As we head into 2023, it seems we’ll be kicking off the year with a slew of more grown-up dramas. Whether it’s legal romance series Can We Be Strangers?, which deals with the careers, romances and divorces of thirty- and forty-somethings, cutthroat workplace drama Agency or the heartwarming Crash Course in Romance, where a former student athlete returns to her studies as a mature-aged student, January is looking to be a haven for K-drama fans looking for more mature themes and settings.
Looking for a dose of gritty realism? Look no further than the revenge-thriller Payback, led by Parasite star Lee Sun-kyun. Mystery-lovers might also enjoy upcoming time-travel series Run Into You, while Brain Cooperation incorporates comedy into the genre as a ragtag team of starkly different “brains” come together to solve a crime case.
- READ MORE: The 10 best Korean dramas of 2022
Those still craving that classic K-drama romance needn’t fret, though, as Kim Min-jae-led historical comedy Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist will also be back with its second season and this time the feel-good period drama is set to touch on the blossoming romance between its lead characters as they heal the hearts of their patients. Also hitting the small screen in January is the long-awaited Kokdu: Season of Deity, which sees a jaded grim reaper falling for a human doctor while visiting the mortal realm.
Without further ado, here are eight new must-watch K-dramas to check out in January 2023.
Upcoming mystery-comedy Brain Cooperation stars singer-actor Jung Yong-hwa as Shin Ha-ru, a genius neuroscientist with a wealthy upbringing. While Ha-ru possess an “extraordinary brain”, he severely lacks social skills, causing him to frequently clash with others. His polar opposite is detective Geum Myung-se (Cha Tae-hyun), who is overly concerned with the needs of others. Having an “altruistic brain”, the detective often ends up neglecting his own needs.
The two men’s differences lead them to find one another insufferable, but a complex crime case forces them to put their minds and skillsets together to solve it. Along the way, they are joined by “anxious brain” Seol So-jung (Kwak Sun-young), who struggles to deal with high-pressure situations, and Myung-se’s ex-wife Kim Mo-ran (Ye Ji-won), whose “sexual brain” causes her libido to be impossibly high, but also makes her passionate and sensitive.
Brain Cooperation begins airing on KBS2 from January 2. It will also be available to stream on Viu.
Run Into You
In Run Into You, Kim Dong-wook (You Are My Spring) and Jin Ki-joo (From Now On, Showtime!) respectively play a journalist and aspiring writer who get trapped in the past for seemingly unrelated reasons. Stuck in the year 1987, Yoon Hae-joon (Kim) attempts to crack a cold serial murder case while Bae Yoon-young (Jin) tries to stop her parents from getting married. As each of them get closer to achieving their goals, the pair soon realises that their objectives are far more connected than they had initially imagined.
Run Into You will premiere on KBS on January 4.
Over a year after Dr. Brain, top actor Lee Sun-kyun is finally returning to the small screen with Payback, a revenge-thriller following Eun Yong (played by Lee), a hedge fund manager who fights against an unscrupulous money cartel. Joining him in the fight is army major Park Joon-kyung (Flower of Evil’s Moon Chae-won), an elite judicial officer who graduated at the top of her class. Despite her strong moral compass, Joon-kyung swears to exact merciless revenge on those who caused her mother’s unexplained death.
In addition to its talented cast, Payback was helmed by director Lee Won-tae, who helmed the 2019 crime film The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil. Meanwhile, its script was penned by Kim Won-seok, best known for his work on Descendants of the Sun.
Payback begins airing on SBS from January 6.
Lee Bo-young is set to star in workplace drama Agency as Go Ah-in, a creative director raised in poverty who successfully establishes herself as the first female executive of VC Planning, a massive advertising agency. Despite these achievements, she has her sights set on becoming CEO.
Standing in her path are long-time rival and planning division director Choi Chang-su (Jo Sung-ha), who is also vying for the role, and Kang Han-na (Son Na-eun), the spoilt heiress of VC Group and the company’s newly appointed social media director. Faced with envious colleagues and near-impossible challenges at every turn, Agency will tell the tale of the determined Go Ah-in as she works her way up to the top.
Agency premieres on JTBC on January 7.
Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist (season two)
Comedy period drama Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist is returning with its second season in just a few weeks. When its first season ended in September 2022, the show hinted at beginnings of romance between Joseon-era physician Yoo Se-poong (Kim Min-jae) and young widow Seo Eun-woo (Kim Hyang-gi), a relationship that will now be further explored.
- READ MORE: Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist season 1 review: a disgraced physician finds new purpose in this affecting period K-drama
In the show’s renewal announcement video, Kim Hyang-gi also hinted that viewers would “be able to see a little more about what happens in the palace” in the upcoming season.
Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist (season two) arrives on tvN on January 11, and will also be available to stream on Viu.
Crash Course in Romance
In Crash Course in Romance, veteran actress Jeon Do-yeon takes on the role of optimistic banchan shop owner and former national athlete Nam Haeng-sun. She decides to further her education as a mature student and begins studying for the competitive university entrance exams, leading her to cross paths with Choi Chi-yeol (Hospital Playlist’s Jung Kyung-ho), a top math instructor at a private education institute.
Despite his success and wealth, Chi-yeol is revealed to have struggled with an eating disorder for a long time, and is jaded and prickly towards others outside of his lectures. Crash Course in Romance will delve into the growth that blossoms from the romance between Chi-yeol and Haeng-sun along with the pressures faced by those preparing for the yearly entrance exams.
Crash Course in Romance premieres on tvN on January 14.
Can We Be Strangers?
Upcoming legal romance series Can We Be Strangers? will follow a divorced couple, Oh Ha-ra (Doctor Stranger’s Kang So-ra) and Goo Eun-beom (Snowdrop’s Jang Seung-jo). Set in a firm specialising in divorce law, “goddess of litigation” Ha-ra is forced to reckon with her resentment towards her ex-husband when they are forced to work together on a case.
In addition to the complicated relationship between Ha-ra and Eun-beom, Can We Be Strangers? will deal with the challenges faced by individuals and couples in their thirties and forties as they navigate their careers, romance and life through the ex-couple’s co-workers and clients.
Can We Be Strangers? is set to premiere on ENA on January 18.
Kokdu: Season of Deity
Kokdu: Season of Deity is an upcoming fantasy-romance series centred on Kokdu (Mr. Queen’s Kim Jung-hyun), a grim reaper who possesses a mortal every 99 years to punish evil humans for their sins. In his latest crossing into the mortal world, Kokdu gets involved with Han Gye-jeol (Woori The Virgin’s Im Soo-hyang), a doctor who has the special ability to control him.
Having graduated from the lowest-ranking medical school in the country, Gye-jeol is intimidated by her peers and superiors who doubt her abilities. Although Kokdu’s time in the mortal realm is temporary, he finds himself falling for the human doctor as he explores their mysterious connection.
Kokdu: Season of Deity begins airing on MBC TV from January 27.