10 K-Dramas That Feature Strong, Complex Female Characters

Strong female leads are the best!

As recently as a decade or two ago, K-Dramas were saturated with dependent, weak-willed female characters who often behaved or acted in ways that were beneficial to the male leads. This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing – they can be quite entertaining to watch – but it’s important to have strong, complex female characters with their own motivations and autonomy. When you get tired of the bubbly-but-naive trope so often found in K-Dramas, here is a list of 10 to turn to when you’re hungry for some powerful women in action! (Warning: Mild spoilers)

1. Doctors (2016)

One of the main characters in this show, Yoo Hye Jung (Park Shin Hye) grew up with a rough childhood and was at one time a delinquent. She manages to keep her bad-ass fighting skills she gained as a young adult as she grows older, but channels her anger and energy into becoming a renowned neurosurgeon – a very impressive career.

2. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (2017)

This drama features something also rarely seen in K-Dramas, or even Korean media as a whole – a female weight lifter.  Character Kim Bok Joo (Lee Sung Kyung) struggles between her love for the masculine sport and society’s demands to be seen as feminine, and eventually comes to realize that these aren’t mutually exclusive and learns how to embrace both in her life.

3. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017)

On a similar note to the drama above, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon features a title character as a tiny woman born with incredible superhuman strength. Do Bong Soon (Park Bo Young) pulls off this bad-ass-ness while still coming across as a cute, innocent, feminine young woman.

4. Witch’s Court (2017)

This drama features a rare female prosecutor not often seen in K-Dramas, with Ma Yi Deum (Jung Ryeo Won) every much an equal of her male counterparts in the show. She uses her high intellect and self-confidence to successfully extract information from people and use it to win many cases.

5. Mother (2018)

This drama discusses the topic of motherhood, in which the main character, played by Lee Bo Young, works as a substitute teacher and later becomes the adopted mother to an abused student. There are other stories involved in the drama that all center around the idea of motherhood and the complexities, difficulties, and hardships that come with it.

6. Fight My Way (2017)

This drama features Choi Ae Ra (Kim Ji Won) who, unlike a lot of other female characters on this list, is just a normal woman with big dreams. She works in a department store, but desires to be an on-air announcer, and shows a rich, complex personality as she fights the system to pursue her passion.

7. Search: WWW (2019)

This drama features 3 main female leads, Bae Ta Mi (Im Soo Jung), Cha Hyeon (Lee Da Hee), and Song Ga Kyung (Jeon Hye Jin). While the women work in two different competing IT companies, instead of tearing each other down over competition, they show immense support and encouragement for each other. Women supporting other women is always wonderful to see!

8. Graceful Family (2019)

The character Mo Suk Hee (Im Soo Hyang) in this drama is a feisty, vengeful wealthy heiress who was exiled to America 15 years ago and is determined to find out who murdered her mother and to get out of the grasp of an overbearing management crew. She’s not afraid to be brash and bold, which is refreshing for a female character.

9. Hotel Del Luna (2019)

IU stars in this drama as Jan Man Wol, a woman who, because of a man’s betrayal, becomes the highly successful owner of a hotel. Even though a male love interest comes into the story later on, Jang Mal Wol keeps her sassy, independent behavior and continuously saves the day with her supernatural powers and impressive strength.

10. Tell Me What You Saw (2020)

This suspenseful thriller features a trio tracking down a serial killer – Oh Hyun Jae (Jang Hyuk), Cha Soo Young (Girl’s Generation’s Sooyoung), and Hwang Ha Young (Jin Seo Yeon). What’s refreshing is the inclusion of female characters in a group that would often be dominated by male leads. Any drama featuring bad-ass women taking down criminals is going to be epic!