No matter how old you are, you’ve probably watched a K-drama before. You’ve probably also got addicted to one and sometimes, you even dreamed you were one of the female K-drama leads.
From the preteens to the fresh grads to your mums and aunties, everyone likely has an oppa they swoon over. But you know what they say, behind every successful man is a woman.
Or in this case, smart, tenacious, and strong female K-drama leads.
If you haven’t watched any of these dramas yet and hate spoilers, we recommend that you bookmark this to read later. But if you’re here for the character development and female empowerment, read on!
Yoon Se-Ri From Crash Landing on You (2019)
Image credit: Metro.style
Career-orientated and ruthless in the boardroom, Yoon Se-Ri may at first strike you as someone who only managed to have it all by being born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
But her life was fraught with hardships.
When she was just a child, she had been abandoned by her stepmother. As an adult, she was a shrewd businesswoman and an overbearing boss. When she decided to personally test a new product, she got swept away by a sudden typhoon. Somehow, she managed to survive a freak accident and then escape from notoriously dangerous territory.
Imagine pulling through a traumatic experience in North Korea, being backstabbed by her brother, and GETTING SHOT?! Yoon Se-ri definitely proved that she got to where she was by her own grit and determination. I’m sorry, Captain Ri, but Se-Ri totally steals the show!
Jo Yi-Seo From Itaewon Class (2020)
Jo Yi-Seo was introduced in the series as a “sociopath” – but she soon proves how capable and driven she is. She doesn’t take “no” for an answer and totally doesn’t care that she’s not “meek and subservient”.
It was a little hard to love her character at first but she has won over many hearts for her unwavering loyalty and strong determination. Despite being rejected by the stoic and lovelorn Park Saeroyi, she saw it as a challenge to become a highly capable and indispensable restaurant manager.
Straightforward and sometimes downright rude, she knows what she’s capable of and won’t back down before achieving her goals. For us, she’s total badass inspiration.
Cha Yu Ri From Hi Bye, Mama (2020)
Image credit: Hancinema.net
After dying in a car accident, Cha Yu Ri lingers on earth as a ghost, watching over the lives of her husband, and a daughter she’s never met.
But after getting a second chance at life, she shows us the true extent of a mother’s love. This is obviously not the most realistic drama out there, but it does bring up important themes of sacrifice and grief.
While Yu Ri doesn’t beat anyone up (there are no real “bad guys” in this show), she shows us how being strong is sometimes just in putting others first in the decisions you make.
Do Bong Soon From Strong Girl Bong Soon (2017)
Image credit: JTBC
Who said females are the “weaker” sex? Bong Soon takes that ideally and totally flips it on its head! She may come across as unthreatening but her strength has definitely made bullies and villains think twice about her.
While she initially was all about chasing the ideal that women are supposed to be elegant and demure, she soon realises the power she has (literally) when she simply embraces who she is.
Her physical strength is not her only charm as she shows her vulnerable sides, proving that even superheroines have emotions too. We totally lived for the show’s gender role reversal!
Kang Dan Yi From Romance is a Bonus Book (2019)
Image credit: tvN
Getting married and having children doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up your entire career. But being able to juggle both is definitely not easy.
In Kang Dan Yi’s case, she gave up her career to get married and have children. Unfortunately for her, that didn’t work out because her husband was a total douchebag. But by the time she wanted to re-enter the workforce, she was seen as “expired”. And this is a sad reality that many women still face.
Despite being pushed around and belittled, she never forgets who she is and what she stands for. If this isn’t #girlboss vibes, we don’t know what is.
Seo Dal-Mi From Start-Up (2020)
Image credit: tvN
Seo Dal-Mi was given a heart-wrenching choice as a child: choose to live with either her materialistic mother or an entrepreneurial father. The precocious young Dal-Mi chose the latter and developed a close bond with him.
After her father met with an untimely fatal car accident, Dal-Mi supported her grandmother by working odd jobs and helped out at her hotdog stall. Thankfully, she also had a mysterious pen pal who was a great source of comfort and companionship to tide her through those tough times.
When Dal-Mi and her grandmother moved to Seoul with hopes of a better life, old flames were rekindled and her search for her enigmatic pen pal began. This sparked the ambitious spirit in her and she embarked on an entrepreneurial journey much like her late father’s.
Her wittiness, resourcefulness, and strong grit to overcome all the challenges thrown her way was beyond inspiring. She’s a bonafide role model.
Here For The Inspiring K-Drama Female Leads
Gone are the days where damsels in distress were the common trope in K-dramas. That said, modern K-dramas can, still, a lot of the times be filled with unbelievable plotlines (and plot holes).
But the point is, strong and relatable female characters with great character development in K-dramas are rising. And for that, we will no doubt continue to binge on our favourite K-dramas for many more years to come!