Hellokpop Year-End Look Back: 15 Highest Rating 2019 Korean Dramas Aired In Public Networks

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Character driven stories and workplace series prevailed in the roster of 2019 Korean Dramas

Based on the collated data from Nielsen’s average nationwide viewership ratings, the most-watched 2019 Korean Dramas aired in public networks (SBS, MBC, KBS) are characterized by thrilling narrative, realistic tones and commendable character portrayals.

Crime themed dramas dominate the list. A few of memorable K-Drama characters this season also sprang from this roster of highest-rating 2019 Korean dramas.

Hellokpop follows a slightly different K-Drama calendar. The dramas we included in this list covers November 2018 to November 2019 Korean dramas – and all the series that end on or before December 31, 2019. Additionally, daily, once-a-week and weekend 50+ episode dramas are not included.

Here are the 15 Highest Rating 2019 Korean dramas aired in public broadcast channels.

1. The Fiery Priest (SBS) 16.1%

The Fiery Priest took on a darker route towards the latter part but ended lightly. Father Kim Hae Il’s quest was exacting, but along the way he gained allies and earned their respect. With their help, they fought and triumphed over the ruling forces that plagued the small town of Gudam. It was not an easy feat for our heroes as powerful community leaders and a former foe bonded together to ensure their hold in power.

READ: K-Drama Review: “The Fiery Priest” Digs On Community Issues With Witty Storytelling

The Fiery Priest

2. When The Camellia Blooms (KBS 2TV) 13.9%

Gladdening and calming, When the Camellia Blooms takes the viewers to a sedating drama experience that strangely inspires.

The simple plot of a misfortune-magnet single mother who decided to begin her life on her own in a small town has moved to a plot that does not have multiple bends. Nevertheless, the unfolding of how she found the courage to be a better version of herself through the support of her avid-suitor-turned-boyfriend and neighborhood friends made the story engrossing.

READ: K-Drama Review: “When The Camellia Blooms” Ruminates On The Messages Of Self Love & Keeping Functional Relationships

When the Camellia Blooms

3. Doctor Prisoner (KBS 2TV) 13.2%

Rallied by a brilliant male-dominated cast, Doctor Prisoner has moved to exchanges of ploys and deceptions that keeps you high with its thrill. Providing equally engrossing textures of its protagonists and anti-heroes, the series expertly constructs its vengeance-driven story.

READ: K-Drama Review: “Doctor Prisoner” Captures Thrilling Pendulum Of Mind Games Spurred By Stellar Dark Hero & Villains

4. The Last Empress (SBS) 12.2%

At the center of SBS’ The Last Empress is the dysfunctional royal family on a premise of Korea’s constitutional monarchy. When an ordinary musical actress marries reigning Emperor Lee Hyuk, she uncovers revolting abominations committed by her husband and his mother.

READ: K-Drama Review: “The Last Empress” Consistently Astounds With Thrilling Story Bends Amidst Problem-Laden Plot

The Last Empress

5. Liver or Die – (KBS 2TV) 12.1%

This family drama centered around a problematic family that seemed to be doomed to fail. Lamenting on their bad luck, the siblings trudged around with clouds over their heads. Instead of working to improve their lifestyles, they gave in to their selfish whims and relied on Poong Sang to bail them out when needed.

READ: K-Drama Review: “Liver Or Die” Is A Long Albeit Satisfying Journey To Family Togetherness

Liver or Die | KBS

6. VIP (SBS) 9.8%

VIP provides a glimpse of how complicated human interactions can be – both in their personal and work environment.

Working together in the same team that takes care of the VIP (very important person) clients of Sungwoon Department Store, it is quite interesting to see how those secrets play a pivotal role in the lives of a husband and wife featured as main leads of the story.

A morsel of doubt, once it starts to creep in, can truly alter the way people look at things, no matter how much you tell yourself there is nothing to be worried about.


7. Vagabond (SBS) 9.3%

Vagabond is a fictional drama. But the circumstances were so close to actual happenings in real life that it resonated well with the audience. It was not a far-fetched idea that people who were after power could manipulate things and situations to their benefit. Maybe not to the extent it was shown in the series, but the possibility is not so remote.

