These past couple of years there has been a lull in the number of historical dramas. With 2019, I was glad to see that there were many more dramas that came out which made it worthwhile to dive into the saguek genre again.
Huge thanks to Mags Tam for putting this list together!
Let’s take a look back at all the sageuks that aired in 2019. I have listed ALL dramas with a historical element to it, including a couple of mostly modern dramas (they are noted in the overview). The following dramas are listed in order by AIR DATE:
1. The Crowned Clown
Native Title: 왕이 된 남자 – Wangyi Doen Namja
Air Dates: January 7 – March 4, 2019
Network/Episodes: tvN – 16 episodes
Overview: Joseon is in a state of disorder due to uprisings and a power struggle surrounding King Lee Hun (Yeo Jin-Goo). To avoid assassination, a clown named Ha Sun (Yeo Jin-Goo) is brought to the palace to take the place of King Lee Hun. Ha Sun looks almost identical to King Lee Hun.
When Ha Sun was a child, his parents died during an epidemic. Ha Sun almost died from starvation around that time, but he was saved by a group of clowns. Ha Sun grew up with the clowns and became one of them. During their performance, Ha Sun would play King Lee Hun due to their similar physical appearance. Now, Ha Sun is nervous that someone in the palace will find out he is not the real king. He falls for beautiful Queen Yoo So-Woon (Lee Se-Young).
Other: This drama series is a remake of 2012 movie “Masquerade.” The drama and the movie take inspiration from “The Prince and the Pauper” by Mark Twain.
Native Title: 킹덤 – Kingdeom
Release date: January 25, 2019
Network/Episodes: Netflix – 6 episodes
Overview: 10 days have passed since the King collapsed from an illness. Queen Jo (Kim Hye-Jun) and her father Chief State Councilor Jo Hak-Joo (Ryoo Seung-Ryong) have forbidden anyone else to see the King. Even his own son Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-Hoon) is forbidden to see his father. In the meantime, Chief State Councilor Jo Hak-Joo rules Joseon with an iron fist, but rumors spread that the King is dead.
Crown Prince Lee Chang senses something sinister and sneaks into the King’s palace. He sees a shadowy monster through a door and smells its foul stench, but he is discovered and escorted out of the palace. His guard Moo-Young (Kim Sang-Ho) steals the medical journal for the King. The journal is nearly empty, but lists the name of Physician Lee Seung-Hui (Kwon Bum-Taek). To find out what happened to the King, Crown Prince Lee Chang and Moo-Young travel to the Jiyulheon clinic in faraway Dongnae to see the physician. When they arrive, they discover that the clinic is in ruins and dead bodies are found under a building. Crown Prince Lee Chang and Moo-Young later learn that the only person to have survived the clinic is medical staff member Seo-Bi (Bae Doo-Na). When they finally find Seo-Bi, she tells the them that the dead they saw at the clinic are not dead and they will rise up soon to kill.
Other: Kingdom 2 will air in 2020.
Native Title: 해치 – Haechi
Air Dates: February 11 – April 30, 2019
Network/Episodes: SBS – 48
Overview: Set during the Joseon Dynasty period, four people from different walks of life come together to make Prince Lee Geum the King and reform the Saheonbu. The four people are Lee Geum (Jung Il-Woo), Yeo-Ji (Go Ara), Park Moon-Soo (Kwon Yool) and Dal-Moon (Park Hoon).
Lee Geum is a prince, but, even though he is smart, he is not recognized as a prince due to his mother being born in the lowest class. Yeo-Ji is damo at the Saheonbu. She investigates cases enthusiastically. She has a talent for the martial arts and foreign languages. Yeo-Ji is the best investigator at the Saheonbu including the male investigators.
Park Moon-Soo has been preparing for his exam to become a public officer. He is not very smart and has difficulty with the exam, but he is honest and tender to other people. Dal-Moon is a famous clown. He is good at martial arts.
Other: “Haechi” or “Haetae” is an imaginary animal, able to discern the innocent from the guilty. First acting role for Jung Il-Woo since finishing his alternative military service on December 2, 2018.
4. The Nokdu Flower
Native Title: 녹두꽃 – Nokdu Kkot: Saram, Haneulyi Dweda
Air Dates: April 26 – July 13 2019
Network/Episodes: SBS – 48
Overview: Set during the Donghak Peasant Revolution which took place from 1894-1895. Two half-brothers fight on opposite sides of this rebellion.
Baek Yi Kang is the first son of an important family. His father is wealthy and he is notorious as a local government officer. But, Yi Kang’s mother is from the lowest class. Due to his mother’s low social class, people look down on Baek Yi Kang.
Song Ja In is the only daughter for the head of a large peddlers group. She is the owner of Jeonjoo Yeokak, which sells merchandise and is also an inn. She has courage, stays calm under pressure and has charisma. Song Ja In dreams of becoming the best merchant in Joseon.
