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Damsels who don’t need to be rescued

Picking a few female protagonists who have smashed the gender stereotype ceiling in many a K-Drama

Faiza Hazarika Published 04.06.21, 12:31 AM
Users enjoying Korean drama of their choice

Users enjoying Korean drama of their choice Shutterstock

Always dressed in well-cut suit with luscious locks that give us serious hair goals, Hong Cha-young is nothing short of a superstar in court. From going head-to-head with her father to tricking the judge into giving the prosecution more time to investigate, when Hong Cha-young is on the scene, everyone knows that she means business. Boisterous and headstrong, she is seen fighting corruption, evil and gangsters shoulder to shoulder with Vincenzo, who is the main protagonist of the show, but even he knows to make way for her when she’s out in her six-inch-heels and three-piece suit, briefcase in hand. A bubbly personality who doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, you realise that it’s really difficult to intimidate her when she stands up against her evil boss Choi Myung-hee and does it in style. We’re a fan!

Kim Bok-joo


Played by: Lee Sung-kyung

Show: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo

This K-Drama focuses on the beautiful journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance of a girl who is just, well, normal. Kim Bok-joo is one of the most relatable female characters ever in a K-Drama, where instead of being the meek, shy and unassuming woman trying to make her way in the world by holding on to the coattails of her dominating male counterpart, we find a girl who adopts none of the frills of the objectified heroine and carves her own space in the world, dumbbells and all.

Passionate about her work as a weightlifter, she is loud, boisterous and clumsy, in love with meat and her two best friends (yes, exactly in that order), and she finds herself struggling to fit into society’s expectations of a girl to be petite, feminine, shy and reserved, to snag herself a man. Kim Bok-joo makes us laugh out loud, ugly cry and root for her all at the same time, as she proves that personality triumphs over pretty dresses and one should be who they are and own it with pride.

Jang Man-wol

Played by: Lee Ji-eun

Show: Hotel del Luna

If you’re going to cast Lee Ji-eun (better known by her stage name IU) as the protagonist of a K-Drama, then you can bet on the role to be of some meat. Jang Man-wol is the feisty, no-nonsense owner of Hotel del Luna, a temporary resting place for lost souls on their way to the afterlife. She is as captivating as her dazzling hotel and towers in each scene with flamboyance and finesse that befits her role.

A lover of everything shiny (read, expensive) and a frightening and dominating presence at large, Jang Man-wol bears a reassuring appearance that as long as she’s on the scene, our poor hero Gu Chan-sung (Yeo Jin-goo) will, in all likelihood, be saved from the clutches of the evil, vengeful spirits that haunt him. She also has impeccable taste in clothes and we would very much like to tap into her wardrobe if we weren’t worried about the anti-human ghost traps she might have hidden inside it. This one’s not to be messed with!

Eun Bong-hee

Played by: Nam Ji-hyun

Show: Suspicious Partner

A clumsy, fun-loving and dedicated lawyer, Eun Bong-hee comes in with a tumble to smash that age-old trope where miscommunication causes problems in relationships. Eun Bong-hee co-exists with Ji Chang Wook’s Noh Ji-wook and presents herself as a down-to-earth girl who works hard to earn a living for herself and her mother. A champion for the innocent in a court of law, Eun Bong-hee has none of the monetary or political connections that could help her make her mark in her world. Instead, we find in her a resilient fighting spirit and a certain honesty about her feelings. She’s hugely relatable in parts and widely entertaining in others. Just don’t ask her to cook for you if you don’t want to risk food poisoning!

Ko Moon-young

Played by: Seo Yea-ji

Show: It’s Okay to Not be Okay

Already a drama that breaks all sorts of stereotypes to go beyond the quintessential K-drama format, It’s Okay to Not be Okay also breaks new ground with its female protagonist Ko Moon-young (played by the stunning Seo Yea-ji). Ko Moon-young attempts to break the age-old myth of a helpless princess locked in a tower by taking control of the narrative and turning it on its head. At the very onset of the drama, the audience is quick to realise that Ko Moon-young, though locked in a metaphorical tower, is the farthest thing to a princess (and a helpless one at that).

Difficult to faze, with a slightly (okay, very) twisted mindset, she knows what she wants and is dominating enough to follow it through. A popular children’s fairytale author, she surprises even with her writing, penning dark, philosophical tales for unsuspecting

10-year-olds, even as the other characters helplessly try to keep up with the whirlwind that she is.

Yoon Se-ri

Played by: Son Ye-jin

Show: Crash Landing On You

Our favourite on this list, Yoon Se-ri (played by Son Ye-jin) is the powerhouse self-made business tycoon of her beauty and fashion brand ‘Seri’s Choice’, which came about after she decided to break away from her greedy family and make a name of her own. Giving “bold and beautiful” a new definition altogether, Se-ri is the embodiment of a confident, suave and self-assured 21st-century woman who can go head-to-head against her power-hungry brothers, and do it with impeccable style.

When disaster strikes and a freak storm blows her parachute to the wrong side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Yoon Se-ri entertains with her quirky, self-obsessed tidbits about her glamorous life in South Korea as she fights time, guns and corrupt government officials to make her way back home. An enigma you cannot catch off guard, Yoon Se-ri spells out the ABCs of how to be a boss and you can be sure that we are carefully taking notes!


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