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Five K-dramas with female characters that break gender stereotypes

Jessicha Valentina
Jessicha Valentina

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sat, July 25, 2020  /  04:58 pm
Five K-dramas with female characters that break gender stereotypes

A still from 'Hospital Playlist.' (Netflix/File)

South Korean dramas, or K-dramas, are mostly known for offering up Cinderella stories – a nearly perfect gentleman falls in love with a beautiful and kind-hearted woman who leads a miserable life.

Some female characters are portrayed as fragile and can only have their happy ending once they find romantic partners.

While this plot usually works, recent K-dramas have broken the mold and displayed more believable female characters that break gender stereotypes.

These female characters appear strong and smart. They can easily navigate their lives without help from men. In some series, the female characters are shown wiser and smarter than the male protagonists, providing a breath of fresh air amid other lovey-dovey dramas.

In no particular order, here are some of the best K-dramas with strong female leads that prove women can do anything.  

Hospital Playlist

Directed by Shin Won-ho (Prison Playbook, Reply Series), Hospital Playlist follows five doctors, Lee Ik-jun (Jo Jung-suk), Ahn Jung-won (Yoo Yeon-seok), Kim Jun-wan (Jung Kyung-ho), Yang Seok-hyung (Kim Dae-myung) and Chae Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do), who have been friends since they enrolled in medical school.

The five characters are now working in the same hospital, Yulje Medical Center, and form a band for leisure.

Song-hwa is the only female in the group. The 40-year-old associate professor of neurosurgery is portrayed as a smart, hardworking and compassionate character. She’s the ultimate girl crush, as she never fails to appear calm and collected, including during intense moments in the operating theater.

She is single, doesn’t seem to be in a rush to find love and her life makes her feel content.

Song-hwa is clearly one of the series' highlights. As a reliable person, other members in the gang can count on her opinions.

Topped with interesting characters and a great playlist, Hospital Playlist is among the must-watch series this year.

Itaewon Class

Itaewon Class is all about breaking the stereotypes.

Starring Park Seo-joon, the series revolves around ex-convict Saeroyi’s efforts to run a bar-slash-restaurant DanBam (Honey Night) in Itaewon, Seoul, and getting revenge on his mortal enemy Jang Dae-hee (Yoo Jae-myung), CEO of food company Jangga Group.

Saeroyi hires four other people: a transgender cook, a sociopath with a brilliant mind for managing the restaurant as well as his former cellmate and a biracial man as waiters. It's a rarity in K-dramas to find such an inclusive and diverse group.   

As a genius, Jo Yi-seo (Kim Da-mi) is nothing like any of the female characters in K-dramas.

While most female characters are packed with traits that seem too good to be true and seem to easily charm men, Yi-seo is quite the opposite. She appears rude and mean almost to everyone, and she's clearly hard to love. But once she sets her mind on something, she will do whatever it takes to achieve her goal.

Her good common sense and perseverance make Yi-seo an appealing character in Itaewon Class.

Read also: Five K-dramas that will make you long for an unrealistic boyfriend

One Spring Night

At a glance, One Spring Night looks like a typical romantic drama in which a handsome guy falls in love with a beautiful woman. In truth, it’s far from a cliché.

It tells the story of librarian Lee Jung-in (Han Ji-min), who is in a long-term relationship with banker Kwon Gi-seok (Kim Jun-han). One day, after spending the night at her friend’s place, she meets pharmacist Yoo Ji-ho (Jung Hae-in).

Ji-ho appears handsome and calm, but most people around Jung-in think he is not an ideal suitor as he's a single father. Long story short, Jung-in and Ji-ho cannot resist their feelings, but Jung-in’s father and Gi-seok try to get in their way.

Faced with objections, the emotionally mature Jung-in is never afraid to speak her mind. She knows exactly what she wants in life and aims to get it.

One Spring Night also highlights the issue of domestic violence against women. The way its female characters overcome their ordeals can encourage women to stand up for themselves.

When the Camellia Blooms

When the Camellia Blooms is the grand prize winner of this year's Baeksang Arts Awards, which honor outstanding achievements in the South Korean entertainment industry.

The story centers around Oh Dongbaek (Gong Hyo-jin), a single mother who runs a bar named Camellia in the fictional town of Ongsan.

Dongbaek is straightforward and brave. As a resident of a small town where people know one another, Dongbaek needs to deal with prejudices against single mothers. She remains tough and tries to take matters into her own hands.

Wrapped with a murder mystery, When the Camellia Blooms features a fast-paced story that can keep viewers glued to the screen.

Was it Love?

Currently streaming on Netflix, Was it Love? is among the most underrated K-dramas of 2020.

The story revolves around single mother Noh Ae-jeong (Song Ji-hyo), an aspiring film producer who is trapped in debt as her boss leaves her a nearly bankrupt film studio.

Her world is turned upside down when four men walk into her life. At the same time, her 14-year-old daughter Hah-nee (Kim Seo-hun) wants to find her biological father.

Through her character, viewers can find lessons about motherhood and sacrifice. Ae-jeong had to give up her education after becoming pregnant, and she juggles various part-time jobs while raising her daughter.

She also knows how to stand up to bullies. When other parents try to belittle her, she speaks up and proves that a single parent can be enough.

As the story progresses, Ae-jeong’s character will surely develop. The four men also add twists to the plot, keeping viewers intrigued with what will happen next. (wng)

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