We must think that Korean dramas are full of cinderella stories and dependent women waiting to be saved by their prince charming. In fact, a lot of better narratives have emerged already, featuring women that defy gender norms.
Across hundreds of good Korean stories, here are five female characters who are driven, independent, and strong-willed that will motivate you to dream big and make it happen:
5. Park So-dam as An Jeong-ha in Record Of Youth (2020)
Ahn Jeong-ha is a witty lady who dreams of becoming a professional make-up artist and having her own studio. One day, she quit her office job and applied as an apprentice in a make-up salon. Here, she experienced negative treatment from her senior make-up artist besides other stings in life such as family problems.
Amid rough days when it is easier to choose to give up, she remains positive, cheerful, and reasonable. There are times when she becomes vulnerable due to the overwhelming pain and it’s completely understandable as humans need to feel to learn to empathize with others when life breaks down. At the end of the day, what matters the most is that she holds on to her dream to make it happen. Indeed, later in the story, her tenacity has proven its undefeated power to build her own studio.
In a world of negativities, high competition, and getting lost or drowned in hatred from society, Ahn Jung-ha inspires us to welcome them while remaining steadfast. Sometimes, life can be so draining but the choice is ours to accept the defeat or move forward. Ahn Jung-ha chose to look towards her goal and achieve her dream. And she made it.
4. Bae Suzy as Seo Dal-mi in Start-Up (2021)
Seo Dalmi is a woman of vitality and big dreams who aspire to become the Steve Jobs of South Korea. She was not able to finish her degree in college due to financial constraints and family’s situation. Her father died when she was young while her mother remarried another and she was raised by her grandmother who nurtured her well. Despite her background in life, she grew up to be an intelligent and practical lady who learns quickly and easily adapts to challenging environment.
One day, she quits her part-time job, aims high to enter the Sand Box for career opportunities and start her own company as a CEO. “I want to be on the 32nd floor,” she said.
Despite the lack of college degree diploma, she was selected as one of the few CEOs to manage groups, perhaps, because of her innate intelligence and confidence. She then meets a highly critical yet insightful investor who becomes her mentor and helps her and her team properly navigate the risks and actions in start-ups.
Seo Dalmi teaches us that a family background, diploma, and money are no hindrances in achieving something. To accomplish your goals, whether it is big or small, it takes guts, determination, and the eagerness to learn from the best. It involves taking heed the wise advice of experienced mentors around us.
3. Jeon Mido as Dr. Chae Song-hwa in Hospital Playlist (2020-2021)
Dr. Chae Song-hwa is a successful, intelligent, and highly respected career woman. She works at the best hospital in the city and is a popular Neurosurgeon whose name pops up on search engines. She is considered perfect by her colleagues for her competence, good personality, and people skills.
Accurate knowledge is important for her. “Performing surgery is hard. We should never get too comfortable doing this,” she tells the resident doctors and interns. She is greatly admired not just in the hospital, but also by viewers. She inspires medical and non-medical students alike to study hard, focus on the goal, be diligent, and resilient.
While she performs hundreds of successful brain surgeries, checks residents’ papers thoroughly, and attends symposiums, she still manages to come to work on time. She also knows how to have fun despite being known as nerd and workaholic. She goes camping on weekends, plays the guitar, eats like a king, and has a strong desire to be the vocalist of the band even if she is tone-deaf and has no sense of rhythm.
Dr. Chae Song-hwa is the perfect type of female drama character that motivates you to study hard, work hard on your dreams, and at the same time, make time for fun and relationships.
2. Kim Ji-won as Choi Ae-ra in Fight For My Way (2017)
Choi Ae-ra is a relatable character who aspires to reach her dream job but seems stuck in doing something else that she finds unfulfilling. She goes to several job interviews to finally enter the media and attain being an announcer but she gets rejected everytime due to the high competitive work environment.
“Don’t [give me advice]. I’m not going to pass the interview anyway, right? So please don’t hurt me. I have the right to not get my feelings hurt. I’ll be the one that decides my limits and capabilities,” she said when a company staff attempted to give her career advice.
She resembles the brave women of today who strive hard to make ends meet but cry at the end of the day due to burnout, stress, unfinished business, and shattered dreams. Her strong will yet affectionate humanity tells us that it’s okay to be disheartened sometimes, “Even though we woke up earlier than others, even though we went to bed later than others, we never had time. We lived harder than anyone, but our resumés that doesn’t show anything pretends to reflect who I am. I’m angry, I’m frustrated.”
Amid the career road of ups and downs, she finally claimed her dream job to be a TV announcer. Her bestfriend, Dong-man, asked her, “Now that you’ve done what you love, are you that happy?” She replied, “I could die. I guess people really need to do what they love.”
Choi Ae-ra motivates us to reflect about what line of job we love to pursue in life and make it happen no matter what stones get thrown at us. If we have the focus and resilience, we will overcome the mountains of life and reach the summit.
1. Kim Tae-ri as Na Hee-do in Twenty-Five Twenty-One (2022)
Na Heedo is a driven fencing prodigy whose dream is to compete with her fencing idol, Ko Yurim, and win a gold medal. She does everything in her mental strength to get trained by Coach Yang, reach Ko Yurim’s level, and make it to the national team. Her coach describes her as an athlete who doesn’t know how to back down, “She does everything I teach her and absorbs them like a sponge. No one can stop her.”
If you are in the season of giving up, Na Heedo’s positive outlook on life will surely motivate you to rise up again and again. She is a drama character that has experienced significant loss and rejection in life, cries out in frustration, but chooses to face another day with a renewed focus of achieving her dreams. “I lost in so many matches. I couldn’t let everyday be tragic just because I lost every time. Laughing makes it easier to forget. You have to forget to move on,” she said.
When everyone around her seems unsupportive of what she can do and become, she remains steadfast despite hurting, “Everyone told me to quit fencing. But I didn’t. Why? Because I still find it so much fun.”
This brave girl has proven everyone that the impossible is possible with her tenacity and determination: She made it to the national team, fought with Ko Yurim in the final round, and won a gold medal.