KDL 2021 Roundup #1: Most Seen Locations in K-Dramaland

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by Mich & Marion KDL

As 2021 begins to reach its end, it’s time to kick off our annual KDL round-ups – starting with our Most Seen Locations for the year!

With the ongoing pandemic still keeping us indoors and/or on our respective shores, many of us naturally turn to dramas to live vicariously through their characters. As much as they seem to be living the (mask-free) lives we wish we could lead, it’s always fascinating to see how reel life inevitably follows real life, especially in K-Dramaland.

When Marion and I (Mich) were putting the list together, we were pleasantly surprised to discover a considerable shift to this year’s most seen locations. Yes, some of the usual suspects remain, but a number of regular staples – particularly restaurants (think State Tower Namsan, Asosan), bars and cafés – weren’t able to retain their positions. This time, we have more ‘homely’ spaces, whether temporary or permanent. Curious to find out more? Read on for our 2021 Most Seen Locations!

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 [11]
(2020: #1; 2019: #1; 2018: #3; 2017: #4)

Seogang Bridge made it to first place for a third year in a row! I couldn’t bear not to mention this drama location’s “gold medal status”, or leave the bridge out of this year’s Most Seen list.  Among the many 2021 dramas you’d have spotted it in: So I Married An Anti-Fan, Hello, Me!, and Blue Spring From A Distance.
Marion KDL

#2: Incheon International Airport (ICN) [인천국제공항] [9]
(2020: #4; 2019: #4; 2018: #1; 2017: #5

At the mid-year mark, I was ready to bet that Jeju International Airport would make it to our Top 10. This was especially so with plenty dramas being filmed there, and with overseas filming still being less of a possibility. But lo and behold – our main airport staple continues to hold steady on our list. Indeed, K-Dramaland keeps us looking forward to the day we’re ready to go forth and travel the world again – as how characters in The Road: The Tragedy of One, Mine, and Move To Heaven did.
Marion KDL

This is the first time we have a Huam rooftop apartment on this list, a finding that came as a huge surprise to both Mich and me. Then again, seeing how the K-Dramaland rooftop apartment trend has continued to flourish nearly two decades since this apartment started it in 2003, we think it is only fair to bestow a medal to one of them this year. Some of those who called this home in 2021: characters in Mouse: The Predator, Second Husband, and Love Scene Number. Current end-of-the-year dramas such as Young Lady and Gentleman and Let Me Be Your Knight also make us believe that this apartment will surely be part of our 2022 round-up.
Marion KDL

I’ve always thought that Eoulmadang Street was a quite a recent K-Dramaland hotspot, but spotting this street in 2008’s My Sweet Seoul, along with other additions from 2009 and 2010, made me think twice. This year, shows like So Not Worth It, Doom at Your Service, and Mint Condition featured this K-Dramaland street staple.
Marion KDL

#5: Conrad Hotel Seoul [콘래드호텔] [7]
(2020: #10)

This year, we got to see a little more of this popular K-Dramaland hotel beyond its usual penthouse suite. The judge trio of The Devil Judge enjoyed a lavish meal (complete with a wild boar steak, no less) at Italian restaurant Atrio, while the Yumin-Hanju shareholders meeting in One The Woman was held at the boardroom. There’s still more of this hotel to see yet – which new spaces will we get to see in 2022?
Mich KDL

#6 Royal Quest [로얄퀘스트] [7]
(2020: Special Mention)

From being a Special Mention last year, Royal Quest jumped into our Top 10 this year. Its Hotel Suite Room Film Set – probably the most recognizable one – was the most featured, as seen in Sisyphus: The Myth, Monthly Magazine Home, and Taxi Driver. This makes it fit quite neatly in the ‘housing’ theme of this year’s list. Also, thanks to sarahms, we’ve also added our ‘oldest’ sighting for this location to date: 2014’s Fated to Love You.
Marion KDL

#7: Dongjak Bridge [동작대교] [7]
(2020: #9; 2019: #2)

