K-dramas are well known for portraying classic tropes from a not-so-classic viewpoint: cheesy romance, groundbreaking plot twists, and hero-saves-heroine fight scenes. However, there are some other K-dramas that are setting new standards with their unique plots and badass female leads. Not only are they entertaining, but also inspiring to watch. Here are some of my top K-drama shows/leads that motivate me to chase my dreams.
1. Ko Moon From "It's Okay Not to Be Okay"
First up, we have the ultimate badass, Ko Moon Young.
The female character in the 2020 drama, It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, takes absolutely no nonsense from anyone—not her manager, rivals, or even her love interest, Moon Gang Tae. Though we're in love with her independent and tough nature, she reminds us in small ways throughout the drama that it's okay to rely a little on someone else.
2. Han Seo Jun From "True Beauty"
Han Seo Jun, our best bad boy.
Although Han Seo Jun can be quite rude, he is caring and protective of his friends and family.
The character unexpectedly falls in love with Lim Jung-Kyung, unaware of her crush on his ex-best friend, Lee Soo-Ho. Regardless of his charm of love for Jung-Kyun, Han Seo Jun sacrifices his love for Jung-Kyun, a true exemplification of loving someone enough to let them go.
3. Kim Bok-Joo In "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo"
Kim Bok- Joo truly can do it all. Words can only describe her as a multitasking queen.
As an aspiring pro weightlifter and athlete, Kim Bok Joo is lifting not only the pressure to win the gold for her team and family but carrying the burden of being a young woman experiencing her first love.
Though it isn’t easy, Kim Bok-Joo finds a balance between the two worlds by finding love in an unexpected character without sacrificing gold.
4. Park Sae-Royi From "Itaweon Class"
We all love a good come-up story. Well, here’s one to put you to tears.
Park Sae-Royi faces more than a little trouble on his way to becoming Proprietor of Danbam, a bar-restaurant in Itaewon. He gets expelled from high school for punching CEO Jang's son, Geun- Woon, and becomes extremely bereaved after his father’s death due to Geun-Woon’s reckless driving. He attacks Geun-Woon, landing 3 years in prison.
After his release, he works to open a bar franchise large enough to rival CEO Jang's food company Jangga Group. He eventually succeeds, and in 2020, he becomes the CEO of his company, IC Group.
5. Tokyo From "Money Heist Korea: Joint Economic Area"
Tokyo: our fearless leader.
Although the series is far from over, we have already seen a lot of Tokyo’s story and the girl has been through a lot.
After creating the Joint Economic Area, Tokyo leaves her town in North Korea and flees to Seoul. After learning that the Seoulite lifestyle she imagined is nothing more than a dream, she ends up between a rock and a hard place, working for money sharks. She quickly gets sick of the lifestyle, becoming a vigilante, ridding South Korea of money-hungry loan sharks before joining forces with the Professor and taking the lead of the Joint Economic Area Bank heist after terrible leadership by Berlin (co-worker).
6. Choi Nam-Ra From "All of Us are Dead"
Choi Nam-Ra was turned into a zombie mid-season, but she doesn't let that stop her from fighting for humanity—from fighting off other zombies, making friends, and getting the guy (kind of)-- she doesn't let a little zombie get in the way of making a life for herself.
In fact, the character ends the first season with a greater purpose for her new hybrid zombie-human form– one that we will ~hopefully~ be seeing more of in season two – fingers crossed.
7. Geugma Plaza Residents From "Vincenzo"
Geugma Plaza residents + Vincenzo = Vincenzo family/Badass team.
They scheme with each other, confide, and protect one another, the ultimate family dynamic. Rising up against a money-hungry conglomerate, Babel, with bad intentions, the tenants of Geumga Plaza fiercely protect each other, fighting for their home and winning the gold (pun intended).
8. Do Bong-Soon in "Strong Woman Do Bong-Soon"
If you’ve watched the drama, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon at all, you probably already have an idea why she is present on this list.
Bong-Soon is gifted with supernatural strength, but that isn’t the only thing that makes her special. Bong Soon continues to follow her heart's true desires throughout the series, leading her to strive to become a developer at the gaming company, Ainsoft. Her kind-hearted and determined nature also helps her discover the person making threats towards her boss (and later boyfriend) Ahn Min Hyuk and capture an insidious kidnapper.
9. Oh soo-Jae In "Why Her"
Oh Soo-Jae is not to be messed with. She started her way as a mere intern and has made her way to becoming the top attorney at TK law firm. In the television series, Oh Soo-Jae anticipates every action and counters it before anyone ever realizes it, never letting her rivals get the best of her or her situation.
10. Gong Chan from "Why Her"
Our 0 to hero character. Somewhat similar to the previous character played by Hwang In-Yeop, Seo-Jun in "True Beauty," Gong Chan must keep his love at a distance, but for different reasons.
Gong Chan has a passion for law... and Professor Oh Soo-Jae. Coming from a troubled background, Gong Chan's true identity remains hidden. Though rather than going into hiding completely, he finds the urge to fight for justice in court, as a certain attorney once did for him. He's studying hard to get into law school, working with his classmates and Professor Oh Soo-Jae on different cases.
11. Hong Du-Sik from "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha"
Hong Du-Sik is the "friendly neighborhood superhero" of Gongjin. Whatever the village needs, he can provide; he does everything from fixing sinks to making ice-cold Americanos, all while giving a wink and a smile.
12. Woo Yeong-u in "Extraordinary Attorney Woo"
Woo Yeong-U has the extraordinary ability to memorize anything she reads from a book. With this wonderful ability, she ended up graduating from law school to a top law firm.
Despite this, one key factor plays into Woo Yeong-U's professional and personal career.
Woo Yeong-U was diagnosed with the autism spectrum early on in childhood, and while that does not stop the main character from being the brilliant and kind-hearted person she is, it renders others shocked. Woo Yeong-U's sympathy and understanding towards others, less aware of how living with autism may differ from their lives thus far, is admirable.
13. Choi Ung From "Our Beloved Summer"
With no set plans in high school, Choi Ung simply does what he enjoys, drawing.
Fast forward a couple of years into the future, Ung is creating famous illustrations under the pseudonym, Ko-O.
14. Ko Yurim From "Twenty-Five Twenty-One"
Though many viewers found her slightly obnoxious in the series, Ko Yurim's selfless character at the end of the series is one to admire.
In an effort to support her parents in financial turmoil, she sells her skills to the highest bidder: Russia, leaving behind her friends and family while doing so.
15. Na Hee-Do From "Twenty-Five Twenty-One"
Na Hui- Do never gives up on herself, even if she doesn't have the support of others. She completes extra workouts and studies fencing meticulously, all to achieve her goal of finally winning a match against her inspiration and rival, Ko Yurim.