for instance, for my favorite K-Dramaland book store ‘Good Night’ in When the Weather is Fine, my favorite piano academy ‘La La Land‘ in Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, and the facade of the cursed castle in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.
— Marion KDL

Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol (2020, episode 16)

(KDL) Traveling to the countryside

When The Weather Is Fine (2020, episode 4)

When Mich and I discussed 2020 trends in 2019, I proposed ‘nature’ and Mich answered with: “Marion, nahh, that is redundant; we always see some greenery in K-Dramaland!” and she was right, of course. Having been through 2020’s K-Dramaland now, I can be more precise and pinpoint: rural South Korea. Quite a few dramas took us to the country’s countryside and some, like When the Weather is Fine, even rarely brought us to any major city.
— Marion KDL

When My Love Blooms (2020, episode 2)

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Now that we’re in 2021, what kind of trends do you think we’ll be seeing on our screens this year? Tell us your thoughts in the comments! As always, we’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Here’s to more great K-Dramas and K-Dramaland locations alike in the new year!

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