Top 9 highest-rated historical K-dramas from 2020: “Alchemy of Souls” at the bottom?

“Alchemy of Souls” has been drawing ample attention, however, it is not the most well-received historical K-drama in Korea. 

After various hits in the early 2000s and 2010s, historical K-drama seems to have hit a decline during the last couple of years. Nevertheless, there are still notable series from 2020 uptil now, and netizens have been saying the genre is seeing a “revival”.

Below are 9 notable historical series that have contributed to this “resurrection” of the historical genre with their high viewership ratings. (Data as of August 5th, 2022)

No. 9: Alchemy Of Souls (tvN – 2022) – 7,6% 

Penned by the famous screenwriter duo Hong Sisters, “Alchemy of Souls” performed under expectations in its premiere, but have been seeing outstanding breakthroughs in the last episodes of season 1.

In particular, ratings of the series have risen from 5% in episode 1 to 7.6% in episode 14, a decent, but not remarkable number. Hopefully, the finale of “Alchemy of Souls” will see newer peaks. 

No. 8: Bloody Heart (KBS2 – 2022) – 8,9% 

The 2022 KBS2 series “Bloody Heart” received plenty of praise for its outstanding cinematography, styling, and well-written storyline. As a result, the series recorded a peak viewership rating of 8.9% – among the highest among KBS dramas of the year. 

While 8.9% only secured “Bloody Heart” the 8th place in this list, it was still quite a feat, considering the drama’s lack of promotion and tragic plot. 

No. 7: Bossam: Steal The Fate (MBN – 2021) – 9,759% 

As “Bossam: Steal The Fate” aired on the super unpopular channel MBN, its rating, while not yet surpassing 10%, is already super impressive. The K-drama boasted intense popularity in Korea, though was unfortunately underrated overseas. 

In addition, “Bossam: Steal The Fate” saw ratings increasing overtime, proving that it is a concrete series that slowly but surely drew in more audiences. 

No. 6: River Where The Moon Rises (KBS2 – 2021) – 10% 

Had it not been for the change in leading actor mid-way, perhaps “River Where The Moon Rises” can achieve a way higher number. The series, which starred actress Kim So Hyun, did not perform as well as expected, but considering it had to be re-filmed almost entirely, 10% was still quite a feat. 

“River Where The Moon Rises” is also a female-centric series that can be both humorous and serious, with overflowing chemistry. Therefore, it may be a watch-worthy addition to your watch list! 

No. 5: Lovers Of The Red Sky (SBS – 2021) – 10,4% 

If “River Where The Moon Rises” featured Kim So Hyun, then “Lovers Of The Red Sky” starred her “rival” Kim Yoo Jung, alongside famous actor Ahn Hyo Seob. 10.4% was actually a high number during the time this series aired.

“Lovers Of The Red Sky” also “revived” Kim Yoo Jung, who had been constantly appearing in K-dramas with low ratings prior. The series is pretty simple in the plot, but boasts some outstanding chemistry and gorgeous cinematography. 

No. 4: The King’s Affection (KBS2 – 2021) – 12,1% 

Before becoming a worldwide name thanks to “Extraordinary Attorney Woo”, Park Eun Bin actually made a deep impression via the historical series “The King’s Affection”. The drama, which saw ratings increasing over time, peaked with a highest rating of 12.1%, making it one of the most successful works of KBS in 2021. 

“The King’s Affection” flaunted a visual feast with a cast full of young and capable actors, and introduced super endearing characters. It is also one of Park Eun Bin’s most impressive acting chops, as the actress had to disguise as a crown prince and express various complex emotions in her role. 

No. 3: Royal Secret Agent (KBS2 – 2021) – 14% 

“Royal Secret Agent” managed to attract huge attention in Korea despite having next to no promotion and a lesser-known cast. Still, the series was hilarious and well-written enough to interest the audience till the very end. 

Unfortunately, like “Bossam: Steal The Fate”, “Royal Secret Agent” was also severely underrated on the international ground. 

No. 2: Mr. Queen (tvN – 2021) – 17.371%

Mr. Queen” is a rare K-drama that managed to do well both domestically and internationally, with its unique sense of humor, as well as Shin Hye Sun’s natural and impressive acting prowess. 

With viewership peaking at 17.371%, “Mr.Queen” is the highest-rated historical miniseries that was aired on a paid channel. Unique as it was, however, the series ended up losing to this next unexpected entry.

No. 1: The Red Sleeve (MBC – 2021) – 17,4% 

As the only MBC drama on this list, “The Red Sleeve” was a total dark horse, and was hailed to have “revived” the historical genre. At first, nobody expected much from this project, which starred Lee Jun Ho and Lee Se Young, but its performance was simply impressive. 

While “The Red Sleeve” boasted a simple plot, everything else – from the clothes, the styling, the gentle storytelling, to the convincing acting, has created a beautiful drama that drove viewers’ emotions to the climax. The high ratings are thus well-deserved.

So far in the 2020s, 2021 seems to be the grandest year for historical dramas, with 5 works being in the top 9, including 4 with ratings surpassing 10%.

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