Powerful female leading characters took the rein in Korean TV series in 2022 

K-dramas are witnessing massive change when powerful, independent characters set the trend in 2022. 

Korean actresses are making efforts to break the woman stereotypes who are in need of men’s protection by diversifying the female characters on-screen. 

Juvenile Justice

While efforts have been made in K-drama history to insert female characters in central roles, there were not any significant difference except for the 2009 MBC’s historical TV series “The Great Queen Seondeok” in which Ko Hyun Jung and Lee Yo Won were lauded for taking on female roles dreaming of emperorship. 

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Kim Hye Soo as the judge Shim Eun Seok 

However, 2022 has witnessed a powerful shift when powerful female leads took the rein. Kim Hye Soo’s appearance in “Juvenile Justice” was the first instance. As a top actress in Korea, Kim Hye Soo illustrated her capable acting skills in portraying a stern and respectable judge Shim Eun Seok. The judge is capable of making sharp predictions and different perspectives on juvenile criminals in Korea and exposing prominent issues in Korean society. 

Juvenile Justice
“Juvenile Justice” topped the non-English TV series ranking on Netflix after its release on February 25th and was streamed in 190 different regions. 

Kim Hye Soo’s next success of the year was “Under the Queen’s Umbrella”, a period drama of Queen Hwaryeong’s child-rearing journey to raise appropriate princes for the throne. Im Hwaryeong is an ethical and intelligent Queen who stands on the side of justice and is always ready to protect her children. The Queen never resorts to evil schemes to bring her children to the throne but prioritizes good parenting to make them wise and suitable heirs. Her table-turning and face-offs against the bad sides are always intriguing to watch. 

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Kim Hye Soo scored another success in “Under the Queen’s Umbrella” 

tvN’s “Twenty Five, Twenty One” offers another different image of the female lead where the friendship between two fencing geniuses Na Hee Do (Kim Tae Ri) and Ko Yu Rim (Bona) took the center stage. The multi-colored female friendships in the series formed a genre called “womance.” 

While the love line between Na Hee Do and Baek Yi Jin has its own development, the audience was also captivated by the dynamics between two teenage fencers that developed from admiration to rivalry and ended as best of friends. 

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Kim Tae Ri received ‘Best Actress’ at “Baeksang Arts Awards” 2022 as Na Hee Do 

Speaking of Na Hee Do, Kim Tae Ri said: “her personality is extremely bright and full of energy. She is different from my previous characters. She is confident and determined in doing the things she likes and can do. Hee Do is a lot like me.” To immerse into the character, Kim Tae Ri took up fencing six months before the film started rolling. 

The series also ranked first in the ranking of the series within  the same time slot for over a month. This rom-com series took #1 place in 10 countries and brought Kim Tae Ri her 2022 Baeksang Award for ‘Best Actress.’ 

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Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is another miraculous success of K-dramas in 2022. After its premiere on June 29th, the legal drama starring Park Eun Bin recorded soaring ratings from one episode to the next. On Netflix, the series sat at first place of the foreign TV series viewership ranking for many consecutive weeks. 

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” tells the story of Woo Young Woo, a person with autism spectrum disorder having photographic memory. Starting her job as a lawyer, Woo Young Woo has to face challenges and prejudices but luckily with the help of an employee from the litigation team Lee Jun Ho (Kang Tae Oh) and senior attorney Jung Myung Seok (Kang Ki Young). The series depicts how Woo’s photographic memory comes in handy in her struggle for justice as well as the creative way of solving the cases. 

Extraordinary Attorney Woo

Despite the heavy topics of autism spectrum disorder and the law, the series took a lighter approach embedded with many humane messages. Director Yoo In Sik and writer Moon Ji Won used their understanding of autism to illustrate a simple but unique picture of people having this disorder. 

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“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is considered the second “Squid Game” of 2022 

The legal drama is often called the second “Squid Game” for a whopping 23.95 million viewing hours in just one week of release, showing its hold on the public as the second most searched keyword on Korea’s Google this year. The immense success allowed ENA to produce the second season of the series. 

Thirty, Nine” by JTBC also explored the “womance” of a female trio Cha Mi Jo (Son Ye Jin), Jeong Chan Young (Jeon Mi Do) and Jang Joo Hee (Kim Ji Hyun) and their love lives at the doorstep of 40s. 

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By introducing a 20-year friendship of tight-knit female friendships as well as their romantic bonds, “Thirty, Nine” attracted viewers from around the globe. The drama topped the Top 10 Netflix series of March. 

With the exponential growth of female-centered K-dramas, cultural critic Hwang Jinmi said to Korea Herald that the trend could continue rising in 2023: 

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“TV series are mostly enjoyed by female viewers. And they have seen enough Cinderella stories, in which a woman from a poor background falls in love with a prince-like male lead. I think content creators realized the viewers’ desire for diversity in female characters. With the actresses’ performances and abilities in presenting powerful stories now proven, I think the viewers can expect to see more of such dramas.”

Source: K14

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