KDL 2020 Roundup #1: Most Seen Locations in K-Dramaland

Revenge (2020, episode 1)

by Mich & Marion KDL

Here we are again at the end of another year, and the start of our annual KDL round-ups!

Kick-starting our year-end series as always is our list of 2020’s Most Seen Locations. One of the dilemmas we face each year when drawing up the list is in deciding whether or not to feature or mention the obvious K-Dramaland staples, such as Incheon International Airport and Seoul Central District Court. Because, let’s face it: our characters in K-Dramaland travel (sans all our real life travel restrictions), and may either go to trial, get a divorce, or work as a lawyer or judge. There are very few deviations as to how these locations are typically portrayed; and as such, the way we’d write about them wouldn’t differ as much either.

However, we thought it would be best for us to stay true to the actual list this year, to have an overall gauge of just how the popularity of each featured location has evolved since we started our series in 2017. Aside from a few of the usual suspects, we’re also excited to welcome some new locations to the list — at least one of which is rather long overdue.

Read on to see the locations that made our 2020 Most Seen list!

Note: Numbers in brackets at the end of each header denotes the number of dramas the location has appeared in this year, along with their previous years’ rankings (where applicable)!

 

#1: Seogang Bridge [16]
(2019-#1; 2018-#3; 2017-#4)

Good Casting (2020, episode 13)

From My Holo Love and Oh My Baby, to 365: Repeat the Year and many more– my favorite bridge continues to be an uncontested K-Dramaland staple, and #1 for the second time in only four years. Congrats! (if only it could hear me/us?!)
— Marion KDL

#2: Forest of Wisdom [13]
(new!)

King: The Eternal Monarch (2020, episode 15)

It is a genuine surprise that our all-time favorite library has never once made our Most Seen list, despite being a stable staple in K-Dramaland since its opening in June 2014! But, better now than never, we say. This year, the signature towering wooden bookcases of Forest of Wisdom were spotted in dramas like The King: Eternal Monarch, Memorials, and Was It Love.
— Mich KDL

#3: State Tower Namsan [10]
(2019-#18)

Flower of Evil (2020, episode 1)

State Tower Namsan is another repeat from past round-ups on our list, featured in twice the number of K-dramas this year compared to the last. While some were still for awkward and uncomfortable meet-ups (Flower of Evil), there was a little more diversity in the reasons for visiting this building, such as prospective client meetings (Start-Up), celebrating special occasions (Record of Youth), or simply for a drink (Itaewon Class). The State Room was even repurposed into an apartment, as seen in Kkondae Intern.
— Mich KDL

#4: Incheon International Airport [10]
(2019-#4; 2018-#1; 2017-#5)

Record of Youth (2020, episode 2)

Even though this airport is a more-than-frequent sighting in K-Dramaland, it surprised us this year by showcasing an art piece by South Korean artist Do Ho Suh (서도호, b. 1962) in at least three dramas.
— Marion KDL

 

#5 Gaon Culture Park [9]
(2017-#2)

Touch (2020, episode 4)

Until now, I cannot pinpoint why I like this square. After all, what is so special about it apart from being a K-Dramaland staple? Maybe it’s because it was one of the first locations that was challenging for me to track down? Now, I am just happy to see it on my screen –like on Meow, The Secret Boy, Touch, and Mystic Pop-Up Bar— and wonder how it would be like to stand there… in person?
— Marion KDL

#6: Seongdong Detention Center [9]
(2019: #3)

When My Love Blooms (2020, episode 1)

Who would have thought that there would be a shifting “prison preference” in K-Dramaland?
When I started out watching, the one-and-only prison that appeared on screen was Seodaemun Prison History Hall, followed by Iksan Prison Set, then Jangheung Prison Set… until Seongdong Detention Center came into the picture at the end of 2017, just after it was closed as a real-life prison. This prison probably owes its rise in K-Dramaland popularity to its real-life vibe, but also certainly because it is located within Seoul and thus more convenient for filming. This is particularly since it does not demand hours of drive towards the south of the country, where most of the other prison (sets) are located. Spot it in 2020 dramas like The Penthouse, Kairos, Lie After Lie, and Born Again.
— Marion KDL

