Did you know that some of the popular and well-received Korean series were written by women? There are many good and entertaining Korean dramas out there, but only a few were written with mental health awareness in mind.
The writing style of these female scriptwriters may be different but all their works are undeniably impactful and equally life-giving to many. Thus, we want to honor these incredible Korean screenwriters who wrote the best healing dramas for mankind: (in no particular order)
1. Noh Hee-kyung | It’s Okay, That’s Love (2014)
Noh Hee-kyung is one of the renowned and experienced female screenwriters of South Korea who writes in-depth narratives. She studied Creative Writing at Seoul Institite of the Arts and has written 26 television series since 1995, including the hit dramas, Miracle (2006), Worlds Within (2008), That Winter, The Wind Blows (2013), It’s Okay, That’s Love (2014), and Dear My Friends (2016), to name a few.
Her healing drama, It’s Okay, That’s Love (2014) explores mental health battles of individuals that are often misunderstood by the greater society. It follows the human connection between a psychiatrist who has detachment issues about personal love and a best-selling novelist who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. They meet, get to know each other, fall in love, and experience relational struggles caused by deep-rooted wounds that still need healing.
As the drama beautifully narrated the mental health struggles of individuals, it received a plaque of appreciation from the Korean Society for Schizophrenia Research. It also won a special award at the 2014 Blue Media Awards and honored as the Best Inspirational Drama at the 2016 Rainbow TV Awards. Noh Hee-kyung was also nominated for Best TV Screenplay at the 2015 Baeksang Arts Awards.
In April 2022, a new healing drama written by Noh Hee-kyung, entitled Our Blues, is scheduled to be released through tvN and Netflix.
2. Jo Yong | It’s Okay To Not Be Okay (2020)
Inspired by her own love story with a man who had a personality disorder, Jo Yong wrote the masterpiece, It’s Okay To Not Be Okay (2020) to shed light on the delicate issues of mental health, especially sociopathy disorder caused by intense trauma. They are often described as emotionless, cold, and murderous in speech yet lies within is neediness that seeks warmth unmet by significant people in life.
Despite the universal stigma and discrimination on mental health, this drama bravely tackles the struggles of human behaviors. Its concept is healing with three main characters who helped each other heal from childhood trauma. The drama was a hit internationally and motivated many viewers to face their pains, express themselves, and receive healing, “When you are tired, get some rest. When you are sad, go ahead and cry. It’s okay to do that.”
It also received 8 nominations at the 2021 Baeksang Arts Awards including Jo Yong for Best TV Screenplay. It was also recognized as one of the nominees for Best TV Series at the 49th International Emmy Awards, and named as one of the Best International Shows of 2020 by New York Times and Best Korean Dramas of 2020 by Forbes.
Jo Yong’s other works include Jugglers (2017-2018) and After The Rain (2018).
3. Yoon Ji-ryeon | Move To Heaven (2021)
Yoon Ji-ryeon is best known for the dramas Boys Over Flowers (2009), Operation Proposal (2012), and Angel Eyes (2014). Her recent work, Move To Heaven (2021), was inspired and adapted from a non-fiction essay, “Things Left Behind” by Kim Sae-byul, a professional trauma cleaner in South Korea.
Her drama delivers untold stories of the departed through a trauma cleaning company named “Move to Heaven” which is managed by a son who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, and an ex-convict uncle. Together, they will navigate the isolated lives of the deceased and fulfill a restful departure in each story as they personally grieve and receive healing from their own brokenness.
Move to Heaven is powerfully written by Yoon Ji-ryeon for it strongly stirs emotions, relates to human problems and talks about the underexplored, delicate facets of life. Notably, it leaves a strong impact on the effects of loss or death which moves a viewer to contemplate the shortness and value of life, the significance of connection in relationships, and living with a disability or special care.
Yoon Ji-ryeon won the Best Writer Award at the 2021 Asia Contents Award while the drama won the Best Drama Series at the 2021 Asian Academy Creative Awards and Best Creative Award at the 2021 Asia Contents Award.
4. Shin Ha-eun | Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021)
Although Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021) is a remake of the 2004 film, “Mr. Hong”, Shin Ha-eun warmly and creatively penned a 16-part narrative that introduces multiple characters whose stories represent our daily lives. While the old movie revolved around Mr. Hong and the dentist, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is more than a romantic drama that tackles a lot of realistic issues such as marriage problems, divorce, relationships, shattered dreams, work maltreatment, loss of loved ones, effects of broken family to a child, discrimination, and others. It’s a series packed with life-giving lessons through several stories beautifully written and crafted into one.
It also illustrates women empowerment through inspiring female roles: two career women who build their own clinic in a faraway place, a single mother who strives hard to love her family, a grieving mother who lost a child, a frustrated pregnant wife who seeks extra care from her husband, and three old grandmothers who draw strength from one another.
Most importantly, it warmly raises awareness that mental health matters in dealing with people, particularly portraying how damaging words from people can be psychologically powerful. Healing was also best depicted through a forgiving and loving community like Gongjin.
Shin Ha-eun’s work was recognized and honored by Kim Soo Hyun Drama Art Hall in South Korea as a good drama for its healing narrative that portrays warm stories of relatable ordinary lives. It was also selected by US Variety as one of the crop of best international TV shows. They described the show as one of the feel-good K-dramas of 2021 stating, “The story’s simplicity and lightheartedness has a refreshing vibe amid the doom and gloom of the pandemic.“
5. Lee Na-eun | Our Beloved Summer (2021-2022)
Lee Na-eun‘s inspiration to write the drama, Our Beloved Summer (2021-2022), emerged from her experience in dating and all the mistakes and regrets that revolve around it. To how things would dramatically change if she were to go back in time, she wrote the series with reconciliation in mind. Thus, the plot includes the main characters’ unexpected reunion.
But more than the mood of romance is the emotive storytelling of humanity’s imperfections influenced by painful and traumatic events in life. It introduces four different characters beautifully portraying four types of human needs.
There’s the fear of abandonment that screams the need for security: the sense of feeling worthy as a person—that he is important, wanted, and needed. Another one is the act of avoidance which screams the need for protection unmet by parents: the kind of love that defends her from the bullies and fights for her in times of needs. One’s bottled-up emotion was also depicted which screams the need to be heard. Lastly, it tells the pain of loneliness amid fame that screams the need to be truly loved and accepted.
Just like the rest of human being, no one lives a perfect life and image. The writer, Lee Na-eun, wrote these humanity’s flaws and vulnerabilities in such an excellent manner of storytelling.
Lee Na-eun’s other works include, Crushes (2017) and Failing In Love (2019).