March 8 is International Women’s Day. In the 1970s, Helen Reddy had a worldwide hit with the single, “I Am Woman.” Some of the lyrics included:
I am wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain. Yes, I’ve paid the price, but look how much I gained. If I have to, I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.”
We all know that in a perfect world, everyone would be equal. But in the real world, we’re still working towards that goal. This got me thinking about some K-Dramas that featured strong women who were trying to assert their independence. Did they succeed? Sometimes, with different degrees of success. But the important thing is that these characters didn’t give up.

 

 

Weightlifting Fairy, Kim Bok-joo

This K-Drama was inspired by the real-life story of Korean Olympic gold-medalist Jang Mi-ran. But because this is entertainment, we have willowy former model Lee Sung-Kyung portraying a chubby college weightlifter named Bok-joo. Yes, she is amazingly strong physically and confident about her abilities. But she lacks confidence in herself as a woman, thinking that she can’t date because of her looks. For instance, she develops a crush on a handsome doctor, who runs an obesity clinic. Instead of telling him the truth, she concocts a lie, telling him that she would like to drop some pounds. Losing weight, of course, is something she can’t do, if she wants to compete in her weight class. Nam Joo-hyuk portrays Joon-Hyung, a childhood friend who will become her love interest. One of the best parts of this drama was when Bok-Joo exerted her feelings for him when another girl was flirting with him. Yes, girl. Because strong women fight for what they want!

 

 

Angry Mom

Do we have any moms reading this right now (angry or otherwise)? If so, you already know that we will do just about anything to ensure that our children are safe and protected. So what do you do if your child is being bullied by her classmates? If you’re Jo Kang-Ja, you go undercover at your daughter’s high school to ferret out the mean kids and try to right the wrongs. Yes, this sounds like “21 Jump Street,” Korean style. But thanks to some great acting by Kim Hee-sun and Kim Yoo-Jung (as her daughter, Oh Ah-ran), it works. Yes, Kim Hee-sun looks too old to be an actual teenager. But then again, so did Lee Min-ho in “Heirs,” right? What’s important here is that she has the mannerisms down pat and makes you want to believe in her. Teenagers may be tough, but they’re no match for this strong-willed ajumma. This series also brings up the question of whether it’s OK to be a bully if you are standing up for the rights of the weak. But that’s a topic left for a different post.

My Lovely Sam Soon

 

The basis of this series is inherently sexist. The goal for Kim Sam Soon — a 30-year-old pastry chef — is to find a man to marry. After her boyfriend cheats on her and dumps her, she gets into a slump. Superficially judged for being too old and unattractive (because she weighs more than 100 pounds), she initially accepts the criticism. Actress Kim Sun-a famously gained 15 pounds to play the lead role. No, she doesn’t look heavy by U.S. standards. But viewers got the point that she was supposed to be a big girl, especially when she was pitted against the rail-thin actress who played her nemesis. Though Sam Soon was too wishy washy when it came to her boss, Hyun Jin-heon (played by Hyun Bin), she was steadfast in her refusal to get back together with her no-good Ex. I would’ve liked to have seen a different ending — one where she took time off from dating to focus on her career. As she said during a moment of self-reflection, “Even though I liked you, without you, I will live well.” But I was also glad to see that she stayed true to herself and stood up for the things (and people) who were important to her.

Have you seen these K-Dramas? If not– or if you’d like to re-watch them — you can check them out on KOCOWA. Which strong women characters do you admire and why? Let me hear you roar…in the comments section.

Be sure to follow @GoAwayWithJae, where I tweet about all things Korean.

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for these inspiring suggestions. I love the refernce to the Helen Reddy song too for those of us who are old enough to remember it when it was played on radio! I look forward to more strong leading roles by women and hearing them roar!

  2. Avatar
    firtukloimutrzas Reply

    Hello.This article was really motivating, especially because I was searching for thoughts on this issue last week.

  3. Avatar

    Heya just wanted to give you a quick heads up and
    let you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two
    different internet browsers and both show the same outcome.

    • KOCOWA

      Thank you so much for your comment! Is it this particular post that you are having trouble with?

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