Tale of the Nine Tailed (2020, episode 1)

Thanks to a tip from regular contributor Thom, we found out that the ‘hospital’ facade seen in a number of this year’s dramas –like Tale of the Nine-Tailed, Find Me In Your Memory, Money Game, and Hi Bye, Mama!— belongs to the Mia Woonjung campus of Sungshin Women’s University. It seems like it’s been on the K-Dramaland radar for a number of years, even as far back as 2016!
— Mich KDL

#8: Asosan [7]
(2019-#8; 2017-#11)

When I Was The Most Beautiful (2020, episode 11)

Asosan is always a safe bet when it comes to our most seen locations-round-up! This restaurant, which K-Dramaland makes it appear to be a one-room venue, is actually a three-storey restaurant in real life, with multiple private rooms and an open-plan dining hall. It was seen this year in dramas like When I Was The Most Beautiful, The World of The Married, and Hyena.
— Marion KDL

#9: Dongjak Bridge [7]
(2019-#2)

Start-Up (2020, episode 3)

Dongjak Bridge‘s 5-place fall from last year’s roundup does not make it any less important. In fact, this Hangang River bridge, a K-Dramaland mainstay since at least 2001, even had its own fireworks this year! What’s unique about this bridge is that it has its “own” café, and a view of it can be enjoyed from another recent K-Dramaland staple. Had we counted this year’s sightings from the latter venue, this bridge would have had four more counts. But well, that would have been unfair to the other locations, wouldn’t it?
— Marion KDL

#10 Conrad Hotel Seoul [7]
(new!)

Train (2020, episode 9)

This is the first hotel that has made our Top 10 list in four years. Frequent K-Drama viewers should be able to easily recognize its lobby staircase, sleek marble decor, and pebbled lighting in its penthouse suite, which has emerged as K-Dramaland’s favourite apartment in recent years. This year, its gym even made a comeback to our screens in Backstreet Rookie and Train. A pro-tip from us when it comes to spotting the suite: though strikingly similar, it’s not to be confused with the one in Oakwood Premier Hotel Incheon.
— Marion & Mich KDL

Special Mentions

Memorist (2020, episode 15)

Filming sets in studios are used very commonly in K-dramas, and the more often they feature, the easier it is to recognize them — and Royal Quest is certainly recognizable, and versatile too. The cool thing is that it has not just one, but five different sets under its roof; most notably, its Hotel Suite Room, Airplane Set, and Private Room were seen this year in Good Casting, Memorist, Alice, and Private Lives.
— Mich KDL

Men Are Men (2020, episode 4)

Interestingly, the parts of the five-star Four Seasons Hotel Seoul that are normally seen in K-dramas is not the hotel itself, but two of its dining options: the award-winning bar Charles H., which is ranked #29 in this year’s Asia’s Top 50 Bars list, seen in Men Are Men and Soul Mechanic; while contemporary Japanese restaurant Akira Back, run by the Korean-American celebrity chef of the same name, was seen in When My Love Blooms.
— Mich KDL

Mystic Pop-Up Bar (2020, episode 1)

Another interesting first on our list: a sageuk (historical) film set! Best known as ‘Dae Jang Geum Park’, MBC Dramia continues to be one of the more consistent sageuk sets regularly seen on-screen over the years. This year, viewers got to see it in dramas like King Maker: The Change of Destiny and Mr Queen, among others.
— Mich KDL

Find Me In Your Memory (2020, episode 16)

This lovely stonewall that’s made it on the bucket lists of quite a few Goblin viewers has been beautifying the K-Dramascape from at least 2005. Since then, it’s become a favorite place for lovers to visit, and has especially been this year, as seen in Do You Like Brahms?, More Than Friends, and My Unfamiliar Family.
— Marion KDL

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Have any others to add to the ‘Most Seen’ list? Share your findings and favourites with us in the comments!

Watch out for the other upcoming KDL Roundups we have for 2020 🙂

Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol (2020, episode 14)

What are you looking for?