Aside from steadily maintaining a position on our annual list, it seems like Dongjak Bridge continues to be one of the more visible ones in K-Dramaland. And this is even with other aesthetic ones like Dongho Bridge and Banghwa Bridge located along the Han River. But maybe it’s also because it’s one of the few bridges that combines three kinds of traffic thoroughfares: subway train, motor vehicles, and pedestrians. Per Vincenzo, Penthouse 2, and Navillera, it continues to be a popular place to walk, contemplate, and make plans or decisions.
Mich KDL

Oh, Oakwood Premier – it’s about time you made it to our Top 10! Though its Penthouse has become a familiar K-Dramaland sighting over the years, the hotel never seemed to be featured enough to warrant a place on our Most Seen list. This year, both the Penthouse, along with bar and restaurant Panoramic65 appeared in equally good stead, as seen in Dali and Cocky Prince and Imitation.
Mich KDL

#9: Seoul Dragon City [서울드래곤시티] [7]

It was only a matter of time before Seoul Dragon City would be added to our Most Seen list. Launched only four years ago, this ‘Lifestyle Hotel-plex’ with its range of hotels, restaurants and bars (in short: plenty of locations to film at) has been a consistent K-Dramaland sighting since its opening. Through Oh My Ladylord and High Class, we got acquainted with Sky Kingdom’s black and white interior, and we’re sure there’ll be more features of it to come.
Marion KDL

#10: Grand Hyatt Incheon [그랜드 하얏트 인천] [6]

Though only on our radar since 2019, Grand Hyatt Incheon has been appearing on our screens more frequently since then, with 2021 having the most number of features to date. This year, we got to delve a little deeper into the hotel, beyond its exterior and (very whitewashed) lobby area – as seen in You Are My Spring and How To Be Thirty. Hopefully we’ll get to see more in 2022!

On that note, it’s interesting to see how not just one, but two Incheon hotels made it to this year’s Top Ten list. Seoul hotels ought to be on their toes.
Mich KDL

Special Mentions

Hapcheon Image Theme Park [합천영상테마파크] [7]

It seems customary for a theme park/film set to make it to our list (or special mentions) each year, and the honor for 2021 goes to Hapcheon Image Theme Park. It’s probably one of the few that can be seamlessly featured in both present-day and retro-themed dramas, and we’re pretty sure it’s because of the Blue House replica – seen in Undercover – on its premises. There was also a very interesting juxtaposition in L.U.C.A.: The Beginning, in which the main street was CG-ed to include modern buildings. But it’s still best known for its period sets, featured this year in 80s drama Youth of May, and the upcoming Snowdrop.
Mich KDL

The Botanical Garden BCJ (Byukchoji Gardens)
[벽초지 문화 수목원]

After a slight hiatus, one of our most long-running staples returned to the small screen this year: the Botanical Garden BCJ, also known as Byukchoji Gardens. Seeing it again – in The Witch’s Diner and Penthouse 3 – is just like welcoming back an old friend: there’s much to ‘show and tell’, so to speak. It continues to amaze me how there are still new areas to discover each time!

Mich KDL

Seoul Marina Club & Yacht [서울마리나 클럽&요트] [5]

Since its opening in 2011, Seoul Marina has made its occasional appearance in K-Dramaland, mostly as a venue for special events, or covert meet-ups. It’s also interesting to see how its surrounding spaces are used; one example is the car park, which housed a container hide-out in Inspector Koo. You can also see this location in The Veil and You Raise Me Up.

Mich KDL

Mich and I are still puzzled how we’ve let this location go unnoticed over the past years. KINTEX, a huge two-building exhibition center located in Goyang, has been featured in K-Dramaland since at least 2014. It is often used as a stand-in for Incheon International Airport, particularly because of its structural resemblance. Beyond that, KINTEX’s versatile make-up also allows for multiple narrative backdrops. This year, for instance, it served as the background for Kang Yo-han and Kim Ga-on’s epic farewell scene  in The Devil Judge, then as a hospital in One the Woman, and an international airport in Dali and Cocky Prince.
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! You can also check out our previous lists here: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.

The next 2021 KDL Roundup is coming soon, so stay tuned 🙂

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