Baek Yi Hyun is Yi Kang’s younger half-brother. He is smart, handsome and polite. Unlike Yi Kang, Baek Yi Hyun was not born out of wedlock. Yi Hyun has everything and he treats his half-brother politely.
5. Different Dreams
Native Title: 이몽 – Yimong
Air Dates: May 4 – July 13 2019
Overview: A turning point in Korean history, one never to be forgotten is presented in this engaging historical drama, celebrating its 100th anniversary. In 1919, during the Japanese colonial period, two events paved the way for the independence of Korea, the March 1st Movement and the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. And with it, a covert armament for freedom was born, the Heroic Corps. Historically and in the drama, the man leading the corps goes by the name of Kim Won Bong, his real name only a few people know. He rarely stays in one area for more than two hours and sleeps for only short periods at a time. With fiery passion in his heart, he moves about swiftly and dreams for his country’s independence. Lee Young Jin a Korean woman raised by a Japanese military doctor follows in her surrogate father’s footsteps, and through a series of events, attends a prestigious medical university in Shanghai. She returns to Joseon and becomes the first female surgeon. The two them cross paths, and although they follow different ideologies, Won Bong soon realizes his need for her and begins to regret sending her deep into enemy territory. These two characters will walk together, sometimes run, sometimes fall, only to get back up again to chase their dreams. Bearing with them the pain and suffering of the historical events that shaped Korea’s independence, they hope to instill the past so that it will never be forgotten.
6. Arthdal Chronicles
Native Title: 아스달 연대기 – Aseudal Yeondaegi
Air Dates: June 1 – July 7, 2019 (Part 1-2) / September 7 – 22, 2019 (Part 3)
Network/Episodes: tvN – 18
Overview: Set in the fictional land of Arthdal during ancient times.
Eun-Sum (Song Joong-Ki) was born with a fate to bring disaster to Arthdal. Due to his mother’s struggles to save him, he goes through hardships and grows up. He appears again in Arthdal.
Ta-Gon (Jang Dong-Gun) is a war hero of Arthdal. He has paved the way for Arthdal to become a prosperous city nation and he is the most powerful person in Arthdal. He dreams of becoming the first king of Arthdal.
Tan-Ya (Kim Ji-Won) was born with the same fate as Eun-Sum. She is the successor of the Wahan Tribe. Going through hardships, she realized her mission. She lives under the highest honor and her ambition is to become a politician.
Other: Arthdal Chronicles will consist of 3 parts, with each part consisting of 6 episodes. Part I and 2 will air consecutively, while Part 3 aired in the second half of 2019.
Arthdal Chronicles Part 1: The Children of Prophecy; Part 2: The Sky Turning Inside Out, Rising Land; Part 3: The Prelude To All Legends
7. Joseon Survival
Native Title: 조선생존기 – Joseonsaengzongi
Air Dates: June 8 – August 17, 2019
Network/Episodes: TV Chosun – 16
Overview: Han Jung-Rok (Kang Ji-Hwan) was the top archer on the national team, but he now works as a delivery man. He struggles to make a living. Lee Hye-Jin (Kyung Soo-Jin) is his first love, but they broke up after his downfall. She is now a resident at a rehabilitation medical department. They meet again for the first time in 7 years.
A dramatic event causes Han Jung-Rok to travel back in time to the year 1562. There, he meets historical figure Im Kkeok-Jeong (Song Won-Seok). Im Kkeok-Jeong is smart and handsome, but he works as a butcher, which is the lowest class in Joseon.
Han Jung-Rok, who struggles to make a living in the present day, and Im Kkeok-Jeong, who belongs to the lowest class in Joseon, meet and make a miracle.
Other: On July 11, 2019 production company Huayi Brothers announced that Kang Ji-Hwan has dropped out of Joseon Survival. He was arrested on July 9, 2019 for rape and sexual molestation of two women. Seo Ji-Suk cast in TV Chosun drama series “Joseon Survival.
8. Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung
Native Title: 신입사관 구해령 – Shinibsagwan Goohaeryung
Air Dates: July 1 – September 26 2019
Network/Episodes: MBC – 40
Overview: The story takes place at the beginning of the 19th century. Goo Hae Ryung is an intern to become a palace historian. However, it was not acceptable for women to write historical records at that time. She takes one step at a time to create her own destiny in Joseon, where Confucian ideas are deeply rooted.
She wants to fulfill her duties as a historian and prove to the world that everyone is equal. Along with the fight of the female palace historians, the drama will tell her romance with Prince Lee Rim who has a secret of his own.
9. Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency
Native Title: 꽃파당 : 조선혼담공작소 – Kkotpadang: Joseonhondamgongjakso
Air Dates: September 16 – November 5, 2019
Network/Episodes: JTBC – 16
Overview: Lee Soo was an ordinary, countryside blacksmith in love with the escaped slave, Gae Ddong. Then Lee Soo became the King of Joseon. King Lee Soo still wants to marry Gae Ddong, but her humble background makes this virtually impossible. So he hires the Flower Crew Matchmaking Agency to do the impossible: transform Gae Ddong into a noblewoman. To comply with that request the agency’s three handsome men, Ma Hoon, Do Joon and Go Young Soo, navigate politics and etiquette, loyalties and hearts stirring, enemies and their own friendship. The very state of the Joseon Empire rests on the outcome of their venture.
Other: Based on novel “Kkotpadang: Joseonhondamgongjakso” by Kim Yi-Rang (published September 22, 2014 by PubPle).
10. The Tale of Nokdu
Native Title: 조선로코 녹두전 – Joseonroko Nokdujeon
Air Dates: September 30 – November 25, 2019
Network/Episodes: KBS2 – 32
Overview: Jeon Nok-Du (Jang Dong-Yoon) lives on an island with his father and older brother. He is smart and a good swordsman. Since he was little, his father did not let him study or go to the mainland. One day, his father and older brother are attacked by a group of female assassins. Jeon Nok-Du chases after one of the assassins to the capital. During that time, Jeon Nok-Du meets Dong Dong-Ju (Kim So-Hyun). She wants to shoot the King with her arrow, but Jeon Nok-Du saves her from trouble. Meanwhile, the assassin that Jeon Nok-Du chases goes into a widow village. To find out who and why his family was attacked, Jeon Nok-Du disguises himself as a woman and enters the widow village. There, he meets Dong Dong-Ju again. She is an apprentice to become a gisaeng.
Other: Based on webcomic “Nokdujeon” by Hye Jin Yang (published from December 16, 2014 to July 31, 2018 via comic.naver.com).
11. My Country: The New Age
Native Title: 나의 나라 – Naui Nara
Air Dates: October 4 – November 23 2019
Network/Episodes: JTBC – 16
Overview: Set during the end of the Goryeo period to the early Joseon period. Two friends aim their swords against one another due to differences in opinion about “my country.”
Seo Hwi (Yang Se-Jong) is a warrior. His father Seo Geom is a famous commander. Seo Hwi does not compromise when it comes to injustice. His life devolves into a hellish existence, but he still holds a smile.
Nam Seon-Ho (Woo Do-Hwan) is smart and a talented figure. Because his mother was born into the lowest class, Nam Seon-Ho is looked down upon by other people. He wants to pass the military service examination. Due to a corruption scandal involving his father, Nam Seon-Ho loses his dream. Making things worse, he comes into conflict with Seo Hwi over a misunderstanding.
12. Queen: Love And War
Native Title: 간택 – 여인들의 전쟁 – Gantaek: Yeoindeului Jeonjaeng
Air Dates: December 14, 2019 – February 2, 2020
Overview: Kang Eun Bo (Jin Se Yeon) is a woman on a mission. When her twin sister is murdered, she vows to find the killer and bring them to justice.
But during the ultra-conservative Joseon Dynasty era (1392-1910), the only woman with the power to order a manhunt for a murderer is the Queen. So Kang Eun Bo resolves to win the prized royal title so she can one day avenge her sister’s death.
To do so, however, she must first win the heart of Joseon King Yi Kyung (Kim Min Kyu). Yi Kyung grew up in a time of great political unrest, and is less interested in matters of the heart – and more concerned with bringing peace to the realm.
Kang Eun Bo soon discovers that winning the king’s favor will not be easy – the royal court is also inundated with beautiful young women, many of whom hope to wed the king.
But when the king suddenly realizes that he recognizes Kang Eun Bo from a dream, the two begin to form an unlikely bond.
Will Kang Eun Bo ever find her twin’s killer? And could love bloom between the streetwise Kang Eun Bo and the idealistic king?
Other: Also known as Selection: The War Between Women. The Korean word “Ganteak” refers to the process of selecting a spouse for the king or crown prince.
13. Hotel Del Luna
Native Title: 호텔 델루나 – Hotel Delluna
Air Dates: July 13 – September 1 2019
Network/Episodes: tvN – 16
Overview: Jang Man Wol is the CEO of Hotel del Luna. The hotel is situated in downtown in Seoul and has a very old appearance. She made a big error many years ago and, because of this, she has been stuck at Hotel del Luna. She is beautiful, but she is fickle, suspicious and greedy.
Goo Chan Sung worked as the youngest assistant manager ever at a multinational hotel corporation. He is a sincere perfectionist. He looks level-headed, but he actually has a soft disposition. Due to an unexpected case, he begins to work as a manager at Hotel del Luna. The hotel’s clientele consists of ghosts.
Which ones have you seen so far? Which were your favorite or least favorite? Feel free to add your comments below.