Anyone who follows my Twitter account, listens to my podcast, or just talks to me about television shows, knows that the love I have for South Korean dramas (K-Dramas) is deep and meaningful. There are many things K-Dramas are known for: the fashion, talk about well fitted suits and trench coats, their cliched tropes such as the famous back hug, the dashing lead catching his love interest when she suddenly falls for absolutely no reason, and possibly the most aggravating of them all, the break up of our lead couple for an extended period of time, before their eventual reconciliation. screams in frustration, and weeps in happiness at the end
One aspect of these shows that I had to get used to was the use of literal emojis, heart eyes, thought bubbles, and odd but funny sound effects, as used in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon. Trust me, there is nothing that will make you pause like the seemingly random sound of a chicken clucking. Rather than coming off like a cheap attempt at comedy, these little touches are so perfectly timed to the actors’ reactions, it just adds to the experience, and uniqueness of K-Dramas.
Another thing that sets them apart from traditional TV shows, is their structure. Unlike the scripted Western shows, most K-Drams run for one season with a set number of episodes – typically from 16 to 20. The storylines are usually well paced, allowing for a tighter story and proper conclusion that usually leave you, well me anyway, an emotional wreck because I’m so happy (most of the time) and want more time with my new friends.
Apart from all the expected angst and feels that comes with K-Dramas, particularly the romances, there are deeper themes to be found below the surface. Amidst the laughs, longing looks and frustration over meddling family members, writers are telling stories about feminism, people battling depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), grief and low self-esteem. Out of all the dramas that I’ve watched in the last 2 years there have been many that touched my heart for various reasons and delivered messages that I needed to hear.
Since I love talking and tweeting about them, I figured I might as well write about them. So, K-Dramas, Beyond the Romance is just that! Me, looking beyond the romance of my favourite shows, and sharing why I love them so much. Because what’s better than a show set to an amazing soundtrack that not only entertains, but also turns you into a sobbing mess because you realize that someone out there gets what you’re going through? Now don’t get me wrong, all K-dramas are there are certain tropes that bug the heck out of me, and I’ll definitely address them because I believe in being both fair and shady.
First up, one of my faves.
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017)
Witten by Baek Mi Kyeong, and directed by Lee Hyeong Min, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon has many things to love about it, the most notable being its strong message of feminism and self-confidence. While Bong Soon may be the strongest person in the world, her petite stature and demeanor don’t make it obvious – which as a member of the vertically challenged club myself – is brilliant in and of it self because it’s used as a positive plot device.
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, or Do Bong Soon (Park Bo Young) is a descendant of a long line of women who are gifted with super strength at birth. As an animator and aspiring game developer, Bong Soon has been struggling to make her way into the industry. That is until she meets Min Hyuk. Ahn Min Hyuk played by (my boo) Park Hyung Sik, is a young entrepreneur and CEO of AIN Software, the gaming company Bong Soon has had her eye on. After witnessing Bong Soon defending a bus driver against a group of thugs, Min Hyuk hires her to be his personal bodyguard.
Because she’s short, and talks in a cute manner, people – particularly men – underestimate and try to physically intimidate Bong Soon, and instead of being portrayed as ashamed or afraid of her strength, it’s made a focal point of all her relationships. Bong Soon has a somewhat uneasy relationship her mother Jin Yi. Due to her own past experiences, Jin Yi would prefer Bong Soon not use her powers, but rather focus on finding a husband. However, Bong Soon has a very loving and supportive relationship with her father Chil Goo, who encourages her to go after her dream of being a game developer.
One of my favourite things about Bong Soon and Min Hyuk’s relationship is that he is never once belittles or patronizes her. Rather than feel intimidated, or emasculated by her strength, Min Hyuk supports and encourages her because he’s confident in who he is as a man. This is something very rarely seen in North-American shows or films. In various situations we see him react in ways that would be considered unattractive in a male lead. Rather than hide that he’s afraid Min Hyuk expresses it without shame. If he’s angry, he literally steps back and calms himself down. If he’s upset, he lets people know, and to me that was like a breath of fresh air when I first watched the show.
Being a K-Drama, there is of course the second lead: Guk Doo (Kim Ji Soo). He is in some ways the complete opposite of Min Hyuk. Unlike Min Hyuk, who sees Bong Soon’s strength as something admirable, Guk Doo doesn’t even know about it because she’s afraid he would see her as a monster if he found out.
Just as women are told by society to hide how smart we are and more knowledgeable about a topic in order to protect men’s egos, Bong Soon pretends to be afraid, or weak when she’s around Guk Doo, because she believes he would reject her. When women in her neighbourhood start getting kidnapped, Bong Soon is determined to catch the culprit, and this particular storyline is used to highlight just how different the two men are. Now I’m not going to say more about this because it could potentially spoil some great plot twists and character developments, but needless to say – how the writer has Min Hyuk handle the situation is one of the reasons he’ll always be a favorite.
Besides her strength, what makes the show fun is that we get to see Bong Soon be a nerd and a hero. I love that we see her not only kicking butt, but also being her nerdy self playing video games and designing her own game characters, no one questions her abilities or interests because she’s a woman.
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon is one of my favourites because it has a heroine I relate to for many reasons. Every conversation doesn’t revolve around the men in her life, the tone is a good mix of serious and funny, with hilarious supporting characters (two played by Kim Won Hae) that will crack you up, which I think makes it a great introduction for people new to Korean dramas.
Carolyn is a Freelance Film Critic, Journalist, and Podcaster – and avid live tweeter. Member of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), her published work can be found on But Why Tho, The Beat, Observer, and many other sites. As a critic, she believes her personal experiences and outlook on life, give readers and listeners a different perspective they can appreciate.