I really enjoyed this recent release, which came out in September – November 2019 (KBS/Netflix) and is already award winning. When the Camellia Blooms effectively combines a really sweet romance with a modern twist and a suspenseful crime drama.
(I say “modern twist” because it’s about an unmarried mother finding romance, which wouldn’t be particularly novel in a European or American drama, but in Korean TV these things just don’t get depicted.)
Oh Dongbaek (Gong Hyo-jin, who I know from the excellent Don’t Dare to Dream and the mediocre Pasta) moves to the small (fictional) town of Ongsan as an unmarried single mother of a toddler. She opens a bar and surprises everyone by braving the locals’ cool reception and malicious gossip to make a modest success of her life. Six years later, romance comes knocking but at the same time, Kang Jong-ryul (Kim Ji-seok), the father of her son Pil-gu, finally tracks her down. He’s been busy playing pro baseball and making a reality show about his perfect-on-the-surface marriage to model Jessica, so he has money but not a lot else going for him.
Hwang Yong-sik (Kang Ha-neul, who has the most adorable goofy smile) is a police officer who was raised in Ongsan but has been away for years. Now he’s back, causing problems for his mother, his police superiors and for local criminals. He’s passionate and tends to throw himself full-throttle into situations. He falls hard for Dongbaek when he sees her stand up for herself to a rude customer and begins to woo her. And when he realises that an old serial murderer he’s been looking into may have reason to target Dongbaek, he makes solving the case his priority (despite being a junior officer whose responsibilities lie more in the realm of petty theft and neighbour disputes).