The characters, the good ones, have faced an enormous challenge. Most of the times they have been pushed backed to the walls. But help came from a group they least expected, and that is from ordinary people. One of the things that stood out in Vagabond, is the resilience of the masses.

READ: K-Drama Review: “Vagabond” Drifts Into A Gripping And Action-packed Series Worthy Of A Spot In Your Drama Binge List


8. Doctor John (SBS) 8.2%

Searching for the cause of their patients’ mysterious pain, Doctor John narrates the stories of doctors specializing in pain management. Portraying patients as victims and the doctors as detectives hunting down what lies beneath unsolved crimes.

READ: K-Drama Review: “Doctor John” Touches Hearts With Contemplative Life Lessons

9. Angel’s Last Mission: Love (KBS2 TV) – 7.3%

Probably, one of the best romance dramas of 2019, Angel’s Last Mission: Love hit bulls-eye for all the check points from refined story-telling to excellent acting. Shin Hye Sun impressed the most and she captivated the audience in all of her scenes. The positives of the drama are that all the characters, both humans and angels, were shown to have some flaws. They made mistakes and they learned from them. The story had a lot of unpredictable twists and the mysteriousness of how everyone’s destiny was planned.

The main theme of the drama is pure love and it stays true to the theme. The trials that the lead couple had to go through and how they were willing to sacrifice themselves for each other gives a demonstration of selfless love.

READ: K-Drama Review: “Angel’s Last Mission: Love” Spins A Refreshing Tale About Selfless Love

Angel's Last Mission: Love

10. Less Than Evil (MBC) 6.9%

Infamously known for his crude ways, Detective Woo Tae Suk (Shin Ha Kyun) has the highest solved crime turnover rate in the police department he works with.

However, his diligence in his job has been rocking his marriage. Still caught up in an unsolved case 13 years ago, Tae Suk gets another chance to redeem himself with a new case.

Facing a formidable serial killer who is hiding beneath his prosecutor robe is Jang Hyung Min. He enjoys taking his victims’ teeth and other body parts as trophies of his unthinkable atrocity.

Less than evil

11. Partners For Justice (MBC) 6.8%

Partners for Justice 2

12. Haechi (SBS) 6.8%

Witnessing how a prince reconciled his emotional breakdowns to man up as a virtuous King has helped to achieve the unswerving direction of SBS series Haechi.

If you want a quick serving of a Joseon-set series that celebrates bravery and patriotism, pocket this SBS offering for your next binge-watch schedule.

READ: K-Drama Review: “Haechi” Permeates Life Encouraging Lessons Through Its Characters’ Heroics


13. Nokdu Flower (SBS) 6.6%

The journey with Nokdu Flower is a very emotional one as it unveils the struggles of the common people, their battles for their rights to equality and the various aspects that influences human actions.

What is admirable about this drama is the message of equality not just across different classes of people but across genders. The women in the drama were the key drivers in the story, had their own voice and took steps for their own actions.

READ: K-Drama Review: “Nokdu Flower” Depicts A Harrowing Yet Dream Picture Of Creating A Flourishing Nation

Nokdu Flower Review

14. Special Labor Inspector Jo (MBC) 6.5%

Taking the viewers to a different career world, the series gives an immersing experience to the world where labor inspectors will be introduced. Often, we meet doctors, lawyers and detectives in dramas we watched through the years. This time around, a labor inspector will be featured to present the reality and disputes dealt with in the labor sector of South Korea.

Portraying the titular role is Kim Dong Wook, who last worked on acclaimed OCN thriller The Guest. For his role as a labor inspector, Kim sheds light on what the job entails as a special judicial officer of the Ministry of Labor. With that, Kim’s character oversees the implementation of working conditions stipulated in the Labor Standards Act and to arrest employers when unfair labor practices are detected.

Special Labor Inspector Jo

15. One Spring Night (MBC) 6.4%

Narrated in full sentiments of a you-and-me-against-my-ex-bf-and-father love story, One Spring Night honestly makes the viewers perceive how lucky those people, who gets the one they love without any hitches to worry about.

READ: K-Drama Review: “One Spring Night” Emotionally Grips With Memorable Characters But Disappoints On Conflict Duration

Image Credit: KBS 2TV | SBS | MBC