Cover Start-Up's Dal Mi is an empowered K-Drama female lead (Photo: Start-Up)

These television series have shattered the age-old 'damsel in distress' trope we often witness in K-Dramas. Today, we see more stories with female leads whose stories celebrate their strengths and achievements

If you love K-Dramas, you have probably noticed how in most storylines, there is always a lady in need of her leading man's rescue and support. Audiences have witnessed this pattern in series like Winter Sonata (2002), Playful Kiss (2010), Boys Over Flowers (2009), and even in the very recent The King: Eternal Monarch (2020).

While these shows produce swoon-worthy television moments, people can't help but notice how in the end, the female leading ladies' other interesting qualities are reduced to make way for the show's masculine superhero. 

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Luckily, there are now K-Dramas that normalise giving leading ladies the upper hand. We have listed some of them below:

1. Start-Up

In the fictional world of Start-Up, there is a Silicon Valley-esque place that fosters startup companies to help South Korea's economy bloom. Seo Dal-mi (portrayed by Bae Suzy), is a bright and ambitious female entrepreneur who dreams of becoming the country's Steve Jobs. 

Unlike her more successful twin, this leading lady does not have a very fancy background, but she uses her wit and passion to make a living out of her budding business. She has a warm and vibrant energy which her teammates look up to.

See also: Kim Seon-ho, K Drama Star From 'Start Up', Is Globe's Newest Ambassador

2. Kill Heel

Kill Heel revolves around the endless goals and struggles of three women at UNI Home Shopping. One of its leads, Woo Hyun (portrayed by Ha-Neul), works as the host of the well-known shopping show. Her reputation as host has always been stable, yet she aspires to become one of its top stars. 

Gi Mo-ran (portrayed by Lee Hye-young), on the other hand, is UNI Home Shopping's Vice President. She started her journey as a mere employee and worked her way up to the executive's position. Her perfectionist demeanour is being looked up to by her colleagues. 

Bae Ok-Sun (portrayed by Kim Sung-ryoung) is the shopping show's top host. Her privileged background often makes her think that she is not being true to herself. Despite this, she remains generous to her peers.

3. The Last Empress

Set in a fictional world where Korea is a constitutional monarchy, The Last Empress puts the spotlight on Oh Sunny (Jang Nara), a high-spirited musical actress who, in a Cinderella-like plot, marries the emperor of the Korean Empire (played by Shin Sung-rok) overnight. As she gets entangled with characters struggling to gain power in the palace, she also continues her fight for corruption and to uncover the truth behind the death of the Na Wang Sik's (Choi Jin-hyuk) mother. Despite her status in life and her chaotic marriage, she proves that gender isn't an issue especially if you're armed with perseverance and grit.

As validation of her superb acting, Jang Na-ra won the coveted Outstanding Korean Actress award at the 2019 Seoul International Drama Awards.

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4. Search: WWW

This K-Drama revolves around Bae-Tami who loses her job as the top director of a web portal company. In the 21st century, where women continue to put their careers ahead of everything else, she sets out to prove herself again.

Related: Why Values Matter in Building Brands and Businesses

5. Misty

Misty is a crime-suspense K-Drama that follows the story of a headstrong broadcaster who becomes a suspect in a murder case. Her estranged husband, who happens to be a lawyer, decides to work with her. Together, the couple clears their names. 

6. Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice is a K-Drama that tells the story of Shim Eun-seok, an elite judge with a cold and distant personality. In South Korea, she is known for her disdain for juveniles. When she was appointed in the Yeonhwa District, Eun-seok breaks several customs and administers her own ways of punishing law abusers. 

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7. Empress Ki

Set in the early years of Korea, the K-drama Empress Ki revolves around Ki Seungnyang, a Goryeo-born woman who ascends to power despite the restrictions of her era's class system. The empress marries Toghon Temur, the emperor of Mongol Empire, to become the empress of the Yuan dynasty. 

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8. Thirty Nine

K-Drama Thirty Nine is an ongoing show directed by Kim Sang-ho. It stars Son Ye-jin, Jeon Mi-do, and Kim Ji-hyun, whose characters are 40-year-old women experiencing the joys of living a fun and carefree life. 


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